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Dr. C.

George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)


Index 2

Nature and Nurture 4

Genetics 5
Human Evolution 8
Sociobiology 11
Culture 18
A Psychosocial History of the Human Species 20
Getting a Picture of a Society 27
Intelligence 29
Selected Portions of the APA's Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns 35

Language 49
Language Development 50
Language Origins 54

Development 57
Fetal Development 58
Infancy 61
Childhood 63
Adolescence 65
Psychological Problems of Childhood 67
Piaget: Cognitive Development 74
Moral Development 78
Erikson: Psychosocial Development 81
Aging 88

Personality 91
Sigmund Freud 92
Trait Theories of Personality 101
Individual, Existential, and Humanist Psychology 104

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

Psychological Disorders 111

The Bio-Social Theory of Neurosis 112
Anxiety Disorders 114
Mood Disorders 119
Schizophrenia 121
Personality Disorders 124
Miscellaneous Disorders 131

Therapy 133
Psychotherapy 134
Drug and Other Medical Therapies 140

"We cannot put off living until we are ready.... Life is fired at us point-blank."
José Ortega y Gasset

"We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine."
Eduardo Galeano

"I like reality. It tastes of bread."

Jean Anouilh

"Cloquet hated reality but realized it was still the only place to get a good steak."
Woody Allen

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

Nature and Nurture

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)


Chromosomes, DNA, and Genes

We inherit most of our physical traits and some of our psychological traits from our parents via genes. Half
of our genes come from mom, half come from dad. So we inherit some of our traits from each.
Each person is "built" on the basis of a "blueprint" consisting of two sets of 23 chromosomes. (Mosquitos
have 3 pairs of chromosomes; Onions have 8 pairs; Carp have 52 pairs!)
Chromosomes are packages of DNA, which is the ultimate genetic material. DNA stands for
deoxyribonucleic acid. It looks like a twisted ladder (or double helix) a few atoms thick and a meter or two
The "rungs" of the ladder are made up of pairs of four bases (the opposite of acids) we refer to as A, T, C,
and G. These stand for adenine, thymine, cytosine, guanine. A always pairs with T; C always pairs with G.
so there are four possible "rungs:" AT, TA, CG, and GC.
To switch metaphors from ladders to words, the four possible combinations of bases function as four
"letters," and three letters at a time function as "words" called codons. This means we can have up to 64
different words. Note that DNA is directional, so that a sequence of bases is not the same backwards: CAT is
not the same as TAC.
Sequences of words, i.e. "sentences," are what make up genes. The sum total of all our genes, all our genetic
information, we call our genome. There are about a billion base pairs and 25,000 genes in the human
genome. I should mention that long stretches of DNA are devoted to regulating other genes, and even longer
stretches that do nothing at all!
By means of partial half-strings of DNA-like material called RNA, the genes communicate the instructions
other parts of the cell need to make specific proteins. Proteins are like tiny machines that guide chemical
reactions, and each one is specialized. One protein, for example, is hemoglobin, and its specialty is carrying
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, and they are what the codons actually refer
to. Since there are 64 codons and only 20 amino acids, there is in fact a lot of redundancy built in to our
genes. That's a good thing when you consider that mistakes do happen.

The Sex Part

The human body has about 100 trillion (one with 14 zeros!) cells, all of which come from a single cell. Each
cell has identical chromosomes in their nuclei – except for two specialized types of cell. Sperm cells and egg
cells only have a single set of chromosomes – half of what other cells have. When the sperm cell enters the
egg cell, the two sets combine to form a complete set, and life begins as a complete cell called the zygote.
In this way, we get one set of chromosomes from mom, one set from dad, in different combinations – hence
the fact that brothers and sisters look similar to each other (and to mom and dad), but not the same. This is
called sexual recombination.
For example, if mom has a set we will call A and a set we will call B, and dad has a set we will call C and a
set we will call D, then there are four obvious combinations: AC, AD, BC, and BD – representing four
"flavors" of children. But this is far from all the possibilities.

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Actually, each parental contribution to their child is a mixture of chromosomes. Mom has 23 in group A and
23 in group B, but when it comes time to contribute some genes to junior, chromosome 1 may be from A,
chromosome 2 from B, chromosomes 3 through 8 from A, chromosomes 9, 10, and 11 from B, and so on.
Over 8 million different possible combinations! And the same goes for dad.
So each brother or sister gets a different combination from each parent. Identical twins, though, come from
a single egg-sperm combo (the zygote splits once, then each half goes on to be a different baby), so they
have the same combination of mom’s and dad’s chromosomes – and so they look the same! We can
sometimes still manage to tell them apart – one may have a slightly flatter face, or a narrower head, for
example – but these traits come from their positions in the womb, i.e. these are actually environmental
When the gene that comes from mom and the corresponding gene that comes from dad are both the same,
you obviously inherit whatever trait that gene leads to. But just as likely, the two versions differ, and then
something has to give. Often, one version is more powerful – the dominant gene. It then "over-rides" the
information from the other version – the recessive gene.
Eye color works a bit like this, at least when we simplify it a bit: If you have blue eyes, then you have a
matching pair of genes – b-b. If you have brown eyes, then you might have a matching pair – B-B – or one
of each – B-b or b-B. Brown is dominant and overwhelms the blue, which is recessive. So, if both mom and
dad have blue eyes, then all their children will have blue eyes, because neither of them has the gene for
brown. But if either mom or dad has brown eyes, all bets are off. It is likely that somewhere between half
and all the kids will have brown eyes.
Most traits, however, are tied to many genes, and predicting what children will be like is nearly impossible!
I should mention that the 23rd pair of chromosomes serve a special function in this regard: They determine
the sex of the zygote (and so you). The X chromosome is pretty normal looking (X shaped), but another is
odd – the Y chromosome. It is missing a section. Females have a matching pair of X’s. Males have one X
and one Y. The genes on that missing section would have otherwise contributed to the creation of femaleness
and inhibited other genes that contribute to maleness. Notice that it is the father's chromosome that
determines the sex of the baby: If it is an X, the child will be female; if it is a Y, the child will be male.


Mutation is the "misspelling" of genetic words. For example, the instructions for building CF proteins
normally looks like this:
Some people are missing the second ATC sequence. So their RNA "forgets" to put a specific amino acid
(phenylalanine) in the CF protein. The CF protein has the job of "gatekeeper" in the cell membrane,
maintaining the levels of water and salt. Without the phenylalanine amino acid, it can’t do its job, and certain
tissues, such as the lining of the lungs, dry out. It may not seem like such a big deal, but this tiny mutation is
the one that causes cystic fibrosis.
Most diseases, I should note, involve many genes, just as most traits do.
Evolution is based on whether or not some particular creature does well (meaning survives and reproduces)
in a specific ecosystem – or not. This is called natural selection: Nature "selects" who will survive and
reproduce and who will not, or, more precisely, what genetic material will get passed on and what will not.
Most of the variation in animals is due to sexual recombination. But the variations that are most important to
evolution over the millenia are the mutations – specifically, the mutations of the DNA in the sperm and egg
cells and in the zygote.

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Most mutations have no effect, because there is so much genetic material not directly tied to protein
production and because there is so much redundancy in the coding. Some mutations are disasterous and lead
to spontaneous abortion or early death. Others are less dramatically debilitating, and simply reduce the
chances of survival and reproduction. Very rarely, a mutation actually enhances an organism’s chances
within a certain environment, and is passed on to its offspring.
There are three main causes of mutations. First there is spontaneous mutation – just glitches in the natural
process of DNA copying.
Next, we have chemical mutagens (both natural and man-made). One example is nitrous acid, which comes
from digestion of nitrites, which are used as food preservatives.
Third, there are physical mutagens or radiation. Any kind of electromagnetic wave that is high energy –
most commonly, x-rays, uv or ultraviolet, and gamma radiation. These kinds of radiation are found in soil
chemicals, in cosmic radiation from space, and in the air as radon (the most common form). It is also found
in medical testing, nuclear power plants, television sets, and so on.
It should be noted that cells are capable of some DNA repair, and there is quite a bit of redundancy built in!
Unfortunately, if a mutation doesn’t kill you, you may pass it on to your children. Inheritance is actually the
most common way of getting a mutated gene! When we talk about people having a genetic tendency to get
certain cancers, for example, we are talking about these inherited mutations. On the plus side, most
mutations are recessive.
But again, if the mutation is genuinely helpful, natural selection may lead to it becoming the norm in a
population, perhaps contributing to the creation of a new species in the process. We are the result of millions
of mistakes that worked out well.

The human genome project is an effort to map as completely and accurately as possible all the genes in
human DNA. It started in 1990, when we knew the location of a handful of genes. It was 90% complete in
2000, and was 99.99% done in 2003. Scientists have in addition discovered the function of nearly 50% of
our genes!
There were a few surprises: Although the human genome is comprised of more than three billion bases, this
is only a third as large as scientists had predicted. And it is only twice as large as that of the roundworm.
We share about 98.8% of the same DNA with our closest relatives, the chimps. That's ten times more similar
than mice are to rats! It was also discovered that 99.9% of the sequences are exactly the same for all human
beings. We are not as special as we sometimes like to think!
Knowing the human genome has awesome potential: It will help researchers to develop new drugs, tailor
drugs for specific problems and specific patients, detect and predict illnesses early, even in newborns, and
lead to gene therapy for various illness, even cancer. Gene therapy is the term for the actually repairing of
genetic misspellings! This is without a doubt the greatest discovery of the 20th century.

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

Human Evolution

The basics of evolution are quite simple. First, all animals tend to over-reproduce, some having literally
thousands of offspring in a lifetime. Yet populations of animals tend to remain quite stable over the
generations. Obviously, some of these offspring aren't making it!
Second, There is quite a bit of variation within any species. Much of the variety is genetically based and
passed on from one generation to another. Included in that variety are traits that help some individuals to
survive and reproduce, and other traits that hinder them.
Put the two ideas together, and you have natural selection: Nature encourages the propagation of the
positive traits and discourages the negative ones. As long as variety continues to be created by sexual
recombination and mutation, and the resources for life remain limited, evolution will continue.
Like any other creature, human beings evolved from earlier forms, and there are plenty of fossils of
intermediate types to show the progression. More than five million years ago there lived the common
ancestor to humans and apes – a dog-sized primate (already distinct from the ancestors of monkeys) who
wandered the African grasslands but never strayed too far from the safety of the trees. This is an important
point: We are not "descended from apes!" We and apes were descended from common ancestors. Chimps
and gorillas and orangs and humans all underwent millions of years of change to become who we are today.
Approximately three million years ago, a branch of these
primates evolved into Australopithecus (see image at left).
Australopithecus was between 4 and 5 feet tall, clearly walked
on two legs, was a tool user (chipped stones), and apparently
hunted. Australopithecus had a brain about 400 to 500 cc, about
the same as chimps and gorillas. The most significant find of
Australopithecus remains became well known as "Lucy."
Around two million years ago some Australopithecus evolved
into A.(for Australopithecus) boisei and A. robustus. Not
ancestral to us, they were quite powerful and had large jaws and
a ridge along the top of the skull to which were attached
powerful jaw muscles. For all their strength, they became
extinct long ago.
Also about two million years ago, another branch of
Australopithecus became our ancestor, Homo habilis, which
means "handy man." An early tool user, H. (for Homo) habilis stood about 5 feet tall, weighed about 100 lbs,
and had a brain from 500 to 800 cc..

About one million years ago came a closer ancestor of ours, H.

erectus (image to the right), the first fire user and the first to
leave Africa. Erectus had a larger brain – about 900 to 1200 cc.
They may be more familiar as "Java man," "Peking man," and so
on, named after where their remains were discovered.
About 300,000 years ago – H. sapiens enters the scene, back in
Africa, with a 1200 cc brain. Archaic H. sapiens probably had
speech, tools, and buried their dead.
150,000 to 30,000 years ago came H. sapiens neanderthalis (or
H. neanderthalensis, as some prefer). A cousin of ours, not an

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

ancestor, they were about 5 ft 6 in tall, with heavy bones and large brows. They had a brain that was actually
a bit larger than ours – 1350 cc. Their remains are found primarily in the Near East and Europe.
At about the same time as the Neanderthal came Homo sapiens sapiens – us – with a brain about 1250 cc.
We seem to have invented art in the form of cave paintings and female statuettes. We probably began in
Africa, but spread rather quickly into the Near East and Europe. It is possible that we were in part
responsible for the demise of the Neanderthals. By 60,000 years ago, we were well in place in all of Asia,
and by 30,000 years ago, we had even entered Australia and the Americas.
Many people mistakingly believe that the different "races" of the world are like different sub-species. They
are not. Although we sometimes look quite different from each other, the actual genetic differences are
extremely small. Besides which, except in unusual situations where there has been dramatic population
movement of separated genetic "pools" – such as the migration of Europeans and the forced migration of
Africans to the Americas – there are no lines that differentiate one "race" from another. They slowly blend
into each other over distances. "Pure" races are myths, and the idea of race itself isn't that useful.
Ultimately, all human beings are related to each other, very literally. And we are probably related to every
other animal, plant, and micro-organism on this planet as well! Get used to it.

So what's so great about the genus Homo? How did we manage to survive with our little teeth and useless
fingernails, and not even much fur to protect us from the sun and the cold?
First, being upright may have been a plus. It allows one to see over tall grass and to keep one's head above
water when wading in rivers and lakes. It allows for a somewhat faster land speed than our primate relations
(although much slower than four-legged creatures who liked to dine on our ancestors). And being upright
leaves our hands free to carry things such as food and tools and to throw rocks at enemies.
Which leads right into our second plus: We have great hands that let us hold and manipulate things well. It
would have been difficult to start making tools without that opposable thumb!
Third, we were excellent vocalizers, with great vocal cords, mouth, tongue and lip movement, and breath
control. Lots of potential for communication!
And last, but not least, we had a large brain to begin with. Being relatively weak, we were able to think fast
on our feet, and those that could think faster lived longest and left the most descendents – and so the brain
continued to develop. In addition, there was plenty of room for language to develop as a special adaptation of
all that vocalization.
There are other things about us that are curious. For example, why are we so relatively hairless with such
plentiful layers of fat under our skin? One theory is that at least some of our ancestors spent an inordinate
amount of time in the water, and we were on our way to evolving in the general direction of other water
dwellers. There are many other traits that support the idea, such as our downward-pointing nostrils, the
amount of fat on our newborns, the way we can hold our breath (something that also helps with
vocalization), and even the curious habit of weeping!
It is also likely that we began using fur and plant coverings – clothing – relatively early. Ancestors with less
hair may have had a small but significant advantage in such a case, since they may have had fewer problems
with disease-carrying insects living between skin and clothes, and would be able to cool off and dry off more
easily depending on conditions.
Another oddity about human beings is our rather strong sexuality. In this regard, we are similar to one our
nearest relatives, the bonobo chimps, who are even "sexier" than we are! They apparently use highly
promiscuous sexual contact, even between close relatives, to support social bonds in the group. In human
beings, the strong sexual interest that women have (as opposed to the females in many other species) may
have developed as a way of keeping the father of a woman's babies around as a helper.
What's next for Homo sapiens? It seems unlikely that we will be doing too much dramatic evolving, because

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

we are no longer hidden away in isolated ecological niches where mutations have a chance to make their
play for survival. Instead, we should move into a phase where we become increasing homogeneous (pardon
the pun) as all our different lines of descent begin to intermingle as they have never done before. Only a few
features that strongly contribute to success in life – like intelligence – are likely to continue to evolve.
With the completion of the human genome project and the
development of various genetic interventions, we may make
considerable progress towards eliminating the genetic sources of all
kinds of problems. Our descendents will, with any luck, be much
healthier than we are. We may even be able to deal with some of the
genetic bases for psychological problems such as those underlying
anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia.
Don't misunderstand: There will be plenty of room for individual
variation based on the complexity of our non-pathological genetics, as
well as the enormous contribution that culture and upbringing and
individual learning make to our personalities!

modern woman's skull

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Ever since Darwin came out with his theory of evolution, people - including Darwin himself – have been
speculating on how our social behaviors (and feelings, attitudes, and so on) might also be affected by
evolution. After all, if the way our bodies look and work as biological creatures can be better understood
through evolution, why not the things we do with those bodies?

The entemologist (bug scientist) E. O Wilson was the first to formalize the idea that social behavior could be
explained evolutionarily, and he called his theory sociobiology. At first, it gained attention only in biological
circles – even there it had strong critics. When sociologists and psychologists caught wind of it, the
controversy really got started. At that time, sociology was predominantly structural-functionalist, with a
smattering of Marxists and feminists. Psychology was still dominated by behaviorist learning theory, with
humanism starting to make some headway. Not one of these theories has much room for the idea that we, as
human beings, could be so strongly determined by evolutionary biology!
Over time, Wilson's sociobiology found more and more supporters among biologists, psychologists, and
even anthropologists. Only sociology has remained relatively unaffected.


Let's begin with an example of instinctual behavior in animals: The three-spined stickleback is a one-inch
long fish that one can find in the rivers and lakes of Europe. Springtime is, as you might expect, the mating
season for the mighty stickleback and the perfect time to see instincts in action.
Certain changes occur in their appearances: The male, normally dull, becomes red above the midline. He
stakes out a territory for himself, from which he will chase any similarly colored male, and builds a nest by
depositing weeds in a small hollow and running through them repeatedly to make a tunnel. This is all quite
built-in. Males raised all alone will do the same. We find, in fact, that the male stickleback will, in the mating
season, attempt to chase anything red from his territory (including the reflection of a red truck on the
aquarium's glass).
But that's not the instinct of the moment. The female undergoes a transformation as well: She, normally dull
like the male, becomes bloated by her many eggs and takes on a certain silvery glow that apparently no male
stickleback can resist. When he sees a female, he will swim towards her in a zigzag pattern. She will respond
by swimming towards him with her head held high. He responds by dashing towards his nest and indicating
it's entrance. She enters the nest, her head sticking out one end, her tail the other. He prods at the base of her
tail with rhythmic thrusts. She releases her eggs and leaves the nest. He enters and fertilizes the eggs, and
then, a thorough chauvinist, chases her away and waits for a new partner.
What you see working here is a series of sign stimuli and fixed actions: His zigzag dance is a response to
her appearance and becomes a stimulus for her to follow, and so on. Perhaps I'm being perverse, but doesn't
the stickleback's instinctive courtship remind you of some of our human courtship rituals? I'm not trying to
say we are quite as mindless about it as the stickleback seems to be – just that some similar patterns may
form a part of or basis for our more complex, learned behaviors.
Ethologists – people who study animal behavior in natural settings – have been studying behaviors such as
the sticklebacks' for over a century. One, Konrad Lorenz, has developed an hydraulic model of how an
instinct works. We have a certain amount of energy available for any specific instinctual system, as
illustrated by a reservoir of water. There is a presumably neurological mechanism that allows the release of

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)

some or all of that energy in the presence of the appropriate sign stimulus: a faucet. There are further
mechanisms – neurological, motor, hormonal – that translate the energy into specific fixed actions. Today,
we might suggest that hydraulic energy is a poor metaphor and translate the whole system into an
information processing one – each era has it's favorite metaphors. But the description still seems sound.
Does any of this apply to human courtship and sexual behavior? I leave it up to you. But what about other
examples? Two possibilities stand out:
1. There are certain patterns of behavior found in most, if not all, animals, involving the promotion of
oneself, the search for status or raw power, epitomized in aggression. Let's call this the assertive
2. There are other patterns of behavior found in, it seems, somewhat fewer species, involving care for
someone other than oneself, epitomized in a mother's care for her babies. Let's call this the
nurturant instinct.

Evolution of Social Behaviors

One sociobiologist, David Barash, suggests a guiding question for understanding possible evolutionary roots
of any behavior: "Why is sugar sweet", that is, why do we find it attractive? One hypothesis is that our
ancestors ate fruit to meet their nutritional needs. Fruit is most nutritious when it is ripe. When fruit is ripe, it
is loaded with sugars. Any ancestor who had a taste for sugar would be a little more likely to eat ripe fruit.
His or her resulting good health would make him or her stronger and more attractive to potential mates. He
or she might leave more offspring who, inheriting this taste for ripe fruit, would be more likely to survive to
reproductive age, etc. A more general form of the guiding question is to ask of any motivated behavior "How
might that behavior have aided ancestral survival and/or reproduction?"
A curious point to make about the example used is that today we have refined sugar – something which was
not available to our ancestors, but which we discovered and passed on to our descendants through learned
culture. It is clear that today a great attraction to sugar no longer serves our survival and reproduction. But
culture moves much more quickly than evolution: It took millions of years to evolve our healthy taste for
sugar; it took only thousands of years to undermine it.


Let's start by looking at mate selection. It is obvious that we are attracted some people more than others.
Sociobiologists have the same explanation for this as for everything else, based on the archetypal question
"why is sugar sweet?" We should be sexually attracted to others whose characteristics would maximize our
genetic success, that is, would give us many healthy, long-lived, fertile children.
We should find healthiness attractive and, conversely, illness unattractive. We should find "perfect" features
attractive, and deformities unattractive. We should find vitality, strength, vigor attractive. We should find
"averageness" attractive – not too short, not too tall, not too fat, not too thin.... Quasimodo, for all his
decency, had a hard time getting dates.
We are also attracted to certain people for less "logical" reasons, such as the degree to which they have
strong masculine or feminine physical – and behavioral – characteristics. Women prefer men who are taller,
with broad shoulders, a square jaw.... Men prefer women who are shorter than themselves, softer, rounder....

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These differences between the sexes are known as sexual dimorphism, and the process that leads to these
differences is called sexual selection. Small functional differences between the sexes can become large
nonfunctional ones over many generations. If female birds are instinctively inclined to prefer colorful males
– perhaps because colorful males have served to distract predators from ancestral females and their chicks –
then a male that is more colorful will have a better chance, and the female with a more intense attraction to
color a better chance, and their offspring will inherit their colors and intense attraction to colors and so on
and so on... until you reach a point where the colors and the attraction are no longer a plus, but become a
minus, such as in the birds of paradise. Some males cannot even fly under the weight of all their plumage.
Human beings are only modestly dimorphic. But boy are we aware of the dimorphisms!
The dimorphism is also found in our behaviors. David Barash puts it so: "Males tend to be selected for
salesmanship; females for sales resistance." Females have a great deal invested in any act of copulation: the
limited number of offspring she can carry, the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, the increased nutritional
requirements, the danger from predators...all serve to make the choice of a mate an important consideration.
Males, on the other hand, can and do walk away from the consequences of copulation. Note, for example, the
tendency of male frogs to try to mate with wading boots: As long as some sperm gets to where it should, the
male is doing alright.
So females tend to more fussy about who they have relations with. They are more sensitive to indications
that a particular male will contribute to their genetic survival. One of the most obvious examples is the
attention many female animals pay to the size and strength of males, and the development of specialized
contests, such as those of antlered and horned animals, to demonstrate that strength.
There are less obvious things as well. In some animals, males have to show, not just strength, but the ability
to provide. This is especially true in any species which has the male providing for the female during her
pregnancy and lactation – like humans! Sociobiologists suggest that, while men find youth and physical form
most attractive, women tend to look for indications of success, solvency, savoir-faire.
Further, they suggest, women may find themselves more interested in the "mature" man, as he is more likely
to have proven himself, and less interested in the "immature" man, who presents a certain risk. And women
should be more likely to put up with polygyny (i.e. other wives) than men with polyandry (other husbands):
Sharing a clearly successful man is better in some cases than having a failure all to yourself. And, lo and
behold, polygyny is more common than monogamy, while polyandry is found in perhaps two cultures (one
in Tibet and the other in Africa), and in both it involves brothers "sharing" a wife in order not to break-up
tiny inherited properties..
Taking it from the other direction, males will tolerate less infidelity than females: Females "know" their
children are theirs; males never know for sure. Genetically, it matters less if males "sow wild oats" or have
many mates or are unfaithful. And, sure enough, most cultures are harder on women than men when it comes
to adultery. In most cultures, in fact, it is the woman who moves into the husband's family (virilocality) – as
if to keep track of her comings and goings.
From our culture's romantic view of love and marriage, it is interesting to note that in most cultures a failure
to consummate a marriage is grounds for divorce or annulment. In our own culture, infertility and impotence
are frequent causes of divorce. It seems reproduction is more important than we like to admit.
Of course, there is a limit to the extent to which we generalize from animals to humans (or from any species
to any other), and this is especially true regarding sex. We are very sexy animals: Most animals restrict their
sexual activity to narrowly defined periods of time, while we have sex all month and all year round. We can
only guess how we got to be this way. Perhaps it has to do with the long-term helplessness of our infants.
What better way to keep a family together than to make it so very reinforcing!

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Dr. C. George Boeree: General Psychology (2)


That brings us to children, our attraction to them, and their attraction to us. Adults of many species, including
ours, seem to find small representatives of their species, with short arms and legs, large heads, flat faces, and
big, round eyes... "cute" somehow – "sweet," the sociobiologist might point out. It does make considerable
evolutionary sense that, in animals with relatively helpless young, the adults should be attracted to their
The infants, in turn, seem to be attracted to certain things as well. Goslings, as everyone knows, become
attached to the first large moving object they come across in the first two days of life – usually mother goose
(occasionally Konrad Lorenz or other ethologists). This is called imprinting. Human infants respond to pairs
of eyes, female voices, and touch.
The goslings respond to their sign-stimulus with the following response, literally following that large moving
object. Human infants, of course, are incapable of following, so they resort to subterfuge: the broad, full
bodied, toothless smile which parents find overwhelmingly attractive.
Sociobiologists go on to predict that mothers will care for their children more than fathers (they have more
invested in them, and are more certain of their maternity); that older mothers will care more than younger
mothers (they have fewer chances of further procreation); that we will be more solicitous of our children
when we have few (or only one!) than when we have many; that we will increase our concern for our
children as they get older (they have demonstrated their survival potential); and that we will tend to push our
children into marriage and children of their own.


Care – helping behavior – is likely when it involves our children, parents, spouses, or other close relations. It
is less and less likely when it involves cousins or unrelated neighbors. It is so unusual when it involves
strangers or distant people of other cultures and races that we recall one story – the good Samaritan – nearly
2000 years after the fact.
Sociobiologists predict that helping decreases with kinship distance. In fact, it should occur only when the
sacrifice you make is outweighed by the advantage that sacrifice provides the genes you share with those
relations. The geneticist J. B. S. Haldane supposedly once put it this way: "I'd gladly give my life for three of
my brothers, five of my nephews, nine of my cousins...." Since my brothers and I share 50% of our genes, it
would take three of them (150%) to beat saving my own butt (100%), and so on. This is called kin selection.
Altruism based on genetic selfishness, at least according to Haldane!
Another kind of altruistic behavior is herd behavior. Some animals just seem to want to be close, and in
dangerous times closer still. It makes sense: By collecting in a herd, you are less likely to be attacked by a
predator. Other animals will signal the entire herd when they spot a predator. One famous example is the
springbok of South Africa, which jumps straight up in the air when it sees a lion. Another is the prairy dog,
which barks when it sees a coyote.Of course, that draws the attention of the predator to the one who is giving
the signal, which is dangerous for that particular individual. But the next time, it will be some other member
of the herd. It's a trade-off. Animals often help any member of their group, with the instinctual
"understanding" that they may be the beneficiaries the next time they need help themselves.
Robert Trivers has suggested that some animals (ourselves included) engage in a more sophisticated version
of helping called reciprocal altruism. Here you would be willing to help someone else if it is understood
that he or she will do the same for you, or reciprocate in some other way, "tit for tat." Clearly, it helps if you
have the ability to recognize individuals and to recall debts!

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Other geneticists have pointed out that, if there is a genetic basis for reciprocal altruism, their will also be
some individuals that cheat by allowing others to do for them without ever meeting their own obligations. In
fact, depending on the advantages that reciprocal altruism provides and the tendency of altruists to get back
at cheaters, cheaters will be found in any population. Other studies have shown that "sociopathy," guiltless
ignoring of social norms, is found in a sizable portion of the human population.
There is, of course, no need for a human being to be 100% altruist or 100% cheat. Most of us (or is it all of
us?), although we get angry at cheats, are quite capable of cheating when the occasion arises. We feel guilt,
of course, be we can cheat. A large portion of the human psyche seems to be devoted to calculating our
chances of success or failure at such shady maneuvers.


Like many concepts in psychology, aggression has many definitions, even many evaluations. Some think of
aggression as a great virtue (e.g. "the aggressive businessperson"), while others see aggression as
symptomatic of mental illness.
The fact they we do keep the same word anyway suggests that there is a commonality: Both positive and
negative aggression serve to enhance the self. The positive version, which we could call assertiveness, is
acting in a way that enhances the self, without the implication that we are hurting someone else. The
negative version, which we might call violence, focuses more on the "disenhancement" of others as a means
to the same end.
Although the life of animals often seems rather bloody, we must take care not to confuse predation – the
hunting and killing of other animals for food – with aggression. Predation in carnivorous species has more in
common with grazing in vegetarian species than with aggression between members of the same species.
Take a good look at your neighborhood cat hunting a mouse: He is cool, composed, not hot and crazed. In
human terms, there is not the usual emotional correlate of aggression: anger. He is simply taking care of
That distinction noted, there remains remarkably little aggression in the animal world. But it does remain.
We find it most often in circumstances of competition over a resource. This resource must be important for
"fitness," that is, relevant to one's individual or reproductive success. Further, it must be restricted in
abundance: Animals do not, for example, compete for air, but may for water, food, nesting areas, and mates.
It is the last item – mates – that accounts for most aggression in mammals. And it is males that are most
noted for this aggression. As we mentioned earlier, females have so much at stake in any act of copulation –
so many months gestation, the increased energy requirement, susceptibility to attack, the dangers of birth, the
responsibility of lactation – that it serves their fitness to be "picky" when looking for a partner. If females are
picky, males must be show-offs: The male must demonstrate that he has the qualities that serve the female's
fitness, in order to serve his own fitness. Deer and other antlered and horned mammals are good examples.
Mind you, this need not be conscious or learned; in all likelihood, it is all quite instinctual in most mammals.
It may possibly have some instinctual bases in us as well.
Some of his aggressiveness may in fact be mediated by testosterone, the "male" hormone. Inject testosterone
into female mice and their threshold for aggressive behavior goes down. Remove testosterone from male
mice (by castrating the poor things) and their thresholds go up. But I must add that testosterone does not
cause aggression, it just lowers the threshold for it.
But females in many species can be quite aggressive (such as female guinea pigs), and females in most
species can be extremely aggressive in certain circumstances (such as when facing a threat to her infants). In
human societies, the sociological statistics are clear: Most violent crime is committed by men. But we have

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already noticed that, as women assert their rights to full participation in the social and economic world, those
statistics are changing. Time will tell the degree to which testosterone is responsible for aggression in people.
Nevertheless, males engage in a great deal of head-butting. But one can't help but notice that these contests
"over" females seldom end in death or even serious injury in most species. That is because these contests are
just that: contests. They are a matter of displays of virtues, and they usually include actions that serve as sign
stimuli to the opponent that the contest has ended in his favor: surrender signals. Continued aggression is of
little advantage to either the loser or the winner. Even male rattlesnakes don't bite each other!
Territoriality and dominance hierarchies – once thought to be major focuses of aggressive behavior – seem to
be relatively less significant. Animals tend to respect territorial and status claims more than dispute them. It
is only when circumstances, whether natural or humanly created, are out of the ordinary that we see much
aggression. And low food supplies likely have little to do with aggression. Southwick, studying Rhesus
monkeys in the London Zoo, found that reducing the food supplies by 25% had no effect on the amount of
aggression found, and reducing the food supplies by 50% actually decreased aggression! We find the same
thing among primitive people.

Aggression in Human Beings

So why so much aggression in people? One possibility is our lack of biological restraints. Sociobiologists
predict that animals that are poorly equipt for aggression are unlikely to have developed surrender signals.
Man, they say, is one of these creatures. But we developed technology, including a technology of
destruction, and this technology "evolved" much too quickly for our biological evolution to provide us with
compensating restraints on aggression. Experience tells us that guns are more dangerous than knives, though
both are efficient killing machines, because a gun is faster and provides us with less time to consider our act
rationally – the only restraint left us.
Another problem is that we humans live not just in the "real" world, but in a symbolic world as well. A lion
gets aggressive about something here-and-now. People get aggressive about things that happened long ago,
things that they think will happen some day in the future, or things that they've been told is happening.
Likewise, a lion gets angry about pretty physical things. Calling him a name won't bother him a bit.
A lion gets angry about something that happens to him personally. We get angry about things that happen to
our cars, our houses, our communities, our nations, our religious establishments, and so on. We have
extended our "ego's" way beyond our selves and our loved ones to all sorts of symbolic things. The response
to flag burning is only the latest example.
If aggression has an instinctual basis in human beings, we would expect there to be a sign stimulus. It would
certainly not be something as simple as bright red males during mating season, as in stickleback fish. If we
go back to the idea of competition as a fertile ground for aggression, we notice that frustration is a likely
candidate. There are two of you who want the same thing; if one grabs it, the other doesn't get it and is
unhappy; so he takes it, and now the other is unhappy; and so on. Goal-directed behavior has been blocked,
and that is frustration.
Variations on that theme abound: We can be frustrated when an on-going behavior is interrupted (trying
tripping someone); we can be frustrated by a delay of goal achievement (cut in front of someone on line at
the movie theater); or we can be frustrated by the disruption of ordinary behavior patterns (try stealing my
morning coffee). We are flexible creatures.
But we must beware here: Other things can lead to aggression besides frustration (or aren't highly paid
boxers engaged in aggression?) and frustration can lead to other things besides aggression (or doesn't social
impotence lead to depression?). Further, as Fromm points out, frustration (and aggression) is in the eyes of

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the beholder. He feels that the frustration must be experienced as unjust or as a sign of rejection for it to lead
to aggression.

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"Culture is a way of thinking, feeling, believing.

It is the group's knowledge stored up
(in memories..., books, and objects) for future use."
(Clyde Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man)
It is easy to get carried away by genetic or sociobiological explanations for human behavior. They seem so
reasonable! But you have to be careful: Many of the things that have sociobiological explanations may also
have learned, cultural explanations that are just as reasonable.
For example, it is certainly true that those who carry a gene that pushes the individual towards sexual activity
are more likely to leave behind children who, in turn, will have that gene and pass it on, etc. And,
conversely, those who carry a gene that makes them sexually unresponsive may leave behind fewer children,
and so on.
But a society of people with certain well-learned cultural habits that push them to reproduce has the same
effect! Someone who thoroughly believes that it is one’s duty to have many children is more likely to
actually have them, and then teach them what they so thoroughly believe: That it is one’s duty to have many
children. And so on down the line!
Those who believe they should reproduce pass on those beliefs as well as their genes. Those who believe that
it is better to remain celibate don’t pass on their genes, nor their beliefs in celibacy. But wait: Haven’t their
been cultures that promote celibacy – the Catholic and Buddhist traditions of monastic life, for example?
In these cases, although a portion of the society is not reproducing, that portion may actually serve a useful
purpose for the rest of society, helping to pass on that society’s beliefs via education. The beliefs concerning
celibacy are passed on to other people’s children, and so they continue as well!
It has become popular to refer to these beliefs as memes (in analogy to genes). "It is your duty to have many
children," "Celibacy is to be valued," "Obey those older than you," "Kill those who do not conform to our
beliefs," are all examples of memes.
Also included as memes are all the techniques a society develops, such as how to make a flint tool, how to
grind wheat, how to butcher a pig, how to make a cake, how to wage a battle, how to read and write, and so
on, all the way up to how to build a nuclear power plant or perform neurosurgery.
Other memes include the rules to sports and games, the way we keep time and dates, the events we celebrate,
the rituals we engage in, the rules for choosing leaders, the way we keep track of who owes whom how
much.... The list is endless. And yet all these things are passed on to the next generation in a manner not too
dissimilar from the manner in which we transmit out genetic inheritance! If they promote the welfare of the
society, they continue. If they work against the welfare of the society, they will disappear with that society.
Many memes have very short life-times: Top-ten music hits seldom last longer than a few months; Fashions
are notorious for changing one year to the next; And the popularity of one celebrity or another goes as fast as
it comes. But some memes last for generations, and some last for a thousand years or more! There are
characteristics of various ethnic groups (often contributing to exaggerated stereotypes) that can be traced
back centuries and seem to be nearly impossible to erase. These memes may even become things that a
people use to identify themselves as a culture.
Examples can easily be found in the cultures of traditional people around the world. The ancestors of people
living in small villages in parts of the Middle East, or Sub-Sahara Africa, or high in the Andes of South
America would likely have little difficulty fitting in with their descendents – except, I suppose, for the
occasional radio. In Europe, too, the day-to-day life of peasants changed little from the dark ages to the

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Another example is language. Language usually changes very slowly, if there are no major movements of
tribes. In Iceland, a very modern country in most ways, the language is nearly identical to that spoken by its
original viking settlers from a thousand years ago!
On the other hand, when populations start to move and cultures begin to mingle, we can see rapid changes in
culture. One hundred years ago, most citizens of the US were rarely well educated, looked to the Bible for
guidance, were very independent, hard-working, and frugal, and would have nothing to do with African
Americans or their culture. Today, almost all have a high school degree, and a large number have college
degrees. Religion still has a strong influence, but most people turn to doctors, lawyers, and psychiatrists for
guidance. Most people work for large corporations and government institutions, belong to unions, expect all
sorts of government services. They tend to spend money very freely – even money they don't actually have –
and consider leisure time a God-given right. And parts of African American culture have been absorbed into
the mainstream culture: Blues, jazz, rock, and hiphop are referred to as true American music, even though
created by the descendents of slaves.
Even more dramatic are the changes wrought by technological advances. Many of the major cultural changes
of history follow major changes of technology: The agricultural revolution and the industrial revolutions are
the obvious examples. Consider the technological revolution of the last century: Imagine the world of your
great-grandfather or great-grandmother 100 years ago. No cars, no highways, no airplanes, no radios, no
televisions, no telephones, no computers, no recorded music, no internet.... Imagine what your great-
grandfather or great-grandmother would think of the world today. Things have changed!
If we look at the world today, we can clearly see the results of centuries, even millennia of this cultural kind
of evolution: Democracy seems to be winning out over totalitarianism; Science seems to be winning out over
superstition; Less happily, militarism seems to be winning out over peacefulness, and the economics of greed
over an economics of compassion. We may have to be extra vigilant in the near future: Militarism and
capitalism have little use for the voice of the people, and prefer ignorance over knowledge!
Another thing to consider here: Just like genes are selected in the context of an ecosystem, so are memes
selected in a larger context. What worked really well in the stone age may not work so well in the
agricultural age. What meant superiority in the middle ages may lead to disaster in the industrial age. Even
what meant success in the last century may not mean success in this one.
And one more thing: Unlike physical evolution, cultural evolution can change very quickly! We don’t have
to wait for the slow processes of natural selection: Change can occur in a single generation. And a single
individual can introduce a new meme – a new belief or technique – that alters the world. Think of Edison,
Gandhi, Lister, Einstein, Sanger, Darwin, Pinel, Pasteur, Gorbachev... the list goes on and on!

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A Psycho-Social History of the Human Species

We are a divided animal, with two social instinct complexes:

• The assertive instincts drive us towards individuality.

• The nurturant instincts drive us towards community.
Both derive from older instincts: The assertive is based on our basic needs plus competition for mates and a
place in the dominance hierarchy. The nurturant is based on infant care, mate pairing, herd instincts, and

When we add cultural learning, the assertive instincts may be expressed by individuality, leadership,
stratification, striving for success, etc. Similarly, the nurturant instincts may be expressed by conformity,
ethical codes, religions, and morality. Just like sexual needs can be expressed in dramatically different ways
in different cultures, so can the assertive and nurturant instincts, providing the foundation for the many
thousands of societies our species has created.
But note that these instincts may also contain the roots of their own transcendence. For example, our
assertive need to "show off" can be stretched into a desire for creativity and self-expression. And our
nurturant need to care for our own children can be extended to a concern for all children, humanity, animals,
and life itself.

The Band

It is an educated guess that our original society resembled what is now a rare form: the band. Our paleolithic
ancestors were hunter-gatherers – a style of life that lasted about 90% of our time on this planet. Now we
only find these bands in areas of the world so hostile that more sophisticated societies simply haven't wanted
them: deserts, the arctic, the deepest rain forests.
But back at the beginnings of human life, bands could be found everywhere, and especially in the lush
savanna of Africa to which we owe our roots.
A band is an association of somewhere between 10 and 50 people, mostly related by birth or marriage. It is
thought that people were spread very thin back then – between .2 and .02 people per square mile – because
of the large area of land needed to support even small populations surviving only by hunting and gathering.
For comparison, Pennsylvania has 260 people per square mile, the USA has 62, and even Alaska has .7!
Most members of a band could probably do any of the tasks required for survival, but men specialized in
hunting while women specialized in gathering and child care. Training consisted of children imitating adults
and, early, actually performing the full range of adult tasks. Work was life, and life was work.

Tools were developed early in our history – in fact, it was our pre- Homo sapiens ancestors who invented
them. The band had all the basic tools: scrapers, axes, spears, sewing needles, mortar and pestle, baskets,
simple clothing to wear, and tents, huts, or caves to live in. All tools were homemade.
Bands were fairly egalitarian. Status was based on respect for someone's abilities, and that respect could
change in different situations and over time. Anyone with some respect could make a suggestion, but no one
was in a position to give orders. And others followed those suggestions because it was the rational thing to
do. The closest you get to a leader is a person that the Inuit call the ihumakortujok: "person of wisdom in
ordinary affairs."

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The economy of the band is simplicity itself: generalized reciprocity. Each person got what he or she needed,
and if there was anything left, it was shared. Each band may have had set formulas regarding how to split up
game: Often the one who made the kill had the right to distribute as he saw fit. Sometimes the kill would be
split, with the front parts of the animal going to the one who made the kill, and the hind quarters split among
his assistants. Whatever the rules were, when the hunters returned, there would be a general feast.

The concept of private property only extended to a few decorative or ceremonial articles, and never to the
necessities of life. Neither were there exclusive rights to land use, watering holes, animal herds or plants.
These might be associated with a particular band, and it might be considered polite to ask first, but the idea
of ownership as we know it probably didn't occur to them.
Theft was unknown, simply because there was nothing to steal. Instead, the equivalent sin was not sharing,
being stingy, or refusing a gift. Even then, the response was likely to be a matter of ignoring or making fun
of the culprit.
Relations with other bands was touchier, but scarcity tended to mean more sharing, not less. If hostilities did
break out, it was likely to be more a matter of aggressive posturing than anything physical, and if someone
should actually get hurt, everyone goes home and feels bad about it. Some plains Indian groups, for example,
even though they had evolved well beyond the band level, still preferred to "fight" in the form of something
called "counting coup," that is, in the form of ritualized contests involving sudden forays, the goals of which
were nothing more than touching the enemy.
Besides which, bands were exogamous, meaning you had to find a spouse outside your band. Marriage ties
between bands meant that even they were relatives of a sort.
It is only when it comes to behaviors that threaten the solidarity of the band that we might have seen the far
more drastic responses of murder or ostracism – which was death as well – in these societies.

This society, although our most basic, is nevertheless a far cry from what we see in the world of the
chimpanzees or the baboons: No power hierarchies, no alpha males or alpha females, no gangs of irritable

What were the psychological motivations of these people? Selfishness is sin; everything is in the service of
the band. So one would imagine that our ancestors had to suppress their assertive instincts rather severely
and allow only their nurturant instincts to express themselves. The only sense of assertiveness that might
have been permitted is striving to model oneself after the best of your band, the role models who, of course,
put the good of the band ahead of their own individual needs!
But notice: No band, no individual. There is actually not a very great gap between what is in one's own
interest and what is in the group's interest. The nurturant instincts and the assertive instincts, far from being
in conflict, actually supported each other. Life was hard, no doubt. But inner turmoil was probably minimal.

The Tribe

At some point, bands started evolving into tribes. This probably first happened in the neolithic Near East,
perhaps 10,000 years ago. The innovation that made this possible was agriculture. For the first time, we saw
surpluses. Farmers had to work hard, but that was a small price to pay for the security farming brought.

Agriculture meant a good deal less traveling. Although it began with the slash-and-burn technique, which
still required moving every few years, families could put down some roots (no pun intended!) and allow their
population to increase. Instead of 10 to 50, a farming community could support hundreds of people, and
often in a smaller area.

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Keep in mind that 10,000 years ago, there were only about 8 million people in the world – less than now live
in New York City. Bringing it closer to the present, in 1500, just before the European expansion, there were
only one million people living in the area now covered by the USA and Canada, as many as are now
comfortably collected in the state of Rhode Island.
Tools now included hoes and plows, and would eventually be made with metal. Clothes were more often
made of cloth, which required looms. Houses were made of wood and stone, which required the tools of
construction. Things were getting substantial! This in turn encouraged a few people to develop their talents
in one direction or another, rather than remaining generalists.
Most importantly, agriculture requires a new system of economics. With surpluses come the concepts of
food preservation and storage. These in turn demand that the surpluses be collected and later redistributed.
And something this important demands that we find among ourselves someone of great character, and that
we imbue the position with powerful controlling rituals and tokens.
In many tribal cultures, the chief is the hardest worker in the tribe. He maintains his prestige by
demonstrating the quality most valued in someone entrusted with the important task of redistributing
surpluses: generosity. He must pay for the satisfaction of his position by giving things away! A particularly
dramatic example of this is the famous potlatch of the Indians of British Columbia.
As the populations of farming villages increases, they begin to split, first into moieties (two very extended
families) and later clans. These moieties and clans each resemble the earlier bands, with their own special
cultural traditions, and they use each other as sources of spouses. Of course, this means that it is less
important to have good relations with other tribes.
Clans become lineages as the tribal structure matures. "Family trees" become very important. This is
determined, of course, in different ways in different tribes. But in any tribe, the details of social behavior are
heavily dependent on the way in which you are related to others. This becomes especially important as
positions originally based on respect become positions based on inheritance.
Surpluses, specialization, and a variety of ritual objects mean more property, and the concept of theft arises.
At first, this mostly applies to symbolic items, but eventually it includes areas of land, particular fruit or nut
trees, totem animals, personal tools, and so on. Adultery, too, becomes a greater concern, now that keeping
track of lineages has become important. These lead to an increase in the amount of conflict within the tribe,
and likewise an increase in the importance of explicit rules.
In the band, the rules were implicit, even unconscious. "This is the way we behave.... This is the way we
have always behaved." In the tribe, though, we may have differences among the various clans. We have
more property to be concerned about, more surpluses to carefully redistribute, more feelings to be hurt. So
the rules become more explicit, more law-like. Punishments, too, become more defined, and often harsher.

The psychology has begun to change a bit, it would seem. People are beginning to be differentiated from
each other, in specializations and rank, as well as on the basis of talent and reputation. In the more "natural"
world of the band, the crowded village would have long ago splintered. People are behaving differently in
the different clans and lineages. Some have more clout than others, just because of the luck of a good birth.

The tribe still requires most individuals to suppress whatever assertive tendencies they may have, but the
social instincts that so easily lead to conformity in the band now need considerable outside forces to support
them. Conformity becomes a real issue, with more rules and stricter punishments, precisely because there is
less "natural" conformity!
But it won't be until the next stage of social development that the urges to self-promotion would actually start
seeing some rewards.

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Civilization comes with the development of the city-state. As agricultural technology develops, fewer people
need to be involved in farming. And more people can be supported to engage in arts and crafts. The
complexity of a large population requires improvement in management techniques. The transformation of the
warrior from any able-bodied member of society to a professional specialty occurs. With that comes the
transformation of the war chief into a continuous leadership position. Religious life as well transforms from
a placation of nature spirits and appeals to the dead into an organized hierarchy of priests, with their own
leadership position.
Eventually, we see the development of stratification: Some people have power and some don't. Some have
everything they need and others have to make do with what's left to them. Some have, some have not. I
should mention that this concept spread to the pristine tribes, which became the considerably less friendly
societies we still find today. There are no more "pristine" societies!
There are a number of possible scenarios for the development of stratification. Perhaps a pastoral tribe has
taken advantage of their mobility and warfare savvy to take over nearby farming communities, turning
themselves into a ruling elite. Perhaps, with the invention of irrigation, downstream people become
dependent on the good graces of upstream people. Perhaps a shortage of land develops, and the distribution
of produce turns into the distribution of land – for rent!
In bands and tribes, hoarding is antisocial. In stratified societies, it is institutionalized. Property becomes
private. Instead of shortages increasing sharing, shortages raise prices (at first value in trade, later in labor
and money). You can even hold back necessities to raise prices, or create black markets and play favorites.
Because stratification is stressful, it is by nature unstable, and requires some strong organization to keep the
society from flying apart. We develop various bureaucracies: military institutions, religious institutions, legal
institutions, a treasury... Even at a level closer to the non-elite, there are large farms worked by peasants or
slaves, and large workshops of craftsmen and slaves, owned by the elite. This is the beginning of what Karl
Marx called the alienation of the worker from the product of his or her labor.
Stratification creates poverty. When times are hard, it is no longer the entire group that suffers: The elite
takes what it thinks it is due, and the underclass does without.
Stratification institutionalizes war. In order to feed the city's or state's voracious appetite, the elite look to
what other cities or states have, and decide to take it. Or they fear the greed of the other state, and attack to
prevent attack. The warrior class justifies its existence by making war.
Stratification breeds slavery. In band societies, women and children are occasionally captured during raids,
but they are usually absorbed into the society. There is more slavery in tribes, but they are almost always a
minority of the population. The city state places slaves under threat of death and torture, and creates a class
that is even lower than the underclass.
These city states continue to grow. It seems that they need to grow in order to survive! They may begin with
a thousand people; they end up as empires with millions. It has only taken a few thousand years for these
social structures to dominate the entire planet. Only in the last 500 years in Europe has a new form of social
structure arisen.
Civilization adds considerable stress to its individual members. On the one hand, selfish motivations are
actively encouraged: Survival depends on taking care of "number one" (and one's near and dear). On the
other hand, the institutions work by means of explicit rewards and punishments to control the assertiveness
of most of the underclass and a good portion of the elite. Within certain small groups, the kinds of
conformity pressures we see in the band may still operate. But beyond those, we see severe consequences
instituted to keep people and groups of people in their "place."
One of the most significant psychological methods of promoting conformity is religion. Since the society is
split into many different groups and several classes, there is no longer a general "center of gravity" for norms

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to revolve around. Instead, an otherworldly ideal is promoted, conformity to which is encouraged by

promises of rich rewards or horrendous suffering in the afterlife. The more effective the religious ideology,
the less the elite needs to waste their resources on more physical incentives to conformity.
Under certain circumstances, a state or empire might enter into a steady-state period. If there is relatively
little threat from outside the society and relative prosperity within, and if the religious ideology is powerful
and the bureaucracies efficient, a state may last for centuries. Examples include ancient Egypt and China.
The closest we get to such long-lasting states in Europe are the Roman Empire and the culture of the Middle
Ages, the first because of its military structure, the latter because of its powerful religious traditions.
Crucial to such steady-state societies is an image of reality involving a "great chain of being." The society –
even the world – is ordered into a huge stratification, from God and his angels down through the kings and
popes, down through the various elites, down to the artisans and merchants, down to the peasants and the
working poor of the cities, down to slaves and barbarians, down even into the realm of the animals. This
chain of being is understood as being established by God, or something in the nature of the universe for all
time, such as karma. The people of these societies saw this chain like we see the laws of nature.
And just like disobeying the laws of nature results in disaster, so does disobeying the laws of society. God or
karma or whatever forces hold the universe together will get you, now or in the afterlife, if you attempt to
deviate. This, of course, gives all members of the society – but especially those on higher rungs – the right,
even the duty, to help God or karma along. Disobey the social laws and you are truly an outlaw – someone
who is no longer a part of the great chain at all.

The age of the individual

In the last 500 years or so, beginning in Europe, a rather dramatic change in social structures and the
accompanying psychological attitudes has occurred. Bit by bit, we have magnified the role of the individual.
At the same time, society and its conformity pressures haven't really diminished, meaning that we have
become "split personalities" in that the pressures to conform and the pressures to realize one's autonomy
divide each of us, and often cause us to feel alienated from our societies, our communities, and even
How did this come about? The first step, I believe, was a shake up of the European order during the
renaissance. Before, the continent was at least unified culturally by the Catholic Church. The great chain of
being, for all the infighting amongst the nobility, held. With the renaissance, the powers of the nobility
increased, the boundaries between nobility and the church became blurred, and the authority of the pope
diminished. Aristocrats began to think of themselves as free agents, who could rise (and fall) in the great
chain via wealth and politics, as well as warfare. The church, which had the supposed last word on one's
status, could be bought off or simply ignored.
The second step was the protestant reformation. At first, it was simply an extension of renaissance power
struggles. But it also contained some slight variations on traditional beliefs that allowed people to essentially
deconstruct the great chain of being. In 1517, Luther (and others) said that our salvation was in our own
hands, and not something mediated by the priests and bishops of the church. God speaks to each of us, and
judges each of us, and grants his grace to each of us, as individuals. Lutheranism would, of course, simply
become a minor variation of the Catholic Church in short order – but a new "meme" had been introduced.
Calvin added another small idea to the mix: Some of us, regardless of our blood lines or position in the
church, were predestined to find our way to heaven. The idea of the Elect was born! People, of course,
wanted to know what signs would indicate salvation, and found it in something that cut across old
hierarchies of church and state: wealth. And, since wealth is far more variable than the older traditions of the
great chain, people began compete for places on what was now more of a ladder than a chain.

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Good old Christopher Columbus and his imitators played a big part. By opening up the "new world" to
Europe in 1492, he gave the European people two things: An incredible surge of wealth in the form of silver
and other products to compete for (at the expense of the prior inhabitants of both the Americas and Africa, of
course), and a place for thousands of malcontents to escape where they could – perhaps – make fortunes
independently of their social origins.
Another piece of the puzzle is the Gutenburg Bible. The printing press meant that increasing numbers of
people had access to the word of God, and had less need to rely on the priesthood. In addition, reading was
an asset to the middle classes, since it allows one to keep books and ledgers, allows one to keep score, if you
like. As printing expanded beyond the Bible, philosophical and technical thought became available to that
literate middle class. People were asking themselves: How is the priest or the nobleman so different from
me? Why should they get all the respect?
A bit later, we see a few more literal revolutions: The Great Peasant War of 1525; the Edict of Nantes in
1598; Dutch independence from Spain in 1648; the overthrow of the British monarchy in 1649; the
Declaration of Rights in 1689; the rebellion of those pesky colonists in American in 1776; the overthrow of
the French nobility in 1789; and so on. The idea that "the people" (always defined with limitations, of
course) had actual rights – what a concept! And what a boost to the individual!
Then there's the industrial revolution. Beginning in England and rapidly expanding to the continent, the
development of the factory system of production caused a massive reconfiguration of western Europe, with
peasants moving from their traditional farms to the cities, exchanging their bondage to the land for bondage
to the machine. The aristocratic landowners become less and less significant, while the factory owners,
usually of middle class origins, became richer and more powerful.
And late, very late, in all this, we see the freeing of 40 million serfs in Russia in 1861 and 4 million slaves in
the United States in 1863, and similar events all over the western world. The day to day conditions of serfs
and slaves changed very little – but the idea of individual freedom for even the lowliest among us is a genie
you cannot put back in the bottle easily! Even women – that eternal underclass – would achieve political
equality in many places by the early 1900's.
All this was not without consequences, of course. Wars became more extensive and sophisticated. Churches
of all denominations became more possessive of what power they had left. The nobility hardly missed out on
all the opportunities for wealth and power. And the modern concept of the nation-state solidified, complete
with patrolled borders, standing armies, heavy taxation, and huge bureaucracies. England becomes Great
Britain, France becomes a powerhouse, Italy and Germany finally become unified, Russia and the US enter
the international scene.
Finally we have the socialist revolutions – especially the Russian Revolution in 1917 – with their dreams of
economic equality for all. Although the extreme versions have since failed, socialism has had a huge impact
everywhere. The worker was protected, education was spread more evenly, the poor were assisted, and the
powerful industrialists were restrained. There was something closer to a "level playing field," where each
individual had similar opportunities to make of their lives what they wished, than ever before. Sadly, what
should have been the final surge of freedom would coincide with the battles of huge nation-states that were
World War I and II.
While the hunter-gatherer condition lasted hundreds of thousands of years, and the agricultural tribes lasted
tens of thousands, and the traditional civilizations began only thousands of years ago, all these later changes
happened in a mere few hundred years. Change was actually noticeable to the people embedded in it. We are
still reeling from it all.
Psychologically, we are stretched rather thin today: Society still asks us to conform, but that conformity is
more a matter of law than of cultural tradition and religious ideology. Although we rarely think in terms of
great hierarchies or chains of being anymore, we still feel the pressures to conform "horizontally," to each
other – feelings strongly supported by the novel forces of mass media. On the other hand, the variety of
beliefs, cultural traditions, lifestyles, choices of careers, educational opportunities, and international

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movement, constantly confront our minds with the fact of our considerable autonomy and the responsibilities
that come with it. We can no longer say, when we feel unhappy with our lives, that this unhappiness is the
sad but inevitable result of being born to a particular station on the great chain of being.
So here we stand at the beginning of the 21st century, burdened by our need to fit into society and the often
conflicting need to be individuals, and clueless as to how to reconcile the two. What happens next is
anybody's guess.

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Getting a Picture of a Society

What makes up a society? How do we describe one? It is a complicated affair, but here are some suggestions
as to how to organize the process:

1. Who – the individuals, the roles, the qualifications....

2. What – the objects, clothing, tools, ritual objects, technology....

3. When – scheduling, timing, cycles....

4. Where – the locale, buildings, furnishings....

5. How – the activities, rituals, techniques....

Domains (or Why we do these things)

1. Organization – order (kinship systems, government, guilds, corporations).

2. Power structures – enforcement (the military, police, defense, war).

3. Production – subsistance (work, industry, agriculture, crafts, technology, cooking,

cleaning, sewing, modern professions, applied science...).

4. Education – learning (school, apprenticeship, research).

5. Recreation – entertainment (play, sports, toys, games, art, music, musical instruments,
stories, literature, theater...).

6. Belief systems – stability (propitiation of the gods or spirits, satisfaction of superstitious

tendencies, social manipulation, moral control, religion, magic, theoretical science...).

Layers of society (the "concentric domains")

1. Family – the most intimate circle and its activities, including meals, sexuality and
reproduction, child rearing, male/female and adult/child role differentiation....

2. Community – a larger circle of people that we still think of as "us," and all that pertains
to "us."

3. The Others – the people beyond our community, whom we think of as "them," and
how we relate to "them."

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(There may be additional layers and sublayers, depending on the complexity of the society.)
Prerequisites of any society
• Biological creatures with needs;
• An ecosystem capable of sustaining them;
• Social relationships among those creatures; and
• Language or other symbolic communication abilities.
Societies such as we humans have require the capacity for abstract thought and language.

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Intelligence and IQ

Intelligence is a person's capacity to (1) acquire knowledge (i.e. learn and understand), (2) apply knowledge
(solve problems), and (3) engage in abstract reasoning. It is the power of one's intellect, and as such is clearly
a very important aspect of one's overall well-being. Psychologists have attempted to measure it for well over
a century.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is the score you get on an intelligence test. Originally, it was a quotient (a ratio):
IQ= MA/CA x 100 [MA is mental age, CA is chronological age]. Today, scores are calibrated against norms
of actual population scores.

• Under 70 [mentally retarded] – 2.2%

• 70-80 [borderline retarded] – 6.7%
• 80-90 [low average] – 16.1%
• 90-110 [average] – 50%
• 110-120 [high average] – 16.1%
• 120-130 [superior] – 6.7%
• Over 130 [very superior] – 2.2%

Descriptive statistics

To understand IQ and the research involving IQ, we need to understand the basics of descriptive statistics:
1. The normal curve. This curve, also called the bell-shaped curve, is an idealized version of what
happens in many large sets of measurements: Most measurements fall in the middle, and fewer fall at
points farther away from the middle. Here, most people score near 100 (the average), and much less
people score very high or very low.
2. The mean. The mean is just the average. The sum of everyone’s IQ scores, divided by the number of
scores, is the mean, which was originally set at 100 by agreement.
3. The standard deviation. The standard deviation is like the average degree to which scores deviate
from the mean. For our purposes, just know that 1 standard deviation above and below the mean [85

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to 115] contains 68% of all the scores, 2 sd [70 to 130] contains 95%, and 3 sd [55 to 145] contains
To understand the next discussion, we need to know about correlation. Correlation is what you are doing
when you compare two sets of measurements (each set is called a variable). If you were to measure
everyone’s height and weight, you could then compare heights and weights and see if they have any
relationship to each other – any co-relation, if you will. Of course, the taller you are, generally speaking, the
more you weight. But it is obviously not a perfect co-relation, because some people are thin and some are fat.
A perfect correlation is +1. An example would be the volume of water vs the weight of water.
Perfect correlation can also be -1. An example would be the amount of ink left in your printer vs the amount
of ink used up.
Most things have a correlation of 0. An example would be your height vs your SAT score.
In psychology, we are generally impressed by correlations of .3 and higher. .8 or .9 blows us away.
But one thing correlation cannot tell you is what causes what. Your grades and your SATs correlate a little
bit – but which causes which? Odds are there is something else that causes two things to correlate.

Is it genetic or environmental?

Here are a few correlations to ponder, between one person's IQ and anothers:
father-child .51
mother-child .55
siblings .50

biological families adoptive families

mother-child .41 .09
father-child .40 .16
child-child .35 -.03

identical twins fraternal twins

fingerprints .97 .46
height .93 .65
IQ (Binet) .88 .63
IQ (Otis) .92 .62
word meaning .86 .56
nature study .77 .55
history and literature .82 .67
spelling .87 .73

So intelligence clearly has a powerful genetic component. But we can also see a number of environmental
aids and hindrances: A stimulating environment, parental encouragement, good schooling, specific reasoning
skills, continued practice, and so on, certainly help a person become more intelligent. Likewise, there are
certain biological factors that are nevertheless environmental: prenatal care, nutrition (especially in early

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childhood), freedom from disease and physical trauma, and so on.

All of these are important and cannot be ignored – especially when these are the things we can most easily
do something about! But I do believe that something better than half of intelligence is accounted for by
genetics. And this is, to put it simply, a matter of brain efficiency. If your brain is well-developed, free from
genetic defects, free from neurochemical imbalances, then it will work well, given a decent environment. But
no matter how good your environment, if you are forced to rely on "bad equipment," it will be much more
difficult to attain high intelligence.
Most of the normal curve of intelligence, I believe, is due to a variety of physiological impairments of brain
efficiency, such as that resulting from malnourishment, prenatal trauma, chromosomal damage, and, most
often, simple inheritance of certain neurochemical makeups. These stretch what would otherwise be a much
"tighter" curve out to the low end.
The great majority of us have fairly healthy brains. A very few have particularly healthy brains. It would
seem that having particularly healthy brains would be a fantastic aid to one’s "fitness," so I can only guess
that not being too bright must be even better!

Different kinds of intelligences

Is intelligence one thing (referred to as g)? Many researchers believe it is. Or is it many things. Some
suggestions include the following:
• Verbal, numerical, spatial, reasoning, fluency, perceptual speed...
• Fluid vs. crystallized (Cattell)...
• Linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal
I’m not big on emphasizing different kinds of intelligence, or on introducing new kinds. Some things – street
smarts, common sense, and social intelligence, for example – are "specializations" of intelligence, just like
academic intelligence is. Other things – like musical ability or kinesthetic abilities or artistic abilities – are
talents in their own right, and not new kinds of intelligence. I think our enthusiasm for egalitarianism leads
us to play semantic games, so that everyone can be "intelligent" in some fashion. The sentiment is pleasant,
but by doing this, you eliminate any meaning intelligence may have had!

Social issues

A very touchy subject is group differences in intelligence. It is certainly conceivable that some groups have
higher or lower average intelligence than others, whether through environmental or genetic causes. But
groups don’t really have intelligence, individuals do. Averages are fictions – convenient summaries of data –
and no individual need reflect that fiction. So the debate would be only of scientific interest, were it not for
the fact that so many people judge individuals by means of stereotypes. This in itself is an example of poor
The biggest difficulty for society (and individuals!) regarding intelligence is retardation. Unlike high
intelligence, low intelligence is further classified into several subcategories:
• 0 - 20 (profound) – needs nursing care
• 20 - 35 (severe) – can learn to talk and develop health habits

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• 35 - 50 (moderate) – second grade, needs sheltered care

• 50 - 70 (mild) – educable to the sixth grade, minimally self-supporting

Low intelligence has significant social effects. Here are some social statistics relating to IQ*:

less than 90 to 110 to 125 and

IQ group....... 75 to 90
75 110 125 higher
% of total population 5% 20% 50% 20% 5%
% of group out of labor force more than one month
22% 19% 15% 14% 10%
out of the year
% of group unemployed more than one month out of
12% 10% 7% 7% 2%
the year (men)
% of group divorced within five years 21% 22% 23% 15% 9%
% of group that had illegitimate children (women) 32% 17% 8% 4% 2%
% of group that lives in poverty 30% 16% 6% 3% 2%
% of group ever incarcerated (men) 7% 7% 3% 1% 0%
% of group that are chronic welfare recipients
31% 17% 8% 2% 0%
% of group that drop out of high school 55% 35% 6% 0.4% 0%

Difficulties with measuring intelligence

Finally, there’s the question of intelligence testing. I think it has come a long way, but it has a long way to go
as well. I hope to see it become more inclusive of non-academic thinking, and to become less tied to prior
learning. The bigger problem with testing, however, is what we do with the results: People are far too prone
to take test scores at face value, without looking at a broader selection of information about a person’s
abilities. They are also far too likely to generalize to non-intelligence issues. We should certainly not use
intelligence tests carelessly when deciding children's’ educations or adult’s careers.

Cultural variables
Try these questions:
1. How many days does it take for a chicken egg to hatch?
2. What color is a Holstein cow?
3. How many stomachs does a cow have?
4. Does a bull have a cud?
5. Is a rooster necessary for a hen to lay eggs?

The answers: 21; black and white; 4; yes; and no, unless you want fertilized eggs. These are easy questions if
you grew up on a farm!

* From "The General Intelligence Factor" by Linda S. Gottfredson (Scientific American). Original table from
Intelligence, Vol. 24, No. 1; January/February 1997.

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Other examples: The famous "chittlin's" test, biased towards black Americans. It is named for the question:
"What are chittlin's?" Answer: Pig's intestines, cleaned, soaked, and fried (originally called chitterlings). Or
you could bias towards other groups by asking "What is tripe?" (an English dish consisting of sautéed ox
stomach strips) or "What is haggis?" (a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep's stomach filled with a porridge
made of oats and various sweetmeats.)
It becomes even more dramatic when we look at people very different from ourselves, such as children
growing up in the wilds of Papua-New Guinea. Some of the biases working against them might include...
1. Use of paper and pencil. Problems are often presented in the form of diagrams; answering often
requires x-ing, circling, underlining, etc. Not easy for someone unfamiliar with paper and pencil!
2. Use of pictorial material. Pictures, especially as printed on paper, use highly conventional symbols,
e.g. cutouts of pots, huts, etc. were thought to be pieces of cardboard, rather than the objects they
represented. when placed into a scene, they began to make sense.
3. Use of non-representational drawings. Geometric figures, colored patterns, mazes, etc., lack meaning
to many people. Artistic patterns are only understood in context.
4. Appreciation of spatial relations. Our emphasis on three-dimensions at right angles is culturally
specific. Other cultures emphasize rounded figures more.
5. Manipulation. If you lack experience with blocks, puzzles, pieces of cardboard, etc., you also lack a
feel for them and may be clumsy with them, leading the tester to conclude that you are "dumb."

The problem of cognitive style

How are a pair of scissors and a copper pan alike?

One point answer: They are both household utensils.
Two point answer: They are both made of metal.

Why is the second worth more than the first?

Which doesn't belong: clam, pig, oven, rose.
The correct answer is the oven, because the rest are living things. But a child may say rose, since the others
relate to making dinner. Or the clam, since they live in the water, and the rest live on land.
Not only can different answers reflect different social or cultural backgrounds; they may also reflect
originality and novel outlook.
In certain IQ tests, the child is given two points for "categorical" answers, one point for "descriptive"
answers, but no points for "relational" answers. So, in response to "How are a cat and a mouse alike?" you
get two points for "they are both animals," one point for "they both have tails," and nothing at all if you say
"they both live in houses."
With drawings of a boy, an old man, and a woman (the latter two wearing hats), children were asked "Which
go together?" "Good" answers include the boy and the man, because they are both male, or the man and the
woman because they are both adults. Less points are awarded to "the man and the woman, because they are
both wearing hats." and no points are gained for "the boy and the old man, because the boy can help the old
man walk," which strikes me as the most creative answer!

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Disembedded thought

The most important of all the confusing variables, I believe, is the problem of disembedded thought.
Disembedded thought is Margaret Donaldson's term for thought that takes place in a contextual vacuum: It
takes years of practice to get to a point where one is comfortable with abstract questions. Answering what
appear to be meaningless questions is rejected by people of many cultures, by most young children, and by
many people with different "cognitive styles." It is, in fact, a talent peculiar to us (i.e. educated western
adults, and a few others). Many others will spend their creative energies not at solving the problem, but at
trying to figure out why you would ask such a strange question to begin with.
IQ tests, especially in the past, have been (1) competition-oriented (with motivation to answer quickly and
accurately assumed), (2) upper-middle class oriented, and (3) western culture-oriented (especially in regards
to the thought process associated with science and technology). It should be understood, however, that
psychologists have been working hard at eliminated these various biases, or at least reducing them, and that
IQ tests today are at least relatively culturally fair. They are certain very reliable, and do in fact related well
to success in school and western society – i.e. the culture and institutions that share the values of these tests.

Using intelligence tests

There is one more problem with IQ tests, this time not about making them or giving them, but about using
There was an experiment by Rosenthal in which school teachers were casually told at the beginning of the
school year that certain students (mentioned by name) were "spurters," that, according to some tests designed
to measure "spurting," they would blossom in the coming year. Actually no such test had been given. In fact,
no such test exists. The information was actually given about 20% of the students, chosen at random.
These kids no only did well academically (which we might expect, with teachers having some control over
that), but actually increased their IQ test scores!
The same, incidentally, happens with rats: Graduate students told that certain rats had been bred for
intelligence found that they did indeed do better at learning mazes – even though the information was false!
This is a form of experimenter bias, of course, and part of the reason we have double blinds in experiments.
but in the broader, social arena, we call this the self-fulfilling prophecy, or the labelling effect. It is clear that
we should take each child as an individual and give him or her whatever education they can handle.
Unfortunately, that is costly.

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Selected Portions of Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns*


Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the
environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by
taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a
given person's intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by
different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of
phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has
yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen
prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different
definitions (Sternberg & Detterman, 1986). Such disagreements are not cause for dismay. Scientific research
rarely begins with fully agreed definitions, though it may eventually lead to them.
This first section of our report reviews the approaches to intelligence that are currently influential, or that
seem to be becoming so. Here (as in later sections) much of our discussion is devoted to the dominant
psychometric approach, which has not only inspired the most research and attracted the most attention (up to
this time) but is by far the most widely used in practical settings. Nevertheless, other points of view deserve
serious consideration. Several current theorists argue that there are many different "intelligences" (systems of
abilities), only a few of which can be captured by standard psychometric tests. Others emphasize the role of
culture, both in establishing different conceptions of intelligence and in influencing the acquisition of
intellectual skills. Developmental psychologists, taking yet another direction, often focus more on the
processes by which all children come to think intelligently than on measuring individual differences among
them. There is also a new interest in the neural and biological bases of intelligence, a field of research that
seems certain to expand in the next few years.
In this brief report, we cannot do full justice to even one such approach. Rather than trying to do so, we focus
here on a limited and rather specific set of questions:
• What are the significant conceptualizations of intelligence at this time? (Section I)
• What do intelligence test scores mean, what do they predict, and how well do they predict it?
(Section II)
• Why do individuals differ in intelligence, and especially in their scores on intelligence tests? Our
discussion of these questions implicates both genetic factors (Section III) and environmental factors
(Section IV).
• Do various ethnic groups display different patterns of performance on intelligence tests, and if so
what might explain those differences? (Section V)
• What significant scientific issues are presently unresolved? (Section VI)
Public discussion of these issues has been especially vigorous since the 1994 publication of Hermstein and
Murray's The Bell Curve, a controversial volume which stimulated many equally controversial reviews and
replies. Nevertheless, we do not directly enter that debate. Hermstein and Murray (and many of their critics)
have gone well beyond the scientific findings, making explicit recommendations on various aspects of public
policy. Our concern here, however, is with science rather than policy. The charge to our Task Force was to

* Report of a Task Force established by the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association
Released August 7, 1995. Ulric Neisser, PhD, Chair; Emory University. As presented by STALKING THE WILD
TABOO at [A slightly edited version was published in the
American Psychologist, Feb 1996. Official Journal of the APA]

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prepare a dispassionate survey of the state of the art: to make clear what has been scientifically established,
what is presently in dispute, and what is still unknown. In fulfilling that charge, the only recommendations
we shall make are for further research and calmer debate.

The Psychometric Approach

Ever since Alfred Binet's great success in devising tests to distinguish mentally retarded children from those
with behavior problems, psychometric instruments have played an important part in European and American
life. Tests are used for many purposes, such as selection, diagnosis, and evaluation. Many of the most widely
used tests are not intended to measure intelligence itself but some closely related construct: scholastic
aptitude, school achievement, specific abilities, etc. Such tests are especially important for selection
purposes. For preparatory school, it's the SSAT; for college, the SAT or ACT; for graduate school, the GRE;
for medical school, the MOAT; for law school, the LSAT; for business school, the GMAT. Scores on
intelligence-related tests matter, and the stakes can be high.
Intelligence tests. Tests of intelligence itself (in the psychometric sense) come in many forms. Some use
only a single type of item or question; examples include the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (a measure of
children's verbal intelligence) and Raven's Progressive Matrices (a nonverbal, untimed test that requires
inductive reasoning about perceptual patterns). Although such instruments are useful for specific purposes,
the more familiar measures of general intelligence, such as the Wechsler tests and the Stanford-Binet,
include many different types of items, both verbal and nonverbal. Test-takers may be asked to give the
meanings of words, to complete a series of pictures, to indicate which of several words does not belong with
the others, and the like. Their performance can then be scored to yield several subscores as well as an overall
By convention, overall intelligence test scores are usuallv converted to a scale in which the mean is 100 and
the standard deviation is 15. (The standard deviation is a measure of the variability of the distribution of
scores.) Approximately 95% of the population has scores within two standard deviations of the mean, i.e.
between 70 and 130. For historical reasons, the term "IQ" is often used to describe scores on tests of
intelligence. It originally referred to an "intelligence Quotient" that was formed by dividing a so-called
mental age by a chronological age, but this procedure is no longer used.
Intercorrelations among Tests. Individuals rarely perform equally well on all the different kinds of items
included in a test of intelligence. One person may do relatively better on verbal than on spatial items, for
example, while another may show the opposite pattern. Nevertheless, subtests measuring different abilities
tend to be positively correlated: people who score high on one such subtest are likely to be above average on
others as well. These complex patterns of correlation can be clarified by factor analysis, but the results of
such analyses are often controversial themselves. Some theorists (e.g., Spearman, 1927) have emphasized the
importance of a general factor, g, which represents what all the tests have in common; others (e.g.,
Thurstone, 1938) focus on more specific group factors such as memory, verbal comprehension, or number
facility. As we shall see in Section 2, one common view today envisages something like a hierarchy of
factors with g at the apex. But there is no full agreement on what g actually means: it has been described as a
mere statistical regularity (Thompson, 1939), a kind of mental energy (Spearman, 1927), a generalized
abstract reasoning ability (Gustafsson 1984), or an index measure of neural processing speed (Reed &
Jensen, 1992).
There have been many disputes over the utility of IQ and g. Some theorists are critical of the entire
psychometric approach (e.g., Ceci, 1990; Gardner, 1983; Gould, 1978), while others regard it as firmly
established (e.g., Carroll, 1993; Eysenck, 1973; Hermstein & Murray, 1994; Jensen, 1972). The critics do not
dispute the stability of test scores, nor the fact that they predict certain forms of achievement-especially
school achievement–rather effectively (see Section 2). They do argue, however, that to base a concept of
intelligence on test scores alone is to ignore many important aspects of mental ability. Some of those aspects
are emphasized in other approaches reviewed below.

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Multiple Forms of Intelligence

Gardner's Theory. A relatively new approach is the theory of "multiple intelligences"; proposed by Howard
Gardner (1983). On this view conceptions of intelligence should be informed not only by work with normal
children and adults but also by studies of gifted individuals (including so-called 'savants"), of persons who
have suffered brain damage, of experts and virtuosos, and of individuals from diverse cultures. These
considerations have led Gardner to include musical, bodlily-kinesthetic, and various forms of personal
intelligence as well as more familiar spatial, linguistic, and logical mathematical abilities in the scope of his
theory. He argues that psychometric tests address only linguistic and logical plus some aspects of spatial
intelligence; other forms have been entirely ignored. Moreover, the paper and-pencil format of most tests
rules out many kinds of intelligent performance that matter in everyday life, such as giving an
extemporaneous talk (linguistic) or being able to find one's way in a new town (spatial). While Gardner's
arguments have attracted considerable interest, the stability and validity of performance tests in these new
domains has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. It is also possible to doubt whether some of these abilities-
bodily-kinesthetic," for example–are appropriately described as forms of intelligence rather than as special
Sternberg's Theory. Robert Sternberg's (1985) triarchic theory proposes three fundamental aspects of
intelligence-analytic, creative, and practical–of which only the first is measured to any significant extent by
mainstream tests. His investigations suggest the need for a balance between analytic intelligence, on the one
hand, and creative and especially practical intelligence on the other. The distinction between analytic (or
"academic") and practical intelligence has also been made by others (e.g., Neisser, 1976). Analytic problems,
of the type suitable for test construction, tend to (a) have been formulated by other people, (b) be clearly
defined, (c) come with all the information needed to solve them, (d) have only a single right answer, which
can be reached by only a single method, (e) be disembodied from ordinary experience, and (f) have little or
no intrinsic interest. Practical problems, in contrast, tend to (a) require problem recognition and formulation,
(b) be poorly defined, (c) require information seeking, (d) have various acceptable solutions, (e) be
embedded in and require prior everyday experience, and (f) require motivation and personal involvement.
As part of their study of practical intelligence, Sternberg and his collaborators have developed measures of
"tacit knowledge" in various domains, especially business management. In these measures, individuals are
given written scenarios of various work related situations and then asked to rank a number of options for
dealing with the situation presented. The results show that tacit knowledge predicts such criteria such as job
performance fairly well, even though it is relatively independent of intelligence test scores and other
common selection measures (Sternberg & Wagner, 1993; Sternberg, Wagner, Williams & Horvath, in press).
This work, too, has its critics (Jensen, 1993; Schmidt & Hunter, 1993).
Related Findings. Other investigators have also demonstrated the relative independence of academic and
practical intelligence. Brazilian street children, for example, are quite capable of doing the math required for
survival in their street business even though they have failed mathematics in school (Carraher, Carraher, and
Schliemann, 1985). Similarly, women shoppers in California who had no difficulty in comparing product
values at the supermarket were unable to carry out the same mathematical operations in paper-and pencil
tests (Lave, 1988). In a study of expertise in wagering on harness races, Ceci and Liker (1986) found that the
skilled handicappers implicitly used a highly complex interactive model with as many as seven variables; the
ability to do this successfully was unrelated to scores on intelligence tests.

Cultural Variation.

It is very difficult to compare concepts of intelligence across cultures. English is not alone in having many
words for different aspects of intellectual power and cognitive skill (wise, sensible, smart, bright, clever;
cunning, etc.); if another language has just as many, which of them shall we say corresponds to its speakers'
"concept of intelligence"? The few attempts to examine this issue directly have typically found that, even

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within a given society, different cognitive characteristics are emphasized from one situation to another and
from one subculture to another(Serpell, 1974; Super, 1983; Wober, 1974). These differences extend not just
to conceptions of intelligence but to what is considered adaptive or appropriate in a broader sense.
These issues have occasionally been addressed across sub-cultures and ethnic groups in America. In a study
conducted in San Jose California, Okagaki and Sternberg (1993) asked immigrant parents from Cambodia,
Mexico, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as native-born Angle-Americans and Mexican-Americans,
about their conceptions of child-rearing, appropriate teaching, and children's intelligence. Parents from all
groups except Angle-Americans indicated that such characteristics as motivation, social skills, and practical
school skills were as or more important than cognitive characteristics for their conceptions of an intelligent
first-grade child.
Heath (1983) found that different ethnic groups in North Carolina have different conceptions of intelligence.
To be considered as intelligent or adaptive, one must excel in the skills valued by one's own group. One
particularly interesting contrast was in the importance ascribed to verbal vs. nonverbal communication
skills–to saying things explicitly as opposed to using and understanding gestures and facial expressions. Note
that while both these forms of communicative skill have their uses, they are not equally well represented in
psychometric tests.
How testing is done can have different effects in different cultural groups. This can happen for many reasons,
including differential familiarity with the test materials themselves. Serpell (1979), for example, asked
Zambian and English children to reproduce patterns in three media: wire models, clay models, or pencil and
paper. The Zambian children excelled in the wire medium with which they were familiar, while the English
children were best with pencil and paper. Both groups performed equally well with clay.

Developmental Progressions

Piaget's Theory. The best-known developmentally-based conception of intelligence is certainly that of the
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1972). Unlike most of the theorists considered here, Piaget had relatively
little interest in individual differences. Intelligence develops in all children through the continually shifting
balance between the assimilation of new information into existing cognitive structures and the
accommodation of those structures themselves to the new information. To index the development of
intelligence in this sense, Piaget devised methods that are rather different from conventional tests. To assess
the understanding of "conservation." for example, (roughly, the principle that material quantity is not
affected by mere changes of shape), children who have watched water being poured from a shallow to a tall
beaker may be asked if there is now more water than before. (A positive answer would suggest that the child
has not yet mastered the principle of conservation.) Piaget's tasks can be modified to serve as measures of
individual differences; when this is done, they correlate fairly well with standard psychometric tests (for a
review see Jensen, 1980).
Vygotsky's Theory. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1978) argued that all intellectual abilities are
social in origin. Language and thought first appear in early interactions with parents, and continue to develop
through contact with teachers and others. Traditional intelligence tests ignore what Vygotsky called the
"zone of proximal development." i.e., the level of performance that a child might reach with appropriate help
from a supportive adult. Such tests are "static." measuring only the intelligence that is already fully
developed. "Dynamic" testing, in which the examiner provides guided and graded feedback, can go further to
give some indication of the child's latent potential. These ideas are being developed and extended by a
number of contemporary psychologists (Brown & French, 1979; Feuerstein, 1980; Pascual-Leone & Ijaz,

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Biological Approaches
Some investigators have recently turned to the study of the brain as a basis for new ideas about what
intelligence is and how to measure it. Many aspects of brain anatomy and physiology have been suggested as
potentially relevant to intelligence: the arborization of cortical neurons (Ceci, 1990), cerebral glucose
metabolism (Haier 1993), evoked potentials (Caryl, 1994), nerve conduction velocity (Reed & Jensen, 1992),
sex hormones (see Section 4), and still others (cf. Vernon, 1993). Advances in research methods, including
new forms of brain imaging such as PET and MRI scans, will surely add to this list. In the not-too-distant
future it may be possible to relate some aspects of test performance to specific characteristics of brain
This brief survey has revealed a wide range of contemporary conceptions of intelligence and of how it should
be measured. The psychometric approach is the oldest and best established, but others also have much to
contribute. We should be open to the possibility that our understanding of intelligence in the future will be
rather different from what it is today.


Tests as Predictors

School Performance. Intelligence tests were originally devised by Alfred Binet to measure children's ability
to succeed in school. They do in fact predict school performance fairly well: the correlation between IS
scores and grades is about .50. They also predict scores on school achievement tests, designed to measure
knowledge of the curriculum. Note, however, that correlations of this magnitude account for only about 25%
of the overall variance. Successful school learning depends on many personal characteristics other than
intelligence, such as persistence, interest in school, and willingness to study. The encouragement for
academic achievement that is received from peers, family and teachers may also be important, together with
more general cultural factors (see Section 5).
The relationship between test scores and school performance seems to be ubiquitous. Wherever it has been
studied, children with high scores on tests of intelligence tend to learn more of what is taught in school than
their lower-scoring peers. There may be styles of teaching and methods of instruction that will decrease or
increase this correlation, but none that consistently eliminates it has yet been found (Cronbach and Snow,
What children learn in school depends not only on their individual abilities but also on teaching practices and
on what is actually taught. Recent comparisons among pupils attending school in different countries have
made this especially obvious. Children in Japan and China, for example, know a great deal more math than
American children even though their intelligence test scores are quite similar (see Section 5). This difference
may result from many factors, including cultural attitudes toward schooling as well as the sheer amount of
time devoted to the study of mathematics and how that study is organized (Stevenson & Stigler, 1992). In
principle it is quite possible to improve the school learning of American children–even very substantially-
without changing their intelligence test scores at all.
Years of Education. Some children stay in school longer than others; many go on to college and perhaps
beyond. Two variables that can be measured as early as elementary school correlate with the total amount of
education individuals will obtain: test scores and social class background. Correlations between IQ scores
and total years of education are about .55, implying that differences in psychometric intelligence account for
about 30% of the outcome variance. The correlations of years of education with social class background (as
indexed by the occupation/ education of a child's parents) are also positive, but somewhat lower.
There are a number of reasons why children with higher test scores tend to get more education. They are
likely to get good grades, and to be encouraged by teachers and counselors; often they are placed in "college
preparatory" classes, where they make friends who may also encourage them. In general, they are likely to

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find the process of education rewarding in a way that many low-scoring children do not (Rehberg and
Rosenthal, 1978). These influences are not omnipotent: some high scoring children do drop out of school.
Many personal and social characteristics other than psychometric intelligence determine academic success
and interest, and social privilege may also play a role. Nevertheless, test scores are the best single predictor
of an individual's years of education.
In contemporary American society, the amount of schooling that adults complete is also somewhat predictive
of their social status. Occupations considered high in prestige (e.g., law, medicine, even corporate business)
usually require at least a college degree-16 or more years of education-as a condition of entry. It is partly
because intelligence test scores predict years of education so well that they also predict occupational status,
and even income to a smaller extent, (Jencks, 1979). Moreover, many occupations can only be entered
through professional schools which base their admissions at least partly on test scores: the MCAT, the
GMAT, the LSAT, etc. Individual scores on admission-related tests such as these are certainly correlated
with scores on tests of intelligence.
Social Status and Income. How well do IQ scores (which can be obtained before individuals enter the labor
force) predict such outcome measures as the social status or income of adults? This question is complex, in
part because another variable also predicts such outcomes: namely, the socioeconomic status (SES) of one's
parents. Unsurprisingly, children of privileged families are more likely to attain high social status than those
whose parents are poor and less educated. These two predictors (IQ and parental SES) are by no means
independent of one another; the correlation between them is around .33 (White, 1982).
One way to look at these relationships is to begin with SES. According to Jencks (1979), measures of
parental SES predict about one-third of the variance in young adults' social status and about one-fifth of the
variance in their income. About half of this predictive effectiveness depends on the fact that the SES of
parents also predicts children's intelligence test scores, which have their own predictive value for social
outcomes; the other half comes about in other ways.
We can also begin with IQ scores, which by themselves account for about one-fourth of the social status
variance and one-sixth of the income variance. Statistical controls for parental SES eliminate only about a
quarter of this predictive power. One way to conceptualize this effect is by comparing the occupational status
(or income) of adult brothers who grew up in the same family and hence have the same parental SES. In such
cases, the brother with the higher adolescent IQ score is likely to have the higher adult social status and
income (Jencks, 1979). This effect, in turn, is substantially mediated by education: the brother with the
higher test scores is likely to get more schooling, and hence to be better credentialled as he enters the
Do these data imply that psychometric intelligence is a major determinant of social status or income? That
depends on what one means by major. In fact, individuals who have the same test scores may differ widely in
occupational status and even more widely in income. Consider for a moment the distribution of occupational
status scores for all individuals in a population, and then consider the conditional distribution of such scores
for just those individuals who test at some given I8. Jencks (1979) notes that the standard deviation of the
latter distribution may still be quite large; in some cases it amounts to about 88% of the standard deviation
for the entire population. Viewed from this perspective, psychometric intelligence appears as only one of a
great many factors that influence social outcomes.
Job Performance. Scores on intelligence tests predict various measures of job performance: supervisor
ratings, work samples, etc. Such correlations, which typically lie between r=.30 and r=.50, are partly
restricted by the limited reliability of those measures themselves. They become higher when ris statistically
corrected for this unreliability: in one survey of relevant studies (Hunter, 1983), the mean of the corrected
correlations was .54. This implies that, across a wide range of occupations, intelligence test performance
accounts for some 29% of the variance in job performance.
Although these correlations can sometimes be modified by changing methods of training or aspects of the
job itself, intelligence test scores are at least weakly related to job performance in most settings. Sometimes
19 scores are described as the 'best available predictor" of that performance. It is worth noting, however, that

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such tests predict considerably less than half the variance of job-related measures. Other individual
characteristics such as interpersonal skills, aspects of personality, etc., are probably of equal or greater
importance, but at this point we do not have equally reliable instruments to measure them.
Social Outcomes. Psychometric intelligence is negatively correlated with certain socially undesirable
outcomes. For example, children with high test scores are less likely than lower-scoring children to engage in
juvenile crime. in one study, Moffitt, Gabrielli, Mednick & Schulsinger (1981) found a correlation of -.19
between IQ scores and number of juvenile offenses in a large Danish sample; with social class controlled, the
correlation dropped to -. 17. The correlations for most "negative outcome" variables are typically smaller
than .20, which means that test scores are associated with less than 4% of their total variance. It is important
to realize that the causal links between psychemetric ability and social outcomes may be indirect. Children
who are unsuccessful in-and hence alienated from-school may be more likely to engage in delinquent
behaviors for that very reason, compared to other children who enjoy school and are doing well.
In summary, intelligence test scores predict a wide range of social outcomes with varying degrees of success.
Correlations are highest for school achievement, where they account for about a quarter of the variance.
They are somewhat lower for job performance, and very low for negatively valued outcomes such as
criminality. In general, intelligence tests measure only some of the many personal characteristics that are
relevant to life in contemporary America. Those characteristics are never the only influence on outcomes,
though in the case of school performance they may well be the strongest.

In this section of the report we first discuss individual differences generally, without reference to any
particular trait. We then focus on intelligence, as measured by conventional IQ tests or other tests intended to
measure general cognitive ability. The different and more controversial topic of group differences will be
considered in Section V.
We focus here on the relative contributions of genes and environments to individual differences in particular
traits. To avoid misunderstanding, it must be emphasized from the outset that gene action always involves an
environment–at least a biochemical environment, and often an ecological one. (For humans, that ecology is
usually interpersonal or cultural.) Thus all genetic effects on the development of observable traits are
potentially modifiable by environmental input, though the practicability of making such modifications may
be another matter. Conversely, all environmental effects on trait development involve the genes or structures
to which the genes have contributed. Thus there is always a genetic aspect to the effects of the environment
(cf. Plomin & Bergeman, 1991).

Sources of Individual Differences

Partitioning the Variation. Individuals differ from one another on a wide variety of traits: familiar
examples include height. intelligence, and aspects of personality. Those differences are often of considerable
social importance. Many interesting questions can be asked about their nature and origins. One such question
is the extent to which they reflect differences among the genes of the individuals involved, as distinguished
from differences among the environments to which those individuals have been exposed. The issue here is
not whether genes and environments are both essential for the development of a given trait (this is always the
case), and it is not about the genes or environment of any particular person. We are concerned only with the
observed variation of the trait across individuals in a given population. A figure called the "heritability" (h 2)
of the trait represents the proportion of that variation that is associated with genetic differences among the
individuals. The remaining variation (1 - h2] is associated with environmental differences and with errors of
measurement. These proportions can be estimated by various methods described below.
Sometimes special interest attaches to those aspects of environments that family members have in common

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(for example, characteristics of the home). The part of the variation that derives from this source, called
"shared" variation or c2, can also be estimated....
A high heritability does not mean that the environment has no impact on the development of a trait, or that
learning is not involved. Vocabulary size, for example, is very substantially heritable (and highly correlated
with general intelligence) although every word in an individual's vocabulary is learned. In a society in which
plenty of words are available in everyone's environment, especially for individuals who are motivated to seek
them out, the number of words that individuals actually learn depends to a considerable extent on their
genetic predispositions.
How Genetic Estimates are Made. Estimates of the magnitudes of these sources of individual differences
are made by exploiting natural and social 'experiments" that combine genotypes and environments in
informative ways. Monozygotic (MZ) and dyzygotic (DZ) twins, for example, can be regarded as
experiments of nature. MZ twins are paired individuals of the same age growing up in the same family who
have all their genes in common; DZ twins are otherwise similar pairs who have only half their genes in
common. Adoptions, in contrast, are experiments of society. They allow one to compare genetically
unrelated persons who are growing up in the same family as well as genetically related persons who are
growing up in different families. They can also provide information about genotype-environment
correlations: in ordinary families genes and environments are correlated because the same parents provide
both, whereas in adoptive families one set of parents provides the genes and another the environment. An
experiment involving both nature and society is the study of monozygotic twins who have been reared apart
(Bouchard, Lykken, McGue, Segal & Tellegen, 1990; Pedersen, Plomin, Nesselroade & McClearn, 1992).
Relationships in the families of monozygotic twins also offer unique possibilities for analysis (e.g., Rose,
Harris, Christian, & Nance, 1979). Because these comparisons are subject to different sources of potential
error, the results of studies involving several kinds of kinship are often analyzed together to arrive at robust
overall conclusions. (For general discussions of behavior genetic methods, see Plomin, DeFries, &
McClearn, 1990, or Hay, 1985.)

Results for IQ scores

Parameter Estimates. Across the ordinary range of environments in modern Western societies, a sizable
part of the variation in intelligence test scores is associated with genetic differences among individuals.
Quantitative estimates vary from one study to another, because many are based on small or selective
samples. If one simply combines all available correlations in a single analysis, the heritability (h 2) works out
to about .50 and the between-family variance (c2) to about .25 (e.g., Chipuer, Rovine, & Plomin, 1990;
Loehlin, 1989). These overall figures are misleading, however, because most of the relevant studies have
been done with children. We now know that the heritability of IQ changes with age: h2 goes up and c2 goes
down from infancy to adulthood (McCartney, Harris, & Bernieri, 1990; McGue, Bouchard, Iacono, &
Lykken, 1993). In childhood h2 and C2 for IQ are of the order of .45 and .35; by late adolescence h2 is
around .75 and c2 is quite low (zero in some studies). Substantial environmental variance remains, but it
primarily reflects within-family rather than between-family differences.
Implications. Estimates of h2 and c2 for IQ (or any other trait) are descriptive statistics for the populations
studied. (In this respect they are like means and standard deviations.) They are outcome measures,
summarizing the results of a great many diverse, intricate, individually variable events and processes, but
they can nevertheless be quite useful. They can tell us how much of the variation in a given trait the genes
and family environments explain, and changes in them place some constraints on theories of how this occurs.
On the other hand they have little to say about specific mechanisms, i.e. about how genetic and

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environmental differences get translated into individual physiological and psychological differences. Many
psychologists and neuroscientists are actively studying such processes; data on heritabilities may give them
ideas about what to look for and where or when to look for it.
A common error is to assume that because something is heritable it is necessarily unchangeable This is
wrong. Heritability does not imply immutability. As previously noted, heritable traits can depend on
learning, and they may be subject to other environmental effects as well.

The 'environment" includes a wide range of influences on intelligence. Some of those variables affect whole
populations, while others contribute to individual differences within a given group. Some of them are social,
some are biological; at this point some are still mysterious. It may also happen that the proper interpretation
of an environmental variable requires the simultaneous consideration of genetic effects. Nevertheless, a good
deal of solid information is available.

Social Variables

It is obvious that the cultural environment - how people live, what they value, what they do - has a
significant effect on the intellectual skills developed by individuals. Rice farmers in Liberia are good at
estimating quantities of rice (Gay & Cole, 1967); children in Botswana, accustomed to storytelling, have
excellent memories for stories (Dube, 1982). Both these groups were far ahead of American controls on the
tasks in question. On the other hand Americans and other Westernized groups typically outperform members
of traditional societies on psychometric tests, even those designed to be "culture-fair."
Cultures typically differ from one another in so many ways that particular differences can rarely be ascribed
to single causes. Even comparisons between subpopulations are often difficult to interpret. If we find that
groups living in different environments (e.g., middle-class and poor Americans) differ in their test scores, it
is easy to suppose that the environmental difference causes the IQ difference. But there is also an opposite
direction of causation: individuals may come to be in one environment or another because of differences in
their own abilities, including the abilities measured by intelligence tests. Waller (1971) has shown, for
example, that sons whose IQ scores are above those of their fathers also tend to achieve a higher social class
status; conversely, those with scores below their fathers' tend to achieve lower status. Such an effect is not
surprising, given the relation between IQ scores and years of education reviewed in Section II.
Occupation. In section II we noted that intelligence test scores predict occupational level, not only because
some occupations require more intelligence than others but also because admission to many professions
depends on test scores in the first place. There can also be an effect in the opposite direction, i.e. workplaces
may affect the intelligence of those who work in them. Kohn and Schooler (1973), who interviewed some
3000 men in various occupations (farmers, managers, machinists, porters...), argued that more "complex"
jobs produce more "intellectual flexibility" in the individuals who hold them. Although the issue of direction
of effects complicates the interpretation of their study, this remains a plausible suggestion.
Among other things, Kohn & Schooler's hypothesis may help us understand urban/rural differences. A
generation ago these were substantial in the United States, averaging about six IQ points or 0.4 standard
deviations (Terman & Merrill, 1937; Seashore, Wesman & Doppelt, 1950). In recent years the difference has
declined to about two points (Kaufman & Doppelt, 1976; Reynolds, Chastain, Kaufman & McLean, 1987).
In all likelihood this urban/ rural convergence primarily reflects environmental changes: a decrease in rural
isolation (due to increased travel and mass communications), an improvement in rural schools, the greater
use of technology on farms. All these changes can be regarded as increasing the "complexity" of the rural
environment in general or of farm work in particular. (However, processes with a genetic component, e.g.,
changes in the selectivity of migration from farm to city, cannot be completely excluded as contributing

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Schooling. Attendance at school is both a dependent and an independent variable in relation to intelligence.
On the one hand, children with higher test scores are less likely to drop out, more likely to be promoted from
grade to grade and then to attend college. Thus the number of years of education that adults complete is
roughly predictable from their childhood scores on intelligence tests. On the other hand schooling itself
changes mental abilities, including those abilities measured on psychometric tests. This is obvious for tests
like the SAT that are explicitly designed to assess school learning, but it is almost equally true of intelligence
tests themselves.
The evidence for the effect of schooling on intelligence test scores takes many forms (Ceci, 1991). When
children of nearly the same age go through school a year apart (because of birthday-related admission
criteria), those who have been in school longer have higher mean scores. Children who attend school
intermittently score below those who go regularly, and test performance tends to drop over the summer
vacation. A striking demonstration of this effect appeared when the schools in one Virginia county closed for
several years in the 1960s to avoid integration, leaving most Black children with no formal education at all.
Compared to controls, the intelligence-test scores of these children dropped by about 0.4 standard deviations
(6 points) per missed year of school (Green et al, 1964).
Schools affect intelligence in several ways, most obviously by transmitting information. The answers to
questions like "Who wrote Hamlet?" and "What is the boiling point of water?" are typically learned in
school, where some pupils learn them more easily and thoroughly than others. Perhaps at least as important
are certain general skills and attitudes: systematic problem-solving, abstract thinking, categorization,
sustained attention to material of little intrinsic interest, repeated manipulation of basic symbols and
operations. There is no doubt that schools promote and permit the development of significant intellectual
skills, which develop to different extents in different children. It is because tests of intelligence draw on
many of those same skills that they predict school achievement as well as they do.
To achieve these results, the school experience must meet at least some minimum standard of quality. In very
poor schools, children may learn so little that they fall farther behind the national IQ norms for every year of
attendance. When this happens, older siblings have systematically lower scores than their younger
counterparts. This pattern of scores appeared in at least one rural Georgia school system in the 1970s
(Jensen, 1977). Before desegregation, it must have been characteristic of many of the schools attended by
Black pupils in the South. In a study based on Black children who had moved to Philadelphia at various ages
during this period, Lee (1951) found that their IQ scores went up more than half a point for each year that
they were enrolled in the Philadelphia system.
Interventions. Intelligence test scores reflect a child's standing relative to others in his or her age cohort.
Very poor or interrupted schooling can lower that standing substantially; are there also ways to raise it? In
fact many interventions have been shown to raise test scores and mental ability 'in the short run" (i.e. while
the program itself was in progress), but long-run gains have proved more elusive. One noteworthy example
of (at least short-run) success was the Venezuelan Intelligence Project (Hermstein et al, 1986), in which
hundreds of seventh-grade children from underprivileged backgrounds in that country were exposed to an
extensive, theoretically based curriculum focused on thinking skills. The intervention produced substantial
gains on a wide range of tests, but there has been no follow-up.
Children who participate in "Head Start" and similar programs are exposed to various school-related
materials and experiences for one or two years. Their test scores often go up during the course of the
program, but these gains fade with time. By the end of elementary school, there are usually no significant I9
or achievement-test differences between children who have been in such programs and controls who have
not. There may, however, be other differences. Follow-up studies suggest that children who participated in
such programs as preschoolers are less likely to be assigned to special education, less likely to be held back
in grade, and more likely to finish high school than matched controls (Consortium for Longitudinal Studies,
1983; Darlington, 1986; but see Locurto, 1991).
More extensive interventions might be expected to produce larger and more lasting effects, but few such

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programs have been evaluated systematically. One of the more successful is the Carolina Abecedarian
Project (Campbell & Ramey, 1994), which provided a group of children with enriched environments from
early infancy through preschool and also maintained appropriate controls. The test scores of the enrichment-
group children were already higher than those of controls at age two; they were still some five points higher
at age twelve, seven years after the end of the intervention. Importantly, the enrichment group also
outperformed the controls in academic achievement.
Family environment. No one doubts that normal child development requires a certain minimum level of
responsible care. Severely deprived, neglectful, or abusive environments must have negative effects on a
great many aspects of development, including intellectual aspects. Beyond that minimum, however, the role
of family experience is now in serious dispute (Baumrind, 1993; Jackson, 1993; Scarr, 1992, 1993).
Psychometric intelligence is a case in point. Do differences between children's family environments (within
the normal range) produce differences in their intelligence test performance? The problem here is to
disentangle causation from correlation. There is no doubt that such variables as resources of the home
(Gottfried, 1984) and parents' use of language (Hart & Risley, 1992, in press) are correlated with children's
IQ scores, but such correlations may be mediated by genetic as well as (or instead of) environmental factors.
These findings suggest that differences in the life styles of families whatever their importance may be for
many aspects of children's lives make little long-term difference for the skills measured by intelligence tests.
We should note, however, that low-income and non-white families are poorly represented in existing
adoption studies as well as in most twin samples. Thus it is not yet clear whether these surprisingly small
values of (adolescent) c2 apply to the population as a whole. It re-mains possible that, across the full range of
income and ethnicity, between-family differences have more lasting consequences for psychometric

Biological Variables

Every individual has a biological as well as a social environment, one that begins in the womb and extends
throughout life. Many aspects of that environment can affect intellectual development. We now know that a
number of biological factors, including malnutrition, exposure to toxic substances, and various prenatal and
perinatal stressors, result in lowered psychometric intelligence under at least some conditions.
Nutrition. There has been only one major study of the effects of prenatal malnutrition (i.e. malnutrition of
the mother during pregnancy) on long-term intellectual development. Stein et al (1975) analyzed the test
scores of Dutch 19-year-old males in relation to a wartime famine that had occurred in the winter of 1944-45,
just before their birth. In this very large sample (made possible by a universal military induction
requirement), exposure to the famine had no effect on adult intelligence. Note, however, that the famine
itself lasted only a few months; the subjects were exposed to it prenatally but not after birth.
In contrast, prolonged malnutrition during childhood does have long-term intellectual effects. These have not
been easy to establish, in part because many other unfavorable socioeconomic conditions are often associated
with chronic malnutrition (Ricciuti, 1993; but cf. Sigman, 1995). In one intervention study, however, pre-
schoolers in two Guatemalan villages (where undernourishment is common) were given ad lib access to a
protein dietary supplement for several years. A decade later, many of these children (namely, those from the
poorest socio-economic levels) scored significantly higher on school related achievement tests than
comparable controls (Pollitt et al, 1993). It is worth noting that the effects of poor nutrition on intelligence
may well be indirect. Malnourished children are typically less responsive to adults, less motivated to learn,
and less active in exploration than their more adequately nourished counterparts.
Lead. Certain toxins have well established negative effects on intelligence. Exposure to lead is one such

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factor. In one long-term study (McMichael et al, 1988; Baghurst et al, 1992), the blood lead levels of
children growing up near a lead smelting plant were substantially and negatively correlated with intelligence
test scores throughout childhood. No "threshold dose" for the effect of lead appears in such studies. Although
ambient lead levels in the United States have been reduced in recent years, there is reason to believe that
some American children - especially those in inner cities - may still be at risk from this source (cf.
Needleman, Geiger & Frank, 1985).
Alcohol Extensive prenatal exposure to alcohol (which occurs if the mother drinks heavily during
pregnancy) can give rise to fetal alcohol syndrome, which includes mental retardation as well as a range of
physical symptoms. Smaller "doses" of prenatal alcohol may have negative effects on intelligence even when
the full syndrome does not appear. Streissguth et al (1989) found that mothers who reported consuming more
than 1.5 oz, of alcohol daily during pregnancy had children who scored some five points below controls at
age four. Prenatal exposure to aspirin and antibiotics had similar negative effects in this study.
Perinatal Factors. Complications at delivery and other negative perinatal factors may have serious
consequences for development. Nevertheless, because they occur only rarely, they contribute relatively little
to the population variance of intelligence [Broman et al, 1975). Down's syndrome, a chromosomal
abnormality that produces serious mental retardation, is also rare enough to have little impact on the overall
distribution of test scores.
The correlation between birth weight and later intelligence deserves particular discussion. In some cases low
birth weight simply reflects premature delivery; in others, the infant's size is below normal for its gestational
age. Both factors apparently contribute to the tendency of low-birth-weight infants to have lower test scores
in later childhood (Lubchenko, 1976). These correlations are small, ranging from .05 to .13 in different
groups (Broman et al, 1975). The effects of low birth weight are substantial only when it is very low indeed
(less than 1500 gm). Premature babies born at these very low birth weights are behind controls on most
developmental measures; they often have severe or permanent intellectual deficits (Rosetti, 1986).

Continuously Rising Test Scores

Perhaps the most striking of all environmental effects is the steady worldwide rise in intelligence test
performance. Although many psychometricians had noted these gains, it was James Mynn (1984, 1987) who
first described them systematically. His analysis shows that performance has been going up ever since testing
began. The "Flynn Effect" is now very well documented, not only in the United States but in many other
technologically advanced countries. The average gain is about three IQ points per decade; more than a full
standard deviation since, say, 1940.
Although it is simplest to describe the gains as increases in population IQ, this is not exactly what happens.
Most intelligence tests are "re-standardized" from time to time, in part to keep up with these very gains. As
part of this process the mean score of the new standardization sample is typically set to 100 again, so the
increase more or less disappears from view. In this context, the Flynn effect means that if twenty years have
passed since the last time the test was standardized, people who now score 100 on the new version would
probably average about 106 on the old one.
The sheer extent of these increases is remarkable, and the rate of gain may even be increasing. The scores of
nineteen-year-olds in the Netherlands, for example, went up more than 8 points–over half a standard
deviation-between 1972 and 1982. What's more, the largest gains appear on the types of tests that were
specifically designed to be free of cultural influence (Flynn, 1987). One of these is Raven's Progressive
Matrices, an untimed non-verbal test that many psychometricians regard as a good measure of g.
These steady gains in intelligence test performance have not always been accompanied by corresponding
gains in school achievement. Indeed, the relation between intelligence and achievement test scores can be
complex. This is especially true for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), in part because the ability range of
the students who take the SAT has broadened over time. That change explains some portion, but not all, of

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the prolonged decline in SAT scores that took place from the mid nineteen-sixties to the early eighties, even
as IQ scores were continuing to rise(Flynn, 1984). Meanwhile, however, other more representative measures
show that school achievement levels have held steady or in some cases actually increased [Hermstein &
Murray, 1994). The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), for example, shows that the
average reading and math achievement of American 13- and l7-year-olds improved somewhat from the early
nineteen-seventies to 1990 (Grissmer, Kirby, Berends & Williamson, 1994). An analysis of these data by
ethnic group, reported in Section 5, shows that this small overall increase actually reflects very substantial
gains by Blacks and Latinos combined with little or no gain by Whites.
The consistent IQ gains documented by Flynn seem much too large to result from simple increases in test
sophistication. Their cause is presently unknown, but three interpretations deserve our consideration. Perhaps
the most plausible of these is based on the striking cultural differences between successive generations. Daily
life and occupational experience both seem more "complex" (Kohn & Schooler, 1973) today than in the time
of our parents and grandparents. The population is increasingly urbanized; television exposes us to more
information and more perspectives on more topics than ever before; children stay in school longer; almost
everyone seems to be encountering new forms of experience. These changes in the complexity of life may
have produced corresponding changes in complexity of mind, and hence in certain psychometric abilities.
A different hypothesis attributes the gains to modern improvements in nutrition. Lynn (1990) points out that
large nutritionally-based increases in height have occurred during the same period as the IQ gains: perhaps
there have been increases in brain size as well. As we have seen, however, the effects of nutrition on
intelligence are themselves not firmly established.
The third interpretation addresses the very definition of intelligence. Flynn himself believes that real
intelligence-whatever it may be–cannot have increased as much as these data would suggest. Consider, for
example, the number of individuals who have IQ scores of 140 or more. (This is slightly above the cutoff
used by L.M. Terman (1925) in his famous longitudinal study of "genius.") In 1952 only 0.38% of Dutch test
takers had IQs over 140; in 1982, scored by the same norms, 9. 12% exceeded this figure! Judging by these
criteria, the Netherlands should now be experiencing "...a cultural renaissance too great to be overlooked"
(Flynn, 1987, p.187). So too should France, Norway, the United States, and many other countries. Because
Flynn (1987) finds this conclusion implausibie or absurd, he argues that what has risen cannot be intelligence
itself but only a minor sort of "abstract problem solving ability." The issue remains unresolved.

Individual Life Experiences

Although the environmental variables that produce large differences in intelligence are not yet well
understood, genetic studies assure us that they exist. With a heritability well below 1.00, IQ must be subject
to substantial environmental influences. Moreover, available heritability estimates apply only within the
range of environments that are well-represented in the present population. We already know that some
relatively rare conditions, like those reviewed earlier, have large negative effects on intelligence. Whether
there are (now equally rare) conditions that have large positive effects is not known.
As we have seen, there is both a biological and a social environment. For any given child, the social factors
include not only an overall cultural/ social/school setting and a particular family but also a unique "micro-
environment" of experiences that are shared with no one else. The adoption studies reviewed in Section 3
show that family variables, such as differences in parenting style, in the resources of the home, etc., have
smaller long-term effects than we once supposed. At least among people who share a given SES level and a
given culture, it seems to be unique individual experience that makes the largest environmental contribution
to adult IQ differences.
We do not yet know what the key features of those micro-environments may be. Are they biological? Social?
Chronic? Acute? Is there something especially important in the earliest relations between the infant and its
caretakers? Whatever the critical variables may be, do they interact with other aspects of family life? Of
culture? At this point we cannot say, but these questions offer a fertile area for further research.

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In this contentious arena, our most useful role may be to remind our readers that many of the critical
questions about intelligence are still unanswered. Here are a few of those questions:
1. Differences in genetic endowment contribute substantially to individual differences in
(psychometric) intelligence, but the pathway by which genes produce their effects is still unknown.
The impact of genetic differences appears to increase with age, but we do not know why.
2. Environmental factors also contribute substantially to the development of intelligence, but we do not
clearly understand what those factors are or how they work. Attendance at school is certainly
important, for example, but we do not know what aspects of schooling are critical.
3. The role of nutrition in intelligence remains obscure. Severe childhood malnutrition has clear
negative effects, but the hypothesis that particular "micro-nutrients" may affect intelligence in
otherwise adequately-fed populations has not yet been convincingly demonstrated.
4. There are significant correlations between measures of information processing speed and
psychometric intelligence, but the overall pattern of these findings yields no easy theoretical
5. Mean scores on intelligence tests are rising steadily. They have gone up a full standard deviation in
the last fifty years or so, and the rate of gain may be increasing. No one is sure why these gains are
happening or what they mean.
6. The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard
deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test
construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status.
Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct
empirical support. There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation. At present, no one
knows what causes this differential.
7. It is widely agreed that standardized tests do not sample all forms of intelligence. Obvious examples
include creativity, wisdom, practical sense and social sensitivity; there are surely others. Despite the
importance of these abilities we know very little about them: how they develop, what factors
influence that development, how they are related to more traditional measures.
In a field where so many issues are unresolved and so many questions unanswered, the confident tone that
has characterized most of the debate on these topics is clearly out of place. The study of intelligence does not
need politicized assertions and recriminations; it needs self-restraint, reflection, and a great deal more
research. The questions that remain are socially as well as scientifically important. There is no reason to
think them unanswerable, but finding the answers will require a shared and sustained effort as well as the
commitment of substantial scientific resources. Just such a commitment is what we strongly recommend.

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Language development

Language is one of the most amazing things that we are capable of. It may even be that we – Homo sapiens –
are the only creature on the planet that have it. Only the dolphins show any indication of language, although
we are as yet unable to understand them.
We seem to be "built" to speak and understand language. The specialized areas of the brain, such as Broca’s
and Wernicke’s areas, suggest that genetics provides us with, at very least, the neurological foundations for
Linguistics is, of course, a whole separate subject matter, but it does overlap with psychology quite a bit,
especially in regards to language development in infants and children. The ability young children have of
learning a language – or even two or three languages simultaneously – is one of the indications that there is
something special about our brains at that age.
It all begins in infancy. From birth until around 6 months, babies make a great deal of noise. They squeal,
squeak, growl, yell, and give us raspberries. And they coo. Cooing is basically the production of what will
later become vowels (a, e, i, o, and u).
From 6 months to about 10 months, they produce somewhat more complicated sounds called babbling. First,
they practice their vowels more precisely, starting with the round, back vowels (oo, oh, ah...) and working
their way to the unrounded front vowels (ee, eh, ay...). The first consonants are h, m, and b, which can be
combined with the vowels to make syllables. Soon, they add p, t, d, n, w, f, and v. A little while later, they
add k, g, and ng.
Then they start adding s and z. It takes a little longer for babies to get sh, ch, j, and the infamous th sounds.
The very last sounds are l and r. This is why you hear them pronouncing works as oddly as they sometimes
do. Fis does fine for fish, soozies for shoes, Wobbut for Robert, Cawa for Carla, and so on. But keep in mind
that they can perceive far more than they can pronounce – something appropriately called the fis
phenomenon. They will not be able to say certain words, but they won’t put up with you mispronouncing
them! One of my daughters, for example, used the syllable yã (with a nasal a) to mean shoe, sock and even
chair – but understood the difference quite well.
Mothers (and fathers) play a huge part in forming the child’s language. Even if we are "preprogrammed" in
some way to speak language, we need to learn a specific language from the people around us. Mothers
typically adjust their speech to fit the child’s level. This is called motherese. It is found in practically every
culture on the planet, and it has certain common characteristics: The "sentences" are very short, there is a lot
of repetition and redundancy, there is a sing-song quality to it, and it contains many special "baby words." It
also is embedded in the context of the immediate surroundings, with constant reference to things nearby and
activities that are going on here-and-now.
Motherese often involves a subtle shaping called a protoconversation. Mothers even involve infants who do
little more than coo or babble in protoconversations:

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(one year old)
Look! (getting child's attention) (the child touches the picture)
What are these? (asking a question) (the child babbles, smiles)
Yes, they are doggies! (naming the object) (the child vocalizes, smiles, looks at mom)
(mom laughes) Yes, doggies! (repeating) (the child vocalizes, smiles)
(laughs) Yes! (giving feedback) (the child laughs)

Moms also ask questions like "where is it?" and "what’s it doing?" Any response at all is rewarded with
happiness! Of course, the conversation becomes more meaningful when the child can actually form his or her
own words. By 10 months, most kids understand between 5 and 10 words. The fastest 1/4 of them have up to
40 words!
From 12 to 18 months (or thereabouts) is called the one word (or holophrastic) stage. Each word constitutes
a sentence all by itself. By 12 months, most kids can produce 3 or 4 words, and understand 30 to 40. Again,
there are some kids who understand and even use as many as 80! By 14 months, the number of words
understood jumps to 50 to 100, and even the slowest 1/4 know 20 to 50. By 18 months, most kids can
produce 25 to 50 words on their own, and understand hundreds.
Two characteristics of this stage are overextension and underextension. For example, the word hat can
mean just about anything that can be put on your head, a "goggie" applies to just about any animal, and
"dada" (much to the embarrassment of moms everywhere) pretty much means any man whatsoever. On the
other hand, sometimes kids engage in underextension, meaning that they use a general word to mean one
very specific thing. For example, "baba" may mean MY bottle and my bottle only, and "soozies" may mean
MY shoes and no one else’s.
There are certain common words that show up in most children’s early vocabularies. In English, they include
mama, daddy, baby, doggy, kitty, duck, milk, cookie, juice, doll, car, ear, eye, nose, hi, bye-bye, no, go,
down, and up. There are also unique words, sometimes actually invented by the child, called idiolects.
Identical twins sometimes invent dozens of words between themselves that no one else understands.
Between 18 to 24 months (approximately), we see the beginnings of two word sentences, and telegraphic
speech. Here are some common examples, showing a variety of grammatical functions taken over by simple
conjunction of the two words:
see doggy, hi milk
that ball, big ball
daddy shoe (i.e. daddy’s shoe), baby shoe (i.e. my shoe)
more cookie, more sing
two shoe, allgone juice (numbers and quantities)
mommy sit, Eve read (subject-verb "sentences")
gimme ball, want more (making a request)
no bed, no wet (negation)
mommy sock (subject-object "sentences," i.e. mommy get my sock)
put book (verb-object "sentences," i.e. you put the book here)

After 24 months, children begin to use grammatical constructions of various sorts. Here are some in their
usual order of development:
I walking (-ing participles used as verbs)
in basket, on floor (prepositions)
two balls (the plural)
it broke (verbs in an irregular past tense)

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John’s ball (possessive ‘s)

There it is (the verb to be)
A book, the ball (articles)
John walked (verbs in the regular past tense)
He walks (third person singular of verbs)
She has (irregular third person singular)
It is going (the progressive formation of verbs)
It’s there (contractions)
I’m walking (complex verbs)

Notice that simple irregular verb tenses learned before regular tenses!
These things are by no means restricted to English, or to any particular language: They are universal. For
example, all children begin with telegraphic sentences:
Man clean car (The man is cleaning his car)
Obachan atchi itta (Obachan ga atchi e itta, "my aunt went that way," in Japanese)

Articles (in languages that use articles) are learned as a general idea first, and only refined later:
uh = a, the (see uh car?)
uh = un, une, le, la in French
duh = die, der, das, etc. in German

Grammatical gender is not an easy thing to learn, ether. French masculine and feminine words and German
masculine, feminine, and neuter words are just a matter of memorization. The same difficulty applies to
different classes of verbs.
Aspect (such as differentiating between things that are done once and for all, and things that are done
repeatedly – the perfect and the imperfect) is learned before tense (past-present-future). Tense is actually
quite difficult, even though as adults we take it for granted.
There do seem be languages that are easier for children to learn, and others that are more difficult: Some
languages (Turkish, Hungarian, and Finnish, for example) use many suffixes to indicate a variety of
grammatical and semantic qualities. These suffixes are very common, complete syllables, and fully regular–
and are learned easily and early.
On the other hand, some languages (e.g. Chinese, Indonesian, and to some extent English) prefer to use small
words called particles (e.g. the, of, in, and, and so on). These tend to be learned late, because they have no
meaning of their own and are often unstressed and unclearly pronounced. Notice, for example, that "is" and
"not" are often reduced to 's and n't!
A third group – which contains most European and Semitic languages – have a mixed system, including lots
of very irregular, unstressed endings and particles. If you recall the effort you put into remembering the
German article or Spanish conjugations or Latin declensions of the nouns, you realize why children have a
hard time learning these things as well.
Language learning doesn’t end with two year olds, of course. Three year olds are notorious for something
called over-regularization. Most languages have irregularities, but 3 year olds love rules and will override
some of the irregulars they learned when they were 3, e.g. "I go-ed" instead of I went and "foots" instead of
feet. Three year olds can speak in four word sentences and may have 1000 words at their command.
Four year olds are great askers of questions, and start using a lot of wh- words such as where, what, who,
why, when (learned in that order). They can handle five word sentences, and may have 1500 word
Five year olds make six word sentences (with clauses, no less), and use as many as 2000 words. The first

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grader uses up to 6.000 words. And adults may use as many as 25,000 words and recognize up to 50,000
One of the biggest hurdles for children is learning to read and write. In some languages, such as Italian or
Turkish, it is fairly easy: Words are written as they are pronounced, and pronounced as they are written.
Other languages – Swedish or French, for example – are not too difficult, because there is a lot of
consistency. But other languages have terribly outdated spelling systems. English is a clear winner among
languages that use western alphabets. We spend years of education on getting kids to memorize irrational
spellings. In Italy, on the other hand, spelling isn't even recognized as a school subject, and "spelling bees"
would be ridiculous!
And then there are languages that don't use alphabets at all: Chinese requires years of memorization of long
lists of symbols. The Japanese actually have four systems that all children need to learn: A large number of
kanji symbols, adopted centuries ago from the Chinese; two different syllabaries (syllable-based
"alphabets"); and the western alphabet! The Koreans, on the other hand, have their own alphabet with a
perfect relationship of symbol to sound.

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The Origins of Language

It is an intriguing question, to which we may never have a complete answer: How did we get from animal
vocalization (barks, howls, calls...) to human language?
Animals often make use of signs, which point to what they represent, but they don’t use symbols, which are
arbitrary and conventional. Examples of signs include sniffles as a sign of an on-coming cold, clouds as a
sign of rain, or a scent as a sign of territory. Symbols include things like the words we use. Dog, Hund,
chien, cane, perro – these are symbols that refer to the creature so named, yet each one contains nothing in it
that in anyway indicates that creature.
In addition, language is a system of symbols, with several levels of organization (at least phonetics, syntax,
and semantics).
So when did language begin? At the very beginnings of the genus Homo, perhaps 4 or 5 million years ago?
Or with the advent of modern man, Cro-magnon, some 125,000 years ago? Did the neanderthal speak? He
had a brain that was larger than ours, but his voice box seems to be higher in his throat, like that of the apes.
We don’t know.
There are many theories about the origins of language. Many of these have traditional amusing names, and I
will create a couple more where needed.

1. The mama theory. Language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant
2. The ta-ta theory. Sir Richard Paget, influenced by Darwin, believed that body movement preceded
language. Language began as an unconscious vocal imitation of these movements – like the way a
child’s mouth will move when they use scissors, or my tongue sticks out when I try to play the
3. The bow-wow theory. Language began as imitations of natural sounds – moo, choo-choo, crash,
clang, buzz, bang, meow... This is more technically refered to as onomatopoeia or echoism.
4. The pooh-pooh theory. Language began with interjections, instinctive emotive cries such as oh! for
surprise and ouch! for pain.
5. The ding-dong theory. Some people, including the famous linguist Max Muller, have pointed out
that there is a rather mysterious correspondence between sounds and meanings. Small, sharp, high
things tend to have words with high front vowels in many languages, while big, round, low things
tend to have round back vowels! Compare itsy bitsy teeny weeny with moon, for example. This is
often referred to as sound symbolism.
6. The yo-heave-ho theory. Language began as rhythmic chants, perhaps ultimately from the grunts of
heavy work (heave-ho!). The linguist D. S. Diamond suggests that these were perhaps calls for
assistance or cooperation accompanied by appropriate gestures. This may relate yo-heave-ho to the
ding-dong theory, as in such words as cut, break, crush, strike...
7. The sing-song theory. Danish linguist Jesperson suggested that language comes out of play,
laughter, cooing, courtship, emotional mutterings and the like. He even suggests that, contrary to
other theories, perhaps some of our first words were actually long and musical, rather than the short
grunts many assume we started with.
8. The hey you theory. A linguist by the name of Revesz suggested that we have always needed
interpersonal contact, and that language began as sounds to signal both identity (here I am!) and

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belonging (I’m with you!). We may also cry out in fear, anger, or hurt (help me!). This is more
commonly called the contact theory.
9. The hocus pocus theory. I think that language may have had some roots in a sort of magical or
religious aspect of our ancestors' lives. Perhaps we began by calling out to game animals with
magical sounds, which became their names.
10. The eureka theory. And finally, perhaps language was consciously invented. Perhaps some ancestor
had the idea of assigning arbitrary sounds to mean certain things. Clearly, once the idea was had, it
would catch on like wild-fire!

Another issue is how often language came into being (or was invented). Perhaps it was invented once, by our
earliest ancestors – perhaps the first who had whatever genetic and physiological properties needed to make
complex sounds and organize them into strings. This is called monogenesis. Or perhaps it was invented
many times – polygenesis – by many people.
We can try to reconstruct earlier forms of language, but we can only go so far before cycles of change
obliterate any possibility of reconstruction. Many say we can only go back perhaps 10,000 years before the
trail goes cold. So perhaps we will simply never know.

Perhaps the biggest debate among linguists and others interested in the origins of language is whether we can
account for language using only the basic mechanisms of learning, or if we need to postulate some special
built-in language-readiness. The learning-only people (for example, B. F. Skinner) say that childhood
conditioning, or maybe modeling, can account for the complexity of language. The language-acquisition-
device (LAD) people (such as Chomsky and Pinker) say that the ease and speed with which children learn
language requires something more.
The debate is real only for those people who prefer to take one or the other of these extreme views. It seems
very clear to most that neither is the answer. Is there some special neural mechanism for language? Not in
the sense of a LAD.
In most mammals, both hemispheres looked very much alike. Somewhere in humanity's early years, a few
people possibly inherited a mutation that left one hemisphere with a limited capacity. Instead of neural
connections going in every direction, they tended to be organized more linearly. The left hemisphere couldn't
related to things in the usual full-blown multidimensional way. But – surprise! – that same diminished
capacity proved to be very good are ordering things linearly. And that's exactly what language needs: The
ability to convert fully dimensional events into linear sequences of sounds, and vice versa.
On the other hand, is language just a matter of conditioning or imitation? Only if you forget to take the
insights of people like William James, the Gestalt psychologists, and modern cognitivists into account. Just
like we don't really need to learn to perceive colors or depth, we don't really need to learn certain facts about
language, because these facts are there in reality for us to see.
As I mentioned, language requires that we translate the full four dimensional world into the (nearly) one
dimensional medium of speech. How on earth can we do that? Well, there are actually only a few
possibilities open to us. In general perception we have a rule called proximity: We put things that are close to
each other together in our minds – because they are close to each other, obviously. Well, we put words that
belong together closer together than words that don't belong together. No inborn LAD required, no special
conditioning required.
When it comes to relationships (which are, of course, three- and even four-dimensional), there are only three
ways we can make them linear. If a and b represent two things, and f represents the relation between them,
then we have a choice betwee these:

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f (a, b)
(a, b) f
(a) f (b)
If you think of a and b as nouns, and f as a transitive verb (or a preposition), you see something that already
looks like VSO, SOV, and SVO, respectively. Oh, and why does the subject usually come before the object?
Well, the subject is more salient, more active; the object is more incidental, more passive. What sticks out in
our perception or thoughts comes first. Now we have two of the most basic rules of language, and we haven't
needed a LAD or conditioning!
What if you are looking at intransitive verbs or adjectives? Now there are only two possibilities: f (c) and (c)
f. The first is naturally most compatible with f (a, b) or VSO, the other is most compatible with (a, b) f or
SOV and (a) f (b) or SVO – just drop the b! Here we have another one of the famous "universals" of
language. All you need to add is the principle of consistency: If our sentences are of one of the patterns, our
noun, verb, and prepositional phrases will tend to adhere to the same pattern. Naturally.
Of course, as in any field, the more dramatic theories get the most attention, so it might be a while before
common sense prevails. It's the same in psychology generally: Compared to a straight-forward biosocial
theory, Freud is sexier, Skinner is more elegant, Maslow is more uplifiting, Jung is cooler, cognitive psych is
more high-tech...

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Prenatal Development

We don't often discuss prenatal development in psychology courses, but I think that's really unexcusable. If
anything, it is the most significant segment of our development! So I have included this short chapter,
adapted in large part from The Medical Encyclopedia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, available online
at I know many of you have seen all this
before in other classes, but it is well worth the review!
After sexual intercourse, sperm travels through the cervix and uterus and into the Fallopian tubes.
Conception usually takes place in the outer third of the Fallopian tube. A single sperm penetrates that egg
and a joining of the genetic information occurs. This resulting single cell is called a zygote.
The zygote spends the next few days traveling down the Fallopian tube and rapidly multiplying the number
of cells through division. A mulberry-like mass, like a hollow rubber ball, 1/100 inch wide, results from the
cell division. This ball of cells in the Fallopian tube is called a morula.
With additional cell division, the morula becomes a blastocyte, with an inner core and an outer shell of cells.
The outer group of cells become the membranes that nourish and protect the inner group of cells, which
becomes the fetus.
The blastocyte implants in the uterus between the 7th and 9th day after conception. At this point the
endometrium (the lining of the uterus) has grown and is ready to support a fetus. The blastocyte burrows into
the endometrium where it receives nourishment. It is barely visible, but doubles every 24 hours. The placenta
and supporting infrastructure for pregnancy develop at this time as well. It is estimated that up to 55% of
zygotes never reach this phase of growth.

The Embryo

The embryonic stage begins on the 15th day after conception and continues until about the 8th week, or until
the embryo is 1.2 inches in length. During this period the cells of the embryo are not only multiplying, but
they are taking on specific functions. This process is called tissue differentiation. It is during this critical
period of differentiation (most of the first trimester or three-month period) that the growing fetus is most
susceptible to damage from external sources (teratogens) including viral infections such as rubella, x-rays
and other radiation, and poor nutrition.
A child who has one developmental problem may have other problems that arose at the same time: Kidney
problems and hearing problems, for example, are often found together because both kidneys and the inner
ears develop at the same time.
In Week 3 we see the formation of the heart, the beginning development of the brain and spinal cord, and the
beginning of the gastrointestinal tract.
Teratogens introduced during this period may cause severe problems such as the absence of one or more
limbs or a heart that is outside of the chest cavity at birth.
Weeks 4 and 5 –1/4 inch long: Here we see the beginnings of the vertebra, the lower jaw, the larynx (voice
box), and the rudiments of the ear and eye. The heart, which is still outside body, now beats at a regular
rhythm. Although arm and leg "buds" are visible with hand and foot "pads," the embryo still has a tail and
cannot be distinguished from pig, rabbit, elephant, or chick embryo.
Teratogens may cause very serious problems involving the esophagus, vertebrae, eyes. The baby could be

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born with severe facial clefts or missing hands or feet.

Week 6 – 1/2 inch, 1/1000 of an ounce: In week 6, we see the formation of the nose, jaw, palate, lung buds.
The fingers and toes form, but may still be webbed. The tail is receding, and the heart is almost fully
Teratogens at this point may leave the baby with profound heart problems or a cleft lip.
Week 7 – 7/8 inch, 1/30 ounce (less than an aspirin): This week, the eyes move forward on the face, and the
eyelids and tongue begin to form. All essential organs have begun to form.
Teratogens may cause heart and lung problems, a cleft palate, and ambiguous genitalia (not quite male or
Week 8 –1 inch, 1/15 ounce: The embryo now resembles a human being. The facial features continue to
develop and the external ear appears. Also, we see the beginnings of external genitalia. By now, the
circulation through the umbilical cord is well developed. The long bones begin to form and the muscles are
able to contract.
Teratogens may still cause heart problems and stunting of the fingers and toes.

The Fetus

At this point the embryo is developed enough to call a fetus. All organs and structures found in a full-term
newborn are present.
Weeks 9 to 12 – 3 inches, 1 ounce: The head comprises nearly half of the fetus’ size and the face is well
formed. The eyelids close now and will not reopen until about the 28th week. The tooth buds for the baby
teeth appear. The genitalia are now clearly male or female.
Weeks 13 to 16 – 6 inches: These weeks mark the beginning of the second trimester. A lthough the skin of
the fetus is almost transparent, fine hair develops on the head called lanugo. The fetus makes active
movements, including sucking, which leads to some swallowing of the amniotic fluid. A thin dark substance
called meconium is made in the intestinal tract. The heart beats120-150 beats per minute and brain waves
Weeks 17 to 20 – 8 inches: Eyebrows and lashes appear and nails appear on fingers and toes. This is an
exciting time for the parents: The can mother feel the fetus moving ("quickening") and the fetal heartbeat can
be heard with a stethoscope.
Weeks 21 to 24 – 11.2 inches, 1 lb. 10 oz.: All the eye components are developed, footprints and fingerprints
are forming, and the entire body covered in cream-cheese-like vernix caseosa. The fetus now has a startle
Weeks 25 to 28 – 15 inches, 2 lbs. 11 oz.: Now we are entering the third trimester. During these weeks, we
see rapid brain development. The nervous system is developed enough to control some body functions, and
the eyelids open and close. A baby born at this time may survive, but the chances of complications and death
are high.
Weeks 29 to 32 – 15 -17 inches, 4 lbs. 6 oz.: These weeks see further development towards independent life:
There is a rapid increase in the amount of body fat and the fetus begins storing its own iron, calcium, and
phosphorus. The bones are fully developed, but still soft and pliable. There are rhythmic breathing
movements present, the fetal body temperature is partially self-controlled, and there is increased central
nervous system control over body functions.

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Weeks 33 to 36 – 16 -19 inches, 5 lbs. 12 oz. to 6 lbs. 12 oz.: The lanugo (body hair) begins to disappear. A
baby born at 36 weeks has a high chance of survival.
Weeks 37 to 40 – 19 - 21 inches 7 or 8 pounds: At 38 weeks, the fetus is considered full term. It fills the
entire uterus, and its head is the same size around as its shoulders. The mother supplies the fetus with the
antibodies it needs to protect it against disease.


Birth has nearly as many dangers as the embryonic stage, mostly from infections and anoxia. Anoxia means
"no oxygen," and can be due to a number of situations: If something prevents the exchange of blood from
mother to child prior to the baby breathing on its own, the lack of oxygen quickly begins to take its toll,
especially on the brain. This is called cord strangulation, and it can be caused by the cord being pressed
between the baby's head and the mother's pelvis. A breech birth, which involves the baby's buttocks going
first instead of its head, can slow the birth process. And premature separation of the placenta from the
mother's uterus can cause anoxia as well.
Sometimes, it is necessary to perform a Caesarian section (or C-section) when such problems arise, in order
to get the baby out more quickly. It is a fairly routine operation involving cutting the mother's abdomen and
uterine wall. In emergencies, this is done with general anesthesia, but can also be done with spinal
anesthesia, which allows the mother to remain awake and speeds her recovery time. It is, of course, still a
serious surgical procedure and involves enough risks that a vaginal birth is usually preferred.
[On a personal note: All three of my daughters were delivered by C-section, and my wife was awake for the
second two. I was present for those births, and the surgical nature of the deliveries did not detract from our

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Although science generally avoids making value statements, in the world of psychology, one value is
comfortably accepted by everyone: We would like to know how best to raise children to become healthy,
happy, and productive people. This is what the field of developmental psychology is all about.
Infancy is usually considered the first 2 1/2 years of life. The first two months of infancy is called the
neonatal period. At this point, life is mostly a matter of satisfying one's basic needs: Enough milk
(preferably mom's), staying warm and dry, and, of course, pooping. Lots and lots of pooping. More
seriously, the infant needs to be protected from harm and infection, the latter being the greatest threat at this
time of life.
In a way, the neonate (newborn) is a fetus out of his or her element. A great deal of neurological
development especially is still going on. Since the neurons are still reproducing and growing their axons, the
neonate's nervous system retains a considerable amount of plasticity, meaning that there is relatively little
specialization of function. If damage were to occur to a part of the brain, for example, another part of the
brain could still take over.
Infancts can see at birth, but they are very nearsighted and can't coordinate their eye movements. Hearing, on
the other hand, is already at work in the womb, by about the 20th week. Smell and taste are sharpt at birth,
and babies have a preference for sweets, which, not coincidentally, includes breast milk.
In the neonate, we can clearly see the presence of some basic reflexes, such as rooting (searching for mom's
nipple) and the startle reflex. We can also see certain instinctual patterns: Infants seem to orient towards
faces and voices, especially female ones, and seem to recognize their mother's voice and smell.
There have been many interesting experiments in this regard. They use some interesting special techniques:
Some videotape the babies face to keep track of where they are looking and how they are responding; others
use a special pacifier that keeps track of the rate of sucking – babies suck more rapidly when they are
experiencing something interesting.
One example of an experiment looked at
babies responses to various faces, as
represented by masks, similar to the ones
pictured here:
The surprising finding was that the babies
seemed pretty happy with all the faces –
even the "scary" one – except the one
consisting of one eye. It would seem that the
presence of two eyes is a key feature for
The most important psychological task for
the infant is called attachment, meaning the
establishment of a tight bond with mom, dad, and other significant people. This is our human version of the
imprinting process we see in animals, where a baby animals learns to follow its mother. Since our infants
can't walk, they make effective use of their parents' instincts to be attracted to babies, by cooing, gurgling,
smiling, and generally acting cute.
Physical touch seems to be crucial to attachment. In orphanages in troubled countries, where there may be a
significant shortage of caregivers, the infants are often deprived of much physical contact with the nurses.
Even when all their other needs are being met, the infants tend to become withdrawn and sickly and even die.
As the baby book says, babies need to be held and cuddled and loved.

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Attachment is normally established by 8 months or so. Signs of attachment include separation anxiety,
which is common between 6 and 18 omonths old, and stranger anxiety, which is common between 8
months and 24 months.
Middle infancy (about 2 to 15 months) is a period of rapid growth and weight gain. The nervous system is
clearly pulling its act together, and the infant has a strong drive to move and make noise. Among its needs
now are not only the presence of a loving adult, but opportunities to experience the environment and to
explore it.
Inborn personality differences (called temperaments) become very clear: Some babies are easily upset or
frightened, some quick tempered, some easygoing and calm; Some are active, restless, and fidgety, some
quiet an lazy; Some like people, some are shy, some are independent.
From 15 to 30 months, we call the baby a toddler, from the way they walk. They are getting control over
both their fine and large muscles, learning to speak, and learning to use the potty. At the same time, they are
developing a serious sense of independence, strong likes and dislikes, and the ability to say no to their
parents. This is where we get the notion of the "terrible twos." The "threes" aren't so easy either.

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Childhood is usually thought of as starting at around 2 1/2 years old. Early childhood is the period from then
until about six years old. In our culture, this is the preschool age. It is characterized by a strong interest in
developing language skills and learning to socialize. Unlike the toddler, the preschooler has a clear
understanding that he or she is not the only person in the world and needs to communicate and get along with
others to get anywhere.
The most significant influence on the child is, of course, the parents, and many studies have undertaken to
understand how parenting styles make a difference. It is generally agree upon that there are three broad
parenting styles:
First, there is the authoritarian style, which is, in fact, the traditional style of parenting we find all over the
world and back as far as we can see in history. Parents are the bosses in the family, and what they say, goes.
The consequences can be harsh – physical punishment, verbal browbeating, social ostracism – although this
does not mean there is not also plenty of love as well.
The second style is called the permissive (or laissez-faire) style. In this case, the child is pretty much
allowed to do whatever they like, and the parent interferes only in emergency situations. While we do see
this style in many primitive societies with relatively peaceful and safe environments, it is more often seen in
modern societies such as our own.
The last style is called authoritative, which means that, while the child is given considerable freedom and
input into family decision-making, the parent is still clearly the parent. Rules are clearly spelled out and
never arbitrary, and punishments "fit the crime" but are not physically or psychological abusive.
Psychologists believe that this style is most likely to lead to good development, of course.
Middle and late childhood are, very roughly, from 6 to 9 and 9 to 12 respectively, the latter sometimes
referred to as preadolescence. Three "new" influences begin to become as (and sometimes more) important
as the parents: Peers, school, and television.
In early childhood, and even in infancy, peers – in
the form of siblings and play friends – are quite
influential. As we get closer to adolescence, though,
they begin to dominate. As most parents can see in
their own children, much of childhood seems to
involve you children paying less and less attention to
what you think and more and more attention to what
their friends think. This is, of course, a natural thing
for the child to do as they move towards
School (and other educational systems, such as
apprenticeship, in other cultures) takes up a
considerable part of a child's day. It is, in a very real
sense, a child's job. It also seems that this is, in fact,
an appropriate time for education, in that children learn easily (relatively speaking).
Television – and all the various media we surround ourselves with today – has a powerful influence on
children that we are only now starting to understand a little. With children spending hours every day in front
of the tube, they are absorbing cultural values at a record rate.
Unfortunately, these values may be considerably different from the values parents would like their children
to have: Constant exposure to commercials teaches our kids that having things is the way to happiness; The

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violence they see, even in cartoons, teaches them that you get what you want by taking it, and that the pain of
others is unimportant; The emphasis on appearance and sexuality teaches them that looks are everything and
anything is all right if it feels good.
Between TV, movies, magazines, music, and now the internet, parents have their job cut out for them. This
may be the first generation of parents who have the odd task of teaching their children one thing, while other
powerful social forces are teaching them something else! Sadly, many parents have completely abdicated this
responsibility, and allow their kids to see and do whatever they want.

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Puberty is the beginning of adolescence. But when is puberty, exactly? The hormonal changes begin as
early as 8 years old. But the physical changes don't usually make themselves known for several years later.
In modern western societies, we usually say that puberty starts between 11 and 12 years old for girls, and
between 12 and 13 for boys. 95% of all girls will start somewhere between 8 1/2 and 13, and boys a year or
more later, between 9 1/2 and 15.
The first clear sign of puberty for girls is the beginnings of breast development, around the age of 12. There
is also an overall growth spurt that begins around 10 1/2, peaks at 12, and begins to slow around 14. But the
main mark of puberty is menarche (pronounced men-ARK-ee), the first period. In modern western societies,
it tends to happen between 12 and 13.
Curiously, in 1890, a girl's first period tended to occur at 14 or 15. In 1840, it often began as late as 17! It is
thought that this is due to changes in nutrition. Also notice that the average age at which a woman marries
today is around 25. In 1890, it was around 22. In the Middle Ages, it could be as young as 12 or 14.
(Remember that Romeo and Juliet were only 16!)
The first mark of puberty in boys is the start of testes growth around the age of 13, and penis growth around
14. The growth spurt for boys tends to begin at 12 1/2, peak at 14, and slow by 16 – hence the common sight
of girls towering over their partners at school dances!
The growth spurt we mentioned is about 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) of height a year for both girls and boys –
similar to the rate of growth back when they were only 2 years old! With this spurt, there is a significant loss
of fat in boys, especially in the limbs, which accounts for the common "beanpole" look among adolescents.
Girls may also lose fat, but not as dramatically as boys. An unfortunate tendency today, however, is the onset
of obesity in adolescence due to the high fat, high sugar diet many teens adopt.
Adolescence is definitely a time of increasing strength: A 14 year old boy has 14 times the muscle cells of a
5 year old boy. A 14 year old girl has 10 times the muscle cells of a 5 year old girl.
Psychologically, adolescence is a pretty busy time. Becoming a sexual adult involves a number of things that
may very well have instinctual roots: Boys compete with each other for attention by shows of physical
ability and acts of daring, often bordering on the insane; girls compete for the attention of boys, most
commonly by attempting to enhance their appearance. Different cultures have different details, but the
pattern is pretty universal.
The single most important thing seems to be social acceptance. If you do not have a circle of friends, in the
teenage world you are nothing. For many teenagers, whether their isolation is due to a family move or social
inhibition, physical abnormalities or not meeting local standards of attractiveness, not being accepted is a
cause of depression and sometimes suicide. I believe this response is very likely one we have inherited from
our very social pre-human ancestors: No group, and you might as well be dead.
In later adolescence, two things dominate a teenager's mind: Finding a boyfriend or girlfriend and finding a
way to make a living. The way these needs are expressed can range from trying to have sex with whomever
will have you and making, borrowing, or stealing enough money to make a good showing, to a serious effort
at creating the foundation for a lifelong partnership and family based in love and training for a financially
and personally rewarding career.
The end of adolescence is as much a social thing as a physiological thing, so it is very hard to say when that
is, but in western cultures, we usually think of 18 as a convenient mark. But, with work and family delayed
as long as we do, a lot of the traditional tasks of adolescents continue well into the 20's.
Because the adolescent is in the process of breaking away from his or her parents, there is often conflict

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between them. Ideally, adolescents acknowledge their parents wisdom and politely leave the house, while
parent trust their children to make their own decisions and let them go. Unfortunately, it often doesn't work
that way. It is almost as if nature is making us so repugnant to each other that we are absolutely eager to go
our separate ways.
These conflicts between parents and their adolescent children go back many generations. Socrates and other
Greek philosophers complained about this upcoming generation of spoiled slackers, as did writers in the
renaissance and all the centuries. Here's a paraphrase of one such complaint:
"Where did you go?"
"I did not go anywhere."
"If you did not go anywhere, why do you idle about? Go to school... Do not wander about in the
street.... Don't stand about in the public square or wander about the boulevard.... You who wander
about in the public square, would you achieve success?... Because my heart had been sated with
weariness of you, I kept away from you and heeded not your fears and grumblings.... Because of
your clamorings... I was angry with you.... Because you do not look to your humanity, my heart was
carried off as if by an evil wind. Your grumblings have put an end to me, you have brought me to the
point of death."
This is a piece of a conversation between a Sumerian youth and his father, recorded in cuneiform some 3 or 4
thousand years ago. (From S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians, University of Chicago Press, 1963.) Funny, I
could have sworn I heard this conversation just the other day!

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Psychological Problems of Childhood*

Mental Retardation

More than 2% of our children are considered to be mentally retarded. In order to understand retardation, we
need to look a little at the concept of intelligence. We define intelligence as "general cognitive ability,"
meaning how well a person can solve problems, how easily they learn new things, and how quickly they can
see relationships among things.
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is the score you get on an intelligence test. Originally, it was a quotient (a ratio):
IQ= MA/CA x 100, where MA is mental age and CA is chronological age. So a child who is 10 and has the
same level of intellectual ability as most 10 year olds has an IQ of 10/10 x 100 = 100. If that 10 year old has
the same ability as a 15 year old, his IQ will be 15/10 x 100 = 150 – very smart indeed. If the 10 year old has
the ability of a 5 year old, his IQ would be 5/10 x 100 = 50, which is considered mentally retarded.
Nowadays, IQ is a matter of comparing a person with many others of the same age, and assigning a score
based on their place on a normal curve:

Here you get to see several important points about not only IQ but about descriptive statistics.
1. The normal curve, also called the bell-shaped curve, is an idealized version of what happens in
many large sets of measurements: Most measurements fall in the middle, and fewer fall at points
farther away from the middle. Here, most people score near 100 (the average), and much fewer
people score very high or very low.
2. The mean is just the average of all scores. The sum of everyone’s IQ scores, divided by the number
of scores, is the mean, which was originally set at 100. That has become the tradition.
3. The standard deviation (sd). The standard deviation is like the average degree to which scores
deviate from the mean. For our purposes, just know that 1 standard deviation above and below the
mean contains (in an ideal normal curve!) 68% of all the scores, 2 standard deviations contain
95.6%, and 3 standard deviations contain 99.7%. Or, you could say that there are only 2.2% above
130 and 2.2% below 70, and so on. By tradition, one standard deviation is 15 points. The
percentages you see in the normal curve above are based on 10 point spreads: 10 points above or

* Note: All quotes are from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Services (1999),
available at

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below the mean (90 to 110) contains 50% of all the scores.
The names for various "smart" people are of relatively little importance to us. But the differences among
retarded people can be very significant. Please understand that the ranges are approximations, and labeling
people is always a difficult and dangerous thing!
• 0 - 20: profound mental retardation – these folks will likely need nursing care their entire lives.
• 20 - 35: severe mental retardation – these people can learn to talk and develop basic hygiene habits.
• 35 - 50: moderate mental retardation – they can achieve as much as a second grade education (e.g.
learning to read and count change, etc.), but will likely need sheltered care.
• 50 - 70: mild mental retardation – these people can achieve the equivalent of a sixth grade education,
be self-supporting and have a partially independent life.
Basically, mental retardation is believed to be a matter of some sort of damage to the brain. There are many
factors that can lead to that kind of damage:
• heredity (eg Downs syndrome)
• embryonic problems (eg fetal alcohol syndrome, rubella...)
• birth complications (anoxia, infection)
• childhood medical conditions (infections, traumas, lead poisoning)
• neglect and abuse
• other psychological disorders that involve neurological impairment (eg autism)
An interesting question to ask is: If being below, say, 50 is due to "brain damage," what do we say about
people above, say, 150? Are they "brain enhanced?" Or do they have a different, more beneficial sort of
"brain damage?"


Autism, the most common of the pervasive developmental disorders (with a prevalence of 10 to 12
children per 10,000 [Bryson & Smith, 1998]), is characterized by severely compromised ability to
engage in, and by a lack of interest in, social interactions. It has roots in both structural brain
abnormalities and genetic predispositions, according to family studies and studies of brain anatomy.
The search for genes that predispose to autism is considered an extremely high research priority for
the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 1998). Although the reported association between
autism and obstetrical hazard may be due to genetic factors (Bailey et al., 1995), there is evidence
that several different causes of toxic or infectious damage to the central nervous system during early
development also may contribute to autism. Autism has been reported in children with fetal alcohol
syndrome (Aronson et al., 1997), in children who were infected with rubella during pregnancy
(Chess et al., 1978), and in children whose mothers took a variety of medications that are known to
damage the fetus (Williams & Hersh, 1997)

The causes of autism are still not known. It is believed by most researchers that it involves problems with
neural circuits, and twin studies suggest that genetic influences are likely. For a long time, it was assumed
incorrectly that autism resulted from parental neglect.

Because autism is a severe, chronic developmental disorder, which results in significant lifelong
disability, the goal of treatment is to promote the child’s social and language development and
minimize behaviors that interfere with the child’s functioning and learning. Intensive, sustained

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special education programs and behavior therapy early in life can increase the ability of the child
with autism to acquire language and ability to learn. Special education programs in highly
structured environments appear to help the child acquire self-care, social, and job skills.

There has been some limited success with antipsychotic drugs and with antidepressants.

In the last 20 years or so, a number of finer differentiations have evolved regarding what is now seen as an
autistic spectrum. First, we have something called Asperger's Syndrome. These children (and adults) are
generally of normal (and sometimes high) intelligence, but have difficulty in social interaction. They seem
exceptionally shy and have a hard time making eye contact. They have trouble learning what is called
pragmatics – the part of communication between people that involves recognizing turn-taking, facial
expressions, gestures, and other non-verbal cues. They tend to focus intensely on one thing at a time, don't
like abrupt changes, and develop obsessive routines. As adults, they usually adapt, but are seen as being
socially inept, absent minded, and eccentric. Of course, that begs the question a little: Is this truly a separate
disorder, or just a little out there on the continuum of normal behavior?
There are other syndromes that focus more on language: The semantic-pragmatic disorder is sometimes
used to label certain children who are similar to Asperger's children but more sociable. The focus of their
problem is more on the communications side.
Hyperlexia is more a symptom than a disorder. It is a matter of being rather precocious in reading words,
and being fascinated by letters and numbers. On the other hand, children with hyperlexia don't communicate
well, nor do they socialize well.
Non-verbal learning disability is a matter of having a hard time with visual, spatial, and motor skills. They
have a hard time picking out, say, one house out of a row of them, tying their shoes, getting dressed, kicking
a ball, reading facial expressions, and recognizing the tone of someone's voice. One of the notable symptoms
is the tendency to stare, especially when visually over-stimulated.
A related problem that is close to my heart (because I have a mild version of this) is prosopagnosia or face
blindness. This affects about 2 1/2 % of the population, and people with this problem have a difficult time
recognizing faces. It can be so severe that a man can walk past his own mother and not recognize her!
Generally, people with this problem develop other ways of recognizing people, such as clothing or hair
styles. I recognize people I have known for a long time, but cannot place less familiar people out of the
context of, say, a specific classroom or circumstance. It makes one seem rude, but it is unintentional.
Interestingly, people with prosopagnosia often also have a hard time identifying some other things, such as
dogs and cars! It is believed to be a problem involving the fusiform gyrus, which is involved in facial

Learning Disorders

We say a child has a learning disorder when his or her performance is significantly below his or her IQ, i.e.
they are not learning "up to their potential." We estimate that about 5% of students in US public schools have
a learning disorder, most commonly reading disorder. Learning disorders are often found accompanying
other medical problems such as lead poisoning, fetal alcohol syndrome, and so on.
Reading disorder – better known as dyslexia – is the most common learning disorder. Here, the child's
reading scores are significantly below IQ, expected age level, or their general abilities. These kids seem to
have trouble with the usual lleft to right scanning of words, which lead them to reverse letters and jumble the
spelling. It could be compared to trying to read a newspaper in a language you have little familiarity with.

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It is estimated that about 4% of US school kids have dyslexia. 60 to 80% of those diagnosed are boys, but
this may be a matter of identification: boys with reading disorder act up more, drawing attention to their
problems, while the girls tend to be quieter and less trouble. This is, of course, a problem for the girls in that
their dyslexia is less often caught early.
Helping children with learning disorders has become a big part of educational research. Basically the help
involves slow, careful teaching that gives the child an opportunity to work without the pressures of
competition and frustration that exist in the ordinary classroom setting. In England, they take a different
attitude towards dyslexia, seeing it as more a maturational problem rather than a more permanent
neurological condition.
It should also be noted that dyslexia is a far greater problem for children who speak English than other
languages: Of all languages written with a western alphabet, English has the most inconsistent spelling.
Spelling is not even a subject in most western languages, because words are spelled pretty much as they
sound! Unfortunately, there are few signs that English-speaking people will ever change their spelling

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is really two different problems – inattentiveness and hyperactivity – that nevertheless tend to go
together. It has been the focus of a great deal of controversy. Opinions range from considering ADHD to be a
purely physical, highly genetic, medical problem to the belief that it is nothing more than the differences
between children's maturation rates. Here are the opinions offered by the Surgeon General’s report:
Inattention or attention deficit may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging
environment of elementary school. Such children then have difficulty paying attention to details and
are easily distracted by other events that are occurring at the same time; they find it difficult and
unpleasant to finish their schoolwork; they put off anything that requires a sustained mental effort;
they are prone to make careless mistakes, and are disorganized, losing their school books and
assignments; they appear not to listen when spoken to and often fail to follow through on tasks
(DSM-IV; Waslick & Greenhill, 1997).
The symptoms of hyperactivity may be apparent in very young preschoolers and are nearly always
present before the age of 7 (Halperin et al., 1993; Waslick & Greenhill, 1997). Such symptoms
include fidgeting, squirming around when seated, and having to get up frequently to walk or run
around. Hyperactive children have difficulty playing quietly, and they may talk excessively. They
often behave in an inappropriate and uninhibited way, blurting out answers in class before the
teacher’s question has been completed, not waiting their turn, and interrupting often or intruding on
others’ conversations or games (Waslick & Greenhill, 1997).
Many of these symptoms occur from time to time in normal children. However, in children with
ADHD they occur very frequently and in several settings, at home and at school, or when visiting
with friends, and they interfere with the child’s functioning. Children suffering from ADHD may
perform poorly at school; they may be unpopular with their peers, if other children perceive them as
being unusual or a nuisance; and their behavior can present significant challenges for parents,
leading some to be overly harsh (DSM-IV).
Inattention tends to persist through childhood and adolescence into adulthood, while the symptoms
of motor hyperactivity and impulsivity tend to diminish with age. Many children with ADHD develop
learning difficulties that may not improve with treatment (Mannuzza et al., 1993). Hyperactive
behavior is often associated with the development of other disruptive disorders, particularly conduct
and oppositional-defiant disorder (see Disruptive Disorders). The reason for the relationship is not

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known. Some believe that the impulsivity and heedlessness associated with ADHD interfere with
social learning or with close social bonds with parents in a way that predisposes to the development
of behavior disorders (Barkley, 1998).
Even though a great many children with this disorder ultimately adjust (Mannuzza et al., 1998),
some—especially those with an associated conduct or oppositional-defiant disorder—are more
likely to drop out of school and fare more poorly in their later careers than children without ADHD.
As they grow older, some teens who have had severe ADHD since middle childhood experience
periods of anxiety or depression. This seems to be especially common in children whose
predominant symptom is inattention (Morgan et al., 1996)....
ADHD, which is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, occurs in 3 to 5
percent of school-age children in a 6-month period (Anderson et al., 1987; Bird et al., 1988; Esser
et al., 1990; Pelham et al., 1992; Shaffer et al., 1996c; Wolraich et al., 1996).

We don’t have any solid knowledge about the origins of ADHD, but it is believed to include some very basic
genetic, prenatal, and neurotransmitter problems. It is thought that children with ADHD do not have enough
dopamine – a neurotransmitter that has a lot to do with controlling behavior – in their nervous system. It does
seem to run in families, so a genetic factor is likely. And ADHD occurs more often in children from mothers
who smoked while pregnant, in children exposed to lead, and in children who suffered from anoxia (low
oxygen) before or during birth. (Whittaker et al., 1997).
Treatment of children with ADHD usually involves two approaches: Medication and behavioral training.
The behaviorial training involves the parents as much as the child, and usually includes finding the
appropriate ways of rewarding and punishing the child, including rewarding with attention and the famous
"time-out" approach.
Medication takes the form of amphetamines and amphetamine-like stimulants such as the well-known ritalin.
Research shows that stimulants are effective in 75 to 90% of all ADHD children (Spencer et al., 1995;
Greenhill, 1998a, 1998b; Greenhill et al., 1998). Many peple have expressed some concern that we are
overdiagnosing and overmedicating children, and that ritalin is just a way teachers and parents get rid of
annoying kids. But there is, in fact, little evidence of this (Goldman et al., 1998; Jensen et al., 1999).
All this said, it should nevertheless be noted that some researchers see ADHD as a false category, and the use
of stimulants akin to the way in which cocaine (or coffee) makes the average person temporarily more
creative and productive. In fact, coffee has been used with some success in helping ADHD kids!

Stuttering, Tics, and Tourette's Syndrome

There are a number of problems kids face that involve neuromotor dysfunction. One of the most common is
stuttering, which is found in about 1% of all children. It is found 3 times more commonly in boys. The good
new is that 60% of stutterers recover on their own, usually by the age of 16. With the help of speech
therapists, another 20% recover as well. Stuttering is strongly connected to anxiety, and it often disappears
when the child is relaxed or, for example, when they are singing!
Somewhat more problematic are tics, which are repetitive abnormal movements that cannot be controlled.
Most of us think of facial tics – a repetitive squint or upward jerk of the cheek and so on. But some tics are
far more dramatic. fFor example, their are various twisting movements, where the person's arm moves out
like a snake, or dancing movements involving the whole body, even such tics as sudden deep knee bends.
Like stuttering, tics are strongly associated with anxiety and therapy often concentrates on developing a
relaxed attitude that diminishes the severity of the tics.

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The most severe tics are found in people with Tourette's Syndrome. This is usually a life-long problem
involving many different kinds of tics. Fortunately, it is very rare – about 5 in 10,000 people. They may have
tics involving complex movements, such as touching things or full body motions. Most characteristics of
Tourette's are vocal tics, including a variety of clicks, grunts, barks, snorts, and coughs. About 10% of
Tourette's sufferers have what is called coprolalia, which is the involuntary shouting of obscenities. Often the
obscenities are situational, so that when the person is dealing with a woman, they may be unable to restrain
themselves from shouting "bitch!" or when dealing with an African American, they may shout "nigger!" That
might seem amusing, until you put yourself in their shoes.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a very common problem among children, especially younger ones. It is found in about
4% of kids. The problem is excessive anxiety about separation from the child's parents, other family
members, or even their home. When separated, they become withdrawn and depressed and may have
difficulty concentrating. They often develop other fears, anxiety about death, and nightmares. Of course,
some separation anxiety is a normal part of childhood, so this can be a bit of a subjective call.
Separation anxiety usually occurs in tight, loving families. It often begins with some kind of life stress, such
as moving to a new home or town, starting at a new school, or the death of a pet or relative. fortunately, for
most children, it ends sometime in adolescence if not earlier.

Conduct disorder

Children or adolescents with conduct disorder behave aggressively by fighting, bullying,

intimidating, physically assaulting, sexually coercing, and/or being cruel to people or animals.
Vandalism with deliberate destruction of property, for example, setting fires or smashing windows,
is common, as are theft; truancy; and early tobacco, alcohol, and substance use and abuse; and
precocious sexual activity. Girls with a conduct disorder are prone to running away from home and
may become involved in prostitution. The behavior interferes with performance at school or work, so
that individuals with this disorder rarely perform at the level predicted by their IQ or age. Their
relationships with peers and adults are often poor. They have higher injury rates and are prone to
school expulsion and problems with the law. Sexually transmitted diseases are common. If they have
been removed from home, they may have difficulty staying in an adoptive or foster family or group
home, and this may further complicate their development. Rates of depression, suicidal thoughts,
suicide attempts, and suicide itself are all higher in children diagnosed with a conduct disorder
(Shaffer et al., 1996b).
The etiology of conduct disorder is not fully known. Studies of twins and adopted children suggest
that conduct disorder has both biological (including genetic) and psychosocial components
(Hendren & Mullen, 1997). Social risk factors for conduct disorder include early maternal rejection,
separation from parents with no adequate alternative caregiver available, early institutionalization,
family neglect, abuse or violence, parents’ psychiatric illness, parental marital discord, large family
size, crowding, and poverty (Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986).... Physical risk factors for
conduct disorder include neurological damage caused by birth complications or low birthweight,
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, fearlessness and stimulation-seeking behavior, learning
impairments, autonomic underarousal, and insensitivity to physical pain and punishment. A child

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with both social deprivation and any of these neurological conditions is most susceptible to conduct
disorder (Raine et al., 1998)....
Studies have shown a correlation between the behavior and attributes of 3-year-olds and the
aggressive behavior of these children at ages 11 to 13 (Raine et al., 1998).

Among children from 9 to 17, we find between 1 and 4 percent showing evidence of conduct disorder, and
the problem being worse in the cities. Between 25 and 50% of these children are believed to develop into
antisocial adults.
Treatment of children with conduct disorder tends to focus on making their family lives happier and more
consistent. If the parents or other caretakers are responsive, there are programs that teach them how to use
rewards and punishments more effectively. For many of these kids, it is a matter of trying to find a home for
them at all! Medications have not been found to help.

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Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development*

Jean Piaget began his career as a biologist – specifically, one that studies
mollusks. But his interest in science and the history of science soon overtook
his interest in snails and clams. As he delved deeper into the thought-
processes of doing science, he became interested in the nature of thought
itself, especially in the development of thinking. Finding relatively little
work done in the area, he had the opportunity to give it a label. He called it
genetic epistemology, meaning the study of the development of knowledge.
He noticed, for example, that even infants have certain skills in regard to
objects in their environment. These skills were certainly simple ones,
sensori-motor skills, but they directed the way in which the infant explored
his or her environment and so how they gained more knowledge of the
world and more sophisticated exploratory skills. These skills he called
For example, an infant knows how to grab his favorite rattle and thrust it
into his mouth. He’s got that schema down pat. When he comes across some other object – say daddy’s
expensive watch, he easily learns to transfer his "grab and thrust" schema to the new object. This Piaget
called assimilation, specifically assimilating a new object into an old schema.
When our infant comes across another object again – say a beach ball – he will try his old schema of grab
and thrust. This of course works poorly with the new object. So the schema will adapt to the new object:
Perhaps, in this example, "squeeze and drool" would be an appropriate title for the new schema. This is
called accommodation, specifically accomodating an old schema to a new object.
Assimilation and accommodation are the two sides of adaptation, Piaget’s term for what most of us would
call learning. Piaget saw adaptation, however, as a good deal broader than the kind of learning that
Behaviorists in the US were talking about. He saw it as a fundamentally biological process. Even one’s grip
has to accommodate to a stone, while clay is assimilated into our grip. All living things adapt, even without a
nervous system or brain.
Assimilation and accommodation work like pendulum swings at advancing our understanding of the world
and our competency in it. According to Piaget, they are directed at a balance between the structure of the
mind and the environment, at a certain congruency between the two, that would indicate that you have a
good (or at least good-enough) model of the universe. This ideal state he calls equilibrium.
As he continued his investigation of children, he noted that there were periods where assimilation dominated,
periods where accommodation dominated, and periods of relative equilibrium, and that these periods were
similar among all the children he looked at in their nature and their timing. And so he developed the idea of
stages of cognitive development. These constitute a lasting contribution to psychology. The sensorimotor
stageThe first stage, to which we have already referred, is the sensorimotor stage. It lasts from birth to about
two years old. As the name implies, the infant uses senses and motor abilities to understand the world,
beginning with reflexes and ending with complex combinations of sensorimotor skills.
Between one and four months, the child works on primary circular reactions – just an action of his own
which serves as a stimulus to which it responds with the same action, and around and around we go. For
example, the baby may suck her thumb. That feels good, so she sucks some more... Or she may blow a
bubble. That’s interesting so I’ll do it again....
Between four and 12 months, the infant turns to secondary circular reactions, which involve an act that

* Adapted from my Jean Piaget Personality Theories page

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extends out to the environment: She may squeeze a rubber duckie. It goes "quack." That’s great, so do it
again, and again, and again. She is learning "procedures that make interesting things last."
At this point, other things begin to show up as well. For example, babies become ticklish, although they must
be aware that someone else is tickling them or it won’t work. And they begin to develop object permanence.
This is the ability to recognize that, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s gone! Younger
infants seem to function by an "out of sight, out of mind" schema. Older infants remember, and may even try
to find things they can no longer see.
Between 12 months and 24 months, the child works on tertiary circular reactions. They consist of the same
"making interesting things last" cycle, except with constant variation. I hit the drum with the stick – rat-tat-
tat-tat. I hit the block with the stick – thump-thump. I hit the table with the stick – clunk-clunk. I hit daddy
with the stick – ouch-ouch. This kind of active experimentation is best seen during feeding time, when
discovering new and interesting ways of throwing your spoon, dish, and food.
Around one and a half, the child is clearly developing mental representation, that is, the ability to hold an
image in their mind for a period beyond the immediate experience. For example, they can engage in
deferred imitation, such as throwing a tantrum after seeing one an hour ago. They can use mental
combinations to solve simple problems, such as putting down a toy in order to open a door. And they get
good at pretending. Instead of using dollies essentially as something to sit at, suck on, or throw, now the
child will sing to it, tuck it into bed, and so on.

Preoperational stage

The preoperational stage lasts from about two to about seven years old. Now that the child has mental
representations and is able to pretend, it is a short step to the use of symbols.
A symbol is a thing that represents something else. A drawing, a written word, or a spoken word comes to be
understood as representing a real dog. The use of language is, of course, the prime example, but another
good example of symbol use is creative play, wherein checkers are cookies, papers are dishes, a box is the
table, and so on. By manipulating symbols, we are essentially thinking, in a way the infant could not: in the
absence of the actual objects involved!
Along with symbolization, there is a clear understanding of past and future. for example, if a child is crying
for its mother, and you say "Mommy will be home soon," it will now tend to stop crying. Or if you ask him,
"Remember when you fell down?" he will
respond by making a sad face.
On the other hand, the child is quite egocentric
during this stage, that is, he sees things pretty
much from one point of view: his own! She may
hold up a picture so only she can see it and
expect you to see it too. Or she may explain that
grass grows so she won’t get hurt when she
Piaget did a study to investigate this
phenomenon called the mountains study. He
would put children in front of a simple plaster
mountain range and seat himself to the side, then
ask them to pick from four pictures the view that
he, Piaget, would see. Younger children would

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pick the picture of the view they themselves saw; older kids picked correctly.
Similarly, younger children center on one aspect of any problem or communication at a time. for example,
they may not understand you when you tell them "Your father is my husband." Or they may say things like
"I don’t live in the USA; I live in Pennsylvania!" Or, if you show them five black and three white marbles
and ask them "Are there more marbles or more black marbles?" they will respond "More black ones!"
Perhaps the most famous example of the preoperational child’s centrism is what Piaget refers to as their
inability to conserve liquid volume. If I give a three year old some chocolate milk in a tall skinny glass, and I
give myself a whole lot more in a short fat glass, she will tend to focus on only one of the dimensions of the
glass. Since the milk in the tall skinny glass goes up much higher, she is likely to assume that there is more
milk in that one than in the short fat glass, even though there is far more in the latter. It is the development of
the child's ability to decenter that marks him as havingmoved to the next stage.

Concrete operations stage

The concrete operations stage lasts from about seven to about 11. The word operations refers to logical
operations or principles we use when solving problems. In this stage, the child not only uses symbols
representationally, but can manipulate those symbols logically. Quite an accomplishment! But, at this point,
they must still perform these operations within the context of concrete situations.
The stage begins with progressive decentering. By six or
seven, most children develop the ability to conserve
number, length, and liquid volume. Conservation refers
to the idea that a quantity remains the same despite
changes in appearance. If you show a child four marbles in a row, then spread them out, the preoperational
child will focus on the spread, and tend to believe that there are now more marbles than before.
Or if you have two five inch sticks laid parallel to each other,
then move one of them a little, she may believe that the
moved stick is now longer than the other.

The concrete operations child, on the other hand, will know that there
are still four marbles, and that the stick doesn’t change length even
though it now extends beyond the other. And he will know that you
have to look at more than just the height of the milk in the glass: If
you pour the milk from the short, fat glass into the tall, skinny glass,
he will tell you that there is the same amount of milk as before,
despite the dramatic increase in milk-level!

By seven or eight years old, children develop

conservation of substance: If I take a ball of clay
and roll it into a long thin rod, or even split it into
ten little pieces, the child knows that there is still
the same amount of clay. And he will know that, if
you rolled it all back into a single ball, it would look quite the same as it did – a feature known as

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By nine or ten, the last of the conservation tests is mastered:

conservation of area. If you take four one-inch square pieces of felt,
and lay them on a six-by-six cloth together in the center, the child who
conserves will know that they take up just as much room as the same
squares spread out in the corners, or, for that matter, anywhere at all.

If all this sounds too easy to be such a big deal, test your friends on conservation of mass: Which is heavier:
a million tons of lead, or a million tons of feathers?
In addition, a child learns classification and seriation during this stage. Classification refers back to the
question of whether there are more marbles or more black marbles? Now the child begins to get the idea that
one set can include another. Seriation is putting things in order. The younger child may start putting things in
order by, say size, but will quickly lose track. Now the child has no problem with such a task. Since
arithmetic is essentially nothing more than classification and seriation, the child is now ready for some
formal education!

Formal operations stage

But the concrete operations child has a hard time applying his new-found logical abilities to non-concrete –
i.e. abstract – events. If mom says to junior "You shouldn’t make fun of that boy’s nose. How would you feel
if someone did that to you?" he is likely to respond "I don’t have a big nose!" Even this simple lesson may
well be too abstract, too hypothetical, for his kind of thinking.
Don’t judge the concrete operations child too harshly, though. Even adults are often taken-aback when we
present them with something hypothetical: "If Edith has a lighter complexion than Susan, and Edith is darker
than Lily, who is the darkest?" Most people need a moment or two.
From around 12 on, we enter the formal operations stage. Here we become increasingly competent at adult-
style thinking. This involves using logical operations, and using them in the abstract, rather than the
concrete. We often call this hypothetical thinking.
It is the formal operations stage that allows one to investigate a problem in a careful and systematic fashion.
Ask a 16 year old to tell you the rules for making pendulums swing quickly or slowly, and he may proceed
like this:
A long string with a light weight – let’s see how fast that swings.
A long string with a heavy weight – let’s try that.
Now, a short string with a light weight.
And finally, a short string with a heavy weight.

His experiment – and it is an experiment – would tell him that a short string leads to a fast swing, and a long
string to a slow swing, and that the weight of the pendulum means nothing at all!
It doesn’t seem that the formal operations stage is something everyone actually gets to. Even those of us who
do don’t operate in it at all times. Even some cultures, it seems, don’t develop it or value it like ours does.
Abstract reasoning is simply not universal.

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Moral Development

Kohlberg's Theory

Traditionally, psychology has avoided studying anything that is loaded with value judgements. There is a
degree of difficulty involved in trying to be unbiased about things that involve terms like "good" and "bad!"
So, one of the most significant aspects of human life – morality – has had to wait quite a while before anyone
in psychology dared to touch it! But Lawrence Kohlberg wanted to study morality, and did so using some of
the most interesting (if controversial) techniques. Basically, he would ask children and adults to try to solve
moral dilemmas contained in little stories, and to do so outloud so he could follow their reasoning. It wasn't
the specific answers to the dilemmas that interested him, but rather how the person got to his or her answer.
One of the most famous of these stories concerned a man named Heinz. His wife was dying of a disease that
could be cured if he could get a certain medicine. When he asked the pharmacist, he was told that he could
get the medicine, but only at a very high price – one that Heinz could not possibly afford. So the next
evening, Heinz broke into the pharmacy and stole the drug to save his wife's life. Was Heinz right or wrong
to steal the drug?
There are simple reasons why Heinz should or should not have stolen the drug, and there are very
sophisticated reasons, and reasons in between. After looking at hundreds of interviews concerning this and
several other stories, Kohlberg outlined three broad levels and six more specific stages of moral

Level I: Pre-conventional morality. While infants are essentially amoral, very young children are moral in a
rather primitive way described by the two preconventional stages.
• Stage 1. We can call this the reward and punishment stage. Good or bad depends on the physical
consequences: Does the action lead to punishment or reward? This stage is based simply on one's
own pain and pleasure, and doesn't take others into account.
• Stage 2. This we can call the exchange stage. In this stage, there is increased recognition that others
have their own interests and should be taken into account. Those interests are still understood in a
very concrete fashion, and the child deals with others in terms of simple exchange or reciprocity: "I'll
scratch your back if you scratch mine." Children in this stage are very concerned with what's fair, but
are not concerned with real justice.

Level II: Conventional morality. By the time children enter elementary school, they are usually capable of
conventional morality, although they may often slip back into preconventional morality on occasion. But this
level is called conventional for a very good reason: It is also the level that most adults find themselves in
most of the time!
• Stage 3. This stage is often called the good boy/good girl stage. The child tries to live up to the
expectations of others, and to seek their approval. Now the concern includes motives or intentions,
and concepts such as loyalty, trust, and gratitude are understood. Children in this stage often adhere
to a concrete version of the Golden Rule, although it is limited to the people they actually deal with
on a day-to-day basis.
• Stage 4. This is called the law-and-order stage. Children now take the point of view that includes
the social system as a whole. The rules of the society are the bases for right and wrong, and doing
one's duty and showing respect for authority are important.

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Level III: Post-conventional morality. Some adolescents and adults go a step further and rise above
moralities based on authority to ones based on reason.
• Stage 5. The social contract stage means being aware of the degree to which much of so-called
morality is relative to the individual and to the social group they belong to, and that only a very few
fundamental values are universal. The person at this level sees morality as a matter of entering into a
rational contract with one's fellow human beings to be kind to each other, respect authority, and
follow laws to the extent that they respect and promote those universal values. Social contract
morality often involves a utilitarian approach, where the relative value of an act is determined by
"the greatest good for the greatest number."
• Stage 6. This stage is referred to as the stage of universal principles. At this point, the person makes
a personal commitment to universal principles of equal rights and respect, and social contract takes a
clear back-seat: If there is a conflict between a social law or custom and universal principles, the
universal principles take precedence.

Bronfenbrenner's Theory

Another psychologist unafraid to tackle morallity was Urie Bronfenbrenner. He is famous for his studies of
children and schools in different cultures. He outlines five moral orientations:
1. Self-oriented morality. This is analogous to Kohlberg's pre-conventional morality.
Basically, the child is only interested in self-gratification and only considers others to the extent
that they can help him get what he wants, or hinder him.

The next three orientations are all forms of what Kohlberg called conventional morality:
2. Authority-oriented morality. Here, the child, or adult, basically accepts the decrees of
authority figures, from parents up to heads of state and religion, as defining of good and bad.

3. Peer-oriented morality. This is basically a morality of conformity, where right and wrong is
determined not by authority but by one's peers. In western society, this kind of morality is
frequently found among adolescents, as well as many adults.

4. Collective-oriented morality. In this orientation, the standing goals of the group to which
the child or adult belongs over-ride individual interests. Duty to one's group or society is

The last orientation is analogous to Kohlberg's post-conventional level:

5. Objectively oriented morality. By objectively, Bronfenbrenner means universal principles
that are objective in the sense that they do not depend on the whims of individuals or social
groups, but have a reality all their own.

Bronfenbrenner noted that while 1 is found among children (and some adults) in all cultures, 6 is found in
relatively few people in any culture. The differences between 2, 3, and 4 are more a matter of culture than of
development. Many cultures promote strict obedience to authority figures. One can see this in some middle
eastern cultures, where the word of the religious authorities is law. In many western cultures, conformity to
one's peers is a powerful force. And in others still, such as some Asian cultures, the welfare of the group is
considered far more important than that of the individual.

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Bronfenbrenner also talks about how we get movement from one orientation to another. The movement from
1 to 2, 3, or 4 involves participation in the family and other social structures, where concern for others begins
to take precedent over concern for oneself.
Movement from 2, 3, or 4 to 5 occurs when a person is exposed to a number of different moral systems
which at least partially conflict with each other, a situation he calls moral pluralism. This forces the person
to begin to think about what might lie beneath all the variation, and lead him or her to consider ultimate
moral principles.
On the other hand, sometimes people slide back down to the lowest orientation when they suffer from the
disintegration of social structures, as in war and other social disasters. This can force a person's attentions
back onto their own needs, and cause them to begin ignoring the welfare of larger social groupings.

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Erik Erikson*

Erikson is a Freudian ego-psychologist. This means that he accepts Freud's

ideas as basically correct, including the more debatable ideas such as the
Oedipal complex, and accepts as well the ideas about the ego that were
added by other Freudian loyalists such as Freud's daughter, Anna Freud.
However, Erikson is much more society and culture-oriented than most
Freudians, and he often pushes the instincts and the unconscious practically
out of the picture. Perhaps because of this, Erikson is popular among
Freudians and non-Freudians alike!

Erik and Joan Erikson

The epigenetic principle

He is most famous for his work in refining and expanding Freud's theory of stages. Development, he says,
functions by the epigenetic principle. This principle says that we develop through a predetermined
unfolding of our personalities in eight stages. Our progress through each stage is in part determined by our
success, or lack of success, in all the previous stages. A little like the unfolding of a rose bud, each petal
opens up at a certain time, in a certain order, which nature, through its genetics, has determined. If we
interfere in the natural order of development by pulling a petal forward prematurely or out of order, we ruin
the development of the entire flower.
Each stage involves certain developmental tasks that are psychosocial in nature. Although he follows
Freudian tradition by calling them crises, they are more drawn out and less specific than that term implies.
The child in grammar school, for example, has to learn to be industrious during that period of his or her life,
and that industriousness is learned through the complex social interactions of school and family.
The various tasks are referred to by two terms. The infant's task, for example, is called "trust-mistrust." At
first, it might seem obvious that the infant must learn trust and not mistrust. But Erikson made it clear that
there it is a balance we must learn: Certainly, we need to learn mostly trust; but we also need to learn a little
mistrust, so as not to grow up to become gullible fools!
Each stage has a certain optimal time as well. It is no use trying to rush children into adulthood, as is so
common among people who are obsessed with success. Neither is it possible to slow the pace or to try to
protect our children from the demands of life. There is a time for each task.
If a stage is managed well, we carry away a certain virtue or psychosocial strength which will help us
through the rest of the stages of our lives. On the other hand, if we don't do so well, we may develop
maladaptations and malignancies, as well as endanger all our future development. A malignancy is the worse
of the two, and involves too little of the positive and too much of the negative aspect of the task, such as a
person who can't trust others. A maladaptation is not quite as bad and involves too much of the positive and
too little of the negative, such as a person who trusts too much.
* Adapted from my Erik Erikson Personality Theories page

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Children and adults

Perhaps Erikson's greatest innovation was to postulate not five stages, as Freud had done, but eight. Erikson
elaborated Freud's genital stage into adolescence plus three stages of adulthood. We certainly don't stop
developing – especially psychologically – after our twelfth or thirteenth birthdays; It seems only right to
extend any theory of stages to cover later development!
Erikson also had some things to say about the interaction of generations, which he called mutuality. Freud
had made it abundantly clear that a child's parents influence his or her development dramatically. Erikson
pointed out that children influence their parents' development as well. The arrival of children, for example,
into a couple's life, changes that life considerably, and moves the new parents along their developmental
paths. It is even appropriate to add a third (and in some cases, a fourth) generation to the picture: Many of us
have been influenced by our grandparents, and they by us.
A particularly clear example of mutuality can be seen in the problems of the teenage mother. Although the
mother and her child may have a fine life together, often the mother is still involved in the tasks of
adolescence, that is, in finding out who she is and how she fits into the larger society. The relationship she
has or had with the child's father may have been immature on one or both sides, and if they don't marry, she
will have to deal with the problems of finding and developing a relationship as well. The infant, on the other
hand, has the simple, straight-forward needs that infants have, and the most important of these is a mother
with the mature abilities and social support a mother should have. If the mother's parents step in to help, as
one would expect, then they, too, are thrown off of their developmental tracks, back into a life-style they
thought they had passed, and which they might find terribly demanding. And so on....
The ways in which our lives intermesh are terribly complex and very frustrating to the theorist. But ignoring
them is to ignore something vitally important about our development and our personalities.

Stage one

The first stage is the infant, approximately the first year or year and a half of life. The task is to develop
trust without completely eliminating the capacity for mistrust.
If mom and dad can give the newborn a degree of familiarity, consistency, and continuity, then the child will
develop the feeling that the world – especially the social world – is a safe place to be, that people are reliable
and loving. Through the parents' responses, the child also learns to trust his or her own body and the
biological urges that go with it.
If the parents are unreliable and inadequate, if they reject the infant or harm it, if other interests cause both
parents to turn away from the infants needs to satisfy their own instead, then the infant will develop mistrust.
He or she will be apprehensive and suspicious around people.
If the proper balance is achieved, the child will develop the virtue hope, the strong belief that, even when
things are not going well, they will work out well in the end. One of the signs that a child is doing well in the
first stage is when the child isn't overly upset by the need to wait a moment for the satisfaction of his or her
needs: Mom or dad don't have to be perfect; I trust them enough to believe that, if they can't be here
immediately, they will be here soon; Things may be tough now, but they will work out. This is the same
ability that, in later life, gets us through disappointments in love, our careers, and many other domains of

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Stage two

The second stage is the toddler, from about eighteen months to three or four years old. The task is to achieve
a degree of autonomy while minimizing shame and doubt.
If mom and dad (and the other care-takers that often come into the picture at this point) permit the child, now
a toddler, to explore and manipulate his or her environment, the child will develop a sense of autonomy or
independence. The parents should not discourage the child, but neither should they push. A balance is
required. People often advise new parents to be "firm but tolerant" at this stage, and the advice is good. This
way, the child will develop both self-control and self-esteem.
On the other hand, it is rather easy for the child to develop instead a sense of shame and doubt. If the parents
come down hard on any attempt to explore and be independent, the child will soon give up with the
assumption that cannot and should not act on their own. We should keep in mind that even something as
innocent as laughting at the toddler's efforts can lead the child to feel deeply ashamed, and to doubt his or her
And there are other ways to lead children to shame and doubt: If you give children unrestricted freedom and
no sense of limits, or if you try to help children do what they should learn to do for themselves, you will also
give them the impression that they are not good for much. If you aren't patient enough to wait for your child
to tie his or her shoe-laces, your child will never learn to tie them, and will assume that this is too difficult to
If you get the proper, positive balance of autonomy and shame and doubt, you will develop the virtue of
willpower or determination. One of the most admirable – and frustrating – thing about two- and three-year-
olds is their determination. "Can do" is their motto. If we can preserve that "can do" attitude (with
appropriate modesty to balance it) we are much better off as adults.

Stage three

Stage three is the preschooler. From three or four to five or six, the task confronting every child is to learn
initiative without too much guilt.
Initiative means a positive response to the world's challenges, taking on responsibilities, learning new skills,
feeling purposeful. Parents can encourage initiative by encouraging children to try out their ideas. We should
accept and encourage fantasy and curiosity and imagination. This is a time for play, not for formal education.
The child is now capable, as never before, of imagining a future situation, one that isn't a reality right now.
Initiative is the attempt to make that non-reality a reality.
But if children can imagine the future, if they can plan, then they can be responsible as well, and guilty. If
my two-year-old flushes my watch down the toilet, I can safely assume that there were no "evil intentions."
It was just a matter of a shiny object going round and round and down. What fun! But if my five year old
does the same thing... well, she should know what's going to happen to the watch, what's going to happen to
daddy's temper, and what's going to happen to her! She can be guilty of the act, and she can begin to feel
guilty as well. The capacity for moral judgement has arrived.
A good balance leads to the psychosocial strength of purpose. A sense of purpose is something many people
crave in their lives, yet many do not realize that they themselves make their purposes, through imagination
and initiative. I think an even better word for this virtue would have been courage, the capacity for action
despite a clear understanding of your limitations and past failings.

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Stage four

Stage four is the school-age child from about six to twelve. The task is to develop a capacity for industry
while avoiding an excessive sense of inferiority. Children must "tame the imagination" and dedicate
themselves to education and to learning the social skills their society requires of them.
There is a much broader social sphere at work now: The parents and other family members are joined by
teachers and peers and other members of he community at large. They all contribute: Parents must
encourage, teachers must care, peers must accept. Children must learn that there is pleasure not only in
conceiving a plan, but in carrying it out. They must learn the feeling of success, whether it is in school or on
the playground, academic or social.
A good way to tell the difference between a child in the third stage and one in the fourth stage is to look at
the way they play games. Four-year-olds may love games, but they will have only a vague understanding of
the rules, may change them several times during the course of the game, and be very unlikely to actually
finish the game, unless it is by throwing the pieces at their opponents. A seven-year-old, on the other hand, is
dedicated to the rules, considers them pretty much sacred, and is more likely to get upset if the game is not
allowed to come to its required conclusion.
If the child is allowed too little success, because of harsh teachers or rejecting peers, for example, then he or
she will develop instead a sense of inferiority or incompetence. An additional source of inferiority Erikson
mentions is racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination: If a child believes that success is related to
who you are rather than to how hard you try, then why try?
A happier thing is to develop the right balance of industry and inferiority – that is, mostly industry with just a
touch of inferiority to keep us sensibly humble. Then we have the virtue called competency.

Stage five

Stage five is adolescence, beginning with puberty and ending around 18 or 20 years old. The task during
adolescence is to achieve ego identity and avoid role confusion. It was adolescence that interested Erikson
first and most, and the patterns he saw here were the bases for his thinking about all the other stages.
Ego identity means knowing who you are and how you fit in to the rest of society. It requires that you take
all you've learned about life and yourself and mold it into a unified self-image, one that your community
finds meaningful.
There are a number of things that make things easier: First, we should have a mainstream adult culture that is
worthy of the adolescent's respect, one with good adult role models and open lines of communication.
Further, society should provide clear rites of passage, certain accomplishments and rituals that help to
distinguish the adult from the child. In primitive and traditional societies, an adolescent boy may be asked to
leave the village for a period of time to live on his own, hunt some symbolic animal, or seek an inspirational
vision. Boys and girls may be required to go through certain tests of endurance, symbolic ceremonies, or
educational events. In one way or another, the distinction between the powerless, but irresponsible, time of
childhood and the powerful and responsbile time of adulthood, is made clear.
Without these things, we are likely to see role confusion, meaning an uncertainty about one's place in society
and the world. When an adolescent is confronted by role confusion, Erikson say he or she is suffering from
an identity crisis. In fact, a common question adolescents in our society ask is a straight-forward question of
identity: "Who am I?"

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If you successfully negotiate this stage, you will have the virtue Erikson called fidelity. Fidelity means
loyalty, the ability to live by societies standards despite their imperfections and incompleteness and
inconsistencies. We are not talking about blind loyalty, and we are not talking about accepting the
imperfections. After all, if you love your community, you will want to see it become the best it can be. But
fidelity means that you have found a place in that community, a place that will allow you to contribute.

Stage six

If you have made it this far, you are in the stage of the young adult, which lasts from about 18 to about 30.
The ages in the adult stages are much fuzzier than in the childhood stages, and people may differ
dramatically. The task is to achieve some degree of intimacy, as opposed to remaining in isolation.
Intimacy is the ability to be close to others, as a lover, a friend, and as a participant in society. Because you
have a clear sense of who you are, you no longer need to fear "losing" yourself, as many adolescents do. The
"fear of commitment" some people seem to exhibit is an example of immaturity in this stage. This fear isn't
always so obvious. Many people today are always putting off the progress of their relationships: I'll get
married (or have a family, or get involved in important social issues) as soon as I finish school, as soon as I
have a job, as soon as I have a house, as soon as.... If you've been engaged for the last ten years, what's
holding you back?
Neither should the young adult need to prove him- or herself anymore. A teenage relationship is often a
matter of trying to establish identity through "couple-hood." Who am I? I'm her boy-friend. The young adult
relationship should be a matter of two independent egos wanting to create something larger than themselves.
We intuitively recognize this when we frown on a relationship between a young adult and a teenager: We see
the potential for manipulation of the younger member of the party by the older.
If you successfully negotiate this stage, you will instead carry with you for the rest of your life the virtue or
psychosocial strength Erikson calls love. Love, in the context of his theory, means being able to put aside
differences and antagonisms through "mutuality of devotion." It includes not only the love we find in a good
marriage, but the love between friends and the love of one's neighbor, co-worker, and compatriot as well.

Stage seven

The seventh stage is that of the middle adult. It is hard to pin a time to it, but it would include the period
during which we are actively involved in raising children. For most people in our society, this would put it
somewhere between the middle twenties and the late fifties. The task here is to cultivate the proper balance
of generativity and stagnation.
Generativity is an extension of love into the future. It is a concern for the next generation and all future
generations. As such, it is considerably less "selfish" than the intimacy of the previous stage: Intimacy, the
love between lovers or friends, is a love between equals, and it is necessarily reciprocal. Oh, of course we
love each other unselfishly, but the reality is such that, if the love is not returned, we don't consider it a true
love. With generativity, that implicit expectation of reciprocity isn't there, at least not as strongly. Few
parents expect a "return on their investment" from their children; If they do, we don't think of them as very
good parents!
Although the majority of people practice generativity by having and raising children, there are many other
ways as well. Erikson considers teaching, writing, invention, the arts and sciences, social activism, and

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generally contributing to the welfare of future generations to be generativity as well – anything, in fact, that
satisfies that old "need to be needed."
This is the stage of the "midlife crisis." Sometimes men and women take a look at their lives and ask that big,
bad question "what am I doing for?" Notice the question carefully: Because their focus is on themselves,
they ask what, rather then whom, they are doing it for. Inn their panic at getting older and not having
experienced or accomplished what they imagined they would when they were younger, they try to recapture
their youth. Men are often the most flambouyant examples: They leave their long-suffering wives, quit their
humdrum jobs, buy some "hip" new clothes, and start hanging around singles bars. Of course, they seldom
find what they are looking for, because they are looking for the wrong thing!
But if you are successful at this stage, you will have a capacity for caring that will serve you through the rest
of your life.

Stage eight

This last stage, referred to delicately as late adulthood or maturity, or less delicately as old age, begins
sometime around retirement, after the kids have gone, say somewhere around 60. Some older folks will
protest and say it only starts when you feel old and so on, but that's an effect of our youth-worshipping
culture, which has even old people avoiding any acknowledgement of age. In Erikson's theory, reaching this
stage is a good thing, and not reaching it suggests that earlier problems retarded your development!
The task is to develop ego integrity with a minimal amount of despair. This stage, especially from the
perspective of youth, seems like the most difficult of all. First comes a detachment from society, from a
sense of usefulness, for most people in our culture. Some retire from jobs they've held for years; others find
their duties as parents coming to a close; most find that their input is no longer requested or required.
Then there is a sense of biological uselessness, as the body no longer does everything it used to. Women go
through a sometimes dramatic menopause; Men often find they can no longer "rise to the occasion." Then
there are the illnesses of old age, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart problems, concerns about breast and
ovarian and prostrate cancers. There come fears about things that one was never afraid of before – the flu, for
example, or just falling down.
Along with the illnesses come concerns of death. Friends die. Relatives die. One's spouse dies. It is, of
course, certain that you, too, will have your turn. Faced with all this, it might seem like everyone would feel
In response to this despair, some older people become preoccupied with the past. After all, that's where
things were better. Some become preoccupied with their failures, the bad decisions they made, and regret
that (unlike some in the previous stage) they really don't have the time or energy to reverse them. We find
some older people become depressed, spiteful, paranoid, hypochondriacal, or developing the patterns of
senility with or without physical bases.
Ego integrity means coming to terms with your life, and thereby coming to terms with the end of life. If you
are able to look back and accept the course of events, the choices made, your life as you lived it, as being
necessary, then you needn't fear death. Although most of you are not at this point in life, perhaps you can
still sympathize by considering your life up to now. We've all made mistakes, some of them pretty nasty
ones; Yet, if you hadn't made these mistakes, you wouldn't be who you are. If you had been very fortunate,
or if you had played it safe and made very few mistakes, your life would not have been as rich as is.
Someone who approaches death without fear has the strength Erikson calls wisdom. He calls it a gift to
children, because "healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death."
He suggests that a person must be somewhat gifted to be truly wise, but I would like to suggest that you

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understand "gifted" in as broad a fashion as possible: I have found that there are people of very modest gifts
who have taught me a great deal, not by their wise words, but by their simple and gentle approach to life and
death, by their "generosity of spirit."

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Successful Aging

With improved diet, physical fitness, public health, and health care, more adults are reaching age 65
in better physical and mental health than in the past. Trends show that the prevalence of chronic
disability among older people is declining: from 1982 to 1994, the prevalence of chronic disability
diminished significantly, from 24.9 to 21.3 percent of the older population (Manton et al., 1997).
While some disability is the result of more general losses of physiological functions with aging (i.e.,
normal aging), extreme disability in older persons, including that which stems from mental
disorders, is not an inevitable part of aging (Cohen, 1988; Rowe & Kahn, 1997).
Normal aging is a gradual process that ushers in some physical decline, such as decreased sensory
abilities (e.g., vision and hearing) and decreased pulmonary and immune function (Miller, 1996;
Carman, 1997). With aging come certain changes in mental functioning, but very few of these
changes match commonly held negative stereotypes about aging (Cohen, 1988; Rowe & Kahn,
1997). In normal aging, important aspects of mental health include stable intellectual functioning,
capacity for change, and productive engagement with life.
Descriptive research reveals evidence of the capacity for constructive change in later life (Cohen,
1988). The capacity to change can occur even in the face of mental illness, adversity, and chronic
mental health problems. Older persons display flexibility in behavior and attitudes and the ability to
grow intellectually and emotionally. Time plays a key role. Externally imposed demands upon one’s
time may diminish, and the amount of time left at this stage in life can be significant. In the United
States in the late 20th century, late-life expectancy approaches another 20 years at the age of 65. In
other words, average longevity from age 65 today approaches what had been the average longevity
from birth some 2,000 years ago. This leaves plenty of time to embark upon new social,
psychological, educational, and recreational pathways, as long as the individual retains good health
and material resources.
In his classic developmental model, Erik Erikson characterized the final stage of human
development as a tension between "ego integrity and despair" (Erikson, 1950). Erikson saw the
period beginning at age 65 years as highly variable. Ideally, individuals at this stage witness the
flowering of seeds planted earlier in the prior seven stages of development. When they achieve a
sense of integrity in life, they garner pride from their children, students and protégés, and past
accomplishments. With contentment comes a greater tolerance and acceptance of the decline that
naturally accompanies the aging process. Failure to achieve a satisfying degree of ego integrity can
be accompanied by despair.
Cohen (in press) has proposed that with increased longevity and health, particularly for people with
adequate resources, aging is characterized by two human potential phases. These phases, which
emphasize the positive aspects of the final stages of the life cycle, are termed Retirement/Liberation
and Summing Up/Swan Song.
Retirement often is viewed as the most important life event prior to death. Retirement frequently is
associated with negative myths and stereotypes (Sheldon et al., 1975; Bass, 1995). Cohen points out,
however, that most people fare well in retirement. They have the opportunity to explore new
interests, activities, and relationships due to retirement’s liberating qualities. In the

* Note: The following quotations (in italics) are from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S.
Public Health Services (1999), available at

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Retirement/Liberation phase, new feelings of freedom, courage, and confidence are experienced.
Those at risk for faring poorly are individuals who typically do not want to retire, who are
compelled to retire because of poor health, or who experience a significant decline in their standard
of living (Cohen, 1988). In short, the liberating experience of having more time and an increased
sense of freedom can be the springboard for creativity in later life. Creative achievement by older
people can change the course of an individual, family, community, or culture.


The most common cause of psychological problems among older people is strokes. Most strokes are blood
clots that get stuck in the small blood vessels (capillaries) in the brain that supply neurons with oxygen and
other necessities. When this happens, many neurons die for lack of oxygen. If this happens often enough, the
person may develop what is called multi-infarct dementia. They may become confused and disoriented; some
may take to wandering off and getting lost; some have difficulty forming new memories; many develop
emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
Besides the cumulative effect of minor strokes, there are also situations where there is a more massive
interruption of blood flow to the brain caused by a large clot in a major blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or the
bursting of a blood vessel in the brain. These are the kinds of strokes we usually think of, and the
consequences are much more obvious: The person may feel dizzy, numb and weak, often on one side of the
body or the other; some will have obvious problems with producing or understanding speech, or trouble with
vision. In addition to these problems, they also develop the characteristics of dementia mentioned above:
Confusion, disorientation, memory lapses, anxiety, and depression.
There is no treatment for strokes other than controlling blood pressure which, along with age, is the major
risk factor. (smoking, drinking, and diabetes also contribute to the problem.) Likewise, there is no direct
treatment of the dementias that follow. However, physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help stroke
victims regain much of what they have lost by re-learning or learning to work around what they have lost.
These therapists deserve a lot of credit for their wonderful work!

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder of pivotal importance to older adults, strikes 8 to 15 percent of

people over the age of 65 (Ritchie & Kildea, 1995). Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most feared
mental disorders because of its gradual, yet relentless, attack on memory. Memory loss, however, is
not the only impairment. Symptoms extend to other cognitive deficits in language, object
recognition, and executive functioning.3 Behavioral symptoms—such as psychosis, agitation,
depression, and wandering—are common and impose tremendous strain on caregivers. Diagnosis is
challenging because of the lack of biological markers, insidious onset, and need to exclude other
causes of dementia....
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease not only requires the presence of memory impairment but also
another cognitive deficit, such as language disturbance or disturbance in executive functioning. The
diagnosis also calls for impairments in social and occupational functioning that represent a
significant functional decline (DSM-IV). The other causes of dementia that must be ruled out include
cerebrovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, subdural hematoma, normal-
pressure hydrocephalus, brain tumor, systemic conditions (e.g., hypothyroidism, vitamin B12 or folic

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acid deficiency, niacin deficiency, hypercalcemia, neurosyphilis, HIV infection), and substance-
induced conditions....
A further challenge in the identification of Alzheimer’s disease is the widespread societal view of
"senility" as a natural developmental stage. Early symptoms of cognitive decline may be excused
away or ignored by family members and the patient, making early detection and treatment difficult.
The clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease relies on an accurate history of the patient’s symptoms
and rate of decline. Such information is often impossible to obtain from the patient due to the
prominence of memory dysfunction. Family members or other informants are usually helpful, but
their ability to provide useful information sometimes is hampered by denial or lack of knowledge
about signs and symptoms of the disorder....
Alzheimer’s disease is a prominent disorder of old age: 8 to 15 percent of people over age 65 have
Alzheimer’s disease (Ritchie & Kildea, 1995). The prevalence of dementia (most of which is
accounted for by Alzheimer’s disease) nearly doubles with every 5 years of age after age 60 (Jorm et
al., 1987)....

There may be genetic factors involved in Alzheimer's, and it can run in families. A reduction in the amounts
of acetylcholine in the brain seems to play a part. Autopsies reveal real physical changes, including
"neurofibrillary tangles" and "neuritic plaques." On the other hand, there are several things that appear to
delay (but not cure) Alzheimer's, including certain genes, more education, the use of NSAID's, estrogen
replacement therapy, and vitamin E. A great deal of research is being done on Alzheimer's, and we look
forward to a day when it no longer looms over the last years of people's lives.

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Sigmund Freud*


Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856, in a small town – Freiberg –

in Moravia. His father was a wool merchant with a keen mind and a
good sense of humor. His mother was a lively woman, her husband's
second wife and 20 years younger. She was 21 years old when she
gave birth to her first son, her darling, Sigmund. Sigmund had two
older half-brothers and six younger siblings. When he was four or
five – he wasn't sure – the family moved to Vienna, where he lived
most of his life.
A brilliant child, always at the head of his class, he went to medical
school, one of the few viable options for a bright Jewish boy in
Vienna those days. There, he became involved in research under the
direction of a physiology professor named Ernst Brücke. Brücke
believed in what was then a popular, if radical, notion, which we
now call reductionism: "No other forces than the common physical-
chemical ones are active within the organism." Freud would spend
many years trying to "reduce" personality to neurology, a cause he
later gave up on.
Freud was very good at his research, concentrating on
neurophysiology, even inventing a special cell-staining technique. But only a limited number of positions
were available, and there were others ahead of him. Brücke helped him to get a grant to study, first with the
great psychiatrist Charcot in Paris, then with his rival Bernheim in Nancy. Both these gentlemen were
investigating the use of hypnosis with hysterics.
After spending a short time as a resident in neurology and director of a children's ward in Berlin, he came
back to Vienna, married his fiancée of many years Martha Bernays, and set up a practice in neuropsychiatry,
with the help of his friend Joseph Breuer. It was with Breuer that Freud published the first of many books, on
the psychological problem known then as hysteria, and today as conversion disorder.
Freud's books and lectures brought him both fame and ostracism from the mainstream of the medical
community. He drew around him a number of very bright sympathizers who became the core of the
psychoanalytic movement. Unfortunately, Freud had a penchant for rejecting people who did not totally
agree with him. Some separated from him on friendly terms; others did not, and went on to found competing
schools of thought.
Freud emigrated to England just before World War II when Vienna became an increasing dangerous place
for Jews, especially ones as famous as Freud. Not long afterward, in 1939, he died of the cancer of the mouth
and jaw that he had suffered from for the last 20 years of his life.

* Adapted from my Sigmund Freud Personality Theories page

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Basic theory

Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he certainly was
responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind is what you are aware of at any particular moment,
your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, what have you. Working closely with the
conscious mind is what Freud called the preconscious, what we might today call "available memory:"
anything that can easily be made conscious, the memories you are not at the moment thinking about but can
readily bring to mind. Now no-one has a problem with these two layers of mind. But Freud suggested that
these are the smallest parts!
The largest part by far is the
unconscious. It includes all the things
that are not easily available to
awareness, including many things that
have their origins there, such as our
drives or instincts, and things that are
put there because we can't bear to look at
them, such as the memories and
emotions associated with trauma.
According to Freud, the unconscious is
the source of our motivations, whether
they be simple desires for food or sex,
neurotic compulsions, or the motives of
an artist or scientist. And yet, we are
often driven to deny or resist becoming
conscious of these motives, and they are
often available to us only in disguised
form. We will come back to this.
Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a very special object,
the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and reproduce, and it is guided toward those
ends by its needs – hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex.
A part – a very important part – of the organism is the nervous system, which has as one its characteristics a
sensitivity to the organism's needs. At birth, that nervous system is little more than that of any other animal,
an "it" or id. The nervous system, as id, translates the organism's needs into motivational forces called, in
German, Triebe, which has been translated as instincts or drives. Freud also called them wishes. This
translation from need to wish is called the primary process.
The id works in keeping with the pleasure principle, which can be understood as a demand to take care of
needs immediately. Just picture the hungry infant, screaming itself blue. It doesn't "know" what it wants in
any adult sense; it just knows that it wants it and it wants it now. The infant, in the Freudian view, is pure, or
nearly pure id. And the id is nothing if not the psychic representative of biology.
Unfortunately, although a wish for food, such as the image of a juicy steak, might be enough to satisfy the id,
it isn't enough to satisfy the organism. The need only gets stronger, and the wishes just keep coming. You
may have noticed that, when you haven't satisfied some need, such as the need for food, it begins to demand
more and more of your attention, until there comes a point where you can't think of anything else. This is the
wish or drive breaking into consciousness.
Luckily for the organism, there is that small portion of the mind we discussed before, the conscious, that is
hooked up to the world through the senses. Around this little bit of consciousness, during the first year of a
child's life, some of the "it" becomes "I," some of the id becomes ego. The ego relates the organism to reality
by means of its consciousness, and it searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that id creates to represent the

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organisms needs. This problem-solving activity is called the secondary process.

The ego, unlike the id, functions according to the reality principle, which says "take care of a need as soon
as an appropriate object is found." It represents reality and, to a considerable extent, reason.
However, as the ego struggles to keep the id (and, ultimately, the organism) happy, it meets with obstacles in
the world. It occasionally meets with objects that actually assist it in attaining its goals. And it keeps a record
of these obstacles and aides. In particular, it keeps track of the rewards and punishments meted out by two of
the most influential objects in the world of the child – mom and dad. This record of things to avoid and
strategies to take becomes the superego. It is not completed until about seven years of age. In some people,
it never is completed.
There are two aspects to the superego: One is the conscience, which is an internalization of punishments and
warnings. The other is called the ego ideal. It derives from rewards and positive models presented to the
child. The conscience and ego ideal communicate their requirements to the ego with feelings like pride,
shame, and guilt.
It is as if we acquired, in childhood, a new set of needs and accompanying wishes, this time of social rather
than biological origins. Unfortunately, these new wishes can easily conflict with the ones from the id. You
see, the superego represents society, and society often wants nothing better than to have you never satisfy
your needs at all!
Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by the drives or instincts, which in turn are the neurological
representations of physical needs. At first, he referred to them as the life instincts. These instincts perpetuate
(a) the life of the individual, by motivating him or her to seek food and water, and (b) the life of the species,
by motivating him or her to have sex. The motivational energy of these life instincts, the "oomph" that
powers our psyches, he called libido, from the Latin word for "I desire."
Freud's clinical experience led him to view sex as much more important in the dynamics of the psyche than
other needs. We are, after all, social creatures, and sex is the most social of needs. Plus, we have to
remember that Freud included much more than intercourse in the term sex! Anyway, libido has come to
mean, not any old drive, but the sex drive.

The defense mechanisms

Freud once said "life is not easy!"
The ego – the "I" – sits at the center of some pretty powerful forces: reality; society, as represented by the
superego; biology, as represented by the id. When these make conflicting demands upon the poor ego, it is
understandable if it – if you – feel threatened, fell overwhelmed, feel as if it were about to collapse under the
weight of it all. This feeling is called anxiety, and it serves as a signal to the ego that its survival, and with it
the survival of the whole organism, is in jeopardy.
The ego deals with the demands of reality, the id, and the superego as best as it can. But when the anxiety
becomes overwhelming, the ego must defend itself. It does so by unconsciously blocking the impulses or
distorting them into a more acceptable, less threatening form. The techniques are called the ego defense
mechanisms, and Freud, his daughter Anna, and other disciples have discovered quite a few.

Denial involves blocking external events from awareness. If some situation is just too much to handle, the
person just refuses to experience it. As you might imagine, this is a primitive and dangerous defense – no
one disregards reality and gets away with it for long! It can operate by itself or, more commonly, in
combination with other, more subtle mechanisms that support it.
I was once reading while my five year old daughter was watching a cartoon (The Smurfs, I think). She was,

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as was her habit, quite close to the television, when a commercial came on. Apparently, no-one at the
television station was paying much attention, because this was a commercial for a horror movie, complete
with bloody knife, hockey mask, and screams of terror. Now I wasn't able to save my child from this horror,
so I did what any good psychologist father would do: I talked about it. I said to her "Boy, that was a scary
commercial, wasn't it?" She said "Huh?" I said "That sure was scary wasn't it?" She said
"What commercial?" I said "The commercial that was just on, with the blood and the mask and the
screaming...!" She had apparently shut out the whole thing.
Since then, I've noticed little kids sort of glazing over when confronted by things they'd rather not be
confronted by. I've also seen people faint at autopsies, people deny the reality of the death of a loved one,
and students fail to pick up their test results. That's denial.

Repression, which Anna Freud also called "motivated forgetting," is just that: not being able to recall a
threatening situation, person, or event. This, too, is dangerous, and is a part of most other defenses.
As an adolescent, I developed a rather strong fear of spiders, especially long-legged ones. I didn't know
where it came from, but it was starting to get rather embarrassing by the time I entered college. At college, a
counselor helped me to get over it (with a technique called systematic desensitization), but I still had no idea
where it came from. Years later, I had a dream, a particularly clear one, that involved getting locked up by
my cousin in a shed behind my grandparents' house when I was very young. The shed was small, dark, and
had a dirt floor covered with – you guessed it! – long-legged spiders.
The Freudian understanding of this phobia is pretty simple: I repressed a traumatic event – the shed incident
– but seeing spiders aroused the anxiety of the event without arousing the memory.
Other examples abound. Anna Freud provides one that now strikes us as quaint: A young girl, guilty about
her rather strong sexual desires, tends to forget her boy-friend's name, even when trying to introduce him to
her relations! Or an alcoholic can't remember his suicide attempt, claiming he must have "blacked out." Or a
someone almost drowns as a child, but can't remember the event even when people try to remind him – but
he does have this fear of open water!

Displacement is the redirection of an impulse onto a substitute target. If the impulse, the desire, is okay with
you, but the person you direct that desire towards is too threatening, you can displace to someone or
something that can serve as a symbolic substitute.
Someone who hates his or her mother may repress that hatred, but direct it instead towards, say, women in
general. Someone who has not had the chance to love someone may substitute cats or dogs for human
beings. Someone who feels uncomfortable with their sexual desire for a real person may substitute a fetish.
Someone who is frustrated by his or her superiors may go home and kick the dog, beat up a family member,
or engage in cross-burnings.

Projection, which Anna Freud also called displacement outward, is almost the complete opposite of turning
against the self. It involves the tendency to see your own unacceptable desires in other people. In other
words, the desires are still there, but they're not your desires anymore. I confess that whenever I hear
someone going on and on about how aggressive everybody is, or how perverted they all are, I tend to wonder
if this person doesn't have an aggressive or sexual streak in themselves that they'd rather not acknowledge.
Let me give you a couple of examples: A husband, a good and faithful one, finds himself terribly attracted to
the charming and flirtatious lady next door. But rather than acknowledge his own, hardly abnormal, lusts, he
becomes increasingly jealous of his wife, constantly worried about her faithfulness, and so on. Or a woman
finds herself having vaguely sexual feelings about her girlfriends. Instead of acknowledging those feelings as
quite normal, she becomes increasingly concerned with the presence of lesbians in her community.

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Reaction formation, which Anna Freud called "believing the opposite," is changing an unacceptable
impulse into its opposite. So a child, angry at his or her mother, may become overly concerned with her and
rather dramatically shower her with affection. An abused child may run to the abusing parent. Or someone
who can't accept a homosexual impulse may claim to despise homosexuals.
Perhaps the most common and clearest example of reaction formation is found in children between seven
and eleven or so: Most boys will tell you in no uncertain terms how disgusting girls are, and girls will tell
you with equal vigor how gross boys are. Adults watching their interactions, however, can tell quite easily
what their true feelings are!

Introjection, sometimes called identification, involves taking into your own personality characteristics of
someone else, because doing so solves some emotional difficulty. For example, a child who is left alone
frequently, may in some way try to become "mom" in order to lessen his or her fears. You can sometimes
catch them telling their dolls or animals not to be afraid. And we find the older child or teenager imitating his
or her favorite star, musician, or sports hero in an effort to establish an identity.
A more unusual example is a woman who lived next to my grandparents. Her husband had died and she
began to dress in his clothes, albeit neatly tailored to her figure. She began to take up various of his habits,
such as smoking a pipe. Although the neighbors found it strange and referred to her as "the man-woman,"
she was not suffering from any confusion about her sexual identity. In fact, she later remarried, retaining to
the end her men's suits and pipe!
I must add here that identification is very important to Freudian theory as the mechanism by which we
develop our superegos.

Regression is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress. When we are troubled
or frightened, our behaviors often become more childish or primitive. A child may begin to suck their thumb
again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time in the hospital. Teenagers may giggle
uncontrollably when introduced into a social situation involving the opposite sex. A freshman college
student may need to bring an old toy from home. A gathering of civilized people may become a violent mob
when they are led to believe their livelihoods are at stake. Or an older man, after spending twenty years at a
company and now finding himself laid off, may retire to his recliner and become childishly dependent on his
Where do we retreat when faced with stress? To the last time in life when we felt safe and secure, according
to Freudian theory.

Rationalization is the cognitive distortion of "the facts" to make an event or an impulse less threatening. We
do it often enough on a fairly conscious level when we provide ourselves with excuses. But for many people,
with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it. In other words,
many of us are quite prepared to believe our lies.
A useful way of understanding the defenses is to see them as a combination of denial or repression with
various kinds of rationalizations.
All defenses are, of course, lies, even if we are not conscious of making them. But that doesn't make them
less dangerous – in fact it makes them more so. As your grandma may have told you, "Oh what a tangled
web we weave..." Lies breed lies, and take us further and further from the truth, from reality. After a while,
the ego can no longer take care of the id's demands, or pay attention to the superego's. The anxieties come
rushing back, and you break down.

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And yet Freud saw defenses as necessary. You can hardly expect a person, especially a child, to take the pain
and sorrow of life full on! While some of his followers suggested that all of the defenses could be used
positively, Freud himself suggested that there was one positive defense, which he called sublimation.

Sublimation is the transforming of an unacceptable impulse, whether it be sex, anger, fear, or whatever, into
a socially acceptable, even productive form. So someone with a great deal of hostility may become a hunter,
a butcher, a football player, or a mercenary. Someone suffering from a great deal of anxiety in a confusing
world may become an organizer, a businessperson, or a scientist. Someone with powerful sexual desires may
become an artist, a photographer, or a novelist, and so on. For Freud, in fact, all positive, creative activities
were sublimations, and predominantly of the sex drive.

The stages

As I said earlier, for Freud, the sex drive is the most important motivating force. In fact, Freud felt it was the
primary motivating force not only for adults but for children and even infants. When he introduced his ideas
about infantile sexuality to the Viennese public of his day, they were hardly prepared to talk about sexuality
in adults, much less in infants!
It is true that the capacity for orgasm is there neurologically from birth. But Freud was not just talking about
orgasm. Sexuality meant not only intercourse, but all pleasurable sensation from the skin. It is clear even to
the most prudish among us that babies, children, and, of course, adults, enjoy tactile experiences such as
caresses, kisses, and so on.
Freud noted that, at different times in our lives, different parts of our skin give us greatest pleasure. Later
theorists would call these areas erogenous zones. It appeared to Freud that the infant found its greatest
pleasure in sucking, especially at the breast. In fact, babies have a penchant for bringing nearly everything in
their environment into contact with their mouths. A bit later in life, the child focuses on the anal pleasures of
holding it in and letting go. By three or four, the child may have discovered the pleasure of touching or
rubbing against his or her genitalia. Only later, in our sexual maturity, do we find our greatest pleasure in
sexual intercourse. In these observations, Freud had the makings of a psychosexual stage theory.

The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months. The focus of pleasure is, of course, the mouth. Sucking
and biting are favorite activities.

The anal stage lasts from about 18 months to three or four years old. The focus of pleasure is the anus.
Holding it in and letting it go are greatly enjoyed.

The phallic stage lasts from three or four to five, six, or seven years old. The focus of pleasure is the
genitalia. Masturbation is common.

The latent stage lasts from five, six, or seven to puberty, that is, somewhere around 12 years old. During this
stage, Freud believed that the sexual impulse was suppressed in the service of learning. I must note that,
while most children seem to be fairly calm, sexually, during their grammar school years, perhaps up to a

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quarter of them are quite busy masturbating and playing "doctor." In Freud's repressive era, these children
were, at least, quieter than their modern counterparts.

The genital stage begins at puberty, and represents the resurgence of the sex drive in adolescence, and the
more specific focusing of pleasure in sexual intercourse. Freud felt that masturbation, oral sex,
homosexuality, and many other things we find acceptable in adulthood today, were immature.
This is a true stage theory, meaning that Freudians believe that we all go through these stages, in this order,
and pretty close to these ages.

The Oedipal crisis

Each stage has certain difficult tasks associated with it where problems are more likely to arise. For the oral
stage, this is weaning. For the anal stage, it's potty training. For the phallic stage, it is the Oedipal crisis,
named after the ancient Greek story of king Oedipus, who inadvertently killed his father and married his
mother. This is, with out a doubt, the weakest part of his theory. In particular, he introduced two concepts
that practically no one finds realistic: Castration anxiety and penis envy.
Castration anxiety is the supposed fear that little boys have of someone cutting off their penis. Penis envy is
the supposed desire all little girls have to grow a penis of their own. If Freud meant these things
metaphorically, to represent the power of maleness in male-dominated societies like his own, we could
understand them. But he was serious about these ideas, and they form the basis of his theory of sexual
Here's how the Oedipal crisis works: The first love-object for all of us is our mother. We want her attention,
we want her affection, we want her caresses, we want her, in a broadly sexual way. The young boy, however,
has a rival for his mother's charms: his father! His father is bigger, stronger, smarter, and he gets to sleep
with mother, while junior pines away in his lonely little bed. The boy, recognizing his father's superiority,
and fearing for his penis, engages some of his ego defenses: He displaces his sexual impulses from his
mother to girls and, later, women; And he identifies with the aggressor, dad, and attempts to become more
and more like him, that is to say, a man.
The girl also begins her life in love with her mother, so we have the problem of getting her to switch her
affections to her father before the Oedipal process can take place. Freud accomplishes this with the idea of
penis envy: The young girl has noticed the difference between boys and girls and feels that she, somehow,
doesn't measure up. She would like to have one, too, and all the power associated with it. At very least, she
would like a penis substitute, such as a baby. As every child knows, you need a father as well as a mother to
have a baby, so the young girl sets her sights on dad. Dad, of course, is already taken. The young girl
displaces from him to boys and men, and identifies with mom, the woman who got the man she really
As I said, if this part of Freud's theory bothers you a bit, don't feel alone: Practically everyone agrees with


Your experiences as you grow up contribute to your personality, or character, as an adult. Freud felt that
traumatic experiences had an especially strong effect. Of course, each specific trauma would have its own

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unique impact on a person, which can only be explored and understood on an individual basis. But traumas
associated with stage development, since we all have to go through them, should have more consistency.
If you have difficulties in any of the tasks associated with the stages – weaning, potty training, or finding
your sexual identity – you will tend to retain certain infantile or childish habits. This is called fixation.
Fixation gives each problem at each stage a long-term effect in terms of our personality or character.
If you, in the first eight months of your life, are often frustrated in your need to suckle, perhaps because
mother is uncomfortable or even rough with you, or tries to wean you too early, then you may develop an
oral-passive character. An oral-passive personality tends to be rather dependent on others. They often
retain an interest in "oral gratifications" such as eating, drinking, and smoking. It is as if they were seeking
the pleasures they missed in infancy.
When we are between five and eight months old, we begin teething. One satisfying thing to do when you are
teething is to bite on something, like mommy's nipple. If this causes a great deal of upset and precipitates an
early weaning, you may develop an oral-aggressive personality. These people retain a life-long desire to
bite on things, such as pencils, gum, and other people. They have a tendency to be verbally aggressive,
argumentative, sarcastic, and so on.
In the anal stage, we are fascinated with our "bodily functions." At first, we can go whenever and wherever
we like. Then, out of the blue and for no reason you can understand, the powers that be want you to do it
only at certain times and in certain places. And parents seem to actually value the end product of all this
Some parents put themselves at the child's mercy in the process of toilet training. They beg, they cajole, they
show great joy when you do it right, they act as though their hearts were broken when you don't. The child is
the king of the house, and knows it. This child will grow up to be an anal expulsive (a.k.a. anal aggressive)
personality. These people tend to be sloppy, disorganized, generous to a fault. They may be cruel,
destructive, and given to vandalism and graffiti. The Oscar Madison character in The Odd Couple is a nice
Other parents are strict. They may be competing with their neighbors and relatives as to who can potty train
their child first (early potty training being associated in many people's minds with great intelligence). They
may use punishment or humiliation. This child will likely become constipated as he or she tries desperately
to hold it in at all times, and will grow up to be an anal retentive personality. He or she will tend to be
especially clean, perfectionistic, dictatorial, very stubborn, and stingy. In other words, the anal retentive is
tight in all ways. The Felix Unger character in The Odd Couple is a perfect example.
There are also two phallic personalities, although no-one has given them names. If the boy is harshly
rejected by his mother, and rather threatened by his very masculine father, he is likely to have a poor sense of
self-worth when it comes to his sexuality. He may deal with this by either withdrawing from heterosexual
interaction, perhaps becoming a book-worm, or by putting on a rather macho act and playing the ladies' man.
A girl rejected by her father and threatened by her very feminine mother is also likely to feel poorly about
herself, and may become a wall-flower or a hyper-feminine "belle."
But if a boy is not rejected by his mother, but rather favored over his weak, milquetoast father, he may
develop quite an opinion of himself (which may suffer greatly when he gets into the real world, where
nobody loves him like his mother did), and may appear rather effeminate. After all, he has no cause to
identify with his father. Likewise, if a girl is daddy's little princess and best buddy, and mommy has been
relegated to a sort of servant role, then she may become quite vain and self-centered, or possibly rather
These various phallic characters demonstrate an important point in Freudian characterology: Extremes lead
to extremes. If you are frustrated in some way or overindulged in some way, you have problems. And,
although each problem tends to lead to certain characteristics, these characteristics can also easily be
reversed. So an anal retentive person may suddenly become exceedingly generous, or may have some part of
their life where they are terribly messy. This is frustrating to scientists, but it may reflect the reality of

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Many of Freud's ideas have become a part of common culture – who hasn't heard of denial and repression,
for example. And the foundations he built for therapy are still very much alive. But, outside of terminology,
not many psychologists today call themselves Freudians. His work is now of mostly historical interest: While
many of his concepts appeared to apply well to the upper-class of turn of the century Europe, it hasn't
generalized well to other cultures or to modern times. But beware of those who take delight in knocking
Freud down: He was a brilliant student of human nature, and there aren't many psychologists who haven't
had to admit that, as often as not, Freud had it right!

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Trait Theories of Personality

A trait is what we call a characteristic way in which an individual perceives, feels, believes, or acts. When
we casually describe someone, we are likely to use trait terms: I am, for example, somewhat of an introvert, a
pretty nervous person, strongly attached to my family, frequently depressed, and (if I do say so myself) very
intelligent. I have a good sense of humor, fond of languages, very fond of good food, not at all fond of
exercise, and a little obsessive. You see: I have just given you ten traits that actually go a long way towards
describing me!

Psychologists, especially personologists, are very interested in traits. They are especially interested in finding
which traits are broad and possibly genetically based, as opposed to ones that are rather peculiar and change
easily. Over the years, we have had a number of theories that attempt to describe the key traits of human

Carl Jung and the Myers-Briggs

One of the earliest trait theories was introduced by a colleague of Sigmund Freud's by the name of Carl Jung.
Jung was never completely sold on Freud's ideas, and soon left his circle to develop his own, rich theory.
This is not the place to go into details, but one aspect of the theory concerned traits that Jung felt were
inborn. These inborn, genetically determined traits are usually called temperaments.
Later, two students of Jung's theory named Myers and Briggs – mother and daughter – developed a
personality test based on Jung's temperaments called the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, or MBTI. It has gone
on the become the most famous personality test of all time.
The traits are seen as opposites, and the first set is introversion and extraversion. Introversion refers to a
tendency to prefer the world inside oneself. The more obvious aspects of introversion are shyness, a distaste
for social functions, and a love of privacy.
Extraversion is the tendency to look to the outside world, especially people, for one's pleasures. Extraverts
are usually outgoing and they enjoy social activities, but they are uncomfortable when they are alone.
The majority of people in the world are extraverts, so introverts often feel a bit put upon. A society like ours
is very pro-extravert, even to the point of seeing introversion as abnormal, and shy people in need of therapy!
There are some cultures, however, that see extraverts as the oddballs. We should note that it was Jung who
first used the terms introversion and extraversion!
Jung believed that introversion-extraversion was either-or. You are born one or the other and remain that
way for the rest of your life. Now you could, as an introvert, learn to behave more like an extravert, or, as an
extravert, learn to behave more like an introvert. But you cann't really switch. If this is true, that would
suggest that introversion-extraversion is determined by a single gene, something that is pretty unusual even
for more physical differences! I myself agree with JUng, and see introversion versus extraversion as a major
issue in personality, development, and mental health. But I would be the first to admit that there isn't any
concrete evidence for this – yet!
Next, we have the contrast between sensing people and intuiting people. Sensing types, as the name implies,
get all their information about life from their senses. They tend to be realistic, down-to-earth people, but they
often tend to see everything in overly simplistic, concrete, black-or-white terms.
Intuiting people tend to get their information from intuition. This means that they tend to be a little out of

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touch with the more solid aspects of reality – a little flakey, you might say – but may see "the big picture"
behind the details better. Intuiting people are often artistic and can be rather philosophical.
Again, the majority of people are sensing, and that can make intuiters feel rather lonely and unappreciated.
Our society tends to be distrustful of dreamers, artists, and intellectuals – but other societies may be more
Next, there's the contrast between thinkers and feelers. Thinking people make their decisions on the basis of
thinking – reasoning, logic, step-by-step problem solving. This works very well for physical problems, but
can leave something to be desired when dealing with something as complex as people.
Feeling people make their decisions based on their feelings. While this doesn't work so well when trying to
fix you car or your computer, feelings are a kind of intuition that works very well when dealing with people.
Half of all people are thinking and half are feeling, but the proportions differ when we start looking at
gender: The majority of men are thinkers and the majority of women are feelers. This goes along well with
old stereotypes as well as recent research: Men tend to do better with step-by-step problem solving,
especially involving mechanical things; Women tend to do better in social situations. Some people have
criticized Jung for this apparent sexism, but we should note that a good third of men are feelers, and a good
third of women are thinkers, so it is not a simple "men vs. women" kind of thing. Plus, Jung said that there is
no reason to value thinking over feeling – each has its strengths and weaknesses. Note also that feeling men
may feel odd, as may thinking women. Stereotypes do the greatest harm when they prevent individuals from
being what they in fact are!
The last contrast is judging versus perceiving. Judging people tend to be more like Freud's anal retentive
types – neat, orderly, hardworking, always on time, scheduling things very carefully. College professors tend
to be judging!
Perceiving people are more spontaneous. They prefer to do things as the spirit moves them. They are
probably more fun than the judging types but, as you can imagine, they tend not to get things done. It often
seems to us college professors that college students are all perceiving.
Actually, the distribution of judging and perceiving people is pretty even – 50-50.
When you take the Myers-Briggs or similar tests like the Kiersey, you get a set of four letters: I for introvert
or E for extravert, S for sensing or N for intuiting, T for thinking or F for feeling, and J for judging or P for
perceiving. I, for example, am an INFP, which is in fact quite accurate. My wife is an ISFJ – she is more
down-to-earth and organized than I will ever be. That's why she controls the family finances! On the other
hand, we are both introverted and feeling, which means that you are more likely to find us crying over a
rented movie than out at some wild party!

Hans Eysenck

Hans Eysenck was the first psychologist to make this trait or temperament business into something more
mathematical: He gave long lists of adjectives to hundreds of thousands of people and used a special
statistics called factor analysis to figure out what factors – trait dimensions – carry the most weight. He took
the results of this work and created a test called the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ).
Instead of making these traits either-or, like Jung did, he saw them as dimensions. His first trait dimension
was, like Jung, extraversion-introversion. But rather than say you were one or the other (an I or an E), he
gave you a score on extraversion-introversion: A low score meant you were introverted, a high score
extraverted. Of course, this meant you could be halfway in-between – as in fact most people are!
His second trait dimension he called neuroticism. If you scored high on this scale, that meant you tended to

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be a very nervous, emotional sort of person. While it doesn't mean you are necessarily a neurotic, it does
mean you are more likely to develop neurotic problems such as phobias, obsessions, and compulsions, than
someone who scores low. Low neuroticism is nowadays often called emotional stability.
The third dimension is called psychoticism. He added this later in his research, after he had gotten more data
from people who were in mental institutions. As the name implies, these are people with tendencies to
psychosis, meaning that they are more likely to have problems dealing with reality. Psychotic people
sometimes have hallucinations and often have delusions such as odd beliefs about being watched, perhaps by
the CIA or even by creatures from other planets. A middle score on psychoticism might mean that you are a
bit eccentric or that you take risks that other people aren't as likely to take. A low score means that you are
pretty normal in this regard.
Eysenck's research gets a great deal of respect, and most psychologists see his theory as on the right track.

The Big Five

More recently, a number of researchers have been using the latest in computer technology to redo the work
that Eysenck and other earlier researchers did in far more laborious ways. This has lead to what is known as
the "big five" or the "five factor" theory.
The first dimension is, again, extraversion-introversion.
The second is usually called emotional stability, and is simply the reverse of Eysenck's neuroticism.
The third is called agreeableness. A high score means that you tend to be friendly and accommodating – a
nice person. You don't need to be extraverted: I am an introvert, but I score high on agreeableness. If you
score low, you are likely to be more idiosyncratic and have trouble getting along with people. This is not
entirely negative: Agreeable people often get their nice reputation by by conforming and compromising on
their principles, while non-agreeable people are more likely to stick to what they think is right even if it's
unpopular. Then again, some are just disagreeable!
The fourth is conscientiousness. This parallels closely with Jung's judging-perceiving. People who score
high on conscientiousness are orderly, get their work done, arrive on time, and care about doing things right.
Score low on conscientiousness and that probably means you tend to slack off on your work, rarely worry
about deadlines or neatness, and are more interested in taking it easy.
The fifth has come with several different labels, such as culture, openness to experience, or just openness.
If you score high on openness, you are more likely to enjoy cultural pursuits such as art, music, dance. You
are more likely to go to museums, the symphony, the ballet. You are more likely to want to travel to exotic
countries and meet people different from yourself. You are more open to new experiences, such as trying
foods you've never tried before or listening to music from all over the world. You are more likely to be
interested in reading about philosophies and religions other than your own, and so on. If you score low, you
are more likely to seek out the McDonalds, even when you are in Paris or Bangkok.
These five have stood up so well to research that I suspect most psychologists today accept them, at least
until something even better comes along. It is also becoming clear that these are in fact strongly influenced
by genetics. In other words, you are born with at least the general outline of your personality traits already
laid out for you. That doesn't mean you can't change – it just means that it is less likely and more difficult.

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Individual, Existential, and Humanistic Psychology

Although we usually consider Freud the founder of personality psychology, there would be many others to
come. First, there would be those who basically followed in his footsteps, like his daugher Anna Freud and
her student Erik Erikson, and others who would develop theories not unlike Freud's, such as Carl Jung.
Second, there were the Behaviorists like Pavlov and Skinner, who took the point of view that personality was
nothing more than the sum total of all our habits. And third, there were many psychologists who fit in neither
the Freudian nor the Behaviorist camps, but developed theories that emphasized things like consciousness,
free will, social concern, and creativity. In this chapter, we will look at three of those psychologists and their
theories: Alfred Adler's Individual Psychology, Existential Psychology as represented by Ludwig
Binswanger, and Humanistic Psychology, as represented by Carl Rogers.

Alfred Adler

Freud had a hard time getting along with his more independent minded colleagues, several of whom left his
circle. Over time, these colleagues developed their own theories and therapies, had their own circles and
students, and went on to contribute to the field. One of the most influential was Alfred Adler.
Alfred Adler was born in the suburbs of Vienna on February 7, 1870, the third child of a Jewish grain
merchant and his wife. As a child, Alfred developed rickets, which kept him from walking until he was four
years old. At five, he nearly died of pneumonia. It was at this age that he decided to be a physician.
He received a medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1895. During his college years, he became
attached to a group of socialist students, among which he found his wife-to-be, Raissa Timofeyewna Epstein.
She was an intellectual and social activist who had come from Russia to study in Vienna. They married in
1897 and eventually had four children, two of whom became psychiatrists.
He began his medical career as an opthamologist, but he soon switched to general practice, and established
his office in a lower-class part of Vienna, across from the Prader, a combination amusement park and circus.
He then turned to psychiatry, and in 1907 was invited to join Freud's discussion group. After writing papers
on organic inferiority, which were quite compatible with Freud's views, he wrote, first, a paper concerning an
aggression instinct, which Freud did not approve of, and then a paper on children's feelings of inferiority,
which suggested that Freud's sexual notions be taken more metaphorically than literally.
Although Freud named Adler the president of the Viennese Analytic Society and the co-editor of the
organization's newsletter, Adler didn't stop criticizing Freud. A debate between Adler's supporters and
Freud's was arranged, but it resulted in Adler, with nine other members of the organization, resigning to form
the Society for Individual Psychology.
During World War I, Adler served as a physician in the Austrian Army, first on the Russian front, and later
in a children's hospital. After the war, he was involved in various projects, including clinics attached to state
schools and the training of teachers. In 1926, he went to the United States to lecture, and he eventually
accepted a visiting position at the Long Island College of Medicine. In 1934, he and his family left Vienna
forever. On May 28, 1937, during a series of lectures at Aberdeen University, he died of a heart attack.

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Individual Psychology

Alfred Adler postulates a single "drive" or motivating force behind all our behavior and experience. By the
time his theory had gelled into its most mature form, he called that motivating force the striving for
perfection. It is the desire we all have to fulfill our potentials, and is basically the same idea as Carl Rogers'
idea of self-actualization.
Second in importance only to striving for perfection is the idea of social interest, i.e. caring for family, for
community, for society, for humanity, even for all life. Adler felt that social interest was not simply inborn,
nor just learned, but a combination of both: It is based on an innate disposition, but it has to be nurtured to
So here we are, all of us, "pulled" towards fulfillment, perfection, self-actualization. And yet some of us end
up terribly unfulfilled, baldly imperfect, and far from self-actualized. And all because we lack social interest,
or, to put it in the positive form, because we are too self-interested. So what makes so many of us self-
Adler says it's a matter of being overwhelmed by our inferiority. If you are moving along, doing well,
feeling competent, you can afford to think of others. If you are not, if life is getting the best of you, then your
attentions become increasingly focussed on yourself.
Obviously, everyone suffers from inferiority in one form or another. For example, Adler began his
theoretical work considering organ inferiority, that is, the fact that each of us has weaker, as well as
stronger, parts of our anatomy or physiology. Some of us are born with heart murmurs, or develop heart
problems early in life; Some have weak lungs, or kidneys, or early liver problems; Some of us stutter or lisp;
Some have diabetes, or asthma, or polio; Some have weak eyes, or poor hearing, or a poor musculature;
Some of us have innate tendencies to being heavy, others to being skinny; Some of us are retarded, some of
us are deformed; Some of us are terribly tall or terribly short; And so on and so on.
But Adler soon saw that this is only part of the picture. Even more people have psychological inferiorities.
Some of as are told that we are dumb, or ugly, or weak. Some of us come to believe we are just plain no
good. In school, we are tested over and over, and given grades that tell us we aren't as good as the next
person. Or we are demeaned for our pimples or our bad posture and find ourselves without friends or dates.
Or we are forced into basketball games, where we wait to see which team will be stuck with us. In these
examples, it's not a matter of true organic inferiority – we are not really retarded or deformed or weak – but
we learn to believe that we are.
Adler also noted an even more general form of inferiority: The natural "inferiority" of children. All children
are, by nature, smaller, weaker, less socially and intellectually competent, than the adults around them.
If you are overwhelmed by the forces of inferiority – whether it is your body hurting, the people around you
holding you in contempt, or just the general difficulties of growing up – you develop an inferiority
complex. You become shy and timid, insecure, indecisive, cowardly, submissive, compliant, and so on. You
begin to rely on people to carry you along, even manipulating them into supporting you: "You think I'm
smart / pretty / strong / sexy / good, don't you?" Eventually, you become a drain on them, and you may find
yourself by yourself. Nobody can take all that self-centered whining for long!
You can also develop a superiority complex. The superiority complex involves covering up your inferiority
by pretending to be superior. If you feel small, one way to feel big is to make everyone else feel even
smaller! Bullies, braggarts, and petty dictators everywhere are the prime example. More subtle examples are
the people who are given to attention-getting dramatics, the ones who feel powerful when they commit
crimes, and the ones who put others down for their gender, race, ethnic origins, religious beliefs, sexual
orientation, weight, height, etc. etc. Even more subtle still are the people who hide their feelings of
worthlessness in the delusions of power afforded by alcohol and drugs.

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But Adler's theory is not a pessimistic one! Many people respond to all these inferiorities by putting their
striving for perfection into action through compensation. People with organ inferiorities often make up for
them in some way: The inferior organ can be strengthened and even become stronger than it is in others; Or
other organs can be overdeveloped to take up the slack; Or the person can compensate for the organic
problem by developing other aspects of who they are. There are, as you well know, many examples of people
who overcame great physical odds to become what those who are better endowed physically wouldn't even
dream of!
People with psychological inferiorities often do the same kind of thing: Some compensate by becoming good
at what they feel inferior about; Others compensate by becoming good at something else. And as for the
general sense of inferiority we all feel in childhood, Adler suggested that, if we look at children's games,
toys, and fantasies, they tend to have one thing in common: The desire to grow up, to be big, to be an adult.
Most of us manage quite well!

Ludwig Binswanger

Existential psychology, like Freudian psychoanalysis, is a "school of thought," a tradition of theory,

research, and practice which includes the work of many men and women. It has its roots in the work of a
rather diverse group of philosophers of the second half of the nineteenth century, especially Friedrich
Nietzsche. Although there is no clear "founder" for Existential psychology, most acknowledge that it is
Ludwig Binswanger who is its best representative.
Ludwig Binswanger was born April 13, 1881, in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, into a family already well
established in a medical and psychiatric tradition: His grandfather, also named Ludwig, founded Bellevue
Sanatoriaum in Kreuzlingen in 1857.
The Ludwig Binswanger received his M.D. degree from the University of Zurich in 1907. He studied under
Carl Jung and assisted Jung with Freudian Society work. Like Jung, he interned under Eugen Bleuler, who
coined the term schizophrenia.
Jung introduced Binswanger to Sigmund Freud in 1907. In 1911, Binswanger became the chief medical
director at Bellevue Sanatorium. The following year, he became ill and received a visit from Freud, who
rarely left Vienna. Their friendship lasted until Freud's death in 1939, despite their fundamental
disagreements over theory! In the early 1920's, Binswanger cultivated an interest in Existential philosophy
and, by the early 1930's, we can honestly say that he was the first truly existential therapist. In 1943, he
published his major work Grundformen und Erkenntnis menschlichen Daseins, which remains
untranslated into English.
In 1956, Binswanger stepped down from his position at Bellevue after 45 years as its chief medical director.
He continued to study and write until his death in 1966.

Existential Psychology

Existentialism uses a philosophical method called phenomenology. Phenomenology is the careful and
complete study of phenomena, and is basically the invention of the philosopher Edmund Husserl.
Phenomena are the contents of consciousness, the things, qualities, relationships, events, thoughts, images,
memories, fantasies, feelings, acts, and so on, which we experience. Phenomenology is an attempt to allow
these experiences to speak to us, to reveal themselves to us, so we might describe them in as unbiased a

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fashion as possible.
If you've been studying experimental psychology, this might seem like another way of talking about being
objective. In experimental psychology, as in science generally, we try to get rid of our nasty subjectivity and
see things as they truly are. But the phenomenologist would suggest that you can't get rid of subjectivity, no
matter how hard you try. The very attempt to be scientific means approaching things from a certain
viewpoint – the scientific viewpoint. You can't get rid of subjectivity because it isn't something separate from
objectivity at all. This inter-connectedness of subject and object is called intentionality.
This method has been used to study different emotions, psychopathologies, things like separation, loneliness,
and solidarity, the artistic experience, the religious experience, silence and speech, perception and behavior,
and so on. Existentialism just takes this method and asks the big question: What is it to be human?
You could say that the essence of humanity – the thing that we all share, and makes us distinct from anything
else in the world – is our lack of essence, our "no-thing-ness," our freedom. We cannot be captured by a
philosophical system or a psychological theory; we cannot be reduced to physical and chemical processes;
our futures cannot be predicted with social statistics. Some of us are men, some are women; some are black,
some are white; some come from one culture, some from another; some have one imperfection, some
another. The "raw materials" differ dramatically, but it is how we choose to live that makes each of us what
we are. We each create ourselves.
<>Binswanger adopted many of the terms and concepts introduced by the philosopher Martin Heidegger.
The first and foremost term is Dasein, which many existentialists use to refer to human existence. Literally,
it means "being there," but the original word carries a few more subtle connotations: The emphasis is on the
"Da" or "there," and so Dasein has the sense of being in the middle of it all, in the thick of things, yet never
quite belonging there. We are "thrown" into a universe that is not of our choosing. When we begin choosing
our lives, we begin with many choices made for us – genetics, environment, society, family..., all those "raw
Existentialists are famous for pointing out that life is hard. The physical world can give us pain as well as
pleasure; the social world can lead to heartbreak and loneliness as well as love and affection; and the
personal world, most especially, contains anxiety and guilt. And these hard things are not merely
possibilities in life: They are inevitable.
Existentialists soemtimes seem preoccupied with death. It is in facing death that we are most likely to come
to an understanding of life. We are, it appears, the only creature that is aware of its own end. When we
become aware of our mortality, we may at first shrink from it and try to forget its reality by getting "busy" in
the day-to-day activities of the social world. But this will not do. Avoiding death is avoiding life.
According to Existentialists, most of us, most of the time, live lives that involve a denial of our full
humanity, of our Dasein, with its anxiety and guilt and death. The call this inauthenticity. Someone who is
living inauthentically is no longer "becoming" but only "being." If life is movement, they have stopped.
There are as many ways to be inauthentic as there are people, but conventionality is the most common style
of inauthenticity today. It involves ignoring one's freedom and living a life of conformity and shallow
materialism. If you can manage to be like everyone else, you don't have to make your own choices. You can
turn to authority, or to your peers, or to the media for "guidance." You can become too "busy" to notice the
moral decisions you need to make.
To live authentically means to be aware of your freedom and your duty to create yourself, of the
inevitability of anxiety, guilt, anddeath. It means further to accept these things in an act of self-affirmation. It
means involvement, compassion, and commitment.

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Carl Rogers

Humanism is the American version of Existentialism. Like many things American, it is more optimistic and
up-beat and tends to emphasize what is good about people rather than what is bad. Even though this may
seem like an unfortunate bias, this optimism is a much needed addition to the psychology of personality,
which has traditionally focussed on less-than-healthy people!
Like Existentialism, Humanism is a broad collection of theories and theorists that are sometimes hard to pin
down. But the best known and most influential person among them has to be Carl Rogers.
Carl Rogers was born January 8, 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, the fourth of six children.
His father was a successful civil engineer and his mother was a housewife and devout Christian. His
education started in the second grade, because he could already read before kindergarten.
When Carl was 12, his family moved to a farm about 30 miles west of Chicago, and it was here that he was
to spend his adolescence. With a strict upbringing and many chores, Carl was to become rather isolated,
independent, and self-disciplined.
He went on the the University of Wisconsin as a agriculture major. Later, he switched to religion to study for
the ministry. After graduation, he married Helen Elliot , moved to New York City, and began attending the
Union Theological Seminary, a famous liberal religious institution. Rogers switched to the clinical
psychology program of Columbia University, and received his Ph.D. in 1931. He had already begun his
clinical work at the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
He was offered a full professorship at Ohio State in 1940. In 1942, he wrote his first book, Counseling and
Psychotherapy. Then, in 1945, he was invited to set up a counseling center at the University of Chicago. In
1957, he returned to teach at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsisn. Finally, in 1964, he was happy to
accept a research position in La Jolla, California. He provided therapy, gave speeches, and wrote, until his
death in 1987.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanists such as Carl Rogers see people as basically good or healthy – or at very least, not bad or ill. In
other words, they see mental health as the normal progression of life, and mental illness, criminality, and
other human problems, as distortions of that natural tendency, which Rogers called self-actualization.
Unlike Maslow, Rogers uses the term to refer to the drive every creature has to become "all that it can be,"
much like Adler's idea of striving for perfection.
Rogers tells us that organisms naturally know what is good for them. Evolution has provided us with the
senses, the tastes, the discriminations we need: When we hunger, we find food – and not just any food, but
food that tastes good. Food that tastes bad is likely to be spoiled, rotten, unhealthy. That's what good and bad
tastes are – our evolutionary lessons made clear! This is called organismic valuing.
Among the many things that we instinctively value is positive regard, Rogers umbrella term for things like
love, affection, attention, nurturance, and so on. It is clear that babies need love and attention. In fact, it
seems that they die without it. They certainly fail to thrive – i.e. become "all they can be."
Another thing – perhaps peculiarly human – that we value is positive self-regard, that is, self-esteem, self-
worth, a positive self-image. We achieve this positive self-regard by experiencing the positive regard others
show us over our years of growing up. Without this self-regard, we feel small and helpless, and again we fail
to become all that we can be!

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Rogers believes that, if left to their own devices, animals will tend to eat and drink things that are good for
them, and consume them in balanced proportions. Babies, too, seem to want and like what they need.
Somewhere along the line, however, we have created an environment for ourselves that is significantly
different from the one in which we evolved. In this new environment are such things as refined sugar, flour,
butter, chocolate, and so on, that our ancestors in Africa never knew. These things have flavors that appeal to
our organismic valuing – yet do not serve our actualization well. This new, artificial environment is our
society, with its rituals, its organizations, its technologies.
Our society also leads us astray with conditions of worth. As we grow up, our parents, teachers, peers, the
media, and others, only give us what we need when we show we are "worthy," rather than just because we
need it. We get a drink when we finish our class, we get something sweet when we finish our vegetables, and
most importantly, we get love and affection if and only if we "behave!"
Getting positive regard on "on condition" Rogers calls conditional positive regard. Because we do indeed
need positive regard, these conditions are very powerful, and we bend ourselves into a shape determined, not
by our organismic valuing or our actualizing tendency, but by a society that may or may not truly have our
best interests at heart. A "good little boy or girl" may not be a healthy or happy boy or girl!
Over time, this "conditioning" leads us to have conditional positive self-regard as well. We begin to like
ourselves only if we meet up with the standards others have applied to us, rather than if we are truly
actualizing our potentials. And since these standards were created without keeping each individual in mind,
more often than not we find ourselves unable to meet them, and therefore unable to maintain any sense of
The aspect of your being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic valuing, needs and
receives positive regard and self-regard, Rogers calls the real self. It is the "you" that, if all goes well, you
will become.
On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of synch with the actualizing tendency, and we are
forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with organismic valuing, and receive only
conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an ideal self. By ideal, Rogers is suggesting
something not real, something that is always out of our reach, the standard we can’t meet.
This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the "I am" and the "I should" is called incongruity. The
greater the gap, the more incongruity. The more incongruity, the more suffering. In fact, incongruity is
essentially what Rogers means by neurosis: Being out of synch with your own true self.
But Rogers is just as interested in describing the healthy person. His term is "fully-functioning," and
involves the following qualities:

1. Openness to experience. This is the opposite of defensiveness. It is the accurate perception of one's
experiences in the world, including one's feelings. It also means being able to accept reality, again
including one's feelings. Feelings are such an important part of openness because they convey
organismic valuing. If you cannot be open to your feelings, you cannot be open to acualization.

2. Living in the here-and-now. Rogers, as a part of getting in touch with reality, insists that we not
live in the past or the future – the one is gone, and the other isn't here yet! The present is the only
reality we have. Mind you, that doesn't mean we shouldn't remember and learn from our past.
Neither does it mean we shouldn't plan or even day-dream about the future. Just recognize these
things for what they are: memories and dreams, which we are experiencing here in the present.

3. Organismic trusting. We should allow ourselves to be guided by the organismic valuing process.
We should trust ourselves, do what feels right, what comes natural. Keep in mind that Rogers meant

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trust your real self, not the neurotic self so many of us have become! In other words, organismic
trusting assumes you are in contact with the actualizing tendency.

4. Freedom. Rogers felt that it was irrelevant whether or not people really have free will: We feel very
much as if we do. This is not to say, of course, that we are free to do anything at all: We are
surrounded by a deterministic universe, so that, flap my arms as much as I like, I will not fly like
Superman. It means that we feel free when choices are available to us. Rogers says that the fully-
functioning person acknowledges that feeling of freedom, and takes responsibility for his choices.

5. Creativity. If you feel free and responsible, you will act accordingly, and participate in the world. A
fully-functioning person, in touch with acualization, will feel obliged by their nature to contribute to
the actualization of others, even life itself. This can be through creativity in the arts or sciences,
through social concern and parental love, or simply by doing one's best at one's job.

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Psychological Disorders

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A Bio-Social Theory of Neurosis

Neurosis refers to a variety of psychological problems involving persistent experiences of negative affect
including anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc.,
behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc.,
cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual
fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness,
perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.
Generally, neurosis means poor ability to adapt to ones environment, an inability to change one’s life
patterns, and the inability to develop a richer, more complex, more satisfying personality.
The first point to note is that there are predisposing physiological conditions, for the most part hereditary.
Most obvious is the temperament trait (or traits) referred to as emotional instability. Other traits may also
contribute, such as extremely high or low conscientiousness. It may be that any inherited trait, when present
in the extreme, makes the person more liable to develop neurotic problems.
The second point is that one’s culture, upbringing, education, and learning in general may prepare one to
deal with the stresses of life, or not. These factors may also serve to override any predisposing physiological
conditions, or to exacerbate them.
The third point concerns the triggering stressors in people’s lives which lead to the various emotional,
behavioral, and cognitive symptoms of neurosis. These stressors can be understood as consisting of
situations of uncertainly and confusion, usually involving interpersonal relationships, that overwhelm the
person’s capacities, learned and/or inherited, to cope with those situations.
Basically, we deal with the world by using our previously acquired knowledge of the world, in coordination
with our inherited capacities, to solve the problems presented to us as efficiently as possible. When we are up
to the task, our emotional responses are kept to within tolerable limits. When we are not up to the task, we
experience anxiety. This anxiety may develop into other emotional responses as well, depending on the
details of the problem, our inherited traits, and our learned patterns of response to problematic situations.
When we experience repeated occasions of stress and anxiety, we begin to develop patterns of behavior and
cognition designed to avoid or otherwise mitigate the problem, such as vigilance, escape behaviors, and
defensive thinking. These may develop into an array of attitudes which themselves produce anxiety, anger,
sadness, etc.
The family is often the focus in discussing the origins of neurosis. First, any genetic predispositions towards
neurosis may be inherited. Secondly, the family may have provided little in the way of preparation for a child
to deal with the stresses of life. And thirdly, the family may itself be a source of the stress and confusion
which the child may be unable to cope with. It may often be the case that a parent is him- or herself troubled
by neuroses, and thereby provides the genetics, the poor parenting skills, and the stresses that lead children to
develop neuroses.
A child is still in the process of learning the skills required to survive and thrive in the social world, and is
thereby more susceptible to stress. He or she needs both parental guidance and a degree of security. The
child needs to know that the parent will be there for him or her. This reliability is communicated by means of
the love a parent expresses to the child. If the child fails to perceive that love (even if it does actually exist),
he or she will be left with considerable and very general anxiety, as well as feelings of incompetence and
On the other hand, we should not jump to conclusions in this regard: Not all neurotics raise neurotic children,
and not all neurotics were themselves raised by neurotic parents. There are many stressful events which can
overwhelm even fairly emotionally stable and well educated children, adolescents, and even adults. Among

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these, we can mention the death of parents, their divorce and remarriage, foster homes, institutionalization,
ill health of the child or the parents, war time experiences, immigration, poverty and homelessness, assault,
sexual abuse, bigotry, and so on.
Many people develop neuroses during adolescence. The sometimes dramatic physical and emotional changes
can by themselves overwhelm some adolescents. Even more likely, these changes, combined with the need
to demonstrate social competence and to gain peer approval, can lead to great stress and overwhelm the
adolescent’s emotional capacities. Teenagers rejected by their peers, due to weight problems, physical
appearance, weakness, retardation and learning problems, social shyness or awkwardness, sexual orientation,
race, ethnicity, national origin, etc., are especially vulnerable. Many, if they have the resources and
especially if they have support from family and friends, recover in early adulthood. Others do not.
Just like the child, the adolescent is still in a stage of development, and has the added burden of requiring the
social skills involved in sexual competition. These are usually learned by imitating other adolescents,
especially those that are admired for their skills and successes. The learning is then supported by gaining
validation from other adolescents in the form of acceptance and approval. Without that approval, the
adolescent feels no confidence in his or her social skills and again lives with the anxiety of never quite
knowing how to act. The adolescent is left with feelings of isolation and self-loathing.
Many of these issues continue to apply in young adulthood and even later. Young adults typically feel the
need for a partner in life, for a network of friends, for a sense of competence as evidenced by success in
college or in the workplace, and so on. Later, the desire for children, for financial security, and for social
respect add to the stress. And later still, coming to terms with the prospect of ill health, the death of friends
and family, and one’s own mortality provide the older adult with new challenges for their emotional strength.
The better the foundation in childhood and adolescence, however, the better the chances that the adult will be
able to cope.

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Anxiety Disorders*

The anxiety disorders are the most common, or frequently occurring, mental disorders. They
encompass a group of conditions that share extreme or pathological anxiety as the principal
disturbance of mood or emotional tone. Anxiety, which may be understood as the pathological
counterpart of normal fear, is manifest by disturbances of mood, as well as of thinking, behavior,
and physiological activity.

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

A panic attack is a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort that is associated with numerous
somatic and cognitive symptoms (DSM-IV). These symptoms include palpitations, sweating,
trembling, shortness of breath, sensations of choking or smothering, chest pain, nausea or
gastrointestinal distress, dizziness or lightheadedness, tingling sensations, and chills or blushing
and "hot flashes." The attack typically has an abrupt onset, building to maximum intensity within 10
to 15 minutes. Most people report a fear of dying, "going crazy," or losing control of emotions or
behavior. The experiences generally provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the
attack begins and, when associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, frequently results in
seeking aid from a hospital emergency room or other type of urgent assistance. Yet an attack rarely
lasts longer than 30 minutes.
Panic disorder is about twice as common among women as men (American Psychiatric Association,
1998). Age of onset is most common between late adolescence and midadult life, with onset
relatively uncommon past age 50.


The ancient term agoraphobia is translated from Greek as fear of an open marketplace.
Agoraphobia today describes severe and pervasive anxiety about being in situations from which
escape might be difficult or avoidance of situations such as being alone outside of the home,
traveling in a car, bus, or airplane, or being in a crowded area (DSM-IV).
Most people who present to [are seen by] mental health specialists develop agoraphobia after the
onset of panic disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1998). Agoraphobia is best understood
as an adverse behavioral outcome of repeated panic attacks and the subsequent worry,
preoccupation, and avoidance (Barlow, 1988).
Agoraphobia occurs about two times more commonly among women than men (Magee et al., 1996).

* Note: The following is from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Services
(1999), available at

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Specific Phobias

These common conditions are characterized by marked fear

of specific objects or situations (DSM-IV). Exposure to the
object of the phobia, either in real life or via imagination or
video, invariably elicits intense anxiety, which may include a
(situationally bound) panic attack. Adults generally
recognize that this intense fear is irrational. Nevertheless,
they typically avoid the phobic stimulus or endure exposure
with great difficulty. The most common specific phobias
include the following feared stimuli or situations: animals
(especially snakes, rodents, birds, and dogs); insects
(especially spiders and bees or hornets); heights; elevators;
flying; automobile driving; water; storms; and blood or
Approximately 8 percent of the adult population suffers from one or more specific phobias in 1
year.... Typically, the specific phobias begin in childhood, although there is a second "peak" of onset
in the middle 20s of adulthood (DSM-IV). Most phobias persist for years or even decades, and
relatively few remit [improve] spontaneously or without treatment.
The specific phobias generally do not result from exposure to a single traumatic event (i.e., being
bitten by a dog or nearly drowning) (Marks, 1969). Rather, there is evidence of phobia in other
family members and social or vicarious learning of phobias (Cook & Mineka, 1989). Spontaneous,
unexpected panic attacks also appear to play a role in the development of specific phobia, although
the particular pattern of avoidance is much more focal and circumscribed.

Phobias are an example of a different kind of learning called conditioned fear. While the experience of the
situation is being sent up to your cerebral cortex, it is also being sent to the limbic system directly, especially
the amygdala, and much more quickly. This leads to a strong bodily reaction - the panic attack - and the
experience is remembered intensely.
It also seems that many phobias have a strong built-in component. Many people are at least uncomfortable, if
not phobic, around snakes, spiders, reptiles, dogs, heights, and swooping birds. These things make us fearful
even before we learn their potential danger. These fears do make some sense, if you consider the dangers
these could pose for our ancient ancestors. Of course, it is not the figure of a snake or a dog that directly
leads to the fear response. It is rather the swooping motion, the slithering, the unpredictable presence, the low
growling noises, and so on.

Social Phobia

Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, describes people with marked and persistent
anxiety in social situations, including performances and public speaking (Ballenger et al., 1998).
The critical element of the fearfulness is the possibility of embarrassment or ridicule. Like specific
phobias, the fear is recognized by adults as excessive or unreasonable, but the dreaded social
situation is avoided or is tolerated with great discomfort. Many people with social phobia are
preoccupied with concerns that others will see their anxiety symptoms (i.e., trembling, sweating, or
blushing); or notice their halting or rapid speech; or judge them to be weak, stupid, or "crazy."

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Fears of fainting, losing control of bowel or bladder function, or having one’s mind going blank are
also not uncommon. Social phobias generally are associated with significant anticipatory anxiety for
days or weeks before the dreaded event, which in turn may further handicap performance and
heighten embarrassment.
Social phobia is more common in women (Wells et al., 1994). Social phobia typically begins in
childhood or adolescence and, for many, it is associated with the traits of shyness and social
inhibition (Kagan et al., 1988). A public humiliation, severe embarrassment, or other stressful
experience may provoke an intensification of difficulties (Barlow, 1988). Once the disorder is
established, complete remissions are uncommon without treatment. More commonly, the severity of
symptoms and impairments tends to fluctuate in relation to vocational demands and the stability of
social relationships.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is defined by a protracted (> 6 months’ duration) period of anxiety and
worry, accompanied by multiple associated symptoms (DSM-IV). These symptoms include muscle
tension, easy fatiguability, poor concentration, insomnia, and irritability.... [T]he excessive worries
often pertain to many areas, including work, relationships, finances, the well-being of one’s family,
potential misfortunes, and impending deadlines. Somatic anxiety symptoms are common, as are
sporadic panic attacks.
Generalized anxiety disorder occurs more often in women, with a sex ratio of about 2 women to 1
man (Brawman-Mintzer & Lydiard, 1996). The 1-year population prevalence is about 3 percent
(Table 4-1). Approximately 50 percent of cases begin in childhood or adolescence.

Acute and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders

Acute stress disorder refers to the anxiety and behavioral disturbances that develop within the first
month after exposure to an extreme trauma. Generally, the symptoms of an acute stress disorder
begin during or shortly following the trauma. Such extreme traumatic events include rape or other
severe physical assault, near-death experiences in accidents, witnessing a murder, and combat. The
symptom of dissociation, which reflects a perceived detachment of the mind from the emotional state
or even the body, is a critical feature. Dissociation also is characterized by a sense of the world as a
dreamlike or unreal place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events, which in
severe form is known as dissociative amnesia [loss of memory not based on physical causes]. Other
features of an acute stress disorder include symptoms of generalized anxiety and hyperarousal,
avoidance of situations or stimuli that elicit memories of the trauma, and persistent, intrusive
recollections of the event via flashbacks, dreams, or recurrent thoughts or visual images.
By virtue of the more sustained nature of post-traumatic stress disorder (relative to acute stress
disorder), a number of changes, including decreased self-esteem, loss of sustained beliefs about
people or society, hopelessness, a sense of being permanently damaged, and difficulties in
previously established relationships, are typically observed. Substance abuse often develops,
especially involving alcohol, marijuana, and sedative-hypnotic drugs.
About 50 percent of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder remit within 6 months. For the

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remainder, the disorder typically persists for years and can dominate the sufferer’s life. A
longitudinal [long-term] study of Vietnam veterans, for example, found 15 percent of veterans to be
suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder 19 years after combat exposure (cited in McFarlane &
Yehuda, 1996). In the general population, the 1-year prevalence is about 3.6 percent, with women
having almost twice the prevalence of men (Kessler et al., 1995) (Table 4-1). The highest rates of
post-traumatic stress disorder are found among women who are victims of crime, especially rape, as
well as among torture and concentration camp survivors (Yehuda, 1999).

PTSD appears to involve a number of problems with the hippocampus which, if you recall, is devoted to
moving short-term memories into long-term storage. First, intensely emotional events lead to intense
memories called flashbulb memories. It seems that these memories may actually be partially stored in the
amygdala, which accounts for the fearfulness involved. In addition, the prolonged stress of experiences such
as war or childhood abuse actually begins to destroy tissue in the hippocampus, making it more difficult to
create new long term memories. Studies show that people who have suffered long-term trauma have
anywhere from 8 to 12% less hippocampus. The net result could be that they are, in a sense, stuck in their
traumatic past.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessions are recurrent, intrusive

thoughts, impulses, or images that are
perceived as inappropriate, grotesque,
or forbidden (DSM-IV). The obsessions,
which elicit anxiety and marked
distress, are termed "ego-alien" or
"ego-dystonic" because their content is
quite unlike the thoughts that the person
usually has. Obsessions are perceived
as uncontrollable, and the sufferer often
fears that he or she will lose control and
act upon such thoughts or impulses.
Common themes include contamination
with germs or body fluids, doubts (i.e.,
the worry that something important has
been overlooked or that the sufferer has
unknowingly inflicted harm on someone), order or symmetry, or loss of control of violent or sexual
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that reduce the anxiety that accompanies an
obsession or "prevent" some dreaded event from happening (DSM-IV). Compulsions include both
overt behaviors, such as hand washing or checking, and mental acts including counting or praying.
Not uncommonly, compulsive rituals take up long periods of time, even hours, to complete. For
example, repeated hand washing, intended to remedy anxiety about contamination, is a common
cause of contact dermatitis [a common skin disease].
Although once thought to be rare, obsessive-compulsive disorder has now been documented to have
a 1-year prevalence of 2.4 percent (Table 4-1). Obsessive-compulsive disorder is equally common
among men and women.

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder typically begins in adolescence to young adult life (males) or in

young adult life (females).... Approximately 20 to 30 percent of people in clinical samples with
obsessive-compulsive disorder report a past history of tics, and about one-quarter of these people
meet the full criteria for Tourette’s disorder (DSM-IV).
Obsessive-compulsive disorder has a clear familial pattern and somewhat greater familial
specificity than most other anxiety disorders. Furthermore, there is an increased risk of obsessive-
compulsive disorder among first-degree relatives with Tourette’s disorder. Other mental disorders
that may fall within the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorder include trichotillomania
(compulsive hair pulling), compulsive shoplifting, gambling, and sexual behavior disorders
(Hollander, 1996).

We are beginning to understand some of the brain activities associated with OCD . The caudate nucleus (a
part of the basal ganglia near the limbic system) is responsible, among other things, for urges, including
things like reminding you to lock doors, brush your teeth, wash your hands, and so on. It sends messages to
the orbital area (above the eyes) of the prefrontal area, which tells us that something is not right. It also sends
messages to the cingulate gyrus (just under the frontal lobe), which keeps attention focused, in this case on
the feeling of something not being right and needing to be done. It is believed that, in people with OCD, this
system is stuck on "high alert."
More recently, scientists have discovered several genes that appear to be strongly tied to OCD.

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Mood Disorders*

In 1 year, about 7 percent of Americans suffer from mood disorders, a cluster of mental disorders
best recognized by depression or mania. Mood disorders are outside the bounds of normal
fluctuations from sadness to elation. They have potentially severe consequences for morbidity and

Major Depression

The cardinal symptoms of major depressive disorder are depressed mood and loss of interest or
pleasure. Other symptoms vary enormously. For example, insomnia and weight loss are considered
to be classic signs, even though many depressed patients gain weight and sleep excessively.
It is twice more common in women than in men.
What is now called major depressive disorder, however, differs both quantitatively and qualitatively
from normal sadness or grief. Normal states of dysphoria (a negative or aversive mood state) are
typically less pervasive and generally run a more time-limited course. Moreover, some of the
symptoms of severe depression, such as anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure),
hopelessness, and loss of mood reactivity (the ability to feel a mood uplift in response to something
positive) only rarely accompany "normal" sadness. Suicidal thoughts and psychotic symptoms such
as delusions or hallucinations virtually always signify a pathological state.
When untreated, a major depressive episode may last, on average, about 9 months. Eighty to 90
percent of individuals will remit within 2 years of the first episode (Kapur & Mann, 1992).
Thereafter, at least 50 percent of depressions will recur, and after three or more episodes the odds
of recurrence within 3 years increases to 70 to 80 percent if the patient has not had preventive
treatment (Thase & Sullivan, 1995).
Anxiety is commonly comorbid with [occuring at the same time as] major depression. About one-
half of those with a primary diagnosis of major depression also have an anxiety disorder (Barbee,
1998; Regier et al., 1998). The comorbidity of anxiety and depression is so pronounced that it has
led to theories of similar etiologies [causes], which are discussed below. Substance use disorders
are found in 24 to 40 percent of individuals with mood disorders in the United States (Merikangas et
al., 1998). Without treatment, substance abuse worsens the course of mood disorders. Other
common comorbidities include personality disorders (DSM-IV) and medical illness, especially
chronic conditions such as hypertension [high blood pressure] and arthritis.
Suicide is the most dreaded complication of major depressive disorders. About 10 to 15 percent of
patients formerly hospitalized with depression commit suicide (Angst et al., 1999). Major depressive
disorders account for about 20 to 35 percent of all deaths by suicide (Angst et al., 1999). Completed
suicide is more common among those with more severe and/or psychotic symptoms, with late onset,
with co-existing mental and addictive disorders (Angst et al., 1999), as well as among those who
have experienced stressful life events, who have medical illnesses, and who have a family history of
suicidal behavior (Blumenthal, 1988). In the United States, men complete suicide four times as often
as women; women attempt suicide four times as frequently as do men (Blumenthal, 1988).
Dysthymia is a chronic [recurring, usually less severe] form of depression.

* Note: The following is from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Services
(1999), available at

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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a recurrent mood disorder featuring one or more episodes of mania or mixed
episodes of mania and depression (DSM-IV; Goodwin & Jamison,1990). Bipolar disorder is distinct
from major depressive disorder by virtue of a history of manic or hypomanic (milder and not
psychotic) episodes.
Mania is derived from a French word that literally means crazed or frenzied. The mood disturbance
can range from pure euphoria [strong happiness] or elation to irritability to a labile [changeable]
admixture that also includes dysphoria [unhappiness] (Table 4-4). Thought content is usually
grandiose but also can be paranoid. Grandiosity usually takes the form both of overvalued ideas
(e.g., "My book is the best one ever written") and of frank delusions (e.g., "I have radio transmitters
implanted in my head and the Martians are monitoring my thoughts.") Auditory and visual
hallucinations complicate more severe episodes. Speed of thought increases, and ideas typically
race through the manic person’s consciousness. Nevertheless, distractibility and poor concentration
commonly impair implementation. Judgment also can be severely compromised; spending sprees,
offensive or disinhibited behavior, and promiscuity or other objectively reckless behaviors are
commonplace. Subjective energy, libido [sexual desire], and activity typically increase but a
perceived reduced need for sleep can sap physical reserves. Sleep deprivation also can exacerbate
[make worse] cognitive difficulties and contribute to development of catatonia [staying in one
position for long periods of time] or a florid [fully developed], confusional state known as delirious
Cyclothymia is marked by manic and depressive states, yet neither are of sufficient intensity nor
duration to merit a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.

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When people think about "crazy" people and people in mental institutions, they are often thinking of people
with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is the primary example of what psychologists and psychiatrists used to
call a psychosis. The general characteristic of people with a psychosis is that they seem to be out of touch
with reality. Another disorder that we used to think of as psychotic is bipolar disorder - especially the manic
Someone with a neurosis appears to be more emotionally troubled, perhaps even too responsive to reality.
The anxiety disorders are the primary examples. Although we don't use these terms as much today,
psychology students should keep them in mind!*

Our understanding of schizophrenia has evolved since its symptoms were first catalogued by
German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in the late 19th century (Andreasen, 1997a). Even though the
cause of this disorder remains elusive, its frightening symptoms and biological correlates have come
to be quite well defined. Yet misconceptions abound about symptoms: schizophrenia is neither "split
personality" nor "multiple personality." Furthermore, people with schizophrenia are not perpetually
incoherent or psychotic (DSM-IV; Mason et al., 1997) (Table 4-6).

Schizophrenia is characterized by profound disruption in cognition and emotion, affecting the most
fundamental human attributes: language, thought, perception, affect, and sense of self. The array of
symptoms, while wide ranging, frequently includes psychotic manifestations, such as hearing
internal voices or experiencing other sensations not connected to an obvious source (hallucinations)
and assigning unusual significance or meaning to normal events or holding fixed false personal
beliefs (delusions). No single symptom is definitive for diagnosis; rather, the diagnosis encompasses
a pattern of signs and symptoms, in conjunction with impaired occupational or social functioning

Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Delusions are firmly held erroneous beliefs due to distortions or exaggerations of reasoning and/or
misinterpretations of perceptions or experiences. Delusions of being followed or watched are
common, as are beliefs that comments, radio or TV programs, etc., are directing special messages
directly to him/her.
Hallucinations are distortions or exaggerations of perception in any of the senses, although
auditory hallucinations ("hearing voices" within, distinct from one’s own thoughts) are the most
common, followed by visual hallucinations.
Disorganized speech/thinking, also described as "thought disorder" or "loosening of associations,"
is a key aspect of schizophrenia. Disorganized thinking is usually assessed primarily based on the
person’s speech. Therefore, tangential, loosely associated, or incoherent speech severe enough to
substantially impair effective communication is used as an indicator of thought disorder by the

* The following information on schizophrenia (in italics) is from Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,
U.S. Public Health Services (1999), available at

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Grossly disorganized behavior includes difficulty in goal-directed behavior (leading to difficulties in

activities in daily living), unpredictable agitation or silliness, social disinhibition [loss of normal
inhibitions], or behaviors that are bizarre to onlookers. Their purposelessness distinguishes them
from unusual behavior prompted by delusional beliefs.
Catatonic behaviors are characterized by a marked decrease in reaction to the immediate
surrounding environment, sometimes taking the form of motionless and apparent unawareness, rigid
or bizarre postures, or aimless excess motor activity.

Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Affective flattening is the reduction in the range and intensity of emotional expression, including
facial expression, voice tone, eye contact, and body language.
Alogia, or poverty of speech, is the lessening of speech fluency and productivity, thought to reflect
slowing or blocked thoughts, and often manifested as laconic [using few words], empty replies to
Avolition is the reduction, difficulty, or inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior; it
is often mistaken for apparent disinterest.

Cultural Variation

On first consideration, symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre behavior seem easily
defined and clearly pathological. However, increased attention to cultural variation has made it
very clear that what is considered delusional in one culture may be accepted as normal in another
(Lu et al., 1995). For example, among members of some cultural groups, "visions" or "voices" of
religious figures are part of normal religious experience. In many communities, "seeing" or being
"visited" by a recently deceased person are not unusual among family members. Therefore, labeling
an experience as pathological or a psychiatric symptom can be a subtle process for the clinician
with a different cultural or ethnic background from the patient; indeed, cultural variations and
nuances may occur within the diverse subpopulations of a single racial, ethnic, or cultural group.
Often, however, clinicians’ training, skills, and views tend to reflect their own social and cultural

Course of the disorder

Onset generally occurs during young adulthood (mid-20s for men, late-20s for women), although
earlier and later onset do occur. It may be abrupt or gradual, but most people experience some early
signs, such as increasing social withdrawal, loss of interests, unusual behavior, or decreases in
functioning prior to the beginning of active positive symptoms. These are often the first behaviors to
worry family members and friends.
Most individuals experience periods of symptom exacerbation [worsening] and remission
[improvement], while others maintain a steady level of symptoms and disability which can range

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from moderate to severe (Wiersma et al., 1998).

A small percentage (10 percent or so) of patients seem to remain severely ill over long periods of
time (Jablensky et al., 1992; Gerbaldo et al., 1995). Most do not return to their prior state of mental
function. Yet several long-term studies reveal that about one-half to two-thirds of people with
schizophrenia significantly improve or recover, some completely (for a review see Harding et al.,

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Personality Disorders

A personality disorder consists of inflexible and maladaptive personality traits which interfere with day-to-
day functioning and may involve subjective unhappiness. There are several general criteria:
• Behavior that differs from cultural expectations in two of the following areas: cognition, emotion,
social functioning, and impulse control
• Problems that are spread across a broad range of situations;
• Significant problems in social or work life;
• Problems that are relatively stable and date back at least to adolescence or early adulthood.
Personality disorders are great examples of how mental illness is usually a matter of degree, rather than an
either/or situation. At what point, for example, do you go from saying someone is creative to saying they are
eccentric to saying they are "crazy?" The line is really impossible to draw.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have divided them into three broad categories, based more on overall
similarities than on our understanding of their causes:
Cluster A – People who appear "odd or eccentric."
• Paranoid PD
• Schizoid PD
• Schizotypal PD
Cluster B – People who appear "dramatic, emotional, erratic."
• Antisocial PD (I personaly believe this one is in a category of its own!)
• Borderline PD
• Histrionic PD and Narcissistic PD
Cluster C – People who appear "anxious or fearful."
• Avoidant PD and Dependent PD
• Obsessive-Compulsive PD

Paranoid Personality Disorder*

A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent,
beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the
• suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her;
• is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates;
• is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used
maliciously against him or her;
• reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events;
• persistently bears grudges, i.e., is unforgiving of insults , injuries, or slights

* The following descriptions (in italics) of the personality disorders are from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders (4th ed., 1994) or DSM-IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

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• perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick
to react angrily or to counterattack;
• has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity or spouse or sexual partner.

These are among the most unpleasant people in the world. Every remark you make is exhaustively analyzed
for hidden meanings; everything you do is interpreted in the worst possible light; everyone is believed to
have an agenda, an angle. They are easily distinguished from the paranoid schizophrenic, however: They do
not suffer from auditory hallucinations (voices) and their beliefs are well within the realm of possible reality.
There are no CIA agents or space aliens involved, only all kinds of people that want my job, my wife, my

Schizoid Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions
in interpersonal settings, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by
four (or more) of the following:
• neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family;
• almost always chooses solitary activities;
• has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person;
• takes pleasure in few, if any, activities;
• lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives;
• appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others;
• shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity.

Schizoid means split-off, in this case split-off from society. These are the loners of the world. Emotionally
cold, they don't have friends or family, and they are quite content with that situation. It is possible that these
are people with some form of high-functioning autism, perhaps Asperger's syndrome.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced
capacity for, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of
behavior, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of
the following:
• ideas of reference (excluding delusions of reference);
• odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with subcultural norms
(e.g., superstitiousness, belief in clairvoyance, telepathy, or "sixth sense"; in children and
adolescents, bizarre fantasies or preoccupations);
• unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions;
• odd thinking and speech (e.g., vague, circumstantial, metaphorical, overelaborate, or stereotyped);
• suspiciousness or paranoid ideation;
• inappropriate or constricted affect;
• behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar;

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• lack of close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives;

• excessive social anxiety that does not diminish with familiarity and tends to be associated with
paranoid fears rather than negative judgments about self.
Where do you draw the line between someone who is merely eccentric and someone who has something as
horrible-sounding as schizotypal personality disorder?! Many people believe in telepathy, many have had
bodily illusions, and most people are superstitious to one degree or another. It is only when you add a little
paranoia, a degree of social isolation, some social anxiety... that you can begin to feel more confident in such
a diagnosis. Perhaps, in the schizotypal, we are looking at a combination of slight psychotic tendencies
mixed with social anxiety and/or Asperger's syndrome.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as
indicated by three (or more) of the following:
• failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly
performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
• deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or
• impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
• irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
• reckless disregard for safety of self or others; .
• consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or
honor financial obligations;
• lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or
stolen from another.
It is believed that something on the order of one in six people (mostly men) have this personality disorder. I
think it is likely to be higher - perhaps 20%. The antisocial disorder used to be called the sociopath, and
before that, the psychopath. The change in name simply reflects the fact that the public tends to associate the
disorder only with the most extreme and dramatic cases, such as serial killers. But in fact, people with little
sense of empathy or guilt live all around us and we hardly notice them until they affect us personally. If they
have a decent level of intelligence, they fully recognize that certain acts are illegal or looked down upon by
others, and, since that only makes trouble for themselves, they avoid those things. In other words, most
antisocials are rational. I believe that, in addition to the violent criminals that may be obviously antisocial,
there are also many highly successful antisocials who, in fact, owe their success to the very fact that they
don't really care how they get wealth and power, only that they do actually get it. I have strong suspicions
about some of those corporate executives who blithely steal from their employees and calmlly lie about it
when caught. I also suspect that some of our politicians are sociopaths, especially those that seem to be able
to ignore the suffering of the less fortunate while filling their pockets and the pockets of their friends with
money, or those who have no qualms about declaring wars that kill and maim thousands of our own young
men and women, as well as hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children of the so-called

No one knows exactly where the antisocial personality disorder comes from, but we do know that many
violent criminals have damage to the prefrontal lobes. Apparently, the prefrontal lobes play a big part in
controlling the limbic system, including damping emotions. In some circumstances, the fear response of the
amygdala is dampened, while the rage response is intensified. If you are very angry but afraid of nothing,
you can do a great deal of damage! Of course the majority of antisocials have not had damage to the

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prefrontal lobes, and so we can only speculate that perhaps these areas are less well developed than they are
in normal people.

Others view antisocial personality disorder as derived from poor upbringing, involving abuse or neglect. In
particular, some believe that it is the result of a lack of love, especially from the mother, which prevents the
child from developing the ability to love, or even the ability to recognize the personhood of others. As with
most psychological disorders, it is quite likely that both the physical and the developmental explanations
play a part. One unfortunate aspect of the disorder is that there seems to be no therapy that can touch it.
These people are excellent liars and manipulators, quite capable of convincing their therapists and others that
they have reformed, found Jesus, or otherwise have bettered themselves. Many go on to form inspirational
groups and write self-help manuals. But it's really just that they've found another way to use people.

Borderline Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked
impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more)
of the following:
• frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment;
• a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between
extremes of idealization and devaluation;
• identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self;
• impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance
abuse, reckless driving, binge eating);
• recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior;
• affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability,
or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days);
• chronic feelings of emptiness;
• inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper,
constant anger, recurrent physical fights);
• transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

Borderline personality disorder is so-called because of the belief that it represents a personality style that is
close to, but not quite, psychotic. Many of their symptoms, as you can see, suggest that. But I have been
impressed in the borderlines I have known in their ability to lie and manipulate, nearly as well as the
antisocials. Instead of coming off as powerful, they use their weaknesses to manipulate. And, like antisocials,
they appear to feel little if any empathy or guilt. They pull you towards them, then push you away, then pull
you back. They pit one friend against another. They dramatize situations to their own ends. They move,
chameleon-like, from one "personality" to another. Also like the antisocials, they are extremely difficult to
treat. Possibly, they combine some of the issues of antisocial personality disorder with psychoses. In as much
as borderlines are predominantly women, it is also possible that they have followed their cultural guidelines
as to traditional male-female differences in behavior, and are antisocials who use more passive means of
getting their way.

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Histrionic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning by early adulthood and
present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
• is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention;
• interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative
• displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions;
• consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self;
• has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail;
• shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion;
• is suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances;
• considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.

Histrionics are the drama queens of the world. I am sure you can think of a few famous actors (especially
those who show up in the so-called reality shows) who could be histrionic!

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy,
beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the
• has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be
recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
• is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;
• believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate
with, other special or high-status people (or institutions);
• requires excessive admiration;
• has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or
automatic compliance with his or her expectations;
• is interpersonally exploitive, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends;
• lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others;
• is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her;
• shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Narcissists seem to be Histrionics with more self confidence, and I personally believe they are just variations
of a single disorder - call it "histrionic-narcissist disorder." Their exploitative side does bring to mind a
milder version of the antisocial personality disorder.

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Avoidant Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation,
beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the
• avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of
criticism, disapproval, or rejection;
• is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked;
• shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed;
• is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations;
• is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy;
• views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;
• is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may
prove embarrassing.

These are the classic "low self esteem" people psychologists so often refer to. Shy and awkward, they may
become increasingly withdrawn so as to look more like the schizoid personality. But notice the difference:
The schizoid doesn't want relations with others. The avoidant would really like friends, but is too afraid of
rejection to try. It is quite difficult to distinguish avoidant personality disorder from social anxiety or even
simple shyness. In some cultures, most women and many men behave this way!

Dependent Personality Disorder

A pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears
of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or
more) of the following:
• has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance
from others;
• needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life;
• has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval;
• has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-
confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy);
• goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others to the point of volunteering
to do things that are unpleasant;
• feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for
himself or herself;
• urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends;
• is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself.

You could see the dependent personality as an avoidant personality with a little more gumption - just enough
to get other people to help him or her. Again, it is my opinion that dependent and avoidant are variations of a
single disorder - perhaps "dependent-avoidant disorder."

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One of the classic situations where we find dependent personalities is in marriages where one partner allows
the other to completely dominate the relationship. Sadly, many people in abusive relationships get into them
because of their desperation for someone to take over their lives for them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control,
at the expense or flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety
of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
• is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major
point of the activity is lost;
• shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project
because his or her own overly strict standards are not met);
• is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships
(not accounted for by obvious economic necessity);
• is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not
accounted for by cultural or religious identification);
• is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value;
• is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way or
doing things;
• adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be
hoarded for future catastrophes;
• shows rigidity and stubbornness.

Most often, when we say some acquaintance is obsessive-compulsive, we don't mean they have OCD. We
mean they have the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. These are the perfectionists among us - not
the ones who simply want to do their best, but the ones who panic when things aren't perfect. This kind of
perfectionism can work in one's favor: Many professors have at least a degree of obsessive-compulsiveness,
and it seems to be a requirement for medical degrees! In some cultures (for example, in Asia), this kind of
behavior is expected of everyone! Unfortunately, obsessive-compulsives often exhaust themselves. Some
also exhaust everyone around them, such as in the case of office dictators who believe everyone else must
adhere to their impossible standards.

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Miscellaneous Disorders

Somatoform Disorders

Somatoform disorders are characterized by a concern with the body. There are several variations:
People with somatization disorder have a history of complaints concerning their physical health, yet show
little or no signs of actually having the problems they think they have. It is a rare disorder and affects .2 to
2% of women and less than .2% of men. These people seem to have a very broad variety of problems,
including pain in different parts of the body, gastrointestinal problems, sexual and menstrual symptoms and
neurological problems. It has been a concern, however, that this diagnosis has been misused in the past,
especially in regards to women who may very well have had real medical conditions beyond the abilities of
their doctors to diagnose!
Conversion disorder was formerly known as hysteria, and became famous as the disorder that inspired
Sigmund Freud to develop psychoanalysis. It is similar to somatization, but is more focused on neurological
problems such as paralysis of limbs, muscle weakness, balance problems, inability to speak, loss of sense of
touch, deafness, vision problems, even blindness, and yet involve no underlying neurological problems! It is
very rare, but is considerably more common in women. It is often seen in context of accidents or military
activity, and is more common among rural and other people who are medically naive. As Freud and other
early psychiatrists noted, the symptoms disappear with hypnosis – but other symptoms usually arise to fill in
the gap.
People with pain disorder have a history of complaints specifically concerning pain. These people are not
lying, and are not malingering – they really feel pain, even though the cause is not found. It is relatively
common, but many are concerned with using this diagnosis: There have been real medical problems
discovered that had previously been "dismissed" as psychological, such as fibromyalgia.
People with hypochondriasis are preoccupied with fears of having or getting a serious disease. Even after
being told that they do not have the disease they are concerned about, they continue to worry. They often
exaggerate minor abnormalities, go from doctor to doctor, and ask for repeated examinations and medical
tests. A guess at prevalence of hypochondriacs is that it involves 4 to 9% of the population.

Dissociative disorders

In dissociative disorders, one aspect of a person’s psychological makeup is separated (dissociated) from
others. A commonality among most people diagnosed with these disorders (as well as many with the
previous set) is their susceptibility to hypnosis and suggestibility in general.
Dissocative amnesia is the "inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or
stressful nature," (DSM IV) but more than what we would characterize as fogetfulness. It is not due, of
course, to a physical trauma, drug use, or a medical condition.
It has been increasingly common for people to report having forgotten childhood traumas, especially sexual
abuse, while in the care of certain therapists. It is thought that the "recovered memories" that these patients
report are actually implanted in the minds of these very suggestable people by their over-enthusiastic
therapists. It is still not known whether all recovered memories should be suspect or not, although memory
research suggests that trauma is more typically remembered well, not poorly.

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Fugue is amnesia accompanied by sudden travel away from a person’s usual haunts. Time away can range
from a few hours to months. When these people return to normal, they often don’t remember what happened
while they were away. A few adopt a new identity while "on the road."
Dissociative identity disorder – formerly known as multiple personality – involves someone developing
two or more seperate "identities" that take over a person’s behavior from time to time, as well as the person’s
inability to recall important personal information.
One of the first cases to reach the public was the story of Eve White. Eve White (a pseudonym, of course),
was a mild mannered woman with a domineering husband. She found herself waking up with garish makeup,
hangovers, and other signs that she had been out carousing during the night. This alternate personality that
took over occasionally was called Eve Black. Eventually, the two personalities were brought together, and
Eve's story was made into a movie with Joanne Woodward called "The Three Faces of Eve." A second
movie was much more popular: "Sybil." This was the true story of a woman who had been severely abused
by her schizophrenic mother, and developed (supposedly) 26 personalities.
People with multiple personalities are usually easily hypnotized, making it likely that this disorder may be
caused or at least aggravated by therapists, intentionally or unintentionally, much like recovered memories. It
is looked upon with skepticism by many psychologists.
Depersonalization is the "persistent or recurrent feeling of being detached from one’s mental processes or
body that is accompanied by intact reality testing." (DSM IV) Often the world seems odd as well, which is
called derealization. Physical objects may seem distorted and other people may seem mechanical. Again,
these people may be particularly easy to hypnotize, and the feeling can be induced even in normal people
under hypnosis. Half of all adults may have experienced a brief episode of depersonalization or derealization
in their lifetime. It is common under the influence of hallucinaogens like LSD.

Impulse-control disorders

Impulse-control disorders are very much what they sound like: Disorders where the person is unable to
restrain themselves from a behavior that either society at large or they themselves disapprove of.
Intermittent explosive disorder involves occasional episodes of uncontrolled aggression. In southeastern
Asian countries, there is a similar disorder called "amok."
Kleptomania is the "recurrent failure to resist impulses to steal objects not needed for personal use or
monetary value." (DSM IV) The person knows it is wrong, fears being caught, and feels guilty about it, but
can’t seem to resist the impulse. It is quite rare, but much more common among women.
Pyromania is "a pattern of fire setting for pleasure, gratification, or relief of tension." (DSM IV) It usually
begins in adolescents. It is rare but much more common among men. The pyromaniac doesn’t seem to care
about the damage or danger, or may even enjoy it.
Pathological gambling is "recurrent and persistent maladaptive gambling behavior." (DSM IV) A lot of
distorted thinking goes with it – superstition, overconfidence, denial. Pathological gamblers tend to be
people with a lot of energy who are easily bored. The urge to gamble increases when they are under stress. It
may involve 1 to 3% of the population, and two thirds are men.
Trichotillomania is the "recurrent pulling out of one’s hair for pleasure, gratification, or relief of tension
that results in noticeable hair loss." (DSM IV) It is not restricted to hair on head, and may even involve
pulling out eyelashes. Trichotillomania is often associated with stress, but sometimes occurs while the person
is relaxed as well. It usually starts in childhood or adolescence. 1 to 2% of college students report having had
trichotillomania at some time.

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Psychotherapy is the generic term for any approach or set of techniques that attempts to help people who
are suffering from a psychological disorder. It includes both the various "talk therapies" and the more
physiological approaches, including the use of psychoactive medicines.
The talk therapies were essentially invented by Sigmund Freud, or, perhaps a little more historically
honestly, by a woman called Anna O. Her real name was Bertha Pappenheim, and she was a patient of
Freud's friend and colleague, Joseph Breuer.
Anna O. was Joseph Breuer's patient from 1880 through 1882. Twenty one years old, Anna spent most of her
time nursing her ailing father. She developed a bad cough that proved to have no physical basis. She
developed some speech difficulties, then became mute, and then began speaking only in English, rather than
her usual German.
When her father died, she began to refuse food and developed an unusual set of problems. She lost the
feeling in her hands and feet, developed some paralysis, and began to have involuntary spasms. She also had
visual hallucinations and tunnel vision. But when specialists were consulted, no physical causes for these
problems could be found.
If all this weren't enough, she had fairy-tale fantasies, dramatic mood swings, and made several suicide
attempts. Breuer's diagnosis was that she was suffering from what was then called hysteria (now called
conversion disorder), which meant she had symptoms that appeared to be physical, but were not.
In the evenings, Anna would sink into states of what Breuer called "spontaneous hypnosis," or what Anna
herself called "clouds." Breuer found that, during these trancelike states, she could explain her daytime
fantasies and other experiences, and she felt better afterwards. Anna called these episodes "chimney
sweeping" and "the talking cure."
Sometimes during "chimney sweeping," some emotional event was recalled that gave meaning to some
particular symptom. The first example came soon after she had refused to drink for a while: She recalled
seeing a woman drink from a glass that a dog had just drunk from. While recalling this, she experienced
strong feelings of disgust... and then had a drink of water! In other words, her symptom – an avoidance of
water – disappeared as soon as she remembered its root event, and experienced the strong emotion that
would be appropriate to that event. Breuer called this catharsis, from the Greek word for cleansing.
Eleven years later, Breuer and Freud wrote a book on hysteria. In it they explained their theory: Every
hysteria is the result of a traumatic experience, one that cannot be integrated into the person's understanding
of the world. The emotions appropriate to the trauma are not expressed in any direct fashion, but do not
simply evaporate: They express themselves in behaviors that in a weak, vague way offer a response to the
trauma. These symptoms are, in other words, meaningful. When the client can be made aware of the
meanings of his or her symptoms, whether through hypnosis or by simply talking, then the unexpressed
emotions are released and so no longer need to express themselves as symptoms.
In this way, Anna got rid of symptom after symptom. But it must be noted that she needed Breuer to do this:
Whenever she was in one of her hypnotic states, she had to feel his hands to make sure it was him before
talking! And sadly, new problems continued to arise.
Anna was later sent to a Sanatorium in Switzerland, where she slowly improved. Later, she became a well-
respected and active figure – the first social worker in Germany – under her true name, Bertha Pappenheim.
She died in 1936. She will be remembered, not only for her own accomplishments, but as the inspiration for
the most influential personality theory we have ever had.

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Freudian Therapy

Sigmund Freud's system of therapy, called psychoanalysis, has become the basic model for most therapies
since. There are several key features:

1. A comfortable physical environment. Freud felt that it was important to make the patient
comfortable. He had them lay down on a soft couch, and provided pillows and comforters to wrap
themselves in, if they should feel the need. He put tapestries up on his walls to deaden the sounds of
downtown Vienna. He would pull the drapes closed and provide soft lighting. His feeling was that,
by providing a situation similar to sleep, he would be giving his patients a chance to relax and get in
touch with their deeper unconscious mind.
2. An accepting social environment. Even more important was to make the patient feel at ease
socially. They were permitted to express their emotions freely, and Freud made it clear to his
patients that he was not there to judge them or scold them, no matter how odd their behaviors or
thoughts might appear. This is in marked contrast to most people's day to day life, in which we are
afraid to mention our true feelings or odd thoughts, and try to behave in a socially acceptable
fashion. It is sometimes even difficult to talk to friends or family – even they may judge us, and that
is particularly hard to take!
3. Free association. Free association is the central "technique" of psychoanalysis. It is just a matter of
the patient talking about whatever comes to mind. It's another way of getting a person to relax: Just
talking about whatever you want makes you comfortable, and Freud believed that you would
eventually move towards the things that trouble you the most. If you can imagine a therapist who
pushes you to face things you would rather not face, you can see how many people would begin to
back off, get angry, and probably leave the therapist! Unfortunately, for this reason, many forms of
therapy are not exactly "efficient" and can take many months, even years. Contrary to popular belief,
though, Freud felt that therapy should only last a month or two.
4. Resistance. The therapist, in the meantime, looks for clues to the patient's problems in their
conversations. One of these clues is resistance. When you do get close to some difficult area, you
might begin to become uncomfortable. You might change the topic suddenly, or forget what you
were talking about. You might even begin coming in late, or missing an appointment altogether! In a
way, this is a good sign: You are getting close to the problem.
5. Slips of the tongue. A slip of the tongue is technically called a parapraxis, and is commonly called a
Freudian slip. Sometimes, we say things we didn't intend to say, and a little bit of what we are
thinking about comes out by accident. Freud considered these clues very significant, but nowadays,
we think that most slips are just accidents and little more. But a colleague of mine once referred to
the cervix when he meant to say cortex, and may well have had an attractive student in mind when
he made the slip, so....
6. Dream interpretation. Freud is, of course, famous for his views on dream interpretation. Basically,
he believed that when we dream, our defenses are down, and things that we are deeply concerned
about rise to the surface. You may have noticed that things happen in your dreams that you wouldn't
even consider in the daytime, such as vicious acts of aggression, uncharacteristic sexual adventures,
and horrible humiliations.
But people who are truly repressed may, even in their dreams, hide behind symbols rather than face
such things directly. Freud's patients often had problems involving sexually repression – a
commonplace thing in his very conservative times – and would dream about things that only hinted
at their true desires. Things like snakes and swan necks might symbolize the penis, entering into a
cave might represent the sex act, a burning fire might be sexual desire, and a floor collapsing

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underneath you might really refer to orgasm. Psychologists today don't consider dreams quite as
important as Freud did, and are more likely to ask the patient what he or she thinks the dream means
than try to interpret it for them. But dreams will always be an interesting part of life and therapy!
7. Transference. Transference is when the patient begins to feel feelings towards the therapist. It can
be anger; it can be affection; it can even be sexual desire. Freud believed that these feelings were
actually being transferred from their true object – some important person in the patient's life – onto
the therapist. Transference is therefore an important clue. Freud also believed that transference was
necessary to progress in therapy, in that it takes what is going on in the patient's unconscious and
brings it out into the real world. It is only a matter of time until the patient comes to realize what
those feelings truly represent.
Most therapists today don't make a very big deal about transference. Mind you, it happens a lot, but
it makes pretty simple sense: Sometimes you get frustrated at your therapist, who, after all,
represents your failures at life. Sometimes you begin to feel real affection (even a bit of physical
attraction) to this person who is so patient and understanding, especially while you are so confused
and miserable. One thing should be clear, though: Nearly everyone in psychology considers it a
major breech of ethics for a therapist to take advantage of a patient who has these feelings. If your
therapist makes sexual advances, it is time to get another therapist.
8. Catharsis. Catharsis is an outpouring of "pent-up" emotions. When the client makes a breakthrough,
they may become very emotional – whether it be ranting and raving and storming around the office,
or the much more common outburst of crying. Freud considered this a very good sign indeed. He
thought of our problems as being like an infection that has swollen way out of proportion, and that
catharsis was like draining an infection to relieve the pain.
9. Insight. Ultimately, a patient will achieve insight into their problems. They will, as Freud put it,
"make the unconscious conscious." This is the goal of therapy. Once a person can see the original
trauma face-to-face, recognize it for what it is, come to understand it as an adult, and lay it back to
rest, their symptoms should disappear, and they are on the road to recovery.

Although most psychologists today no longer see it as so important to find out what originally started your
psychological problems – or even that psychological problems necessarily have traumatic origins – the idea
of insight is a part of most approaches to therapy. Sometimes we refer to therapy as a kind of education,
where you learn about how you as an individual actually work. Like you need to know how a car works
before you can fix it, you need to know how you work before you can start to deal with your problems in a
rational fashion, instead of suffering with a lot of useless and painful symptoms that get you nowhere.
Next, I would like to introduce you to three examples of modern therapy that have been demonstrated to be
very effective and have been enormously influential. They were developed by psychologists who came from
very different theoretical orientation, and yet are in no way mutually exclusive. Many modern therapists use
all three in their work.

Carl Rogers' Client Centered Therapy

Carl Rogers is one of the most influential theorists, therapists, and researchers in psychology. His approach
to therapy involves allowing the patient, who he prefers to call the client, to be in control of their own
therapy. Originally, he called it non-directive therapy, because he believed that the therapist should back off
from trying to actively help the client. Instead, the therapist should be a caring helper who listens.
Listening is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have, but few actually do. Rogers introduced a

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"technique" known as reflection: The therapist listens to the client and "reflects" back significant thoughts
and feelings by saying back to the client what he heard them say. Some therapists do this in a mechanical
fashion, which makes them sound like parrots with a college degree, but that is not what Rogers intended. It
should be a genuine communication of understanding and concern. Today, reflection is just a part of
therapist training called active listening.
Rogers believed that the job of the therapist is not so much to do this or that, but to be a certain way for the
client. He talks about three qualities that the therapist should exhibit during therapy sessions:
1. He or she should be congruent. Basically, this comes down to being honest, not phony. Rogers was
particularly concerned that the therapist should be honest in regards to their feelings. He felt that
clients can always tell when you are pretending, so in order to engender trust in the therapeutic
relationship, congruence is a must.
2. He or she should be empathic. The therapist must be able to identify with the client, understand
them not so much as a psychologist but as a person who has also seen their share of troubles.
Therapist should be able to look into the client's eyes and see himself. Active listening is one way
the therapist can show that he or she is truly trying to understand the client.
3. He or she should show the client unconditional positive regard. This doesn't mean that the therapist
has to love the client, or even like them. It means he or she should respect them as a human being,
and not judge them. This can be the most challenging thing for a therapist to do, but Rogers believed
that only by feeling respected could a client get better.

Albert Ellis's Rational-Emotive Therapy

Elllis is a very different person from Rogers. While Rogers is a quiet, laid-back sort of therapist, Ellis is
more dynamic and is as likely to argue with his clients as sympathize with them.
Basically, Ellis believes that a person's problems come from their mistaken beliefs about the world, others,
and themselves. Your beliefs lead you to see things, feel things, and do things in a certain way, and if those
beliefs are wrong, so will be your perceptions, your emotions, and your behaviors. Here are the twelve most
common mistaken beliefs:
1. I must be loved.
2. Some acts are unredeemably wicked, and some people are damned.
3. It is absolutely horrible when things don't go right.
4. All my suffering comes from outside, from others.
5. I should get upset at problems and obsess about them.
6. I should avoid problems.
7. I need someone or something stronger to lean on.
8. I should be really competent at all things, because it is bad to be imperfect.
9. Once something bad happens, it will affect me forever.
10. I must have control over everything.
11. I can only be happy by avoiding all action.
12. I have no control over my emotions.
He simplifies the list a bit with three beliefs, about the world, others, and ourselves:
1. The world must give me happiness, or I will die.
2. People must treat me right, or they are rotten.
3. I must be completely competent, or I'm worthless.

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His way of dealing with these mistaken beliefs is pretty straight forward: He argues with his clients! He asks
them why they have this belief, what kind of evidence they have that they are true – and what kind of
evidence they might also have that they are not true! He asks them, what's the worst that can happen if you
give up your particular beliefs – and what is the best that can happen!
Although RET sounds very different from Rogers' therapy, it has a lot of commonalities as well. Ellis, like
Rogers, strongly believes that all people should develop unconditional self-regard and should stop passing
judgements on themselves. Many therapists that combine aspects of Rogers' and Ellis' begin with Rogers'
quiet listening approach, and later, when therapist and client have developed trust and a real rapport, will
start using Ellis' more aggressive approach.

Joseph Wolpe's Systematic Desensitization

Joseph Wolpe was a behavioral psychologist in South Africa who was actually studying cats more than
dealing with clients. Cats, like people, can get quite anxious. But Wolpe noticed that there were several
things that cats could do that seemed to interfere with their anxiety. They could calm themselves, for
example, by grooming themselves. Or they could eat. Eating and being nervous seemed to be incompatible.
You may have noticed this yourself: Some of us, when we are nervous, like to eat (maybe a quart of Rocky
Road Ice Cream, for example). We feel better, at least for a while. Others, when they are nervous, can't eat,
because their anxiety interferes with their digestion. It's one or the other!
Wolpe reasoned that the most obvious thing that is incompatible with anxiety is to be physically relaxed. So
what if we taught people how to relax all their muscles – they couldn't be anxious then, could they?
Systematic desensitization works like this: On your first session with therapist, he or she instructs you on
how to physically relax: You are asked to tighten a muscle group such as your stomach muscles for several
seconds, and then let go, and to pay close attention to how both those conditions feel – tense and relaxed.
You do this for all the major muscle groups in your body. With the help of a chart, you will practice this
routine everyday for a week.
[I went through systematic desensitization many years ago. See the exercises that were given to me
to practice:]
At that same session, you also develop an anxiety hierarchy. This consists of ten scenarios that cause you to
get anxious, each one worse than the one before. For example, someone with a spider phobia may have as
their first scenario seeing a small spider at some distance outdoors. Their last scenario may involve
something like having a very large hairy spider crawling on your face.
After you have practiced relaxing for a week, you come back to the therapist. He or she will ask you to get as
relaxed as possible, and then introduce the first scenario for you to imagine. You will try to get as good an
image of the scenario as you can, all the while paying attention to your muscles to make sure they stay
relaxed. If you stay relaxed, the therapist will move to the next scenario. There will be a predetermined
signal, such as raising your finger, to tell the therapist that you are having trouble staying relaxed, at which
time he or she will back off from the troublesome scenario and let you get back to relaxing your muscles.
Usually in that session, or at least in the second attempt, you will be able to imagine even your worst
scenario and still manage to stay relaxed. Does it make any difference when you get outside in the real world
and actually see, say, a nice fat spider? Yes, in nearly all cases the technique generalizes to the real world! It
is one of the best techniques for dealing with anxiety problems we have.
There are, of course, many other approaches to therapy that we don't have the time to discuss. Some are
respected and effective – others are just plain wacky. One thing to keep in mind if you should ever seek

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therapy for yourself or someone close to you: Do not be afraid to ask questions about which approach a
therapist uses or to check with people you trust or appropriate agencies about a therapist's qualifications.
Psychological therapy is still more of an art than most medical therapies, and the buyer must beware!

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Drug and Other Medical Therapies

Drug therapy, also called pharmacotherapy, has become the fastest moving part of psychotherapy, with
new developments occuring every year. Our knowledge of the chemistry of the nervous system is developing
rapidly, and our knowledge of our genetic makeup even faster, and it is the hope of every psychologist that
someday every psychological problem that has physiological roots will have a simple remedy in the form of
a pill.
It is, of course, also understood that psychological problems have other roots as well, and that a pill won't
solve all our problems. We will always need ways of teaching people to deal with stress more effectively and
encouraging them to make the best of life. We also need a better understanding of the causes of stress and
ways of modifying the world beyond the individual! These things move a bit more slowly.
We will also take a look at two more controversial therapies: Electroconvulsive therapy and the lobotomy.
The first seems to have a promising future; the second is already a historical relic.

Antianxiety drugs

Antianxiety drugs, also called anxiolytics, include such famous name brands as Valium and Librium. These
drugs work by blocking GABA receptor sites, toning down central nervous system activity a bit like alcohol
does. Although they help you to sleep, they do not cause the excessive sleepiness or grogginess like alcohol
They are a good temporary approach to anxiety problems: By calming a person, they permit other therapy
time to have its effects. But these drugs do encourage psychological dependence very quickly (they are very
pleasant!) and anxiety often returns just as quickly when the patient stops taking them.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder has recently been successfully treated using the antidepressant drugs called
SSRIs, described below. These may also help people suffering from panic attacks.

Antidepressant drugs

Antidepressants have make a great deal of progress in the last twenty years or so. The best known is the
original one, Prozac (fluoxetine). Prozac is a member of a family of drugs called the SSRIs, which stands
for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
The name actually describes how they work: The drug prevents axon endings of seratonin neurons from
completely "vacuuming up" excess seratonin from the synapse. Some seratonin always remains, and so it is
easier for that neuron to stimulate the next neuron. It facilitates communications, you might say. Some of the
drugs also do the same for norepinephrine. It is interesting to note that cocaine uses the same mechanism,
only for dopamine.
For some people they give complete relief, for others none at all, but for most, the antidepressants "take the
edge off" of depression. Again, this permits other therapy time to have effect. They have a positive effect in
about 70% of people with mild depression (Thase & Howland, 1995), but a much lower 20 to 40%
effectiveness rate for people with psychotic depression (Spiker, 1985). But unlike the anxiolytics above,

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SSRIs are often prescribed for long periods of time, even for life. Their side effects are, for most people,
minimal. The older antidepressants – called tricyclics and MAOIs – had quite a few.
Another drug has ben found to be especially useful for people with bipolar disorder (manic-depression):
Lithium, which is a light metal, seems to be a mood leveler, evening out people who suffer from highs and
lows. It is also used to increase the effectiveness of antidepressants in people who don't respond well.

Antipsychotic drugs

The best known antipsychotic drugs are the old drug chorpromazine and the newer drug clozapine. They
both work by blocking dopamine receptors, thereby reducing a person's response to "irrelevant" stimuli, such
as those that cause hallucinations and paranoia. The newer drugs such as clozapine also help a bit with
various forms of withdrawal, as well as with anxiety and depression.
The older drugs in particular had a lot of side effects, making people sluggish and dopey, and giving them
Parkinson's-like tremors. Perhaps you recall that people with Parkinson's disease seem not to develop
schizophrenia, probably because they involve opposite neurochemical circumstances.
The antipsychotic drugs, even the newer ones, are "heavy" drugs, and have to be used with care. However,
they have helped many people lead fairly normal lives, where before they would have been condemned to
permanent institutionalization. Studies show that about 70% of patients improve with antipsychotic drugs, as
compared with only 25% who were given a placebo (Kane, 1989; Kane and Marder, 1993).

Electroconvulsive therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is what some people call shock therapy. It was invented in the 1930's by a
team of Italian doctors, Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini. Originally, it was done with the patient conscious and
was rightfully considered a terrifying procedure.
Today, a lot has changed. Basically, it involves putting the patient under general anesthesia, providing them
with a muscle relaxant so they won't have spasms that could hurt them, hooking up two electrodes to the
temples or one temple and the forehead, and then applying 70 to 150 volts of electricity to the brain for a
fraction of a second. Although this induces what are called grand mal seizures, the patient doesn't feel a thing
and suffers no brain damage. The patient wakes up 15 minutes later with no memory of the ECT or of a few
hours before the treatment. This procedure is done about three times a week, for three to 15 treatments. And,
although no one really knows why, depression is significantly relieved for the majority of patients.
It is, of course, still not something we all line up for: Electroconvulsive therapy is only used for people with
severe depression for whom other therapies, including drugs, have little or no effect. It is also used, with
somewhat less effectiveness, for some forms of schizophrenia. Although the APA and other organizations
view it as a humane and valuable therapy, there are many people who disagree, some very strongly.

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The infamous lobotomy was invented by Antonio Egaz Moniz of the University of Lisbon Medical School.
He found that cutting the nerves that run from the frontal cortex to the thalamus in psychotic patients who
suffered from repetitive thoughts "short-circuited" the problem. Together with his colleague Almeida Lima,
he devised a technique involving drilling two small holes on either side of the forehead, inserting a special
surgical knife, and severing the prefrontal cortex from the rest of the brain.
Some of his patients became calmer, some did not. Moniz advised extreme caution in using lobotomy, and
felt it should only be used in extreme cases where everything else had been tried. He was awarded the Nobel
Prize for his work on lobotomy in 1949. He retired early after a former patient paralyzed him by shooting
him in the back.
In 1936, Walter Freeman, an American physician, began performing lobotomies He was so satisfied with the
results that he went on to do many thousands more,. He is famous for inventing what was called ice pick
lobotomy: He found he could insert an ice pick-like instrument above each eye of a patient with only local
anesthetic, drive it through the thin bone with a light tap of a mallet, swish the pick back and forth like a
windshield wiper and – voilà – a formerly difficult patient is now a passive zombie.
Between 1939 and 1951, over 18,000 lobotomies were performed in the US, and many more in other
countries except, curiously, the old USSR, where it was banned back in the 1940s on moral grounds. It was
often used on convicts, and in Japan it was recommended for use on "difficult" children. Thankfully, all that
is really left of the lobotomy is sophisticated MRI-guided surgery used for people suffering from severe

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Index to the first part of General Psychology:


The Neuron
The Action Potential
The Central Nervous System
Images of the Brain
The Emotional Nervous System
The Basal Ganglia
The Cerebrum
The Lobes
Qualitative Methods
Descriptive Statistics
Sensation and Perception
The Senses
Emotion and Motivation
Hunger and Eating Disorders
Sexual Orientation
Learning and Memory

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