Psychology for the MRCPsych

Dr Gary Robinson
Clinical Psychologist and Group Analyst
Specialist Psychotherapy Service - TEWV NHS Trust
Senior Academic Tutor – Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Newcastle University
 Learning
o Habituation
o Classical conditioning
o Operant conditioning
o Cognitive models
o Observational learning
 Memory
 Personality
o Traits/type approach
o Personal construct theory
o Psychoanalytic theory
o Humanistic approach
 Emotion
o James-Lange Theory
o Cannon-Bard Theory
o Schachter-Singer “Two-Factor” Theory
o Lazarus Cognitive Appraisal
“Learning theories are an exam favourite. Easy marks
can be gained here by revising some common
themes, as outlined below”
(Jaward, 2013; page 30)
 The
association of events which allows for an
understanding of what is likely to follow in any
given situation, has obvious survival value.
 Habituation
is the simplest form of all learning.
 The
decline in the tendency to respond to stimuli
that have become familiar die to repeated
sudden noise usually startles us . But over the
time the startle will be diminished.
 Pavlov
 Unconditional
reflexes – inborn and innate (e.g.
food in the mouth unconditionally elicits salivation).
 Conditioned
Reflexes – are acquired.
Before Training
o US (food in mouth)
UR (salivation)
o CS (e.g. Tone)
No relevant response
o CS (tone)
US (food in mouth)
After Training (that is, conditioning)
o CS (tone)
CR (salivation)
 To
guarantee the salivatory response, the
experimenter must present the food (conditioned
stimulus) within 0.5 seconds of the tuning fork
(conditioned stimulus) being struck.
 The
closer together intone the two stimuli are
paired the more likely it is that the subject is able
to make an association between the two and
produce the desired response.
 Acquisition
– when the subject is successfully able
to make associations between the conditioned and
unconditioned stimuli they are said to have
achieved acquisition.
 Extinction
– Pavlov showed that a conditioned
reaction can be undone and weakened, ie the food
is no longer presented with the bell.
 Spontaneous
recovery – this refers top the process
whereby presentation of the conditioned stimulus
after extinction will suddenly elicit a previous
learned response, ie salivation.
 Second
order conditioning – once the CS-US
relation is solidly established, the CS can serve to
condition yet further stimuli.
 Generalisation
– animals do respond to stimuli
other than the original CS, as long as they are
sufficiently similar.
 In
the context of MRCPsych, a frequently used
example is that of phobias.
 Skinner
 Operants
– behaviours that operate on the
environment to bring about some change that
leads to reward.
 Law
of effect (Thorndike) – the tendency to omit
these operants is strengthened or weakened by its
 E.L.
Thorndike (1898)
o Investigating animal intelligence
o Puzzle Box
Thorndike found cat’s able to escape in less time
as trials increased
The Law of Effect
‘Of several responses made to the same
situation, those which are accompanied or closely
followed by a state of satisfaction to the animal
will, other things being equal, be more firmly
connected with the situation, so that, when it
recurs, they will be more likely to recur.’ (Thorndike,
B.F.Skinner (1938)
 Operant: A behaviour
that operates on the
environment to being
about some change that
leads to a reward
 Differs from Classical
Conditioning -what is
more important is what
happens after the behaviour rather than before.
Reinforcement – defined as a consequence which
results in the subject increasing their behaviour.
In positive reinforcement the response produces an
appetitive stimulus (a stimulus for which the animal so
to speak “has an appetite”). A rat pressing a lever to
get food.
In negative reinforcement the response eliminates or
prevents an aversive stimulus – a rat pressing a lever
to avoid a shock.
 Primary
reinforcers are unconditioned and natural
reinforcers (appear to equate to basic needs for
survival and reproduction)
o Food, shelter, water, sex
 Secondary
(conditioned) reinforcers acquire their
reinforcing properties through association with
primary reinforcers (learnt through classical
o Money, clothes, cars.
 Continuous
reinforcement – 1:1 contiguity of
behaviour and reinforcement, results in very quick
learning but also rapid extinction.
 Intermittent
reinforcement - Ratio schedules
o Fixed ratio (FR2, FR20) – learning is slower but
more robust
o Variable ratio (VR) – VR 50, learning is slowest
but with the slowest extinction rate (e.g. Slot
machines in a casino)
 Interval
o Fixed
interval schedule (FI) – animal is
reinforced for the first response performed after
a certain interval has passed following the last
reinforcement. FI 2, after reinforcement
response is low but speeds up as the end of the
interval approaches.
Interval Schedules
o Variable interval schedule (VI) – interval varies
irregularly around some average period, say 4
minutes (VI 4)
o VI have been shown to produce more regular
and more frequent responding than FI
 Chaining
– a complex behaviour may be broken
into a sequence of steps, with each step being
learned separately – the entire chain of individual
steps is then learned by bringing the steps together
(either forward or backwards.
 Shaping
– similar to chaining but used when the
desired behaviour is rare or absent and therefore
unlikely to occur spontaneously.
 Cueing
– a cue represents the object or stimulus
that elicits the conditioned behaviour in operant
 In
the case of treatment of phobias the same cue
(ie the phobias object may be used to illicit an
incompatible behaviour, such as relaxation).
 Punishment
 Positive
punishment - here a response (or
undesired behaviour) is followed by an aversive
stimulus, which will then tend to suppress the
response on subsequent occasions.
 Negative
punishment – remove a desired stimulus
after an undesired behaviour.
 Escape
– the response stops some aversive event
that has already begun – a rat learns to press a
lever to get rid of an electric shock.
 Avoidance
– the subject can forestall the aversive
event altogether – a dog learns to jump over a
hurdle in a shuttle box when it hears a tone that
signals impending shock.
 An
enormous amount of ordinary human activity
involves avoidance.
 Most
 But
of this is perfectively useful and adaptive.
some avoidance
 Behavioural
techniques – exposure and response
 Counter-conditioning;
reciprocal inhibition –
weakens the bond between stimuli and anxiety
response – systematic desensitisation (Wolpe) –
produce a hierarchy of fears and to pair them with
positive responses.
 Flooding – prolonged exposure to feared stimulus
allowing fear to extinguish, use in the treatment of
 Implosion
– similar to flooding but rather than
having the phobia present (in vitro) it is imagined
(in vivo).
 Seligman
 Conducted
an experiment on dogs and found that if
dogs are placed in a situation in which they cannot
avoid receiving electric shocks, they fail to learn to
escape when placed in a situation in which the
electric shocks CAN be avoided.
 According
to Seligman’s learned helplessness
theory, depression occurs when a person learns
that their attempts to escape negative situations
make no difference.
 As
a consequence they become passive and will
endure aversive stimuli or environments even when
escape is possible. Seligman based his theory on
research using dogs.
 Cognitive
theorists, such as Tolman, proposed that
what really matters when animals and humans
learn is not the change in behaviour as such, but
the acquisition of new knowledge or cognitions.
 Examples
include explicit transmission of facts
through teaching, and problem solving or insight
 Social
learning theorists – Bandura and Mischel.
 Emphasise the role of situational factors in
determining behaviour and learning.
 The child observes another person who serves as a
model and then proceeds to imitate what the
model does, thus learning how to do something he
didn't know before.
 Modelling – Bobo doll study.
 Optimal conditions for learning involve active
participation in modelled behaviour rather than
passive observation.
processes involved in the formations and
subsequent access of memories.
o Encoding – sensory input which leads to
formation of the initial memory trace.
o Storage – retention of the memory.
o Retrieval – ability to access memory from
Sensory memory – visual memory lasts for 0.5
seconds, auditory memory lasts for 2 seconds.
Short-term memory – without the use of aidesmemories lasts 15-30 seconds. Capacity of 7 +/2 distinct items. Can be increased by chunking.
Long-term memory has unlimited capacity.
 Declarative
(explicit) memory.
o Semantic memory - refers to general knowledge
o Episodic memory – memories related to the self.
• Flashbulb memory – where individuals are able
to specifically recall what they were doing at
times of significant events.
 Procedural
(non-declarative) memory.
o Memory for knowing how to perform a particular
 Several
theories exist about how we forget
previously learned information.
 Interference
with any of the 3 processes involved in
memory formation can result in forgetting.
 Encoding,
storage, retrieval.
 Decay
(disuse) theory
• Suggests without continued use or rehearsal,
memories fade over time.
Displacement theory
• Old material is replaced by new material. New
material displaces previously learnt items.
Failure of Retrieval – difficult to recall items due to
lack of cues.
Interference theory
o Proactive interference – describes difficulty in
learning new information due to the presence of
older material.
o Retroactive interference – describes difficulty in
recalling old material due to learning of new
 Anterograde
o Difficulty in forming new memories.
o Hence information cannot be moved from short-
term to long-term memory.
o Damage to hippocampus typically presents with
 Retrograde
o Difficulty in recalling older memoires.
o Hence information cannot be moved from long-
term to short-term memory.
o Head trauma typically presents with this pattern
of amnesia with failure to recall memories prior
to the injury.
 Korsakoff’s
o Severe anterograde and retrograde amnesia.
o Working
memory and implicit (procedural)
memory spared.
o Associated with chronic alcohol abuse.
 Dissociative
o Associated period of wandering.
o Sudden loss of episodic memory and personal
o Transient with recovery of memory.
 Nomothetic
(or nomological) theory deals with
abstract generalisations and universal concepts.
 Tries
to find patterns of behaviour across
individuals that allow the personalities of all
individuals to be classified according to a single
 Trait
and type theories.
 Oldest
form of personality theory.
 Hippocrates's
4 fundamental temperaments –
sanguine, choleric, melancholy and phlegmatic.
 Oldest
form of personality theory.
 Hippocrates's
o sanguine
o choleric,
o melancholy
o phlegmatic
4 fundamental temperaments –
 Type
A personality – highly competitive and harddriving, always in a hurry, and are irritable,
impatient and hostile.
 Type
B personality – are less hurried and
competitive and more easy going and more friendly
than Type A.
 Limitations
– very small individual variation.
 The
Big Five
o Agreeableness,
o Conscientiousness,
o Neuroticism,
o Extraversion,
o Openness (Emotional Stability).
 Eysenck
– The Big Three
o Neuroticism-stability.
o Extroversion-introversion.
o Psychoticism.
 Argue
that there are personality traits that are
stable and enduring proprieties of the individual.
 Certain
traits characterise a person’s behaviour in
a variety of situations.
 So
knowledge of an individual’s personality traits
will permit us to predict what they are likely to do,
even in situations in which we have never observed
 Personality
tests were devised in an attempt to
supply the information that would make prediction
 Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory
 California
Psychological Inventory (CPI).
 Critics
argued that there isn't really a set of stable
personality traits.
 Mischel
– people behave much less consistently
than a trait theory would predict.
 Human
behaviour is largely determined by the
characteristics of the situation itself rather than by
the characteristics of the person.
 Trait
and type approaches rejected as they don’t
allow an individual to assess their personality on
their own terms but impose an external frame of
 Repertory
 George
grid – how people construct the world.
 Freud.
 Personality
is seen as a developmental process
driven by underlying motivational factors.
 Behaviour,
thought and emotion is caused mostly
by unconscious drives and motivations.
 Personality
consists of 3 interacting components
o The Id – represents the primitive personality from which
other aspects of personality develop and constitutes the
basic biological drives, such as eating and sexual
o The Ego represents the aspects of the personality which
oversees the others and judges which actions should be
performed and which should not.
o The Superego – is the moral aspect of the personality
which determines whether an action is right or wrong.
 They
develop through 5 stages of psychosexual
o Oral, for approx first 18 months of life, where activities
concerning the mouth, lips etc provide satisfaction and
o Anal, from approx 18 to 36 months, at the stage when
toilet training occurs and control over this activity offers
an expression of independence.
o Phallic, from approx 3 to 6 years where the main source
of satisfaction arises from the genitals.
o Latency, following the phallic stage and up to
puberty, where sexual feelings are minimal and boys
and girls tend to socialise and play separately.
o Genital, from puberty onwards, when once again the
genitals are the main source of satisfaction, with the
emphasis now on pleasure with another rather than
 Carl
Rogers and Abraham Maslow
 What
is most important about people is how they
achieve their own self hood and actualise their
human potential.
 Maslow
– self actualisation and hierarchy of needs.
 Psychoanalysts
look at people as if they are
emotional cripples.
 Behaviourists
regard them as if they are blind and
unthinking robots.
 Trait
theorists see people as material to file in
sterile pigeon holes.
 The
self and personality is essentially based on
 Giving
people the appropriate conditions and they
grow as to realise their potential, which is for good
rather than evil.
 Perceiving
 How
 How
one’s own inner states.
do we interpret our internal states?
do we decide whether the knot in our stomach
is fear (say, of an impending examination), or is
impatient anticipation (say, of a lovers’ meeting).
 James-Lange
 Cannon-Bard
 Schachter-Singer
 Lazarus
Cognitive Appraisal
 Common-sense
says, we lose our fortune, are sorry
and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run;
we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The
hypothesis here.... Is that we feel sorry because we
cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we
tremble.... Without the bodily states following on
the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive
in form, pale, colourless, destitute of emotional
warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it
best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to
strike, but we would not actually feel afraid or
angry. (James, 1890)
 Physiological
changes occur first in response to a
stimulus. This response feeds back to the cortex
and the individual is able to perceive emotion.
 Emotion
is construed as resulting directly from
behavioural or physiological changes that occur in
response to external events, which are perceived
by the subject so that the emotion is the subjective
feeling of that change.
I see a man outside my window.
I begin to perspire.
I am afraid.
 But
our sympathetic reactions to arousing stimuli
are pretty much the same, while our emotional
experiences vary widely.
 In
response to a stimulus, the cortex (via the
thalamus) enables the interpretation of the
 Simultaneously,
the hypothalamus
physiological changes.
I see a man outside my window.
I am afraid.
I begin to perspire.
 In
response to a stimulus, bodily arousal and a
physiological response occurs.
 The
individual will then interpret the emotion and
label it as positive or negative depending on
situational cues.
I see a man outside my window.
I begin to perspire.
I ask myself “Why do I feel as I do?”.
I am afraid.
 This
proposes that emotions are secondary to how
we ‘appraise’ or think about a situation (eg CBT).
 It
is doubtful that one arousal process underlies all
 But
do suggest that there are a number of basic
and primary emotions.
 Happiness,
surprise, anger, sadness, disgust, and