“…simply make things better for someone else, as if I were to be born again, and that someone else, and it doesn't have to be me, but it could be someone like me, that they would have a better life than I had, that everyone was better. There is something seriously wrong with everyone, and that is something I observed when I was very young. We are the problem, and we need to become better, because we are fucking everything up.”
“So this is who I am. There is something seriously wrong with everyone and we need to fix it, if not for us, then for the future generations."
"Everything I have done in this life, and everything I will do, is for this purpose.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 52: The Environment that is Best For All

As a student who was intensely interested in Behaviorism (a.k.a. Learning), I was surprised that the other disciplines in psychology fell prey to unsubstantiated theories and claims that lacked physical/behavioral evidence. This is a discussion I will have throughout my blogs, right now, however, I will focus on laying down the foundations for how the environment plays it role with allowing/supporting/strengthening What is Best For All.
          Im going to jump into this discussion with something that was brought up in my psychopathology class. It has been documented in cross-cultural psychopathology studies, how social realms such as hunger, work, divorce/marriage, and poverty, contribute to mental disease, as defined by the DSM. I believe to remember that they referred to Anxiety as the main mental diseases that they found. So, as someone who is currently considering how the environment contributes to what is best for all, it seems plain that having wealth and stable relationships lead to a satisfactorily life. These are environmental factors because they exist outside of us. We can physically change the external environment for ourselves and others. Is this not true? Granted it would take time and effort, though the Industrial Revolution, and the Empire of the US was not built through imagination, rather, it was built through blood, sweat, and tears (mostly blood). Returning to the point of the environment, Behaviorists would like us to believe (probably some, not all) that the environment determines the individual. Let us assume this to be true, so what does this reveal about our world? That who we are, are but a reaction to our environment. What determines which reaction do we take, among possible reactions? The answer could be genes, genetics, though it seems to be something there already. From my background in learning, well, Learning determines some of our responses/reactions. There is classical conditioning, where we associate future events with a signal, and respond as if that future event were here upon presentation of the signal. Also, there is operant conditioning where we do everything we can to achieve that which we find good/pleasurable/positive, and also do everything we can to avoid everything that leads to bad/harmful/negative. There is also other responses that appear automatic, such as learned helplessness which occurs when there is NOTHING you can do to prevent a bad/harmful/negative consequence.

            The two types of learning, mentioned here, lend themselves to the environment. For classical conditioning to occur, a signal must immediately precede an event that the organism has a innate response to. For operant conditioning to occur, the good/positive and bad/negative must be reliably given in response to a behavior. For learned helplessness, negative/bad is given independent of the behavior of the organism. So the environment (signal, event, good/positive, and bad/negative) has an effect on the organism. This effect will affect organisms whether the environment is orchestrated by someone or whether it is not manipulated by humans. For example, these learning styles have been found at various levels (e.g. cells, organs) and across many species. I read a paper where they were using Taste Aversion, a variant of classical conditioning, to teach a certain species of Fox in Australia to avoid eating poisonous frogs that had invaded the country. Similarly, we must try to create outcomes that are best for all, with humans as well as plants and animals in mind. I am only now considering this, there obviously various implications for human's volition, whether it exists, to what degree it exists, and how part of this volition may involve both standing up and preventing such conditioning in ones own life, as well as encouraging it in other domains in one's life. An example where classical conditioning can support us in our lives, with sleep, a friend of mine, who also took Learning, had trouble sleeping and thought it might have been because he was reading on his bed. So he made the commitment to not read on his bed to help him dissociate his bed with reading and mental activity. He reported to me later that it worked. So in this case it is to have certain environment (bed) associated with certain activities (sleep, not reading). In my own life, i believed i had something similar with food, where if i had the same breakfast and lunch for school everyday, my body was well prepared and ready to attenuate to this with the various events that consistently preceded my breakfast and lunch. In other words, having a routine can help your body become familiar with signals that it can use to prepare for eating and other various biological activities (exercise, using toilet). Certainly it would be cool to be completely directive (direct yourself to prepare to eat each time), however this is something that will not happen over night. SO, in the mean time it seems wise to use what learning techniques that body has equipped to find out what will happen, and when this will happen. I have had some cool experiences with this growing up, where having the same classes and routine schedule, i could prepare myself mentally for what was ahead. One other awesome area of psychology that could have various helpful hints and tips for living with the body is found in Memory, which is primarily studied in Cognitive Psychology. I am not an expert of this field, though i know there is a fellow destonian who will have much to share on the topic. For those interested in studying how memory works, i suggest reading online at various free resources. When this friend writes these blogs on Memory, I will let my readers know in my own blog where I will share my own experiences with memory.
That's it for now, the discussion will continue, as always.

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