Reflection on PNP3002

In my opinion, motivation is a crucial factor when studying for a degree.  Motivation is also a major factor for most students (e.g. Ames and Archer, 1988; Frymier and Shulman, 2009).  The module PNP3002 was designed to motivate students by having four blogs and two exams as an assessment method, rather than grades being dependent on one final exam.  In this blog entry I will reflect on my personal experiences of this form of assessment, and I will relate these experiences to motivational theories.

This module required students to write three different blogs on topics of their choice which were relevant to emotion and motivation.  Whilst writing this blog, I felt intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated; I was motivated to write my blogs for inherent pleasure rather than for gaining external rewards.  Lin, McKeachie and Kim (2001) suggest that intrinsically motivated behaviour is more beneficial than extrinsically motivated behaviour, and found that students high in intrinsic motivation achieve better grades.  When writing my blog, I may have been intrinsically motivated as I had a genuine interest in the topics I was researching and writing about.

Being given the freedom to write about topics of our own choice also gives us the chance to research topic that may be relevant to our future careers.  Research suggests that students’ state motivation is increased when learning material which is relevant to personal and career goals (Frymier et al, 2009).  I found that being given the option to choose my own blog topic motivated me to spend more time and effort researching and writing my blog, as the topics I chose were relevant to my possible career paths.

To conclude, having the freedom to choose a blog topic was advantageous as I was intrinsically motivated to research and write about topics which I had a genuine interest in.




Ames, C. and Archer, J. (1988).  Achievement goals in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 260-267.  Doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.80.3.260

Frymier, A. B. and Shulman, G. M. (2009).  “What’s in it for me?”: Increasing content relevance to enhance students’ motivation.  Communication Education, 44(1), 40-50.  Doi: 10.1080/03634529509378996

Lin, Y-G., McKechie, W. J. and Kim, Y. C. (2001).  College student intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivation and learning.  Learning and Individual Differences, 13(1), 251-258.

The effectiveness of Animal Assisted Therapy for treating people with Dementia

Animal assisted therapy aims to improve social, emotional and cognitive functioning by using animals as the form of treatment, for those who show little response to other stimuli.  This type of therapy is particularly useful in treating people with dementia, whose condition causes them to manifest many neurobehavioural problems such as delusion, depression, apathy, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders and problems in social situations.  As dementia becomes more prevalent in society, the associated behavioural symptoms will also increase (Richeson, 2003), causing significant distress to caregivers (Kiecolt-Glaser, Dura, Speicher, Trask and Glaser, 1991).  Animal assisted therapy offers a psychosocial solution to this problem, helping to improve behavioural abnormalities and providing a positive influence on the mental states of those with dementia (Motomura, Yagi and Ohyama, 2004).


Bernstein, Friedmann and Malaspina (2000) compared the usefulness of animal assisted therapy and non-animal therapy such as arts, crafts and bingo for patients with dementia.  Both animal and non-animal assisted therapy encouraged patient conversations.  The most significant difference between therapies was found in rates of touch.  Unlike non-animal therapy, touching animals significantly increased patients’ engagement and initiation of behaviour.  Touch is a vital aspect of social stimulation and animal assisted therapy helps to improve this type of social behaviour, which is often deficient in patients with dementia.  This study indicates that using animals has benefits over non animal therapy because it motivates patients with dementia to engage socially.  This is beneficial for both dementia patients and caregivers, because behavioural problems are reduced.

Several studies indicate animal assisted therapy has many human health benefits, for example decreased blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels and improved emotional well-being and social interaction (e.g. Odendaai, 2000; Jorgenson, 2007).  These studies however are repeatedly criticised due to the research relying on a small sample size (Palley, O’Rourke and Niemi, 2010).  Berstein et al. (2000) used a sample of 33 participants, 29 of them were women and four of them were men.  It is possible to criticise this aspect of the methodology as the study focuses mainly on women and the sample size is especially small for male patients.  However, the majority of people with dementia in Europe are women (Lobo, Launer, Fratiglioni, Andersen, Carlo, Breteler et al., 2000).  This may occur because dementia becomes more common with age and women tend to live longer than men.  Therefore it could be argued that Bernstein et al (2000) focused their study on dementia in women as it is more prevalent in this gender.  If the Bernstein et al. (2000) study were to be replicated, a larger sample size could be used to show a greater effect size.  In addition, a larger number of male patients should be studied, because although dementia is more prevalent in women it does still affect men.

In conclusion, animal assisted therapy is an effective psychosocial method of improving the behavioural problems associated with dementia, particularly in rates of touch which is important in social stimulation.  However, in order for animal assisted therapy to be accepted as a therapeutic modality in conventional medical practice, larger sample sizes need to be used in research and should not be biased towards females.  Improving the methodology in the research helps us to understand how to improve dementia patients’ behavioural problems, improving not only the lives of the patients, but the lives of their caregivers.


Animal assisted therapy picture (n. d.).  Retrieved from:

Bernstein, P. L., Friedmann, E. and Malaspina, A. (2000).  Animal-Assisted Therapy Enhances Resident Social Interaction and Initiation in Long-Term Care Facilities.  Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interaction of People and Animals, 13(4), 213-224.

Jorgenson, J. (2007).  Therapeutic Use of Companion Animals in Health Care.  The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 29(3), 249-254.  Doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.1997.tb00993.x

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Dura, J. R., Speicher, C. E., Trask, O. J. and Glaser, R. (1991).  Spousal caregivers of dementia victims: longitudinal changes in immunity and health.  Psychosomatic Medicine, 53(4), 345-362.

Lobo, A., Launer, L. J., Fratiglioni, L., Andersen, K., Di Carlo, A., Breteler, M. M. B., Copeland, J. R. M., Dartigues, J. F., Jagger, C., Martinez-Lage, J., Soininen, H. and Hofman, A. (2000).  Prevalence of dementia and major subtypes in Europe: A collaborative study of population-based cohorts.  Neurologic Diseases in the Elderly Research Group,

Motomura, N., Yagi, T. and Ohyama, H. (2004).  Animal assisted therapy for people with dementia.  The Official Journal of the Japanese Psychogeriatric Society, 4(2), 40-42.  Doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8301.2004.00062.x

Odendaai, J. S. J. (2000).  Animal-assisted therapy – magic or medicine?  Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49(4), 275-280.

Palley, L. S., O’Rourke, P. P. and Niemi, S. M. (2010).  Mainstreaming animal-assisted theray.  ILAR Journal, 51(3), 199-207.

Richeson, N. E. (2003).  Effects of animal-assisted therapy on agitated behaviours and social interaction of older adult with dementia.  American Journal Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.  Doi: 10.1177/153331750301800610

The motivation behind ordinary people committing genocide during the Holocaust

One of the most challenging problems psychologists face is explaining the willingness of humans to physically and psychologically harm others.  Historical and current events show that seemingly ordinary people are readily capable of harming others, despite the powerful prohibition against violence that most people are brought up with.  An example of this is the Holocaust; the genocide of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, led by Adolf Hitler.  Many of the perpetrators of the Holocaust had previously been normal, sane members of society.  This raises the question – what motivated these individuals to become murderers for Hitler’s evil regime?

 Image Image


The social identity theory aims to explain how social categorisation affects intergroup behaviours (Tajfel and Turner, 1979).  It states that we acquire positive social identities to maintain and enhance our self-esteem.  Because of this, we are motivated to show the superiority of our ‘in-group’ compared to relative ‘out-groups’.  This has been supported by research; for example, Jetten, Spears and Manstead (1997) found that a threat to a group’s distinctiveness led to more in-group bias.  Staub (1992) suggests that when a group is functioning poorly, its members feel threatened and frustrated.  In order to overcome their difficulties, the group finds a scapegoat to blame for all of their problems.  A scapegoat has great psychological usefulness for a group; it promises a solution to their problems as they work together against the scapegoat, and this makes members of the group feel connected as they have a common goal.  During the Holocaust, the Nazi’s were the ‘in group’ and the Jews were the scapegoats, otherwise known as the ‘out group’.  Devaluing the scapegoat also raises the self-esteem of members of the group (Staub, 1992).  Losing the First World War had a very negative impact on Germany’s economy and morale, so using the Jews as a scapegoat helped to raise the Nazi’s self-esteem and unite them as a group.

Tajfel et al.’s (1979) social identity theory is useful in explaining why ordinary people became motivated to kill in the Holocaust, as it argues that society may be a lot more important than personality types when accounting for prejudice.  However, it does still take into account individual differences, and explains why some individuals are more likely to discriminate than others.  For example, some individuals may have a greater need for acceptance than others and may be motivated to discriminate in order to gain social approval.

The social identity theory states that competition is not necessary for intergroup discrimination to occur; merely categorising individuals into in-groups and out-groups is enough.  This can be shown using a minimal group paradigm method of study, which investigates the minimal conditions required for discrimination to occur between groups.  For example, Tajfel (1970), using a minimal group paradigm, found that subjects favoured their own ‘in-group’ over another ‘out-group’.  This study also found that the most important factor in subjects’ decision-making was maximising the differences between their own group and the ‘out-group’.  This evidence has been replicated in a wide range of cultures (Lemyre and Smith, 1985).  However, these cultures are dominantly Western and other, less competitive cultures have been ignored.  Therefore, it may be the case that conflict is not always inevitable in every culture.  During the Holocaust, the Nazi culture was very competitive, as they were aiming to get Germany out of the Depression it was in and rise to power to dominate Europe.  This may explain why they were so intent on discriminating against the Jews.

The minimal group paradigm is the main methodology used to support the social learning theory.  It has proved to be a useful method of study, as it has revealed that seemingly meaningless distinctions between groups can trigger intergroup bias.  However, Blank (1997) argues that demand characteristics may explain why subjects show intergroup bias.  For example, subjects may use group membership information to guide their behaviour in the experiment, rather than acting instinctively.

In order to prevent an event as tragic as the Holocaust from occurring again, we need to understand the psychological, cultural, and societal causes of genocide.  The social identity theory is useful in explaining why intergroup discrimination occurs, and how easily it can occur.  Although we cannot wholly attribute the horrific events of the Holocaust to the social identity theory, it gives us an idea of how normal people became part of a group which motivated them to become cold blooded killers.


Arbeit Macht Frei Picture (n. d.).  Retrieved from:

Blank, H. (1997).  Cooperative Participants Discriminate (not always): A Logic of Conversation Approach to the Minimal Group Paradigm.  Current Research in Social Psychology, 2(5).

Jetten, J., Spears, R. and Manstead, A. S. R. (1997).  Distinctiveness threat and prototypicality: combined effects on intergroup discrimination and collective self-esteem.  European Journal of Social Psychology, 27, 635-657.

Lemyre, L. and Smith, P. M. (1985).  Intergroup Discrimination and Self-Esteem in the Minimal Group Paradigm.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(3), 660-670.

Staub, E. (1992).  The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence.  Cambridge University Press.  Retrieved from:

Tajfel, H. (1970).  Experiments in intergroup discrimination.  Scientific American, 223, 96-102.

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1979).  An integrative theory of intergroup conflict.  The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations.  pp. 33-47.

The Holocaust Picture (n. d.). Retrieved from:

The Innateness of Facial Expressions showing Human Emotion

Emotion is a complex, subjective and essential aspect of human life; it motivates our behaviour and allows us to interact meaningfully in our social world.  One of the most important contributions that research has made to our understanding of emotion concerns the innateness of facial expressions showing emotion (Matsumoto and Hwang, 2011).  The debate in Psychology over the innateness of facial expressions dates back to the 1870s.  It began with the belief that facial expressions are learned and vary from culture to culture, and has now been replaced with the view that facial expressions are universal and therefore, innate (Ekman and Friesen, 1987).  This blog entry will critically evaluate the research in this area and will discuss the innateness of facial expressions showing human emotion.

Darwin (1872) was the first to propose that facial expressions of emotion are innate, as he believed that emotions are essential for humans to be the best equipped to survive and reproduce.  This is because emotion gives humans an evolutionary advantage, as they have adaptive value.  For example, the emotion ‘fear’ triggers a fight or flight reaction which enhances the chance of survival.  Darwin (1872) also proposed that facial expressions showing emotion have an evolutionary advantage, as they are useful in allowing people to quickly and accurately judge others’ hostility or friendliness.  For example, we can detect anger by observing an individual furrowing their brow, tightening their lips and baring their teeth (Lewis, Iaviland-Jones and Barrett, 2010).  In order to test the innateness of facial expressions, Darwin (1872) emphasised the usefulness of cross-cultural studies.  As Darwin saw it, if facial expressions are universal, then we can infer with much probability that they are also innate.

Research from the last 30 years has supported Darwin’s (1872) belief that facial expressions of emotion are innate, by using a cross-cultural method of study.  For example, Ekman et al. (1987) asked participants from 10 different cultures to look at photographs of a number of different facial expressions.  Participants were then asked to specify which emotions were evident in each photograph and the intensity of each emotion.  There was significant agreement across cultures about which emotion was the most intense and which emotion was the second most intense.  However, there were cultural differences in judgements of the absolute level of emotional intensity.

The research conducted by Ekman et al. (1987) is superior to other research in the field.  This is because other research has limited participants omit selecting only one emotion term for each expression (e.g.  Elfenbein, Mandal, Ambady, Harizuka and Kumar, 2002); whereas Ekman et al. (1987) allowed participants to indicate multiple emotions for each expression.  This provides a higher level of reliability, as the participants had a higher chance of choosing different emotion terms for each expression.  Ekman et al. (1987) also added another important variable to the study; the participants were asked to indicate the intensity of each emotion rather than just indicating that the emotion was present.  This is where Ekman et al. (1987) found a difference between cultures, which provides an opportunity for further research.

There are a few limitations to the method of study Ekman et al. (1987) used.  The participants were asked to rate facial expressions using one of seven English emotion terms; anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and contempt.  Using the limited number of emotion terms means that other common emotional expressions have been ignored.  For example, we do not know from these findings whether a ‘confused’ facial expression is innate.  However, despite its limited number of emotion terms, this study included an emotion term which other similar studies had not, the emotion term ‘contempt’.  The interest in the emotion ‘contempt’ came from a previous study which was conducted Ekman and Friesen (1986), which obtained the first evidence of the facial expression ‘contempt’ as being pan-cultural.  They hoped to replicate the findings from this study, and find out whether contempt could be distinguished from expressions of disgust.


Figure 1.  The Seven Basic Human Emotions.

The research conducted to investigate whether facial expressions are innate or learned strongly supports the belief that they are indeed innate.  There is still a lot of room for further research, as research so far has only focused on 6-7 particular traits.  There are also other sources of information which have not yet been studied.  For example, Darwin (1872) believed that the mentally ill should be studied, ‘as they are liable to the strongest passions, and give uncontrolled vent to them’.  As we now know that facial expressions of emotion are innate, we should explore the topic in more depth.



Darwin, C. (1872). The Expression of the emotions in man and animals. London: John Murray.  Reprinted Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1965.

Ekman, P. and Friesen, W. V.  (1986).  A new pan-cultural facial expression of emotion. Motivation and Emotion, 10(2), 159-168.

Ekman, P. and Friesen, W. V. (1987).  Universals and Cultural Differences in the Judgments of Facial Expressions of Emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(4), 712-717.

Elfenbein, H. A., Mandal, M. K., Ambady, N., Harizuka, S. and Kumar, S. (2002). Cross-Cultural Patterns in Emotion Recognition: Highlighting Design and Analytical Techniques. Emotion, 2(1), 75-84.  Doi: 10.1037//1528-3542.2.1.75

Lewis, M., Iaviland-Jones, J. M. and Barrett, L. F. (2010). Handbook of Emotions. Retrieved from:

Matsumoto, D. and Hwang, H. S. (2011). Reading facial expressions of emotion. Psychological Science Agenda.  Retrieved from:

The Seven Basic Human Emotions (n.d.).  Retrieved from:


Withholding information vs. deception

After Tracey Lloyd’s lecture on ethics on Monday, I thought that this topic would be an interesting one to cover in my blog.  The difference between withholding information and deceiving participants in a study is very important in modern psychology.  The BPS (British Psychological Society) states that:

‘Intentional deception of the participants over the purpose and general nature of the investigation should be avoided whenever possible. Participants should never be deliberately misled without extremely strong scientific or medical justification. Even then there should be strict controls and the disinterested approval of independent advisors.’

Milgram (1963) conducted a well-known study which brought about the withholding information vs. deception debate.  In this study, participants were required to administer increasingly more severe punishment to a victim during a learning experiment.  The shock generator consisted of 30 graded switches ranging from slight shock to danger: severe shock.  It was found that 26 participants administered the highest shock on the generator, and 14 participants were unwilling to carry on with the experiment.  What the participants in this study did not know, was that they were not actually administering the electric shocks they thought they were.  This is where the participants were deceived in the study; the participants were told that the study was testing memory and they were in fact administering real electric shocks to the victim when they answered a question incorrectly.  The participants were also unaware that the learner was working with the researcher and was faking the role of being a learner.

In modern psychology, this experiment would not follow the BPS’s ethical guidelines and would not be acceptable.  Ethical guidelines state that participants must leave an experiment in the same psychological state that they entered it in.  The participants suffered distress as a result of being lied to about the real aims of the study.  It was reported that the study created extreme levels of nervous tension in some participants, including excessive sweating, trembling and stuttering.  Some participants’ emotional disturbance lead to seizures.  Therefore if the study were to be conducted again, a more ethical option would be to inform the participants that the study is investigating the effects of authority.  Another way in which the study could be improved would be to not use such a drastic method to investigate authority.  This would reduce the participants’ distress and follow the modern ethical guidelines.  However, it could be argued that without such drastic methods, the research would not be as ground-breaking.  The question is, do the ends justify the means?

If you would like to see the original video of Milgram’s experiment along with interviews with psychologists about the study, follow this link:


Milgram, S. (1961).  Behavioural Study of obedience.  The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4) pp. 371-378.  doi: 10.1037/h0040525

Should babies be used as test subjects in research?

Babies are common test subjects in areas of Psychology such as Developmental Psychology.   Their behaviour is commonly observed in order to understand how they develop.  However, this can be problematic.  For example, when tested in a laboratory setting children can experience distress, therefore ethical issues could be raised.  The validity of using babies as test subjects is also questionable, and it usually completely relies on interpretation of behaviour.

As mentioned before, using babies as test subjects can raise ethical issues.  In research, participants must leave the experiment without experiencing psychological harm and feeling as happy as they did when beginning the experiment.  Ainsworth (1978) conducted a ground breaking ‘Strange Situation study, which investigated the effects of attachment on behaviour.  Children between the ages of 12 and 18 months were observed.  They were put in a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mothers.  In some cases, securely attached children would display signs of distress e.g. crying hysterically when their mothers left the room, and may become frightened.  It could be argued that this is unethical, as they are experiencing distress.  However, when the mother returns the babies distress stops and they return to being happy.  The ends justify the means with this type of research.  This type of research is very unlikely to have a negative psychological effect on the children for very long, as they are reassured when the parent returns straightaway.  In addition to this, children feel secure and able to depend on their mothers.  Therefore, they have the knowledge that their mother will return and are assured by this.  These observations have contributed to the understanding of early attachments having serious impacts on later relationships.

Observations rely a lot on the interpretation of the babies’ behaviour.  An example of research which relies on interpretation of behaviour is Langlois, Ritter, Riggman & Vaughn (1987, 1991).  They found that infants had a significant preference for attractive faces across all facial types which they were shown; showing a generalization for identifying beauty in faces differing in gender, race and age.  However, this relied on the interpretation of the researcher.  They assumed that when babies looked at faces for a longer time they found them more attractive.



Langlois, J.H., Ritter, J.M., Riggman, L.A., and Vaughn, L.S. (1991).  Facial diversity and infant preferences for attractive faces. Dev. Psychol. 27, 79-84.

Mary D. Salter Ainsworth and Silvia M. Bell. Child Development. Vol. 41, No. 1 (Mar., 1970), pp. 49-67


How reliable is the recall of repressed memories of abuse from childhood?

Repression is a defence mechanism proposed by Freud, where a person unconsciously forgets disturbing/traumatic thoughts.  They exclude distressing thoughts, feelings and memories from the conscious mind and repress them into their unconscious mind where they are no longer accessible.  A method which can be used to bring repressed memories back into conscious thinking is psychoanalysis, which includes free association and dream analysis.

Williams (1994) investigated the extent to which women who had suffered abuse in their childhoods could recover memories of the abuse that took place.  Williams interviewed one hundred twenty-nine women who had documented histories of sexual violence in childhood.  It was found that 80 of the women who had reported sexual abuse seventeen years earlier recalled the abuse.  16% of the women interviewed reported that they had forgotten the abuse at some point in the past.  It was also found that women who had experienced a period of forgetting were those who had been abused at a younger age and therefore had received less support.

In recent years there has been a debate over the reliability of people being able to recall repressed memories of abuse in childhood.  This applies in particular to when there is a delay in remembering the abuse.  There has also been an increase in reported memories of child abuse.  Reporters of the abuse have alleged that the memories were repressed for many years.  Loftus (1993) suggested that these recovered memories could be fabricated by therapists or other adults.  Therefore the reliability of the repressed memories that come to light many years later could be further questioned e.g. are there sources of detail which can affect memory?

A famous case of a falsely recalled memory took place in 1990, when George Franklin, a 51 year old defendant was accused by his daughter of murdering an 8 year old girl 20 years earlier.  Eileen, George Franklin’s daughter, claimed that she could now remember the murder of the victim Susan Kay Nason taking place, and accused her own father of carrying out the murder.  She claimed that the memory had been repressed for the past 20 years.  After 6 years in prison, Franklin was released when irregularities were discovered in Eileen’s evidence: it was discovered that she had been hypnotised before testifying.  This case is evidence of how much damage a falsely recalled memory can do.  In order to improve methods of collecting information about abuse in childhood, researchers need to be careful about how they word questions.  If a question is worded wrongly, this could cause people to recall memories which are in fact false.  They must also be very careful not to plant false memories in the patient’s mind, as this can cause a great deal of damage.  When researchers are investigating abuse in childhood; which is a sensitive topic for the people in question, they need to be especially careful.



Williams (1994) Recovered memories of abuse in women with documented child sexual victimization histories.  Journal of traumatic stress 8, 4, 649-673.

Loftus (1993) The reality of repressed memories American Psychologist, Vol 48(5), May 1993, 518-537. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.48.5.518

For more information about the George Franklin case follow this link: