Monday, October 17, 2011

Pay It Forward

This author had the honor and pleasure of providing a traditional turkey dinner for a large group of homeless people at a local religious facility. Although done primarily to accomplish the assignment herein, she found pleasure and a sense of goodness from this act of volunteerism. Because she did not do the action altruistically (she had reason and expectation), perhaps the deed can be called student responsibility. In other circumstances, her behavior may be called social responsibility. Regardless of its name, the deed provided the doer with good feelings and instilled in her the desire to give again in some way.

Altruism, Personal and Professional Social Responsibility, and Codependency

Pure altruism is giving without expectation of compensation or return of any kind (Trivers, 1971). Unlike altruism, which is an authentic and selfless concern for others, personal and professional social responsibility is acting in a way that benefits society at large. Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition wherein individuals with low self-esteem try to find meaning and happiness in things outside of themselves. Altruistic deeds are rare, if they exist at all (Trivers, 1971), and social responsibility is common, although not always done with authentic care. Codependent actions take place only because the giver needs the reciprocal relationship with the receiver, and usually vice versa. This author's actions for this assignment were done out of personal (and student-related) social responsibility.

Applying Altruism to Psychology or Psychological Principles
In psychology, practicing professionals are not necessarily altruistic, although must aim to support the best interest of their clients. Psychological principles were created to encourage and support a better quality of life and to help individuals thrive. Designed specifically to assist and allay human difficulty and alleviate suffering, not for profit, personal agenda, or political purpose. Altruistic behavior is in alignment with the essence of psychological principles.

Altruism as it Improves the Human Condition

This author experienced a sense of goodness in feeding individuals at the homeless shelter as well as providing a meal for more than 50 people. The nature of altruistic behavior is that it provides benefit for both sides of the transfer, and may promote a pay-it-forward syndrome whereby those who have been helped will be inspired to help others (Berkowitz & Daniels, 1964). Those taught will inspire others to learn, those who benefit may later support a philanthropic cause. The excessive need of humankind could be partially filled with the products of altruistic behavior or social responsibility.

Personal and Professional Responsibilities Related to Altruism

This author believes it is the responsibility of capable persons to emulate altruistic behavior when necessary and appropriate and to the best of one's ability, although she does not believe most individuals are capable of altruistic behavior. Psychological professionals' primary regard must be for their patient or client, and their needs must be placed above self needs. To fill somewhat of an altruistic role, many professionals provide pro-bono services to the underprivileged, underserved, and underrepresented populations as well as maintaining exceedingly high standards of practice (Plante, 2011).

The Future of Psychology in Contemporary Society
The future of psychology depends on its professionals to act according to altruistic ideas and to aim to serve others authentically before attending to personal agendas. The human race is in dire need of strong, responsible, directive individuals whose goal is to change the course of human life. Although not everyone is capable of altruistic behavior, personal and professional responsibility will eventually alter the human condition. The future relies on the altruistic behavior and social responsibility of capable individuals, including psychological professionals.


According to American legend, one rainy day, Abraham Lincoln left his carriage to save a pig who had gotten itself stuck in the mud. When praised for his selfless action, he simply replied that it was not selfless; had he not saved the pig, he would have felt terrible and it would have ruined his day. Social responsibility, in most cases, provides as good an outcome as altruism, and perhaps may eventually inspire altruism.


Berkowitz, L., & Daniels, L. R. (1964). Affecting the salience of the social responsibility norm: effects of past help on the response to dependency relationships. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68(3), 275-281. doi: 10.1037/h0040164

Plante, T. G. (2011). Contemporary clinical psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 46(1), 35. doi: 10.1086/406755

Ethics Awareness Inventory

Although every individual views ethics from a different perspective, most people agree there is right and wrong, although they may vary on how to make moral and ethical decisions. This author's ethical perspective is based on character, and she believes being ethical is more important than simply performing ethical deeds. To determine the ethical nature of people, she looks into their character rather than judging them by the quality of their actions. Herein, the author describes her perspective as suggested by the Ethics Awareness Inventory (The Williams Institute of Ethics and Management, 2011).

Personal Ethics, Principles, and the Code of Conduct

Personal ethics must be deliberately developed over the lifespan. In a psychological profession and when working with people, professionals must continually implement ethical judgment and moral decision-making and persist in developing and evolving one's understanding of morality. This development does not cease once a goal is attained, it is an ongoing process that becomes more deeply engrained as the individual evolves. Personal ethics are an essential part of any professional discipline, and to conduct oneself ethically, one must be ethical.

Although designed with good intentions, developing a list of appropriate behavior, such as the code of conduct designed by the American Psychological Association, cannot aid in the development of personal moral and ethical judgment, only rule-following. The American Psychological Association handles thousands of ethical infractions committed by psychologists each year (Plante, 2011). However, most of the offending individuals understand ethical behavior by its rules, not by its essence. Without personal ethics, an individual has only rule-following to guide them in professional and ethical conduct. For truly ethical individuals, the written rules are of a lesser quality than their understanding of ethics. For an individual possessing integrity, no contention would exist in deciding between conflicting rules, or judging right from wrong.

Effects of Ethical Applications

This author's belief is that personal ethics permeates one's spiritual, social, and organizational endeavors. For authenticity in spiritual practice, one must have ethical, rather than self-righteous goals otherwise spiritual understanding cannot deepen. This author values honesty, wisdom, and integrity, and she places more emphasis on behaving according to these qualities more than she values rule-following. Regarding social applications, whether associating with one individual or many, this author believes people act according to intrinsic values and beliefs, and behavior changes along with evolving ethical understanding. It is far more beneficial to assist others in strengthening their ability to grasp the true nature of wisdom and integrity rather than passing judgment on their ignorance.

In organizational applications, I believe wisdom and ethical character applied to human diversity creates interactions based on integrity, honesty, benevolence, and justice. Personal interaction with others encourages me to search for goodness of character within all people (The Williams Institute, 2011). I must be careful not to judge the character and growth of others and recall not everyone has the opportunity to develop the ethics, values, and virtues that I value. Social inequalities exist and tolerance, compassion, and an appreciation for diversity are necessary virtues when working with people (The Williams Institute, 2011). Furthermore, I have a keen awareness of the neglect in character growth in contemporary society and quick fixes are neither realistic, nor are they a plausible solution for positive change.

Ethics' Effect on Personal Growth, Health, and Development

It is my understanding that ethical behavior is evident in the quality of an individual's character, which is more important than his or her actions. Personal growth does not involve learning to follow rules, but how to adhere to one's own experience of morality. Because of the intrusive quality of human nature upon behavior, one must continually strive to be morally correct and of ethical character. Maintaining health is continually balancing what one knows is right with what is easy as well as fostering growth in oneself in areas of weakness. Natural development takes place when an individual grasps what is morally good. Ethical value begins with individual thought and as people learn to master their thoughts, personal growth, health, and development are a natural human process.

Advantages of a Psychology Degree

In my estimation, there are many reasons to pursue an advanced degree in psychology. Some learners, including this author, find human nature compelling, although often disappointing. My choice in a psychology degree had little to do with ethics and more to do with her previously established belief in her spiritual need to help others understand human nature and the human journey. Possessing a perspective of the understanding of the relationship between human nature and ethics, I understand becoming ethical is superior to learning appropriate and ethical behavior.

If I had been more keenly aware of psychological science, I would have chosen an undergraduate degree in a different science, although gaining a clearer understanding of ethics, diversity, tolerance, and compassion has been beneficial, although not a direct result of my undergraduate program. However, I maintain a belief that as individual perceptions vary widely, along with the individual capacity to understand what is wholly ethical, it is essential for any science, including psychology, to present a code of conduct to its members as a replacement parameter until ethical behavior becomes an intrinsic mechanism. Neither all people nor all psychologists understand the essence of being ethical. It is the responsibility of those who do understand to help those who do not.


Personal ethics, principles, and moral judgment supports the ability to function optimally in any professional capacity, especially within psychological disciplines. The degree to which individuals become ethical dictates the level by which they function within their discipline in personal, spiritual, social, and organizational issues. Ethics function as a parameter that supports psychological knowledge as well as personal growth, health, and development. For many individuals, choosing psychology as an educational pursuit may impel them toward a deeper understanding of ethics and its pivotal role in their becoming an individual with the capacity to function morally and ethically. Regardless of career or educational direction, it is the responsibility of each person to act and make judgments according to his or her evolving understanding of morality (Pappajohn, n.d.).


Pappajohn, J. (n.d.). Ethics and social responsibility. John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. Retrieved September 30, 2011, from

Plante, T. G. (2011). Contemporary clinical psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

The Williams Institute for Ethics and Management. (2011). Ethics awareness inventory. The Williams Institute - Promoting Ethics in Community. Retrieved September 29, 2011, from

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Diverse Nature of Psychology

The diverse nature of psychology is evident in its 54 divisions of the American Psychological Association, each addressing a different perspective of psychology and a unique aspect of human interaction (Plante, 2011). Psychology permeates and has broad implications for human interaction as well as for the sciences and other disciplines. The psychological science, through its diverse distinctions supports and studies a variety of perceptions and perspectives, serving and honoring the individuality of the human experience (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). Psychological diversity influences the major concepts and contributes to a unique perspective of human behavior. In sum, the whole of psychology has a far greater ability to encompass humanity's entirety because of its diverse and diffuse nature.

The Influence of Diversity on Major Concepts in Psychology
Diversity exerts a dynamic influence on the major concepts in psychology. The psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic perspectives, represent varied perceptions of human behavior, each offering a unique solution to a psychological challenge, or an exclusive theory on human nature. Each of the major concepts emphasizes different aspects of human behavior, such as the cognitive, social, spiritual, and unconscious factors, which contribute to such behavior. The variety of perspectives and the confluence of these variations reflects the diverse nature of thinking among the human population. As no two individuals perceive an event in the same way, no two psychologists view every aspect of psychology the same. The major concepts define and explain human behavior according to theories unified under one specific aspect or perspective of psychology.

Alternatively, diverse thinking may engage a wide range of thought, but may limit the ability to focus on one particular idea or consolidated theory. Although psychology benefits from its diverse nature, it lacks such unification. Older sciences with unifying theories such as chemistry and physics appear more directed. Psychology is often criticized for its "soft" nature and may continue to struggle with its reputation as long as there are disputes between researchers, practitioners, and other branches of the science. Psychology may never have one unifying theory, but it is important for the science as with any other science to gain credibility in regard to therapeutic efficiency and in its use and application of the scientific method to determine the most effective therapeutic strategy. Perhaps the cohesion found in psychological disciplines is the unifying goal of and dedication to improving the quality of life for people and solving human problems as they change and evolve over time.

Subdivisions and Subtopics in Psychology and Their Effect on Other Disciplines

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology studies abnormal behavior and psychopathology and emphasizes the research and treatment of mental disorders (Hansell & Damour, 2008). This branch of psychology has implications in psychotherapy and clinical psychology as well as neuroscience. Subdivisions in this area include the biological basis of mental illness and the study of effective treatment options (Plante, 2011). Neuroscientific exploration studies the biological basis of mental illness as well as other physiological illness and seeks to understand the implicit relationship between the body and the mind by which science gains a more holistic perspective of multiple causality (Deckers, 2010).

Theories in abnormal psychology focus on the development of cognitive abilities, morality, social functioning, identity, and other life areas (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Understanding abnormal psychology and the ravaging effects of mental illness helps individuals suffering from the range of these disorders. Applying the behaviors in psychological disease in neuroscientific exploration assists in determining and addressing the biological components of the disease or disorder (Deckers, 2010). Furthermore, the relationship between neuroscience and the biological basis of psychology supports more accurate diagnosis and therapeutic chemical interventions (Plante, 2011, Wickens, 2009).

Lifespan Development

Developmental psychology focuses on human growth and development over the lifespan. The subtopic that discusses the effects of nature and nurture plays important roles in understanding human development and how experiences in early childhood have far-reaching implications in ongoing human social development (Berger, 2008). Developmental psychology plays a significant role in education whereby educational facilities embrace various theories of early childhood development to offer a more appropriate educational experience that aligns with developmental theory (Blume, 2006). In later childhood and adolescence, education and programs in the judicial system have developmental theories central in their aim to affect problematic behaviors in teens.

Comparison and Contrast of Two Theoretical Perspectives

Two major theoretical perspectives in psychology are psychoanalytical and the cognitive-behavioral perspectives. Each of these two major psychological perspectives maintain unique and diverse perceptions of mental conflict and illness (Feist & Feist, 2009). Psychoanalytic theory claims underlying unconscious directives bear responsibility for disordered human thought and behavior, whereas in the cognitive-behavioral paradigm, thoughts influence behavior and vice versa (Plante, 2011). The former emphasizes the need to bring unconscious internalized conflicts into consciousness for resolution and reconciliation although the latter claims by altering one's thoughts, behavior will follow and consequently change and similarly, changing one's behavior will assist in changing one's thoughts. Psychoanalytic therapy is often long and tedious whereas cognitive-behavioral therapy is often shorter in duration and enables the client to implement practical solutions immediately (Plante, 2011). The benefit of cognitive-behavioral therapy has been empirically proven for a number of disorders, although much of psychoanalysis has neither lent itself to verifiability nor falsifiability. The common goal of both perspectives is to reconcile inappropriate thoughts and behavior that interfere with the quality of life and to relieve personal conflict and disordered thinking (Feist & Feist, 2009).


Although viewpoints and perspectives in the science of psychology sometimes appear abysmal, each attempts to address disease and disorder from its distinct scientific point of reference. Each perspective addresses human behavior from a distinct viewpoint, although none is an all-encompassing composite (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Diversity permeates the major perspectives in psychology as well as their divisions and subtopics, which affects other disciplines as well as secular and popular thought. Abnormal psychology and lifespan development affect thought in education and neuroscience as well as other disciplines and fields of psychology (Hansell & Damour, 2008). The diverse character of the psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral perspectives exemplifies the distinct nature of psychological perspectives, although both support the unifying goal of psychology to improve the quality of life for people and resolve human conflict.


Berger, K. S. (2008). The developing person through the life span (7th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Blume, L.B. (2006)., Inc. Retrieved from

Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Kowalski, R. M., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Plante, T. G. (2011). Contemporary clinical psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Shiraev, E. B. & Levy, D. A. (2010). Cross-cultural psychology: critical thinking and contemporary applications (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn Bacon.

Wickens , A.P. (2009). Foundations of Biopsychology (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall.