Famous December Psychologists: Albert Bandura

Psychology has reached its success and popularity today thanks to the brilliant minds Image result for Albert bandurathat have scrupulously researched human behaviour and contributed to our understanding of the influential factors on our thinking, emotions and behaviours. Without such in depth research into the workings of the mind, we would have had a lesser understanding of the influence and importance of childhood experiences on the development of adult behaviour, and the effectiveness of counselling as an aid to recovery in cases of mental disorders including depression.

The first psychologist to be celebrated this month is Albert Bandura!

Born on 4 December 1925 in the town of Mundare, Northern Alberta, Canada, Albert Bandura is the fourth most cited psychologist of all time, after B.F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, and Jean Piaget. He is renowned for his experiment conducted in 1961,“Bobo Doll.”  where he demonstrated that behavioural patterns are learned by children through direct observation and imitation of others’ actions.

In this experiment, he attempted to explain that aggressive behavioural patterns can be, at least partially, understood through his theory of social learning. It was one of the first experiments in behavioural psychology at the time, followed by many other psychologists who researched the effects of violent scenes through visual media on children’s behaviour.

Bandura’s Education History

1949– graduates from the University of British Columbia with a degree in psychology
1952– obtains his PhD degree in clinical psychology at the University of Iowa

1953– begins teaching at Stanford University.
1973– Bandura becomes the president of the American Psychological Association

1980– receives the APA Award for Special Contributions

Some of Bandura’s Important Publications

Bandura, A. (1956). Psychotherapists’ anxiety level, self-insight, and psychotherapeutic competence. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 52, 333-337.

Bandura, A. (1957). Review of case studies in childhood emotional disabilities (Vol. 2) by G. Gardner. Contemporary Psychology, 2, 14-15.

Bandura, A. (1958). Child-rearing patterns associated with adolescent aggressive disorders. In Physical and Behavioral Growth. Columbus, OH: Ross Laboratories.

Bandura, A. (1961). Psychotherapy as a learning process. Psychological Bulletin, 58, 143-159.

Bandura, A. (1962). Social learning through imitation. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Bandura, A. (1963). Behavior theory and indemnification learning. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 33, 591-601.

Bandura, A. (1963). The role of imitation in personality, The Journal of Nursery Education, 18(3).

Bandura, A. (1969). Social learning of moral judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 11, 275-279.

Bandura, A. (2009). Cultivate self-efficacy for personal and organizational effectiveness. In E. A. Locke (Ed.), Handbook of principles of organizational behaviour. (2nd Ed., pp. 179-200). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Bandura, A. (2009, April). Science and theory building. Psychology Review14(4), 2-3.

Bandura, A. (2009). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 94-124). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bandura, A. (2010). Self-efficacy. In The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology (4th Ed. pp. 1534-1536). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Bandura, A. (2011). Social cognitive theory.  In P. A. M. van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.). Handbook of social psychological theories. (pp. 349-373). London: Sage.

*Albert Bandura has published over 100 research papers

What Makes Us Happy?

 Happiness is a subjective emotion and often correlated with the quality of life of individuals as each person has different goals and values. As a matter of fact, happiness has been defined as a “cognitive evaluation of one’s life, positive emotions (joy, pride) and negative emotions (pain, sadness)”. Therefore, each individual perceives and measures his/her happiness differently; there is no universal measurement of happiness.

Yet, it can be presumed that there are multiple factors which equally influence people’s emotional state: physical well-being, financial and social position, as well as age. On the other hand, recent studies suggest that genetics would also be a part of the big “puzzle” and it can have a significant effect on an individual’s happiness level. In order to have a better insight of how much genetics can determine one’s happiness, statistical data indicates that 50% of people’s happiness level is determined by genes. The remaining 50% is structured by 10 % of external factors (e.g. life experiences, age, religion, etc.) and 40% of cognitive and behavioral activities (personal choices, career, attitudes etc.). But since subjective well-being (aka happiness) involves multiple factors, different researchers reject the concept that 50% of people’s happiness is due to their genetics as it is believed that genetic variations have only 8.4% impact on people’s happiness.

The reason why researchers had been focusing on understanding the role of genetics in emotions is due to the difference of the cross-national subjective well-being; in other words, some populations are happier than the others. Although developed countries like United States of America, Denmark, France or the United Kingdom do not present a low economic situation like Vietnam or Panama, the level of happiness within the Western countries is notably reduced than the one within the populations of the less developed countries. This might indicate that external factors like finances, social position and education are not always the reasons for one’s happiness.

As such, researchers wanted to understand what really determines happiness and it seems that the explanation resides in the brain. De Neve and his colleagues’ research (2012) aimed to investigate if there is a particular gene which might have an influence on the subjective well-being (aka happiness). The results indicated that the serotonin-transporter gene 5-HTTLPR, as well as the neurotransmitter serotonin, are involved in the activation of negative emotions such as depression or stress, but at the same time, an increased level of serotonin can influence the positive emotional state of an individual. Moreover, the changes in serotonin’s neurotransmission can influence the mental health and personality of people. However, De Neve and his colleagues stressed the idea that genetics might play a small role as far as life satisfaction is concerned.

Similar data, reveal another gene which might be responsible for the emotional level changes. Apparently, individuals who self-reported as being very happy or unhappy presented different percentages of the A-allele gene in the anandamide substance which increases the sense of pleasure and decreases the sense of pain.

Although these results indicate a notable change at the biological level, it is difficult to attribute genetics a major influence (50% as it was suggested) when there is a wide range of external factors which can highly have an impact on one’s happiness. Regardless of the suggestions made about genetics’ role in people’s emotions, different researchers debate the theory and stress the importance of religion and social support as being few of the main factors that build people’s happiness.

Statistical data from 2016 indicates a significant difference between religious and non-religious people where the religious individuals registered a higher level of life satisfaction and happiness than atheists  The underlying reasons of happiness of religious people is the social support and social activities within the religious communities which apparently seem to improve people’s self-esteem and their perception about their life quality. The influence of such elements like social support and activities only highlights the fact that happiness can highly be reinforced by social skills and friendships rather than by genes.

Furthermore, sociologists suggest that the quality of the social relations can improve or affect individuals’ mental health, physical and emotional well-being. Additionally to these findings, the young public claims that “friends, satisfied basic needs, family and no problems” are considered as essential elements of happiness.

Other factors that might influence a person’s happiness are finances and age, yet it cannot be said that they have a major influence since nor a successful career nor age can highly affect the emotional well-being of people.


The Mysterious Function of The Unconscious Mind

We are often reminded of our unique ability that makes us different from other species on Earth: the power of logical reasoning. We consciously choose what, when and how to behave/talk. In other words, we are in control of ourselves. Yet, we are not.

Although we like to believe that our behavior is an outcome of our conscious choices, researchers claim that 95% of our reactions are determined by the unconscious forces. Popularized by Freud’s psychoanalysis work, the concept of an unconscious mind intrigued many psychotherapists and scientists, trying to understand its influence on our daily behavior.

The Difference Between The Unconscious and The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind is known as the guardian or the filter of human’s mind. Its main function is to select the best information that matches your needs and personality. It ensures that only empowering data is stored for the purpose of protecting you and developing a good function of the self. Nevertheless, human’s mind is far more complex and vast information slips through the net, allowing the unconscious mind to learn, record, store and retrieve data even when we do not pay attention. So, do we have two minds with similar functions?


Not really. It could be said that the conscious side of our mind has a quite limited capacity and little influence on the unconscious mind since the former one develops in time. As a matter of fact, for the first ten years of our lives, we learn in an unconscious mental state. This may happen due to the fact that children have not yet developed a great reasoning ability as adults, therefore they cannot logically select information.

Additionally, a prominent difference between the two minds is given by the means through which they record data. The conscious mind is entirely attached to the information received through speech, thought, physical movement or writing, while the unconscious mind absorbs information through emotional experiences and spatial-visual perception.

The Root of All Fundamental Knowledge

The unconscious mind is similar to a database with unlimited storage space: it records every information about our habits and surroundings since we are born. With all the stored information, the unconscious mind creates a behavioral pattern that fits our personality, thinking or needs, allowing us to navigate through experiences and remain consistent with our programmed identity. As a matter of fact, there are various activities that we generally consider as our second nature, while the truth is different. Think of driving, which is an activity that employs nearly 30 skills at once without us being consciously aware of them. Some will say that driving is learned through practice, which is true, but having a look at the rule “seven plus or minus two”, we understand that our brain can consciously hold between five to seven bits of information for a short period of time.

The same dexterity and efficiency are applied in other situations when we randomly experience the gut feeling. That sensation is nothing but the unconscious mind retrieving stored data/experience and suggesting us a possible solution.

As noticed above, I mentioned that we have a programmed identity. Although the word “programmed” may sound technical, our identities are indeed determined by the past and present experiences. Habits, beliefs, values and learning processes are all influenced by two major factors:

a) Modeling- the way our parents or close family members used to react or behave have influenced our perception of how we should communicate our emotions/thoughts. Similarly, we unconsciously learn new ways to communicate by observing people who have a certain influence on us. For example, fans who imitate their idol’s fashion style, manners, etc. Moreover, if you will pay close attention to some of your twitches or moves, you will recognize that they are not mere natural reactions, but imitations of someone else’s behavior.
b) Words-If an information you heard/hear is repeated enough times, it will sink into the mind and become part of your behavior or thinking pattern. For example, children are being told from an early age that Santa Claus is real. Being constantly told stories about the character, children accept them as the truth and even begin to associate words with experiences, building up “memories”. In other words, the more an information is repeated, the higher the chance to be perceived as part of the reality.

Thus, in certain situations, we find ourselves automatically reacting or saying words that we do not purposely choose as they are subconscious’ impulses or instincts learned/developed over time.


Conscious versus Unconscious 

The best metaphor to describe human’s mind has been given by Freud, comparing it with an iceberg, where the largest part is unseen (unconscious mind) and the small amount of ice is at the surface (conscious mind). Similarly, the most powerful part of our mind is the unconscious one. Besides being a source of knowledge and a tracker of our habits, it also regulates our body’s operating systems such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration or digestion. Although these systems may automatically function, the unconscious mind is actively ensuring that our body maintains an equilibrium.

Take as an example the panic attacks. When an individual experiences a panic attack, the immediate sensation is the one of fear and threat. Usually, the feeling is intensified by the conscious thoughts/questions such as “What if I faint?” “Oh, no I am losing control of myself!” or “I am breathing heavily, why is that?”. Consequently, this leads to agitations and an increased heart rate since the conscious is aware of a problem and tries to identify the cause and a possible solution.

However, the way to break out of a panic attack is simple when we stop generating thoughts and view the situation just as an uncomfortable experience instead of a threat. Once we stop the flood of worries, the unconscious mind will begin to balance our breathing and heart rate. Therefore, the less we think of what may happen or how we breathe, the easier will be for the unconscious mind to help us.

Certainly, the influence and power of the unconscious mind extend beyond the above-mentioned features, which will be discussed in further articles.

The Development of Psychology Throughout History

Prompted by an acceleration in science discovery, there is an increasing appetite from the scientific community as well as the general public to research and explore the workings of the mind; as such psychology as a science is in a process of being demystified allowing a wider community of interest to explore the mind and its effect on behaviour. Besides this increasing fascination and curiosity in human behavior, recent developments in psychology discovery have greatly contributed to the realization of the profound effect that mental health has on our well being, as well as on the impact that a socio-economic environment has on children’s mental development.  This growth in knowledge has resulted in bringing about advances in new skills and procedures to applied mental healthcare.

Psychology’s Origins
People in general associate the origins of psychology with Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, when therapeutic disciplines became recognized as a science.  This is a false conclusion as the first attempts in understanding human cognitive functions and behavior are attributed to the Ancient Greeks.
The physician Hippocrates proposed that people’s temperaments are highly influenced by the four bodily fluids, i.e. blood, phlegm, yellow, and black bile which when balanced, result in normal health, whereas a disequilibrium of these fluids would precipitate mental diseases.  Such valuable introspection can be considered as the first theory of biological influences on mental health.
Subsequently, Hippocrates associated blood with a sanguine temperament (i.e. enthusiastic, restless, sociable, compulsive talker, etc.), phlegm with phlegmatic personality (i.e. patient, calm, indecisive, shy, etc.), yellow bile with choleric temperament (i.e. dynamic, leader, impatient, unsympathetic, strong-willed, etc.), and black bile with a melancholic personality (i.e. moody, analytical, philosophical, creative, etc.).
Of course, Hippocrates’ systematization of temperaments drew recognition and criticism from upcoming philosophers and theorists, but he laid the foundation for further research by raising a conceptual awareness of body-mind connection and mental health.
The 1800s: An Era of Enlightenment
Although Hippocrates insights on personality and mental health were revolutionary at the time, not much more progress followed in terms of focused research and analysis for many millennia to come. In fact, if one is to examine the theories and methods applied to treat mental disorders in the past centuries, we could say that the approach to psychological and emotional issues in society was majorly reliant on, and influenced by spiritual and religious dictates, with people who were not conforming to ‘norms’ as dictated by religious authorities simply considered as being demonised regardless of the actual mental state of the accused. Those who suffered from diminished mental health and actually needed therapy faced the same brutal treatment as those who simply did not conform to the religious norms

Interest and progress aligning psychology to science began during the Enlightenment era, more specifically towards the late 1800s.  It was then that the physiologist Wilhelm Wundt separated the study of psychology from philosophy in 1875 by creating the first experimental laboratory with the purpose to examine and to record thoughts and resultant sensations, in order to better understand the mind’s functions, state of consciousness and its influence on behavior. Thanks to his experimental methods and his first textbook “Principles of Physiological Psychology, 1873”, psychology became recognized as a valid science and Wilhelm Wundt became “the father of the modern psychology” by publishing his works on the foundations of what we know today as cognitive psychology.

The 1900s: Psychology’s Accelerated Ascension in Times of War 
The 1900 millennium brought about accelerated growth in the systemic study and discovery of psychology as a science which many agree is the foundation of the success and the recognition it enjoys today amongst other scientific fields. With the rapid increase of interest and progress in science and experimental laboratories, many theorists and researchers saw psychology’s potential in understanding, treating and improving public’s mental health. But since humans and life experiences are complex, the fast-expanding field of psychology has embraced multiple theories, such as functionalism, behaviorism, and humanism. Every subdiscipline of psychology aimed to examine the vast range of factors that were affecting the disadvantageous members of society and subsequently, their target was to eradicate social injustice as well as generate knowledge amongst high and low social classes.
As theories and experiments were gaining attention and success for managing social issues, researchers’ psychological expertise was highly required and respected. Yet, psychology, as a scientific discipline, received its valuable place in academics after the two World Wars.

The cruelty of the wars left profound scars and traumas behind them, causing more social and emotional issues. This was the period when people needed guidance and healing more than ever. As a result, the professional organization American Psychology Association(APA, initially founded by 31 members in 1892), has encountered a rapid growth by 1970s as over 30,000 psychologists united in order to extend their work, skills, and theories with the purpose of treating contemporary human issues in all aspects: law, social warfare, and education.

Thanks to the newly developed rating scales, theories, interpretations of personality and the apparition of the concept “conscious vs unconscious mind”, psychologists were finally able to offer answers to multiple enigmatic concepts such as motivation, racism, marital issues, the causes of misbehavior in adolescence, the major stages of human’s life and so much more. The boom of information that psychologists were gathering through their research caused a mania among populations, transforming psychology into a dominant “interpretative tool”.
With a welcoming public and an increasing popularity, the psychological organizations began to share information with the public via books and articles, not only through their academic writings. Therefore, psychological information was no longer formal.
Psychology Today
After the end of the Second World War, psychology has systematically expanded its area of expertise in education, healthcare, law, sports, neurology, business and social services through research and continuous training of professionals.
Today, psychology does not only diagnose and treat patients but it also develops interventional strategies that could contribute to a better and healthier function of society.
Yet, this does not mean that psychology’s evolution will stop here. Due to the advances in technology and science, experts suggest that psychology will have a better understanding of the molecular processes in mental disorders, which will greatly improve the diagnosis process, the pharmaceutical treatments as well as possible preventions. The refined results of research in neuroscience will expand their benefits in multiple fields such as affective science and cognition. The implications will allow psychologists to prevent and determine what could affect/benefit children’s academic development, what people choose to remember, develop better procedures to improve memory, understand the biological basis of emotions and so much more.
It could be concluded that psychology as a science has a bright future.

The Meaning of Synchronicity

Synchronicity (or as it is commonly known “coincidence”) is a concept created by one of the pioneers of psychology, Carl Jung. In his own words, he described synchronicity as a causal connection of two or more psychic and physical phenomena, better said, “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (such as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality”-Merriam Webster 

Surely, we all experienced synchronicity at least once in our lives; a moment when a person we recently met had similar ideas to us, a moment of desperation when we needed answers and we found them in events, from strange people, songs etc; conversations or phrases that have been in sync, people who guided/advised us as if they knew our deepest concerns. In fewer words, the experience of synchronicity is a moment of revelation, leaving us in awe as if we received the answer to one of the hardest mathematical issue.

Why Does It Matter?

These mystical occurrences are definitely not mere coincidences, but rather meaningful events that aim to reassure, teach or reveal our mistakes/new purposes.  You must remember movies in which the main character is left with so many doubts about the future or about his/her purpose and all of a sudden, s/he encounters an unknown person whose words seem to bring light and clarity. Well, those scenarios are based on reality as we all understood our purpose or shaped our goals when someone’s words (either through songs, conversations, etc.) has “awoken” a side of us we may have not been aware of.

Nevertheless, synchronicity does not happen only through words, but also through physical events as Carl Jung said.

Think of the following common scenario: how many times did you meet a specific type of personality in different individuals and you wondered “How am I lucky to work only with this kind of people”? It is not like everyone is the same, but those personality traits that bother you the most are the ones you mostly encounter. The reason why it may happen is that you either need to learn how to deal with situations that disturb you or it may be that those personality traits are a reflection of your character, and you should, therefore, reflect on possible changes. Of course, there could be various reasons, various scenarios, but the idea is that when you experience the same situation under different circumstances, it would be worth stepping out of the emotional turmoil and identify the lesson. The sooner you learn, the sooner you move on to a new chapter.

The Key Is…..

….to recognize when synchronicity occurs. Carl Jung was suggesting that our rationale or conscious mind does not allow us to assimilate the information or messages around us, which it usually creates a lack of awareness.

….to pay attention to the frequency of the events in order to understand if there is a lesson you need to learn.

….to remain in touch with reality. The reason why I say this is because people tend to be extremists. They either ignore every sign in their lives or they see signs everywhere in their lives. It is important to know that synchronicity does not occur every day. It is more like a cycle that aims to guide and enlighten us. As a matter of fact, this cycle is also considered a spiritual guidance from God (for those who are spiritual or religious), which comes in our lives in moments of uncertainty or when we need to make a change in our lives or with ourselves.

Another easy way to recognize synchronicity is the sensation of unity, of surprise and awareness that causes. It is an unmistakable feeling. Therefore, keep an inner balance at the same time as not all events or conversations may be messages.

While synchronicity is a complex subject, it will be further discussed in future articles. However, if you are interested in reading in depth about the subject, David Wilcock describes the intelligence and guidance of synchronicity in our lives.