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You must choose 
ONE of the following questions/topics below to answer/address.  Make sure you answer/address ALL parts of the question/topic.  
If you quote directly from the text in your answer please indicate so by using quotation marks.  When using material from the text you must list page numbers.  Remember, grammar counts, this is an upper level course so I expect you to communicate your ideas clearly and to appropriately cite material.  DO NOT copy and paste from websites.  During the first week of class I will do my best to prompt students and give feedback so you can get a feel for exactly what is expected.  Don’t forget that a portion of your participation score comes from responding to posts from other students (you must have at least 2 comments/asides to student main posts in addition to your main response) for each discussion.

It is important that you provide enough detail so it is clear to me that you understand the material and provide a reference and citations for ANY information that is not your own.

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1. An important part of research is separating the good from the bad. Research shows that even the best and brightest students may hold some beliefs in pseudoscience. It also shows that if discussions about pseudoscience are not handled correctly, there can be a backfire effect where the example of pseudoscience is remembered but not that the claim is actually false (Impey, Buxner, & Antonellis, 2012; Lewandowsky et al., 2012). Describe pseudoscience and give a detailed example (PLEASE DO NOT USE ASTROLOGY AS AN EXAMPLE). Explain how you would teach about your example so that it is clear that it is pseudoscience.  

2. People sometimes suggest that psychology cannot be a science because either a) human behavior cannot be predicted with perfect accuracy, or b) most of its subject matter (e.g., thoughts and feelings) cannot be observed directly. Explain how the use of the scientific method and empirical questions helps to dispute those claims. In your response, define and give an example of empirical and nonempirical questions and the scientific method. Do we need to be able to directly observe and predict human behavior with accuracy for psychology to be a science? Why or why not?

3. Define basic and applied research in terms of research in psychology. Pick a topic that is interesting to you and provide three basic research questions for that topic. Then, expand on that to include three applied questions related to your basic research questions. Identify specific variables in each example. Finally, find an article in a research journal related to your topic. Does the research question in that article fit as a basic or applied research question. Why?

4. If we look at science as a general way of understanding the natural world, there are three fundamental features to the scientific approach. Define those features and provide specific examples of each. How are these features related to one another? Include at least one published work from a research journal in your response.


Topic 4 – Features of Science

Each scientific discovery has three ultimate features that come into deliberation with the first one being systematically empiricism (Price, Jhangiani, & Chiang 2015, p. 5). Empiricism is the absorbed information that is conducted within the involvement or observation process while systematically indicates the followed procedure that took place by arranging, implementing, recording, and investigating on the research question. If we reflect on how the discovery of the Bystander Effect from Larane and Darley in 1968 was conducted, they let participants complete a survey when smoke entered the room and noticed a pluralistic ignorance among several of them when it came to taking action (Emeghara, 2020, “Bystander Experiments” section). For the experiment to generally find accurate results, the researchers first needed to plan how to create an emergency situation with different individuals to record their reactions and to then analyze the findings that have been observed.

The second feature is the important empirical question that needs to be answered by systematically perceiving it while in this case, we empathize on a question that is in fact investigational. If we look again at the Bystander Effect, we can record the number of individuals who took responsibility when the incident occurred but documenting why the individuals reacted in this manner would not be an empirical question since it is not observable.

Coming to the last feature which is essential for the contribution to the public knowledge in the research literature. By publishing the findings in a professional journal, it benefits other researchers to contemplate or to investigate upon the study even further as it allowed to emerge with Larane and Darley experiment over time. The three features of science are therefore interconnected and construct a social process that lays an establishment for the collective scientific awareness to improve our understanding of the natural world we live in (Price, Jhangiani, & Chiang, 2015, p.6). 


Emeghara, U. (2020). 
Bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility. Simply Psychology. 

Price, P., Jhangiani, R., & Chiang, I. (2015). 
Research Methods of Psychology – 2nd Canadian Edition. Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus. Retrieved from 


The three fundamental features to scientific approach as follows: 

1. Systematic Empiricism: defined as “learning by observation” ( (Price, Jhangiani, & Chiang 2015, p. 5). The definition is pretty vague and right on. Researchers learn from what they observing. 

2. Empirical Questions: defined as a specific question about how the world works, and can be answered by observing (Price, Jhangiani, & Chiang 2015, p. 6). 

3. Public Knowledge: once the question is asked, the subjects are observed and the results are recorded the researcher writes up the entire research and publishes it and allows the public to gain knowledge from their research and possibly recreate the research as well. 

The three fundamentals work together in sequence, you cannot have one without the other. The research starts with the empirical question and then is followed by systematic empiricism which is the observing in order to answer the question and record the results. Finally comes the public knowledge where the whole entire research gets published and open to the public in order for them to gain the knowledge from the observations and recreate the research based off what was learned to see if maybe there is another outcome with that new knowledge added. 


Price, P., Jhangiani, R., & Chiang, I. (2015). 
Research Methods of Psychology – 2nd Canadian Edition. Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus. Retrieved from 


Main Entry:  Post a brief analysis of what you have learned from this week’s readings and activities.  Clearly identify each segment of the required response in order to facilitate discussion development.  In 5 sentence or more, synthesize your thoughts on …

a.  How do biological, psychological, and social-cultural factors interact to produce specific psychological disorders?  Consider disorders such as eating disorders in Western cultures, Amok in Malaysia, Susto in Latin America and Hikikomori in Japan. 

b.  Support your post.  Provide a reference for one professional, peer-reviewed article in support of points addressed in your response.   The reference should be 
APA formatted. Include an accessible link (e.g. UMGC Library generated Permalink) so your classmates can explore the article you have selected.

2. Peer Responses:  Post Constructive Peer Feedback. In addition to posting your main entry, respond to at least TWO (2) of your classmates’ entries.  In 3 or more sentences, provide constructive feedback.  What did you find interesting?  Do you have additional thoughts?  Share them.  When providing your feedback present the logic behind it.


n this week’s reading, the myth of mental illness stood out to me the most. It is extremely interesting learning about how psychological disorders were studied and treated throughout the years. Many people believe that psychological disorders were made up by those who displayed erratic and psychotic behaviors in order to normalize such distasteful acts. The 1950s to the 1960s showed an increase in individuals claiming psychological disorders in order to escape punishment from committing crimes such as heinous acts and violent impulses (Spielman, 2018). In today’s society, research and treatments for disorders has come a long way. When a normal person thinks about psychological disorders, they immediately picture individuals that belong in straight jackets who are monitored 24/7 in mental health facilities. It is now my understanding, that we can no longer rely on research based on atypical versus nontypical due to the social norm in today’s society. The true benefit of modern medicine and therapy is that we hold the tools to help individuals with their unique disorders. 

There are many ways that biological, psychological, and social-cultural factors interact, however, each factor has its unique trigger based on the individual. Certain psychological stressors need to be present for individuals to develop a disorder even though they may be born with a genetic predisposition for a certain psychological disorder (Farreras, 2023). When talking about biological factors, one could say since a family member displayed a specific disorder that other members of the family could possibly be diagnosed with the same disorder. This may not be the case for everyone but it is a basis to start from. For this factor, a trigger could be someone comparing you to your disabled family member and your belief that it may be true. A psychological factor could be the mind in a state of confusion when a person is trying to complete certain tasks. A trigger for this factor could be envy of others which leads to episodes of imaginary moments based off of want. Lastly, social-cultural factors could create numerous disorders such as anxiety and eating disorders. It is no secret when we talk about the heavy toll certain individuals face based on this factor. An example would be peer pressure from friends believing that they should emulate Hollywood actors in order to prosper socially. As a result of this factor, many female individuals resort to eating disorders in the hopes of one day portraying themselves as how Hollywood actors appear.


Farreras, I. G. (2023). History of mental illness. Noba textbook series: Psychology. 

Spielman, R. M. (2018). Psychology Unit 16, Module 2: What are psychological disorders? 


This first week has reintroduced me as to why I changed my major to psychology. I’m hoping that I will continue to be fascinated by the many topics we discuss throughout this semester. In one of our readings, the text mentioned that psychiatrist Thomas Szasz debated the idea that mental illness was created by society (Szasz 1960). The idea that mental illness was made to help identify people who went outside of the cultural or societal norms is troublesome, but understandable given the era in which the idea was formed. People who were not “normal” was suggested to have a mental illness because they did not adhere to their societal norms (Szasz 1960). 

Three factors being biological, psychological, and social cultural are a perfect recipe to help create different psychological disorders. For example, anxiety is a common psychological disorder, troubling close to 30% of adults at any given time during their life (Muskin 2021). Anxiety was described as a normal stress reaction (Muskin 2021), but things changed once the stress reaction started to interrupt daily life functions. It seemed that anxiety is now a social norm; people of my generation understand it and was accepting of the disorder. The American Psychology Association mentioned that a psychological disorder has to have four key factors which include: significant disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as that disturbances reflect some kind of biological, psychological, or developmental dysfunction (APA 2013). Anxiety easily fell into being described as a biological, psychological, and social disorder.

Muskin, P. R. (2021, June). What are anxiety disorders? Psychiatry.org – What are Anxiety Disorders? Retrieved January 14, 2023, from 

Definition of a Psychological Disorder

If you felt extremely depressed—so much so that you lost interest in activities, had difficulty eating or sleeping, felt utterly worthless, and contemplated suicide—your feelings would be atypical, would deviate from the norm, and could signify the presence of a psychological disorder. Just because something is atypical, however, does not necessarily mean it is disordered.

melancholiaphotography comprises public domain material.

For example, only about 4% of people in the United States have red hair, so red hair is considered an atypical characteristic (Figure), but it is not considered disordered, it’s just unusual. And it is less unusual in Scotland, where approximately 13% of the population has red hair (“DNA Project Aims,” 2012). As you will learn, some disorders, although not exactly typical, are far from atypical, and the rates in which they appear in the population are surprisingly high.

If we can agree that merely being atypical is an insufficient criterion for a having a psychological disorder, is it reasonable to consider behavior or inner experiences that differ from widely expected cultural values or expectations as disordered? Using this criterion, a woman who walks around a subway platform wearing a heavy winter coat in July while screaming obscenities at strangers may be considered as exhibiting symptoms of a psychological disorder. Her actions and clothes violate socially accepted rules governing appropriate dress and behavior; these characteristics are atypical.

Cultural Expectations


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Violating cultural expectations is not, in and of itself, a satisfactory means of identifying the presence of a psychological disorder. Since behavior varies from one culture to another, what may be expected and considered appropriate in one culture may not be viewed as such in other cultures. For example, returning a stranger’s smile is expected in the United States because a pervasive social norm dictates that we reciprocate friendly gestures. A person who refuses to acknowledge such gestures might be considered socially awkward—perhaps even disordered—for violating this expectation. However, such expectations are not universally shared. Cultural expectations in Japan involve showing reserve, restraint, and a concern for maintaining privacy around strangers. Japanese people are generally unresponsive to smiles from strangers (Patterson et al., 2007). Eye contact provides another example. In the United States and Europe, eye contact with others typically signifies honesty and attention. However, most Latin-American, Asian, and African cultures interpret direct eye contact as rude, confrontational, and aggressive (Pazain, 2010). Thus, someone who makes eye contact with you could be considered appropriate and respectful or brazen and offensive, depending on your culture.

Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not physically present) in Western societies is a violation of cultural expectations, and a person who reports such inner experiences is readily labeled as psychologically disordered. In other cultures, visions that, for example, pertain to future events may be regarded as normal experiences that are positively valued (Bourguignon, 1970). Finally, it is important to recognize that cultural norms change over time: what might be considered typical in a society at one time may no longer be viewed this way later, similar to how fashion trends from one era may elicit quizzical looks decades later—imagine how a headband, legwarmers, and the big hair of the 1980s would go over on your campus today.

The Myth of Mental Illness

In the 1950s and 1960s, the concept of mental illness was widely criticized. One of the major criticisms focused on the notion that mental illness was a “myth that justifies psychiatric intervention in socially disapproved behavior” (Wakefield, 1992). Thomas Szasz (1960), a noted psychiatrist, was perhaps the biggest proponent of this view. Szasz argued that the notion of mental illness was invented by society (and the mental health establishment) to stigmatize and subjugate people whose behavior violates accepted social and legal norms. Indeed, Szasz suggested that what appear to be symptoms of mental illness are more appropriately characterized as “problems in living” (Szasz, 1960).


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In his 1961 book, The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, Szasz expressed his disdain for the concept of mental illness and for the field of psychiatry in general (Oliver, 2006). The basis for Szasz’s attack was his contention that detectable abnormalities in bodily structures and functions (e.g., infections and organ damage or dysfunction) represent the defining features of genuine illness or disease, and because symptoms of purported mental illness are not accompanied by such detectable abnormalities, so-called psychological disorders are not disorders at all. Szasz (1961/2010) proclaimed that “disease or illness can only affect the body; hence, there can be no mental illness” (p. 267).

Today, we recognize the extreme level of psychological suffering experienced by people with psychological disorders: the painful thoughts and feelings they experience, the disordered behavior they demonstrate, and the levels of distress and impairment they exhibit. This makes it very difficult to deny the reality of mental illness.

However controversial Szasz’s views and those of his supporters might have been, they have influenced the mental health community and society in several ways. First, lay people, politicians, and professionals now often refer to mental illness as mental health “problems,” implicitly acknowledging the “problems in living” perspective Szasz described (Buchanan-Barker & Barker, 2009). Also influential was Szasz’s view of homosexuality. Szasz was perhaps the first psychiatrist to openly challenge the idea that homosexuality represented a form of mental illness or disease (Szasz, 1965). By challenging the idea that homosexuality represented a form a mental illness, Szasz helped pave the way for the social and civil rights that gay and lesbian people now have (Barker, 2010). His work also inspired legal changes that protect the rights of people in psychiatric institutions and allow such individuals a greater degree of influence and responsibility over their lives (Buchanan-Barker & Barker, 2009).

Harmful Dysfunction

If none of the criteria discussed so far is adequate by itself to define the presence of a psychological disorder, how can a disorder be conceptualized? Many efforts have been made to identify the specific dimensions of psychological disorders, yet none is entirely satisfactory. No universal definition of psychological disorder exists that can apply to all situations in which a disorder is thought to be present (Zachar & Kendler, 2007). However, one of the more influential conceptualizations was proposed by Wakefield (1992), who defined psychological disorder as a harmful dysfunction. Wakefield argued that natural internal mechanisms—that is, psychological processes honed by evolution, such as cognition, perception, and learning—have important functions, such as enabling us to experience the world the way others do and to engage in rational thought, problem solving, and communication. For example, learning allows us to associate a fear with a potential danger in such a way that the intensity of fear is roughly equal to the degree of actual danger. Dysfunction occurs when an internal mechanism breaks down and can no longer perform its normal function. But, the presence of a dysfunction by itself does not determine a disorder. The dysfunction must be harmful in that it leads to negative consequences for the individual or for others, as judged by the standards of the individual’s culture. The harm may include significant internal anguish (e.g., high levels of anxiety or depression) or problems in day-to-day living (e.g., in one’s social or work life).


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To illustrate, Janet has an extreme fear of spiders. Janet’s fear might be considered a dysfunction in that it signals that the internal mechanism of learning is not working correctly (i.e., a faulty process prevents Janet from appropriately associating the magnitude of her fear with the actual threat posed by spiders). Janet’s fear of spiders has a significant negative influence on her life: she avoids all situations in which she suspects spiders to be present (e.g., the basement or a friend’s home), and she quit her job last month because she saw a spider in the restroom at work and is now unemployed. According to the harmful dysfunction model, Janet’s condition would signify a disorder because (a) there is a dysfunction in an internal mechanism, and (b) the dysfunction has resulted in harmful consequences. Similar to how the symptoms of physical illness reflect dysfunctions in biological processes, the symptoms of psychological disorders presumably reflect dysfunctions in mental processes. The internal mechanism component of this model is especially appealing because it implies that disorders may occur through a breakdown of biological functions that govern various psychological processes, thus supporting contemporary neurobiological models of psychological disorders (Fabrega, 2007).

The American Psychiatric Definition

Many of the features of the harmful dysfunction model are incorporated in a formal definition of psychological disorder developed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the APA (2013), a psychological disorder is a condition that is said to consist of the following:

· There are significant disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A person must experience inner states (e.g., thoughts and/or feelings) and exhibit behaviors that are clearly disturbed—that is, unusual, but in a negative, self-defeating way. Often, such disturbances are troubling to those around the individual who experiences them. For example, an individual who is uncontrollably preoccupied by thoughts of germs spends hours each day bathing, has inner experiences, and displays behaviors that most would consider atypical and negative (disturbed) and that would likely be troubling to family members.

· The disturbances reflect some kind of biological, psychological, or developmental dysfunction. Disturbed patterns of inner experiences and behaviors should reflect some flaw (dysfunction) in the internal biological, psychological, and developmental mechanisms that lead to normal, healthy psychological functioning. For example, the hallucinations observed in schizophrenia could be a sign of brain abnormalities.

· The disturbances lead to significant distress or disability in one’s life. A person’s inner experiences and behaviors are considered to reflect a psychological disorder if they cause the person considerable distress, or greatly impair his ability to function as a normal individual (often referred to as functional impairment, or occupational and social impairment). As an illustration, a person’s fear of social situations might be so distressing that it causes the person to avoid all social situations (e.g., preventing that person from being able to attend class or apply for a job).

· The disturbances do not reflect expected or culturally approved responses to certain events. Disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors must be socially unacceptable responses to certain events that often happen in life. For example, it is perfectly natural (and expected) that a person would experience great sadness and might wish to be left alone following the death of a close family member. Because such reactions are in some ways culturally expected, the individual would not be assumed to signify a mental disorder.

Some believe that there is no essential criterion or set of criteria that can definitively distinguish all cases of disorder from nondisorder (Lilienfeld & Marino, 1999). In truth, no single approach to defining a psychological disorder is adequate by itself, nor is there universal agreement on where the boundary is between disordered and not disordered. From time to time we all experience anxiety, unwanted thoughts, and moments of sadness; our behavior at other times may not make much sense to ourselves or to others. These inner experiences and behaviors can vary in their intensity, but are only considered disordered when they are highly disturbing to us and/or others, suggest a dysfunction in normal mental functioning, and are associated with significant distress or disability in social or occupational activities.


Psychological disorders are conditions characterized by abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Although challenging, it is essential for psychologists and mental health professionals to agree on what kinds of inner experiences and behaviors constitute the presence of a psychological disorder. Inner experiences and behaviors that are atypical or violate social norms could signify the presence of a disorder; however, each of these criteria alone is inadequate. Harmful dysfunction describes the view that psychological disorders result from the inability of an internal mechanism to perform its natural function. Many of the features of harmful dysfunction conceptualization have been incorporated in the APA’s formal definition of psychological disorders. According to this definition, the presence of a psychological disorder is signaled by significant disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; these disturbances must reflect some kind of dysfunction (biological, psychological, or developmental), must cause significant impairment in one’s life, and must not reflect culturally expected reactions to certain life events.



Spielman, R. M. (2018b). Psychology Unit 16, Module 2: What are psychological disorders? Retrieved from 







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