The End of an Era

I cannot believe it, the last week of classes has arrived. It feels as though just yesterday I was returning to Lethbridge for the Fall semester, and yet is the end of spring semester. Psych 3330 – Learning in Cognition has been one of my favorite classes in my university career, and I am not just kissing ass with that statement. Going into this course I was fearful, it was something completely out of my comfort zone, public speaking regularly and no clear outline of the expectation… I was running blind. However, that was the beauty of the class and why I found is so very rewarding.

I take from this class, not only interesting topics to bring up on a future date but a better understanding of individuals with social deficits, possible instances that lead to a person social action/reaction, and an improved outlook on people and the world we live in.  Social cognition being a “sub-top” of social psychology, to me, is more that just a sub-topic but rather the fundamentals of social psychology and our lives overall. Humans which are social, knowledge obtaining creatures put processing, storing, and applying information within a social setting the very foundation of our social existence.

I have obtained so much knowledge throughout the deration of this class, as well as terrific dinner table conversation. Every Tuesday and Thursday when I would call my mother to check in on how things are back home she would ask if I had to present a talk that day, how it went, and  if not what talks did I go to? Class after class there was no shortage of topics to discuss. From dark humour, narcissism and media, social isolation, Autism spectrum disorder, personality disorder, to domestic abuse. The list goes on, but first and for most I learned the importance of social cognition and that it is more or less an art form in our social world.

I am sad the semester is coming to an end as I am saying goodbye to one of my favorite classes I always looked forward to attending, friendships I hope will continue into to the unforeseen future and of course the great, always inspiring, sharp witted and majestic Jesse Martin! Whose classes I will always recommend to my fellow peers at the U of L. It was a pleasure to be in this class and share this experience with you all, learning from you has been such a treasure, I hope you have safe and fun filled summer. Take care 🙂

Complex Needs and Social Cognition (Synthesis)

To conclude my focus on complex needs often found within the classroom and how they effect a student ability to learn. I focused exclusively on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), although there are many other complex needs very prevalent within school systems there is simply not enough weeks in the semester for me to explore them all.

An overview my past blog on ADHD concluded that ADHD is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity and sometimes even impulsivity. Individuals who have ADHD often have difficulties with problem solving and social comprehension, crucial for successful peer relationships. Peer relationships are one of the primary context in which children learn cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution – skills that are all critical for effective social functioning throughout our social lives, can have devastating effects to children with ADHD.

ODD is often looked at in a similar light as ADHD, ODD is characterised by ongoing patterns of anger, irritable mood, defiant, argumentative behavior and vindictive tendencies towards people of authority. These features often cause a deficit to interpersonal sensitivity and emotional reactivity, which are core features found in children with ODD. This causes issues with reading social cues and often attribute hostile intentions to other’s behavior, which is the reasoning behind their outbursts. ODD can manifest into a life time of antisocial behavior and other psychopathically tendencies, such as conduct disorder (CD). CD consist of behavioral patterns consistent with antisocial behavior and the violation of social norms and other individuals rights.

ASD, I bit different compared to ODD and ADHD, still is comprised of deficits within the social lives of those who poses ASD. ASD is a disorder which is presented in profound social disconnect, and the cause is rooted within the child’s early brain development. Social disconnect may include; unawareness of surroundings, failure to respond to sights and sounds, limited speech and language skills, difficulty playing with other children and making friends, as well as repetitive or restricted behavior that may be difficult for others to understand.

You can see an obvious trend in the negative effects complex need often entail. To summarizing my findings I found an article that consists of a meta-analysis that explores the nature of social deficits among students with learning disabilities or complex needs. The met analysis is comprised of over 150 studies that shows, on average, 75% of student with complex needs develop social skill deficits that can exclude and distinguish them from comparison groups (those without complex needs).

Although social skill deficits appear to be associated with individuals with complex needs, however there are a number of questions about the relationship between complex needs and social skill deficits that remain unanswered. Nonetheless, social skill deficits are still viewed as one among many components that constitute individuals who have complex needs.

Taking form this I see the importance of socialization, specifically in regards to one’s cognitive abilities. Reading other various blogs on social isolation and its detrimental effects, I theorize that these complex needs themselves are not the fundamental cause to a decline in cognition, but rather the failure of peer relationship or lack of socializing often accompanying those with a complex need. These individuals may be stunted in their social abilities, this may cause social rejection, which furthers their lack of social knowledge – it’s a vicious cycle. Their best bet in developing an adequate or “normal” social cognitive ability, in the case of ASD, ODD and ADHD, is to develop a healthy, successful, and productive social environment. Social cognition is a very important aspect of our live, but we learn an awful lot through socializing as well. A successful individual does not just simply having the ability to use our knowledge to construct

References;

Kavale K. A., & Forness S. R. (1996). Social Skill Deficits and Learning Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 226-237

Mundy P., Sullivan L., Mastereorge A. M. (2009). A parallel and distributed-processing model of joint attention, social cognition and autism. Autism Research, 2, 2-21

Baron-Cohen S., Leslie A. M., Frith U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21(1). 37-46

Happe F. & Frith U. (2006). The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1). 5-24

Autism Reading Room (2017). Autism: A Disorder of Social Disconnect. Retrieved form http://readingroom.mindspec.org/?page_id=6203&gclid=COL82-ef7dICFQ-dfgod5xkHYw

Coy K., Speltz M. L., DeKlyen M., & Jones K. (2001). Social–Cognitive Processes in Preschool Boys with and Without Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29(2), 107-119

WebMD (2005-2017). Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/oppositional-defiant-disorder#1

Wikipedia. (2017). Conduct Disorder. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorder

Sibley M. H., Evans S. W., & Serpell Z. N. (2010). Social Cognition and Interpersonal Impairment in Young Adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 32(2), 193–202.

Pediatr A. (2007) Peer Functioning in Children with ADHD. 7(1), 101-106.

 

ASD and Social Cognition

The next complex need I will be focusing on, on my topics of social cognition in relations to individuals with complex needs, will be autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD has been increasingly occurring within schools, these children are often diagnosed with ASD before they even begin attending school, as onset of ASD occurs within the first years of life. ASD is a disorder which is presented in profound social disconnect, and the cause is rooted within the child’s early brain development. Social disconnect may include; unawareness of surroundings, failure to respond to sights and sounds, limited speech and language skills, difficulty playing with other children and making friends, as well as repetitive or restricted behavior that may be difficult for others to understand.

As I have stressed in my previous blogs, socialization is a huge factor in a child’s future cognitive abilities. Therefore you can see the anti-social tendencies, or the apparent disconnection from one social surroundings, can be very problematic for the cognitive function of individuals with ASD. Looking at an article that specifically looks at joint attention (information-processing) in individuals with ASD. Numerous studies indicate that there are behavioral impairments in joint attention, which causes the inability to socially coordinate their attention with others and this is extremely important for social learning. Without the capacity for joint attention, success in many educational contexts would be difficult. In a class room setting, for example, there can be rapid-fire exchanges of shared attention in social interactions between the students, or the teacher and the student, without joint attention social cognition is greatly impaired.

However, these impairments may vary in levels of severity as autism is on a spectrum there wavers in deficits and abilities as well as a variation in the magnitude of effects on these deficits and abilities, all depending on whether they are high or low functioning. My mother, who is an educational assistant (EA) had the pleasure of working with two boys on opposite ends of the autism spectrum, who coincidentally were brothers. Austin was very high functioning, almost to the point where an EA was unneeded. Ethan however, was very low functioning, to the extent that he was non-verbal and his cognitive abilities were realty stunted. Individuals with ASD are very unique in their abilities and deficits, and therefore should be individually assessed and then a proper program plan should be developed and should cater to that specific individual. Simply providing an EA to a student with ASD is not enough, there is no quick or easy solution to mediate or guide a child with ASD in order to optimize their learning capabilities. In order to do so, intervention to better their social cognitive abilities should be done on a case-to-case basis.

References;

Mundy P., Sullivan L., Mastereorge A. M. (2009). A parallel and distributed-processing model of joint attention, social cognition and autism. Autism Research, 2, 2-21

Baron-Cohen S., Leslie A. M., Frith U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”? Cognition, 21(1). 37-46

Happe F. & Frith U. (2006). The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(1). 5-24

Autism Reading Room (2017). Autism: A Disorder of Social Disconnect. Retrieved form http://readingroom.mindspec.org/?page_id=6203&gclid=COL82-ef7dICFQ-dfgod5xkHYw

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Social Cognition.

For my second blog I am going to focus on a different complex need that has become increasingly common within the class room, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD. ODD is a condition first displayed in early childhood that is characterised by ongoing patterns of anger, irritable mood, defiant, argumentative behavior and vindictive tendencies towards people of authority. These behavioral obstacles disrupt daily activities within family life and academic life (WebMD, 2005-2017). Many children and teens who are diagnosed with ODD also suffer from other behavioral problems such as ADHD, learning disabilities, mood and anxiety disorders (such as depression or severe social anxiety).­­­ Some children can even develop a behavioral disorder CD or conduct disorder, which consist of behavioral patterns consistent with antisocial behavior and the violation of social norms and other individuals rights (Wikipedia, 2017). The exact cause of ODD is not known, however combination of genetic, environment and biological factors are believe to contribute to the disorder.

Looking at a study in 2001, including 88 preschool boys with ODD and 80 boys believed to not process ODD (meaning non-disruptive boys, assesses three times in two years to be sure). The study looked to answer three questions; (1) Is there a distinction in social-cognitive abilities between boy with and without ODD? (2) What is the correlation with preschooler’s social-cognitive process and behavioral problems? (3) Does ODD and ADHD coincide with one another (Coy, Speltz, DeKlyen, & Jones, 2001)? As both disorders have similar symptoms and deficits.

In the study the participants were presented with a peer oriented hypothetical problem, boy with ODD generated fewer responses, and if they did respond they were twice more likely than those without ODD to present an aggressive or violent solution. As well as they were less accurate with encoding social information, this was linked to verbal IQ and language skill. However there was no difference in response evaluation and attribution, or a correlation with ADHD. The study also found that ODD was typically found in boys (reasoning for the all boy study) and is often initially miss diagnosed as ADHD. The only real distinctive difference between the two is physical aggression and consistent antisocial behavior.

A deficit to interpersonal sensitivity and emotional reactivity are core features found in ODD children, therefore they have issues with social cues and often attribute hostile intentions to other’s behavior, (Coy, SPeltz, DeKlyen, & Jones, 2001) leaving children with ODD socially unskilled, socially rejected and deficits in problem solving skills. Children with ODD also believe that acting out in an aggressive manner will have positive results, due to their stunted social knowledge.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder can manifest into a life time of antisocial behavior and other psychopathically tendencies (such as Conduct disorder, as discussed earlier, and antisocial personality disorder), if there is no inference or treatment. Treatment method is determined by multiple factors such as the child’s age, severity of symptoms and the child’s ability to cope. Most commonly a combination of psychotherapy and medication are administered (WebMD, 2005-2017).

In my previous blog notifying the peers of a child with ADHD can be detrimental to the positive of their social interaction, however in regards to ODD notifying the child’s peer can be beneficial as the response to the child’s out bursts is crucial. As I mention before children with ODD believe that aggressive behavioral responses will result in positive effects, therefore if their peers laugh and react in a way that could be perceived as a positive response, a child with ODD (having poor social cue recognition) will view their reaction as positive reinforcement.

References;

Coy K., Speltz M. L., DeKlyen M., & Jones K. (2001). Social–Cognitive Processes in Preschool Boys with and Without Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29(2), 107-119

WebMD (2005-2017). Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/oppositional-defiant-disorder#1

Wikipedia. (2017). Conduct Disorder. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorder

ADHD in Adolescence and Social Cognition

I plan on narrowing my blogs focus on children with complex needs. If I get into the Education program, fingers crossed, I plan on becoming an elementary school teacher. I believe that by focusing on various cognitive obstacles some kids face and establishing a better understanding of these obstacles will make me a better educator in the future. The obstacles I am referring to are conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder teacher (ADHD), which I will be focusing on in this blog.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity and sometimes even impulsivity. It often begins and is diagnosed in childhood and on average 2 out of 3 children with ADHD continue to have symptoms well into adulthood.

Looking at a study that took 27 young adolescents with ADHD and compared them to a sample of 18 participants without ADHD. The study aimed to examine whether the impairment in peer functioning and social-cognitive deficits, so things like problem solving and social comprehension, found in elementary school children also occurred in adolescence. The stud also looked at providing evidence that these deficits cause functional impairments in social domains.

The study looked at both parent and peer reports of adolescent social functioning, and reports suggest that individuals with ADHD continue to experience difficulties with peers into the adolescent years.

This obviously will have a huge impact on the child’s learning because socializing and having positive peer relationships is critical in learning development, the study pointed out that these finding were congruent with social comprehension and problem-solving deficits.

The study also found a link between functional impairment and social cognition.

ADHD doesn’t just effect the child in their intellectual lives, it doesn’t just effect their success in school but their social lives as well.

I also found another article that dove into the deficits to their social lives, specifically deficits to peer relationships. Peer relationships being the primary context in which children learn cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution – skills that are all critical for effective social functioning throughout our social lives, can have devastating effects to children with ADHD.

Childhood peer problems can also predict a wide variety of outcomes such as academic difficulties, substance abuse, delinquency etc.

Not only can the child not focus in class due to symptoms of ADHD, problems with peer relationships can also negatively effect their academics.

The best form of treatment is stimulant medications and social skills training with behavioral contingency management, these two treatments combined are very effective. Just putting a child on medication for ADHD isn’t enough.

The article stressed the importance of children with ADHD having positive successful peer relationships, as this can greatly benefit and lessen the social deficits constituted by ADHD.

However, making a child’s peers aware that they suffer from ADHD proved to have negative consequences. A study actually found that if a child with ADHD had peers that were aware of their chronic condition had a negative experience within social interactions as their peers are significantly less friendly and talked marginally less compared to social interactions with a child who unknowingly had ADHD. Therefore assigning a child an EA (educational assistant) can cause the child to be an outcast as well as make their condition known.

Your best bet for a child with ADHD is medication, social skills training, keep their condition hidden, and help cater a positive and successful peer relationship.

References;

Sibley M. H., Evans S. W., & Serpell Z. N. (2010). Social Cognition and Interpersonal Impairment in Young Adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 32(2), 193–202.

Pediatr A. (2007) Peer Functioning in Children with ADHD. 7(1), 101-106.

 

Implicit Social Behavior

In todays world we are taught from a very young age to behave in a specific manner. We are socially prescribed to adhere to specific norms and roles that constitute a certain type of behavior deemed acceptable by societal standards. Acceptable behavior is often situational and environmentally specific, as behavior in a gym differs immensely from that of a classroom.

For example there are table manner/behaviors we all abide by, therefore, while eating at the dinner table you would not reach into the bowl of mashed potatoes with your hands to get yourself a serving, you would use some sort of utensil. Something we are taught as babies, to use a fork and knife, with the exception of certain foods.

We are continually reinforced to be aware and conscious of our actions and behaviors as there are social norms we must adhere to or be subjected to social ridicule. Our behavior is therefore explicit as we are making a conscious effort behave and act in a particular way.

However, there are still implicit behaviors we face that can effect our behaviors unconsciously. We unknowing behave in ways that we often times were taught implicitly as well as past notions and experiences we were exposed to can be cataloged in our brain without our knowledge of doing so.

For example you attitude is very much an implicit social behavior, as you have no control over how someone or something will make you feel. Your attitude is motivated by a past experience that is consciously unremembered.  For example my sister for as long as I can remember has absolutely hated corn, she was repulsed by it. She insisted it had nothing to do with the taste but just the thought of putting a spoon full of corn in her mouth made her gage. Later we found out that as a toddler my sister actually choked on some corn and nearly choked to death, she has no recollection of this event but her mind unconsciously made the association that corn is bad and she should not eat it.

Self-esteem is also an implicit operation as we unaware of our constant unconscious attitudes towards ourselves. Specifically our projections onto other objects. If you unfortunate process are very negative attitude towards yourself and your self esteem is very low, you are more than likely to put others down, as you yourself put yourself down, bullies for example.

Stereotypes operate implicitly as stereotypes can drive our treatment or expectations of others. For instance gender role stereotypes, conversations you have with a girl may differ  than a conversation with a boy as you assume certain gender roles are in play. If you approach a girl you may be more inclined to talk about a reality TV show, fashion or other gender typical topics. For a boy you may be more likely to discuss sports or truck etc. We unconsciously adjust out additives based on previous knowledge we have  abstained through experience.

Implicit behavior is a huge part of our social existence and developed as we learn and grow through our childhood. Your attitude, self-esteem, and believed stereotypes are unconsciously instilled in us by our parents, teacher or any other authoritative figure in our lives. We have no control over who influences us and what we implicitly learn, therefore it is very important for older generations to be very cautious in thee presence of young adolescence because you can never know what their minds will decide to take in.

Hoping to be a future elementary school educator this is of great interest to me. My focus, constituting next week, will be focused primarily on learning in adolescence as I believe to be beneficial to me as a future educator, as well as anyone planning on being a future parent, so stay tuned 🙂

Reference;

Greenwald, A. G. & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit Social Cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes, 102(1), p. 4-27.

 

 

Relationship Goals

With it being singles awareness day, I thought what better way to spend the day than torturing myself with relationship goals… If you are as bitter and alone as myself then you are more than likely curious of what constitutes a successful relationship.

In order to maximize your chances of being in a successful relationship you should not put your significant other on a pedestal and idealize them to being this perfect being. You should acknowledge their weaknesses and flaws early on in the relationship and learn how to tolerate them, as well as you should be sure that their positive attributes out weigh their negative attributes. All in all you should go into a relationship with realistic expectations and basically keep your standards low. Which sounds like the right mentality, however, some studies suggest otherwise.

Idealizing your partner can actually work, and is riddled with its own relationship benefits. By idealizing your significant other you can actually strengthen the sense of them being “the one”, which lessens the possibility of doubt within the relationship.

Idealizing, as well as projecting traits of your ideal partner and yourself, can be beneficial in a relationship as well. Projecting ideal traits on your partner can cause positive illusions where begin to see those traits in your significant other. As well as projecting your own self image can lessen the likelihood of personality incompatibilities, because you see aspects of yourself within you partner, causing the positive illusion that you may have more in common than you actually do.

Looking at a study conducted by Sandra Murray and her colleagues in 1999, they took a large group of married and dating couples and had then describe their self-perception, their perception of their significant other and their ideal partner, as well as virtues and faults of their current partner.

The findings in the study correlated embellished template of their ideal partner to a very positive perception of their current partner, providing far more virtues than faults. The same out come was associated with a high levels of self-perception as well. So how you see yourself and your ideal partner has a huge impact on how you perceive your current partner.

Further findings suggest that people who tend to idealize their partner are more optimistic, resulting in less conflict within the relationship and when negative events do occur they do not perceive such events as threatening to the relationship. Causing more of a sense of stability and increasing the overall well-being of the relationship.

But how long can this last? More than likely your significant other will fall short and not meet your standards of your ideal partner, so your more than likely to be exposed to long-term disappointment, right? Wrong, the study followed up with the relationships who had strong idealizations and they reported that they felt their relationship was far more stable and satisfying compared to relationships who had no idealizations. How is this so?

By idealizing your partner you project traits of what your ideal partner would consist of and this results in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only do you believe that your significant other processes those specific traits, due to your positive illusions, but your significant other also starts to believe and therefore eventually starts exhibiting those traits.

This makes me question if this effect also occurs in reverse? For example if you perceive all men as jerks, therefore you project this image that all men are jerks and thus all men you date turn out to be jerks.

I believe our mind set and perceptions has a huge impact on the outcome of our situations. So go into every aspect of your life with the most positive of intentions, especially a relationship. It may seem bleak due to it being Valentines day and many of us to not have a date, myself included, its easy to be bitter. However, this isn’t forever (at least I really hope not), so Happy Valentines Day! Eat some chocolate and always be positively, your match is out there 🙂  ❤

Reference;

Murray S. L. (1999). The Quest for Conviction: Motivated Cognition in Romantic Relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 10, 23-34.