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Psychology: The Innovative Humanity-Turned-Science [Part 2]

(A continuation from the previous post.)

THE REVOLUTION

In 1879, Wundt’s increasing interest in the strength and extent of nerve stimulation plus his transference from his studies in Zurich to the University of Leipzig’s Institute of Psychology would be marked by a post ceding immediate rapid increase of scientific experimentation in psychology.[1] The credibility of Wundt’s experiments was bolstered as he accepted possibilities of statistical error, a concept borrowed from German psychophysicist Gustav Fechner. The primary basis for his original reaction-time investigation was his insistence that psychology imposed sustained reasoning because the study derived and explained complex physical processes through simpler means.[2]

In the ensuing decade, American psychologist William James supported the first formal psychology experiment through his greatest contribution, the publication in which he announced psychology as the “science of mental life” with regards to the study’s form and underlying aspects.[3]

Furthermore, James elucidated the complex process, which Wundt had compromised for experimental means, at the neuronal level.[4] He additionally professed there were two ways to viewing sensation, both of which were required in Wundt’s lab. People could physically perceive an attribute, such as through sight or touch, or they could dedicate thoughts to an attribute without maintaining a real relationship to it.[5] With respect to Wundt’s lab, these differing concepts ultimately and respectively referred to physically perceiving the stimulus versus awaiting it.

DESCENDING DISSENT

By the following decade, immediately after Wundt’s revolution, an unknowing opposition was already proliferating under the same notions of psychology. Austrian Sigmund Freud was crafting an authoritative new subcategory, psychoanalysis, which would come to defy and haze scientific psychology’s standards. Suddenly, defense mechanisms—from repression to regression—became common justifications for ambiguous actions whereas other concepts—such as parapraxis, the Oedipus complex, and hedonistic fixations—transformed the public’s view of human nature into a simplistic struggle solely based on desire.

In his own way, Freud was the Wilhelm Wundt of psychoanalysis. Yet by classifying his study as a metapsychology—an offspring of the parent study—his unintended reform hindered psychology’s further establishment as a discipline.[6] In one such example, Freud advocated that one’s characteristic guilt could be derived from a committed bad action or simply the proposed thought of committing such a deed. Although this subject correlated with emotions, the concept was indirectly supported by Wundt’s claims, which held conjectures with regards to thinking about perceiving a signal versus actually discerning it.[7]

A few decades later, Swiss analytic psychologist Carl Jung, a follower and expander off of Freud’s claims, also alienated scientific psychology when he asserted that humans would never fully understand themselves. He noted that the individual consciousness was an exception to statistical rules, and a result, valuable empirical data would never be obtainable.[8]

Above all, psychoanalysis’ largest role in psychology was the simplicity that it advocated in observing human nature. According to the Freudian psychoanalyst, humans’ memories, thoughts, and ideas were all structured from ponderings on sexuality. Although this statement was mainly Freud’s opinion, the idea proved so compelling at the time that it stuck and developed.[9] As a result, such philosophical input afflicted the pure science as the latter evolved and regained some of its pre-revolution shaky theoretical aspects.

APPLICATIONS OF THE SCIENCE

As the 20th century further unraveled, scientific psychology proved somewhat resilient to the allegations that denied its viability. Although the discipline’s trunk still had some philosophical remains, newer branches provided unique studies that complied with the field’s empirical standards while promoting novel methods for the science’s application.

Forty years after the revolution, classical conditioning materialized into one of psychology’s most significant offshoots. Russian polymath Ivan Pavlov came center-stage with his experiments on animals in which he used their simple-minded associations to represent the macrocosmic complexity in humans. Yet contrary to Wundt’s experiment, Pavlov analyzed the speed of reflexes that could not be controlled. His experimentation greatly consisted of projecting an external stimulus at the same time that the animal produced its instinctive “reflex reaction” toward an ordinary stimulus. After several repetitions, the animal would unknowingly learn to automatically produce the instinctive reaction in response to the previously random stimulus as well.[10] This experimentation with animals demonstrated how the simplicity of human innateness could be applied to work in the utmost methodical manner.

Just years after classical conditioning’s incipience, American behaviorist B.F. Skinner emerged, among others, as the primary advocate of behaviorism. Although he viewed behaviorism to be a philosophy-subsidiary of behavioral science, the characteristics that he attributed to his study resembled many of those that were prominent in scientific psychology. Forms of empirical data were deemed valuable while natural selection and evolution fueled the study. Skinner enforced his study’s pedestal on the operant plane, in which various reinforcements—consequences for a specific behavior—could be manipulated to drive a person to act accordingly. While some radical thinkers—such as Skinner—placed behaviorism as an investigational field of only unemotional drives, others included the former with associated feelings, which altogether diversified the presiding science.[11] Psychology now included experimentation on conscious mental responses, which incidentally alluded to Descartes’ early theorizations on mind-body interactions.

Gestalt psychology provided another constructive branch-off—initiating circa 1910 and then developing in the following decades—through the combined efforts of founders German Kurt Koffka, German Wolfgang Kohler, and Czech Max Wertheimer. The study required for discerned movement to produce a sum of basic sensations in the human mind.[12] In the decades to come, the Gestalt model represented this foundation at the broader altitude of individuality. The primary goals for psychologists in Hitler’s regime reflected gestaltism’s notions while the study strengthened in Germany and then spread internationally and for America.[13]

LOOKING BACK

Psychology’s revolution from a theorized humanity into an investigational science ultimately proved a success. Wundt’s essential Leipzig laboratory formally postulated human behavior and thought in a manner that had never before been pursued during the predecessors of biology, physiology, and philosophy. The elite innovators of Germany merged the three sciences into one discipline that consequently altered the international perception of the field. Then the open-minded America transformed into the forefront for the radical infant science, and novel subfields sprouted. While some swayed the science precariously, the overall result was a diverse school of thought with a marked finesse based on scientific investigation. Most importantly, whilst psychology delved into the mind’s processes at the microcosmic level, it also illuminated a macrocosmic humanity that otherwise would never have been explored without the key contribution of this crucial “science of mental life.”


[1] Wilhelm Max Wundt, Principles of Physiological Psychology, trans. Edward B. Titchener (New York: Macmillan, 1904), 75, accessed November 19, 2011, Google eBooks.

[2] Mandler, 55-60.

[3] James, 1.

[4] William James, The Principles of Psychology (New York: Dover Publications, 1950), 1:88, accessed January 29, 2012, Google eBooks.

[5] William James, The Principles of Psychology (New York: Dover Publications, 1950), 2:3.

[6] Dorian Feigenbaum, “Freud’s Latest Contribution,” The Nation, May 11, 1927, 537, accessed January 29, 2012, MAS Ultra – School Edition (13659575).

[7] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, ed. and trans. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989), 84.

[8] Carl G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self with Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 25-7.

[9] Sigmund Freud, The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. A. A. Brill (New York: Random House, 1966), 62-6.

[10] Ivan P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes, trans. Gleb V. Anrep (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2003), 5-7.

[11] B. F. Skinner, About Behaviorism (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), 46.

[12] Mandler, 10.

[13] Stanley M. Herman, “Toward a More Authentic Manager,” Training & Development Journal 25, no. 10 (October 1971): 10, accessed January 29, 2012, Professional Development Collection (8812404).

Psychology: The Innovative Humanity-Turned-Science [Part 1]

February 21, 2012 1 comment

[My report for a school history project. It is in the rough stages, but due to time restraints, I will make changes in the future.]

It was a bleak December day for the University of Leipzig, Germany, in 1879. In the confined room of a dilapidated building on campus, professor William Wundt and two assistants were constructing a device that would measure the reaction and response time for a person to hear a ball hit a surface and then press a key.[1] The experiment was simple, yet its implications were revolutionary. For the first time in history, scientific experimentation would be formally conducted in the field of psychology, thus marking the origin of psychology as a science. This first laboratory setting would represent the grand-scale sweeping advance from psychology’s traditionally humanistic approach toward the well-supported organization of scientific investigation.

The cumulative sequence of events that contributed to psychology’s ultimate transition into a science lasted several centuries. It started with 17th century European philosophers who demanded the necessity for scientific experimentation as they expounded upon the need for direct evidence to substantiate ideas. Following them were the slightly radical thinkers whose contrasting notions somewhat hindered psychology’s future development while simultaneously predicting downfalls in the science-to-be. By this point, an influx of diverse thinkers had accumulated in Prussia—soon to be Germany—as it pulled on the role as the principal producer in psychology.

In the decades immediately before the changeover, now-universal key terms, such as “survival of the fittest” and “nature versus nurture,” emerged as intelligence and personal capabilities became hot topics on the psychology platform. When Wundt alas directed the first formal experimental psychology procedure, he created a laboratory that eternally transformed psychology’s future development and character. Germany—and more specifically the University of Leipzig—became evermore the “Mecca” of psychology as studiers flocked from around the world to share their ideas in this extended symposium.[2] A decade later, the immature science made its definitional debut in print, incidentally in America, which formally established its position among other technical disciplines.

Into the 20th century, psychology diversified. Yet in the following decades, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler eradicated much of Germany’s contribution to the study as he narrowed psychology’s focus toward the holistic German experience.[3] Psychology consequently transferred toward a revitalized structure in America. Here, rigorous reformers implemented their schools of thought, each of which proved an advantage, hindrance, or both, with regards to the science’s progress.

The ensuing result was a versatile humanity-turned-science that clutched the potential to revolutionize the world’s perception of human mentality. With a systematic means for providing evidence and a batter of multifaceted theories to keep it evolving, psychology has molded into a science, one with a profound strength and innate competitiveness that will keep it in the stadium of technical disciplines.

THE PHILOSOPHERS’ AGE

In the 1600’s, psychology’s leading thinkers provided the basis on which the science would evolve. One of the first was French philosopher René Descartes, who introduced a chain of proposals that would be construed into the structure for modern scientific investigation.[4] Soon after, he formulated theories on the interactions between the mind and body, which foreshadowed psychology experimentation with regards to the brain’s relationship with the body.[5] This interaction was the foundation for psychology, although the concept proved difficult to analyze because neither the mind nor the body could be perceived individually.

English thinker John Locke substantiated Descartes’ proclamations through the former’s comparisons of the mind as a blank paper. From this empiricism viewpoint, Locke believed that knowledge regarding oneself and others was derived from sensory observation, which was accordingly analyzed and reflected in the mind.[6] Through this approach, Locke introduced the concept of acquiring knowledge via examination.

While individualistic perception was still evolving, psychology’s future development was greatly shaped by Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant during the ensuing century. In varying scenarios, Kant supported both empiricism and rationalism, which advocated human’s innate ability to reason. Yet Kant’s cumulative philosophies arguably vilified the soon-to-be science as he projected his ideas on human morality. The thinker asserted that one’s sense of morality was based on logic and reason as opposed to sentiment. He believed that humans experienced sensations exteriorly, which exposed their ethical conduct to fluctuation.[7] Kant’s widely acclaimed views plus his insistence that scientific psychology was impossible additionally wounded psychology’s reputation at the time. Because of the study’s inability to be mathematically expressed, Kant disaffirmed its viability as a science.[8] By slandering it, the theorist would compel some thinkers to stray away from psychology while simultaneously requiring future psychologists to rethink their notions.

BIOLOGICAL PREDECESSORS

Into the 1800’s—the century of the revolution—philosophy encountered biology in a smoothly concocted medley that would quickly pave way for scientific psychology’s debut. Optimistically contributing to the eventual science was English naturalist Charles Darwin, whose publications on evolution and animal thinking supplied the subsequent decades with novel ideas. His evaluations brought forth the general speculation on differences in traits and abilities within the human species.[9] In relation to psychology, these findings implied nature’s role in molding individuality.

One of Darwin’s most driving assertions was the evolutionary belief that all species were derived from a single primitive predecessor.[10] English polymath Francis Galton further developed this claim on evolution by analyzing how the single human species could result with so many disparities. In this manner, he procured the world-renowned controversy of the nature-versus-nurture debate that would soon become the fundamental force in psychology and the basis for virtually all investigations. The dispute questioned the amount that nature—one’s genetic make-up and characteristics from birth—shaped an individual in comparison to that of nurture—all surrounding conditions and situations after birth.[11] The debate instantly secured its grip as thinkers from the humanities and sciences volunteered their opinions on the subject. The question was consequently coined a psychology term as it strengthened the durability and flexibility of the burgeoning field.

An appendage to his foremost and most famous pondering was also Galton’s attempt to classify people based on their natural abilities. He noted the extensive variations of intelligence capacity and ability among individuals and accordingly observed case studies to further gauge the extent to which intellect could vary.[12] In the near future, human intelligence would become a chief point of interest in psychology due to its role in linking the brain’s doings with those of the body.


[1] David G. Myers, Psychology, 8th ed. (New York: Worth Publishers, 2007), 3.

[2] Myers, 8.

[3] George Mandler, A History Modern Experimental Psychology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), 128, Amazon Kindle e-book.

[4] René Descartes, Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 160.

[5] Descartes, 182.

[6] John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser (New York: Dover Publications, 1959), 1:121-4.

[7] Michael Rohlf, “Immanuel Kant,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed November 19, 2011, last modified May 20, 2010, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/.

[8] Alan Kim, “Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed November 19, 2011, last modified June 20, 2006, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wilhelm-wundt/.

[9] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, ed. Wordsworth Editions Limited (Ware: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1998), 103.

[10] Frederick Burkhardt, Samantha Evans, and Alison Pearn, eds. Evolution: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin 1860-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 3.

[11] Francis Galton, English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture (New York: D. Appleton, 1890), 7-9, accessed November 19, 2011, Google eBooks.

[12] Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius (New York: D. Appleton, 2006), 11, accessed November 11, 2011, Google eBooks.

[To be continued.]

Classifying Psychoanalysis

[11/25/11]

[A continuation to Psychology’s Development into a Science.]

A small room, furnished with homely carpets and paintings, is brightly lit and air-conditioned. An elongated leather sofa in the corner of the room faces an open window overlooking the city. An exhausted man lies on the sofa, legs crossed and arms folded, as he stares vaguely through the window. He ponders aloud about his day, indifferent to any listeners. Over time, his words scratch through the veneer of his thoughts and into his more clandestine contemplations. Behind him, a professionally dressed woman jots down notes while interjecting every so often.

The scenario is classic. It is the archetypal Freudian setting to the minutest detail. Anyone who walked in on this appointment would know it. Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s ideas have become so widespread that, even a century after their establishment, they are still recycled and debated over.

Many would argue that Freud deserved such fame. He introduced free association therapy, as aforementioned, in which a client jumps freely from thought to thought while the therapist takes notes. Freud’s thoughts on personality—largely, the superego, ego, and id—have influenced how people view the actions of others and themselves. Literary classics have been shaped by Freud’s tenets, including William Golding’s allegory Lord of the Flies, in which the author’s three main characters—Ralph, Piggy, and Jack—coincide with the representations of the ego, superego, and id, respectively.

Some of Freud’s justifications for behavior, despite their controversy, have survived the century. Although people may not be familiar with the names of the theorist’s scientific terms, they often know the intended meanings behind them. For example, Freud’s system of defensemechanisms—including repression, displacement, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, and regression—illustrates an individual’s attempt to transfer anxiety using methods of distorting reality. Projection and reaction formation are ways of viewing situations in the opposite light in order to better their appearance. Displacement and regression summarize the means in which the individual reverts to more-so immature actions in order to vent feelings.

The most well-known of the mechanisms are rationalization—in which an individual justifies his actions to feel better about them—and repression—where one dissolves all anxious thoughts and memories from consciousness. Concurring with repression, Freud’s coinage of parapraxis, the “Freudian slip,” refers to when an individual accidentally voices a repressed idea in writing or speech.

The thinker’s opinions on sexual desires were revolutionary for their time, although most are now disclaimed. He introduced the psychosexual stages of fixations throughout human development along with the Oedipus- and Electra-complex relationships between children and their parents.

Freud altogether delved into basic mental processes and related all human motives to unconscious or hidden desires. His thinking was radical, even though it was basically derived from his opinions and everyday observations. But most importantly, society connected such theoretical thinking to psychology, the “science of mental life,” according to William James. [See the previous article.]

In this sense, psychoanalysis hindered psychology’s development into a science. It would be more reasonable for psychoanalysis to instead be a subcategory of philosophy, which entails the opinions and theories on life that psychoanalysis encompasses. Because of psychoanalysis’s association with psychology, society has enslaved the latter to a humanity study that involves therapy and theorization.

On the contrary, psychology is a broader subject that can incorporate biology, chemistry, physics, or therapy, depending on the direction of focus that one chooses. Psychologists do not have to be therapists; they can specialize in neuropsychology, psychobiology, psychophysics, mathematical psychology, and more.

Many of the notions in psychoanalysis have been deemed faulty, while some people consider the entire subject flawed. The study’s views cannot be derived through scientific experimentation because they developed from mere observation and opinionated interpretations. Thus, it only makes sense that psychoanalysis be classified with the theorizations of philosophy rather than the investigations in psychology.

Freud’s psychoanalysis has caused a segment of psychology to become stale; it cannot be developed further unless it is greatly modified.

Even if Freud may not be competition for timeless philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Locke, he most certainly does not belong with psychologists Wundt, Skinner, and Pavlov.

Psychology’s Development into a Science

January 3, 2012 1 comment

[10/15/11]

In a society where psychology is still associated with Rorschach tests and Freud, it seems debatable as to whether the study has really developed into a science or whether it is still stuck in an abyss of philosophy. More likely, the general population is simply still not informed well enough about the aspects of the study.

“Psychology” translates literally to the “study of the soul,” where the Greek word psykhe means “spirit” or “soul.” On the other hand, Merriam-Webster defines psychology as “the science of mind and behavior.” Evidently, much has changed since philosopher Christian Wolff created and first used “psychology” in his 1732 publication Psychologia Empirica.

Common misconceptions in psychology are largely derived from the study’s roots in philosophy. Seventeenth century French philosopher René Descartes, for example, is famous for proposing the connection between the mind and body. We now know that the mind and body do indeed associate together, but Descartes’s first theorizations of such a link were ironically not inspired by scientific discovery. They were instead procured by his arrival at the Saint-Germain royal gardens in France, where he observed hydraulically operated statues controlled by underground mechanical plates. Greatly interested by the immobile machinery that brought life to the animated sculptures, Descartes formulated his theory that paradoxically established a basis to psychology.

Soon after, British philosopher John Locke suggested the “blank slate,” the idea that humans are born with no knowledge and that their minds are “slates” onto which knowledge and experience are inscribed. Many philosophers posed varying opinions regarding Locke’s “blank slate” theory, but it was only until scientific experimenting and medical procedures that facts could be established.

In this sense, it was a kind of revolution in 1879 when Wilhelm Wundt—properly deemed the “father of experimental psychology”—created a device that determined the cumulative processing and reaction time span for a person to hear a ball hit a surface and then press a key. The experiment was conducted in Germany’s University of Leipzig, thus creating the first official psychology laboratory. Soon after, more psychology experiments and labs emerged; as an offspring of this, psychology started stemming out into diverse subcategories. Some branches—such as neuro- and developmental psychology—favored the burgeoning scientific view, while others—like the various forms of therapy—still leaned toward the philosophical roots.

In the years to come, many new scientists staked their fame. Nonetheless, most were seemingly lauded only by fellow psychologists despite the significance of their discoveries and claims. Psychologist William James, for example, made great strides when he called psychology the “science of mental life” in his 1890 book The Principles of Psychology. His new definition alone doubtlessly helped incite the notion that psychology was a science.

Ivan Pavlov contributed equally to the science of psychology as he established the common Pavlovian conditioning method. Also called classical conditioning, his experiments introduced a form of learning where one unconsciously connects a physical automatic response with a random stimulus. In his research, Pavlov played a pitch prior to feeding a dog. Upon encountering the food, the dog started salivating. The pattern was repeated several times: the tone, the food, the dog’s salivating. After continued repetition, the dog unconsciously learned to salivate at the mere sound of the tone. In this sense, the animal acquired a learned response to a stimulus that was previously deemed random and unrelated. The dog now had a conditioned response (salivating) to a conditioned stimulus (the pitch).

In essence, Pavlov’s studies introduced a novel type of learning while simultaneously opening doors to more research in sleep, mental disorders, and other concepts related to the realms of the unconscious mind. A key concept driving his direction of research was behaviorism, the idea that psychology should be objectively studied with no mention of mental processes. In other words, he believed the study should be entirely focused on the unconscious beyond-awareness aspect.

Behaviorism’s unique perspective naturally sparked debate among psychologists, and, like any other young science, psychology experienced internal conflicts and clashes. A few years after Pavlov published his first findings on classical conditioning, three German psychologists—Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler—introduced Gestalt psychology. Though this theory was not direct opposition toward behaviorism, it was established around mental processing (which behaviorism avoided). Their gestaltism altogether emphasized one’s visual identification of an object’s parts in order to mentally create and comprehend the overall picture.

Wilhelm Wundt, William James, Ivan Pavlov, and Wolfgang Kohler are four noteworthy psychologists who contributed immensely to the development of psychology into a science. Yet when most people think of psychologists, Sigmund Freud is doubtlessly—and ironically—one of the first to come to mind. While Freud made his own contributions to psychology and human understanding, it is debatable as to how much forward these contributions drove psychologists and their strides to turn psychology into a science…

[To be continued.]

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Hurricane Katrina’s Tie with Psychology

January 3, 2012 1 comment

[8/2/10]

When Hurricane Katrina spiraled into eastern regions of North America in 2005, it broke records with its casualties, costs, and strength. Over 1,800 people perished, and taking into account damage repair and survivor relief, the disaster became the U.S.’s costliest hurricane in history. But there is more to the catastrophe than the damage it caused. The choices in opinions and actions that people made affected the aftermath, and this is shown through the following psychological concepts and their applications in the real world:

Social loafing is a concept where many people in a group tend to not accomplish as much as they would have if they had been alone. This concept occurs when people are in groups. People assume that their full effort is not needed because of all of the other participants in the group. In the Hurricane Katrina situation, social loafing was present in several countries in terms of donating items, such as money and goods. The American Red Cross asked the international community for donations to help victims. Though many countries participated and offered much help, many other nations donated very little or none at all. There may have been specific internal reasons for not donating, but it is possible that these nations knew that they were not alone in helping the U.S. Such nations felt that their help was not as crucial because of how big the international community was. They thus slacked off, in a sense, as a way of letting others contribute too.

Groupthink is a format of thinking within a group in which members aim to minimize conflict and reach conclusions as soon as possible without deeply considering all options and consequences. It is generally caused by pressures within the group, and it can result with negative effects of efficiency and judgment. During Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, groupthink was apparent when the American Red Cross was searching for donations and help on the international level. The hurricane had caused much destruction, and the affected Americans felt that they were in great need for help. They asked for as much international help as possible and, as a result, received over $854 million, according to the Washington Post. However, less than 5% of these funds—$40 million—were used to help the hurricane’s victims and reconstruction. Because the U.S. was in so much need for help, it did not consider how much money and help would be necessary. The nation thus asked for the maximum help possible, which proved to be a lack of judgment. A limited consideration was given to the future consequences regarding excess funds.

The just-world phenomenon is people’s tendency to assume that everyone deserves what he or she goes through. The idea concludes that the world is fair, even for victims who appear to receive injustice. For example, in Hurricane Katrina’s situation, some people did not try to help the disaster victims because they believed that the victims deserved the calamity. They felt that the victims easily could have listened to the hurricane alerts and taken a plane or driven to another region. Such people who fall into the just-world phenomenon feel that the victims had the opportunity to prevent the disaster or, even more, save themselves. (Such people often do not realize other environmental factors. For example, some victims may have been unable to leave the hurricane’s disaster region for personal reasons.)

Hindsight bias refers to people’s tendency to believe that events are more predictable than before the events take place. Commonly known as the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon, this tendency can lead to distortions in memory recollections and reconstructions of scenarios. In terms of Hurricane Katrina, hindsight bias was present when people—like disaster victims and the U.S. government—believed that they knew the hurricane and its strength before the catastrophe happened. Such people believed they knew how much damage the hurricane would cause and how many people would be affected. In reality, these people proved to really not know the effects because if they had, then more would have been done to evacuate possible victims and prevent possible damage. Furthermore, without the hurricane happening yet, the people could not have predicted exactly what such consequences would be since there have been few hurricanes as disastrous as Hurricane Katrina in the past.

Social facilitation refers to the effect of people’s presence on someone’s performance. For example, a person tends to perform an easier task better when others are present. (Simultaneously, he tends to perform a more difficult task worse when others are present.) In essence, people’s presence evokes pressure. In Hurricane Katrina’s situation, social facilitation was present among disaster victims who were trying to escape during the aftermath and flood. Victims who could run or swim easily most likely had an easier time doing both due to the many surrounding people who were either watching them, trying to help others, or saving themselves. The victims thus may have been able to swim or run more quickly in the flood because of the people watching and the resulting adrenaline that flowed through victims’ bodies. (Such adrenaline could have also partly been from the excitement and fear of swimming and surviving a flood.)

Understanding these psychological terms can help people understand situations better and make more careful decisions. Hurricane Katrina may not have been able to be prevented, but the underlying opinions and actions of people could have bettered the situation if such psychological concepts were taken into account.