by Gerald Schueler, Ph.D. © 1997
Cognitive psychology is based on the premise that our thinking and emotions affect our behavior, and vice versa. Cognitive psychologists look deeply into the brain and thinking processes, and have constructed an effective battery of therapeutic techniques to help people change their behaviors. While cognitive processes have been studied in-depth, work still remains to standardize definitions and functioning characteristics of affect. Cognitive-affective models include personal models that assume consciousness is a product of the brain, and transpersonal models that assume consciousness transcends the brain.
Affect. "A general term used more-or-less interchangeably with various others such as emotion, emotionality, feeling, mood, etc." (Reber, 1995, p. 15). Reber (1995) calls the definition of affect "loose" but points out that the DSM-IV recommends a clear differentiation from affect and mood, where mood should be used for more pervasive and sustained emotional states. Darley, Glucksberg, and Kinchla (1991) give "The expression of emotion; the signs and feelings of emotion shown to others" (p. 668). Zimbardo (1985) gives "emotion or mood state" (Glossary, III).
Cognition. An act or process of knowing. Cognition includes attention, perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, imagining, thinking, and speech. Attempts to explain the way in which cognition works are as old as philosophy itself; the term, in fact, comes from the writings of Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of psychology as a discipline separate from philosophy, cognition has been investigated from several viewpoints (Encarta, 1995).
Emotion. Zimbardo (1985) gives "A complex pattern of changes, including physiological arousal, feelings, cognitive processes, and behavioral reactions, made in response to a situation perceived to be personally significant" (Glossary, IV). While Hillman (1994) would agree that emotions are complex, he finds no standardized definition in psychology, and carefully demonstrates that its definition depends on the psychological school putting forth the definition. "Systematic psychology has failed to present a unified theory of emotion which goes beyond the terms of general description. It is even doubted if such a unified theory is possible" (p. 9).
Motivation and Emotion Psychology
Probably the first person to explore how the emotions effect behavior was Charles Darwin (1965). He argued that emotions evolved in order to enhance survival and that human emotions derived from animal precursors and have similar values and expressions. Few others took up the subject, and with the exceptions of William James and psychoanalysts like Freud, Jung, and a few others, little research was done in this area (Hunt, 1993).
In the early part of this century, McDougall (1908) developed the idea of motivation or purposive behavior which opened up a new area of research because motivation can be experimentally measured. Finally, in 1988, Ross Buck of the University of Connecticut, proclaimed "psychology has rediscovered emotion" (Hunt, 1993, p. 482). However, there remains today little agreement on exactly how to define emotion. For example, Plutchik (1980) lists eight main emotions: joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. All other emotions, according to Plutchik's study, are derivatives of these basic eight. However, even Plutchik's list of eight basic emotions has not been standardized and is not universally accepted as accurate (Hunt, 1993).
The great domains of behavior--cognition, emotionality, and executive functions--share the same brain substrate and reflect its functional status in similar ways. (Lezak, 1994, p. 48)
An entire field--cognitive psychology--has arisen since the 1950s. It primarily studies cognition from the standpoint of information handling. Parallels are stressed between the functions of the human brain and the computer concepts such as the coding, storing, retrieving, and buffering of information. The actual physiology of cognition is of little interest to cognitive psychologists, but their theoretical models of cognition have deepened understanding of memory, psycholinguistics, and the development of intelligence (Medin and Ross, 1992).
Social psychologists since the mid-1960s have written extensively on the topic of cognitive consistency--that is, the tendency of a person's beliefs and actions to be logically consistent with one another. When cognitive dissonance, or the lack of such consistency, arises, the person unconsciously seeks to restore consistency by changing his or her behavior, beliefs, or perceptions. The manner in which a particular individual classifies cognitions in order to impose order has been termed cognitive style (Encarta, 1995).
Cognitive psychology became popular in the late 1960s, especially with the publication of Cognitive Psychology by Ulric Neisser in 1967 and the earlier work of Shannon (1948) on mathematical theories of communication and data processing. With the development of computers, theories of computation, and data processing, cognitive models for how the mind functions became prominent (Medin and Ross, 1992). Beck (1996) says that cognitive therapy has been found to be efficacious for clients with Axis I (syndromal) disorders complicated by Axis II (personality disorder) diagnoses. "Cognitive therapy -- a structured, educative, active approach -- emphasizes teaching patients to identify and modify their distorted thinking and dysfunctional behavior as well as to solve their problems" (p. 1).
Cognitive-Affective Ability in the Elderly
Normal aging in the nervous system is critical for health because all other body systems are coordinated by this system. The brain and spinal cord control all bodily functions. The effects of normal aging on the nervous system's anatomy are uncertain. However, a known fact due to the use of the newest technology of brain scans, reveal the aging brain does decrease in size: five percent of its mass by age 70, ten percent by age 80, and twenty percent by age 90 (Perlmutter and Hall, 1985).
The decrease in size appears to have some affects on the brain's functioning and capabilities. Further, examination of the brain of a high-functioning, healthy, older adult shows less shrinkage than that of a
low-functioning, healthy, older adult (Perlmutter and Hall, 1985). These findings would indicate that a person who is active and healthy will continue to function effectively in many cognitive activities with little or no deficits noted until death.
In the normal aging process the sensory system slows down; it becomes less sensitive to stimulation from the environment. This can affect the person's ability to communicate. As a result, some senior citizens may be in a state of sensory deprivation. This could be the cause of their disorientation and confusion in the absence of organic brain disorders.
The most widely noted sensory and perception losses associated with aging are in the areas of vision, hearing, olfactory, and tactile (Perlmutter and Hall, 1985). Learning and memory is also affected to some extent, in some people. Memory loss is of concern to the elderly population, especially due to the recent research on Alzheimer's disease.
Despite modern research studying the memory of aging humans, there have been no conclusive results obtained from the research (Breitner and Welsh, 1995). However, researchers have learned some facts about the functioning of the older brain. For example, classical conditioning takes longer to establish and the response may be less after age 60. Operant conditioning is effective across all age groups, including the aged, which suggests that the elderly can learn new skills and store new information (Perlmutter and Hall, 1985). When investigating intelligence and creativity in the elderly, it was found that cognitive abilities are hastened or slowed by genetic differences, physical health, emotional factors, and life situations.
Older adults generally perform worse than younger adults on problem-solving tasks, including Piaget's tasks of cognitive development. However, the reason for this is not known. It takes the older adult longer to form new concepts and they show an increased tendency to classify objects by function instead of by category. In addition, they use less efficient strategies when solving puzzles. On the other hand, studies do show that, with proper instruction, the elderly can learn efficient problem solving strategies (Perlmutter and Hall, 1985).
The past decade has been called the Decade of the Brain because of the scientific integration of cognitive processes and the physical brain. Psychiatry has simultaneously reaffirmed our roots in biology and discovered new insights in brain development. Findings in cognitive neuroscience--the study of the neurophysiological basis of mental processes--have been increasing in recent years. Discoveries of how particular circuits interact as a whole system shed light on the clinical phenomena of illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and autism. Multidisciplinary work in the field of cognitive neuroscience now points to particular regions in the brain that are crucial for emotional regulation, decision-making and the appraisal of meaning (Siegel, 1996).
According to Siegel (1996),
the orbitofrontal cortex plays a central role in human relationships and its dysfunction may be evident in a number of psychiatric disturbances including disorders of mood, attachment or personality, and in autism. Patients with disrupted development in the orbitofrontal cortex may have difficulties in affect regulation, in interpersonal communication, in finding emotional meaning, and in personal decision-making processes. For these patients, engaging in an interactive therapeutic process that deliberately stimulates the orbitofrontal cortex may be an effective form of treatment. As the mutual alignment of mental states in therapy progresses, the patient's orbitofrontal cortex may be able to form a mental model of the patient-therapist relationship that allows the emergence of autonomous and flexible affect regulation. Through a proper communication between the therapist's and patient's mental states, together with attention to the patient's life story, psychotherapy may be facilitating a profound neurological development which cognitive neuroscience is now just beginning to illuminate for us all (Siegel, 1996).
The top-down modeling approach is championed by the advocates and practitioners of cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology began during the 1960s with George Miller who linked mental processes with the functioning of computers. Mathematicians such as John von Neumann and Claude Shannon demonstrated that mathematics was a language, much like English or any other language. Their premise was that using rules to convert algebraic relationships into words and back again, a computer can perform operations analogous to some kinds of thinking and reasoning. This idea has led to the concept of artificial intelligence or AI, with the ultimate goal being the construction of intelligent robots (Hunt, 1993).
Dorrell's Neuron Model
Most work on brain theory today is focused on the neuron and its parallel networks. Aertsen, Gerstein & Johannesma (1986) state that
A central paradigm in the study of the sensory nervous system is that meaningful information regarding its principles of operation can be obtained from experimental investigation of the functional characteristics of its elementary components, i.e., the single neurons. (p. 7)
This paradigm is central to the bottom up approach.
A generalized idea of consciousness is that it is something that sits in the middle of our brains, digesting perceptual inputs and producing output decisions as to what action to take next. A key problem with this idea is that much behavior that involves response to input perceptions nevertheless does not involve consciousness. Furthermore some behaviors may occur with or without involvement of consciousness, and in many cases a new behavior that is initially performed consciously, with repetition and practice, will become a behavior that can be performed habitually or non-consciously (Dorrell, 1996a).
A cognitive model that views two data paths leading from perception to response, one through consciousness and one not, must also include a means of transferring information from the conscious path to the non-conscious path. Dorrell's Model takes a different view. Basic assumptions of Dorrell's (1996a) Model are:
Dorrell's (1996b) model explains what conscious is, what it does, and what it is for as follows:
The Complex Systems Model
The nonlinearity of brain processes was noted by Johannesma, Aertsen, Van Den Boogaard, Eggermont, and Epping (1987) who wrote, "The brain must be considered as a multi-input/multi-output system composed of nonlinear stochastic elements" (p. 32). Also, the work of Freeman and Viana di Prisco (1987) using chaos theory to explain the functioning of the olfactory bulb was published in the same proceedings. Work done by Kaneko (1993) suggests that complexity can arise from a feedback process of clustering (a synchronization by chaotic instability) which he calls homeochaos. The findings of chaos theory and synergetics are used in the new complex systems model eloquently described by Mainzer (1994).
Although a great amount of important work on brain modeling has been done, there is to date no comprehensive or universally accepted model of exactly how the human brain operates, or how consciousness is produced. Penrose (1989) suggests that modern physics is still too immature to describe how the brain functions. Briggs & Peat (1989) conclude that "the brain is the nonlinear product of a nonlinear evolution on a nonlinear planet" (p. 166) and suggest that the brain is primarily a nonlinear feedback device.
Mainzer (1994) writes:
The complex system approach is an interdisciplinary methodology to deal with nonlinear complex systems like the cellular organ known as the brain. The emergence of mental states (for instance pattern recognition, feelings, thoughts) is explained by the evolution of (macroscopic) order parameters of cerebral assemblies which are caused by nonlinear (microscopic) interactions of neural cells in learning strategies far from thermal equilibrium. Cell assemblies with mental states are interpreted as attractors (fixed points, periodic, quasi-periodic, or chaotic) of phase transitions. (p. 7)
By addressing the brain as a complex system of neural cells, we can assume that its dynamics follow the nonlinear mathematics of neural networks. For example, the standard evolution equations used for pattern emergence in physics, chemistry, and biology, should carry over to the brain's ability to compare and recognize patterns. Although neurons are the cerebral parts of the brain, the complex systems model suggests that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The nonlinear interactions of cells and molecules causes phase transitions when conditions are far from equilibrium. Due to the slaving principle of macrocosmic ordering parameters (Haken, 1983, 1987, 1988), the healthy brain as a whole changes over time in a linear and predictable fashion. The complex systems model "does not explain what life is, but it can model how forms of life can arise under certain conditions" (Mainzer, 1994, p. 73).
The figure above shows seven levels of complexity within the human central nervous system (CNS). There is a hierarchy of anatomical organization varying from molecules through the entire CNS. The entire CNS is shown on the left. On the right are three figures; at the bottom is a chemical synapse. In the middle is a network model showing how ganglion cells could be connected together in the visual cortex. At the top is a subset of visual areas in the visual cortex (Mainzer, 1994).
Open systems, such as the brain, have both internal entropy production and external production associated with energy or mass transformations to or from the environment. When the brain exchanges energy and matter with its environment, it maintains itself for periods of time in a state far from thermal equilibrium as well as at a locally reduced entropy state. Under these conditions, small fluctuations lead to irreversible bifurcations, and thus to increasing complexity of possible behavior. In this way, the brain increases its entropy production so that its control parameter can maintain a certain threshold level. When production goes too far, feedback mechanisms allow the control parameter to change. This induces instabilities which cause increased dissipation which, in turn, influences the threshold level. In short, the brain is a self-regulating system where,
A mental disposition is understood as a global state of a complex system which is caused by the local nonlinear interactions of its parts, but which cannot be reduced to its parts. (Mainzer, 1994, p. 107)
Thus global (overall system) effects of the brain cannot be reduced to the actions of the neurons or individual cells. Because of this, the chaos model predicts that "a purely bottom-up-strategy of exploring the brain functions must fail" (Mainzer, 1994, p. 118). It also predicts failure for the top-down approach.
The complex system approach offers the possibility for modeling the neural interactions of brain processes on the macroscopic scale and the emergence of cognitive structures on the macroscopic scale. Thus, it seems to be possible to bridge the gap between the neurobiology of the brain and the cognitive sciences of the mind, which traditionally has been considered as an unsolvable problem. (Mainzer, 1994, p. 144)
The basic premise of the complex systems model is given by Mainzer (1994) as:
During neural instability, different modes of collective excitations evolve to coherent macroscopic patterns which are neurophysiologically based on certain cell assemblies and psychologically expressed as certain feelings or thoughts. (pp. 150-151)
The complex systems model offers promise, but much work still needs to be done. Mental states must be modeled by state vectors in complex state spaces. A working phase portrait of brain dynamics, showing trajectories that accurately describe the brain's activities, has yet to be determined.
Jung's Model of Psychological Types.
The above figure shows the Jungian model of psychological types (Jacobi, 1973, p. 16). Jung (1973, 1990a, 1991) taught that the psyche functions by means of many pairs of opposites. The friction caused by pairs of opposites creates libido, or psychic energy, and channels it into various psychic centers, not all of which are sexual. Perhaps the best known pair of opposites described by Jung (1990b) is the extrovert and introvert psychological types. Basically, the extrovert tends to be outgoing, people oriented, and attentive to the environment while the introvert tends to be withdrawn, self-oriented, and not attentive to the environment. Within each of these types are two pairs of opposites: feeling as opposed to thinking, and sensation as opposed to the intuition. Jung (1990b) calls these the four basic psychic functions and since each can apply to either the extrovert or introvert, his model allows for eight basic psychological types.
Under sensation I include all perceptions by means of the sense organs; by thinking I mean the function of intellectual cognition and the forming of logical conclusions; feeling is a function of subjective valuation; intuition I take as perception by way of the unconscious, or perception of unconscious contents" (Jung, 1990b, p. 518).
Jung's Transpersonal Model of the Psyche.
A model of the psyche based on Jung (1990a) is shown in the figure below. This model is a dynamic one. The central archetypal Self is at the center of the psyche. The Self looks outwardly at the conscious ego, which interacts with the physical world through the filter of the persona. It looks inwardly at the archetypes of the collective unconscious through the filter of the anima or animus.
In Jung's model, psychic energy flows between all components of the psyche. Jung (1973) called this energy a "libido analogue" after Freud. However, Freud conceived of libido as sexual energy while Jung modified and broadened this concept to include any energy of a psychic nature. Normally the libido is tuned to specific psychic functions, however, it can be redirected or "canalized" into other channels by the use of symbols.
I have called a symbol that converts energy a "libido analogue." By this I mean an idea that can give equivalent expression to the libido and canalize it into a form different from the original one. (Jung, 1973, p. 48).
Thus symbols can help us to become conscious of the unconscious, and to be aware of the various unconscious processes going on in our psyche.
The model shown above is called transcendent because the Self transcends the personal ego. It exists on a "psychic plane" in a "psychic continuum" (Jung, 1973). According to Jung's individuation process, normal growth is for the ego to develop and mature during the first half of life. During this time, the ego individualizes itself from the unconscious Self. The goal of the psyche during the first half of life is to develop a strong ego-personality. During the second half of life, the ego assimilates the Self, by becoming consciously aware of it (Edinger, 1974). If done properly, this assimilation process gives meaning to the ego as well as a sense of fulfillment.
Assagioli's Psychosynthesis Model.
The model shown above is the psyche according to Assagioli (1965). Working independently of Jung, Assagioli arrived at a transpersonal model that is very similar to Jung's. The model is composed of the following elements:
1. The lower unconscious contains:
a. Those psychological activities that direct the life of the body.
b. Fundamental drives and urges.
c. Complexes, charged with emotion.
d. Inferior dreams and imaginations.
e. Lower parapsychological processes.
f. Pathological manifestations such as phobias, obsessions, compulsive urges, and paranoid delusions.
2. The middle unconscious contains those elements that comprise our normal waking consciousness.
3. The higher consciousness or superconscious contains our higher intuitions and inspirations and is the source of our higher feelings, such as altruistic love, genius, and illumination.
4. The field of consciousness designates that part of our personality of which we are aware; the incessant flow of thoughts, emotions, feelings, impulses, and desires.
5. The conscious self or sense of "I." This is disctint from our personality, and is the center of our consciousness, and thus at the center of the model.
6. The higher self, the transpersonal self. Assagioli's definition here is very similar to that for Jung's archetypal Self.
7. The collective unconscious in the Jungian sense. The outer limit of the psyche is a dotted line to indicate "delimiting" rather than "dividing."
In Assagioli's Model, the "I" or ego and the Self (numbers 5 and 6 in the above figure) are not really two separate elements. Rather, the ego is a limited manifestation of the Self, while the Self remains a unity. A comparison of Assogioli's Model with Jung's Model shows a great similarity. Probably the biggest difference in that Jung assigns all unconscious phenomena to the unconscious, while Assagioli breaks up the unconscious into a lower (subonscious) and a higher (superconscious).
The term self-actualization was originally used by the organismic theorist, Kurt Goldstein to mean the motive to realize all of one's potentialities (Reber, 1985). Abraham Maslow later used the term as the seventh stage in his famous hierarchy of needs (Zimbardo, 1985) as shown in the figure below.
The following are the chief characteristics of self-actualized people (Darley, Glucksberg, and Kinchla, 1991):
1. Able to perceive reality
2. Able to accept reality
3. Natural and spontaneous
4. Focus on problems rather than on themselves
5. Need privacy
6. Self-sufficient and independent
7. Appreciate objects, events, and people they meet
8. Have peak experiences
9. Identify with mankind
10. Deep relationship with at least some friends
11. Democratic egalitarian attitude
12. Strongly held values
13. Sense of humor
14. Inventive and creative
15. Resist conformity to society
16. Transcend dichotomies, bring together opposites
According to Maslow's Model, self-actualization is only possible after establishing the "lower" needs of love, safety, food, and shelter. For example, people who are hungry, or who have no roof over their heads, are not apt to be reading poetry or studying physics. Self-actualization can never be fully satisfied, because it involves a search for "truth" and "understanding" which are open-ended concepts.
Wilber's Spectrum of Consciousness Model.
The figure above is Wilber's Spectrum of Consciousness in which consciousness itself is broken up into a wide range or spectrum as follows:
a. Shadow. The level contains "the disowned, alienated, and projected facets of the ego which now appear to be external" (Wilber, 1993, p. 130). In Jungian terms, the basic duality at this level is the persona (outward) and the shadow (inward).
b. Ego. This level is characterized by the duality of soma and psyche. "We define the ego as a more-or-less accurate mental and symbolic representation of the total (but biosocialized) psychosomataic organism...[which] at this level...is, in essence, nothing but a bag of edited memories" (Wilber, 1993, p. 124).
c. Bisocial. These bands represent consciousness that is higher than normal ego-oriented consciousness but not yet at the Existential Level. Identification is transiting from the everyday personality to something higher; the focus here is more on humanity than the personal individual. Its primary functions are:
1. Perpetuation of duality.
2. Gives feeling of being a separate being.
3. Reservoir for abstract intellection.
4. Reservoir for ego characteristics.
d. Existential. Here consciousness sees itself as separate from its environment. Consciousness is dualistic. This level is the beginning of time and space.
e. Transpersonal. These bands represent consciousness at the transpersonal level in between the existential level and the pure subjectivity of the Level of Mind. They represent the point where nonduality first splits into duality.
f. Mind. This is the highest, which Wilber (1993) calls "Absolute Subjectivity" and forms the foundation or Ground for all of the other levels of consciousness. Here consciousness is non-dual.
Although Wilber's model is complex, it is a serious attempt to synthesize psychology, psychotherapy, mysticism, and the world's religions. The basic assumption of the model is that human personality is a multileveled manifestation of a single consciousness, and can be likened to the electromagnetic spectrum of physics. The thrust of the model is that the different psychological schools "cut up" consciousness; each focuses only on certain specific bands within the spectrum. Thus using the model, all of the schools of psychology can be brought together into a single continuum by clarifying all of the Western (and Eastern) approaches to psychotherapy. Freudian approaches, for example, are useful for people near the Shadow Level, but beyond that point they are no longer effective. Transpersonal psychology has value only for those who are cognitively functioning within the transpersonal bands, and so on.
Cognitive psychology began as a separate discipline in the 1960's after it was found that motivation and purposeful behavior could be measured. It is based on the assumption that thoughts and emotions effect our behavior. Behavior can be changed, by changing our thought or emotions. While cognition has been clearly defined, there is no standard definition for emotion, and work still needs to be done in this area.
It has been found that cognitive abilities in the elderly are hastened or slowed by genetic differences, physical health, emotional factors, and life situations. In general, older adults tend to perform worse than younger adults on problem-solving tasks, forming new concepts, and the use of efficient strategies when solving puzzles. On the other hand, with proper instruction, the elderly can learn efficient problem solving strategies.
There are two general types of cognitive-affective models: the personal and the transpersonal. Personal models are materialistic in the sense that they are based on the assumption that consciousness is a product of the brain. Although none of these models have yet been totally successful, probably the best is Dorrell's neuron model which views brain neurons as single points of consciousness. However, modern chaos theory is challenging neuron models, and is proposing a new chaos model of the brain where the brain is viewed as a complex open system.
Transpersonal models are based on the assumption that the ego or personality (i.e., our cognitive and affective abilities) can be transcended, and, in fact, is the manifestation or "complex" of something higher and non-material. While the ego is indeed embodied in the brain, the archetypal Self is not, being located in a "psychic continuum" (Jung, 1973) which is outside our physical space-time continuum. Jung's individuation process, Assagioli's psychosynthesis, and Maslow's self-actualization are cognitive-affective processes derived from what are probably the three best-known transpersonal models today.
Wilber's spectrum of consciousness model is a serious attempt to unify the various schools of psychology by assuming that consciousness, like light, has a wide spectrum or vibratory range. Each psychotherapy works well with people whose consciousness is currently functioning within that specific band of the spectrum, but not otherwise. This model suggests that there will never be a single psychotherapy applicable to everyone, but rather psychotherapies must be tailored to the individual client. It includes both personal and transpersonal elements in its scope.
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