Motivation to Complete Your Studies

A boost for your study motivation

Studying Motivation

Studying and learning can take you so far in life yet it can feel so hard to get down to it. Whether it’s college study or you need to be studying to advance your career; studying can be one of the most important things you’ll have to do.

Difficulty staying focussed on the assignments is the major complaint among students.

You can have all these distraction/displacement activities – stuff you do instead of getting down to studying or finishing your writing assignments.

“The moment I sit down to start on my essay, I feel like to doing something else… like feeding the cat or calling a friend,” says Maggie, 23.

Self-control is hard…

Practicing discipline and self-control is a logical step in getting anything done to completion. This is, however,  much easier said than done.

Oftentimes, pushing oneself with self-discipline is painful and futile. The experience can feel like swimming in a river against strong current. A the effort builds up, we feel overwhelmed and “drowned” in the  work.

Getting to know the currents you’re swimming against makes you more productive

A swimmer who takes time to study the current before he/she gets in the water saves him/herself the stress of the fight against opposing forces.

Similarly, if you’re finding yourself fighting with getting important things done, it is well worth the effort to consider this: What are the opposing currents that keep you from the tasks?

To find the answer, is to work towards awareness of the self.

If you’re working alone, do some meditation before embarking on the task. Feel deeply in your body for points of tension and stress. Breath into these parts, and try to relax. If memories or flashbacks pop into your head, allow them to happen without judgement. Observe yourself with understanding.

Getting support from a counsellor or psychotherapist is an effective way of overcoming issues related to  hinderances in getting important tasks done.

What My Study Motivation Coaching Sessions offer:

  • Individual Personality Assessment using the Enneagram Method.
  • Identifying emotions / thoughts and bodily sensations that precede distractive thoughts.
  • Identifying  emotions / thoughts and bodily sensations that cause lack of motivation or feelings of insecurity in getting the assignment done.
  • Assignment-by-assignment emotional guidance.
  • Raising academic performance through time and space planning.

Number of sessions needed and intensity of sessions depend on individual needs.

Contact for Information and/or appointment:

Price per 45 minute session (in English and German): EUR 68.
Sessions are also available over Skype.

 

 

Methodology in the Study of Psychology

Scientific Methods in Psychology

Psychology has its roots with Newtonian scientists and physiologists, with the term psychology being popularized in the 18th century by mathematician Christian Wolff (1679-1754). Attempts at developing the study of psychology as natural science began with Johan Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), who theorized that psychological processes could be rendered mathematically. He even developed mathematical equations to illustrate factors governing the threshold of consciousness. His theories were not followed up with empirical evaluations, and were thus not followed through. However, his theories was fodder enough for later psychologists after him, like Freud, who picked up on his idea of repression of ideas and cognitive equilibrium.

Psychology took shape in Germany as an academic discipline at the end of the 19th century with the establishment of an experimental laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt. This new discipline was characterized as physiological psychology. While acknowledging the presence of physiological and neuroanatomical processes, Wundt denied that these could reductively explain psychological principles. Wundt’s experiments had a lot to do with studies of sensation and perception, and few studies containing introspective reports. Many of Wundt’s experimental work are precursors of contemporary cognitive psychology. His principle of physical relations, in which he says, “Every single psychical content receives its significance from the relations in which it stands to other psychical contents” (Wundt, 1897/1902, p. 323) became the foundational principle of the Berlin School of Gestalt psychology of Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), Wolfgang Köhler (1887- 1967) and Kurt Koffka (1886-1941) (Greenwood, 2015).

Psychoanalysis

Freud, a doctor, had a background in neurology, which is very much inclusive of the discipline of psychology. While psychology is consumed with the study of human psychical structures and processes, Freud’s work was not entirely about that: his legacy lay in the process of understanding the psyche and not about explaining what psyche is itself.

Psychoanalysis is very much connected to the discovery of the unconscious (Ellenberger 2008), from the work of Mesmer and Puységur, and further back to traditional and religious spiritual healers, which in many parts of the world, is still the choice of patients seeking answers to their psychological problems. In my country, multicultural, and modern city of Singapore, for example, more than 35% of patients who sought psychiatric help, had first sought therapy from traditional healers (Lim and Poon, 2015).

The aim and methodology of research in both fields also tend to be dissimilar: psychological studies tend to be nomothetic in approach while psychotherapy as a science and more interested in the outliers adopt the ideographic approach towards research.

The Natural Sciences, Scientists and Philosophy

Research is important for the survival of any discipline. While there is no question of efficacy of practice of psychotherapy, and there are clients who experience healing with psychotherapy, these experiences need to empirical proof to be politically accepted. This is a phenomenon of human thinking today, where the distrust in the human experience of reality is overcome by reliance on algorithms of proofs.

Having studied biochemistry and physiology, I do appreciate the process of scientific endeavor. Having a great interest in philosophy as well, I have meanwhile come to understand the sentiments of Kuhn (2012: 1962), that normal science is “an uneventful, presupposed set or unquestioned assumptions, which form the framework that governs how research are hypothesized, interpreted”—and I will take the liberty to add— funded. Natural science is part of humanity’s way of understanding “reality”, however, as Husserl (2012: 1931) points out, there is a natural human tendency to pool what we perceive of “the world about me” in order to find a “general thesis” or to form “common consent”.  Bearing philosophy in mind, we can see the progress of science with different attitudes. Empirical science is not an end, but a means from which humanity learns to understand its own nature, but hopefully.

Cognitive Neuroscience: Linking the Mind with Biology

Neuroscience can never be a standalone study: it requires engineering, the various fields of medicine and psychoanalysis in order to create and make sense of images derived from neuro-imaging. Their limitation is not unlike astronomers looking at the galaxy from satellite images. Looking at the brain in order to see the mind is like looking at one’s reflection in the mirror while trying to “see” the thoughts going on in one’s own head. Neuroscience may never really grasp the mind because the mind is bound by the first person observational perspective, and thus cannot be observed by multiple observers as matter can (Solms & Turnbull 2002). What neuroscience has done was to try to create maps of brain function on the brain; even this is limited because of what we understand to be the phenomenon of brain plasticity.

 

It is shown that the integrity of the structures above the brainstem, the extended reticular and thalamic activating system (ERTAS) – discovered in the 1950s by Moruzzi and Magoun— is responsible for presence of the global conscious state of an individual. Damasio (1999) interpreted this as an argument for seeing the mind and body as an inseparable whole. This is a monist approach, which is a rejection of dualism envisaged by Rene Descartes in the 17th century. Since the ERTAS nuclei centrally receive information from, and communicated with, the viscera, consciousness can be considered an embodied phenomena (Solms & Turnbull 2002). This is a perspective taken by philosopher, Merleau-Ponty, in his 1945 publication, Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty and Smith 2012). For Merleau-Ponty, the relationship of the individual to the world is one of perception. It is through the body that one gets the perception. Perception is conscious and unconscious phenomena, because one can perceive something without being conscious of the perception, as with Weiskrantz’s (1986) Blindsight.

 

Benjamin Libet with his Nobel Prize winning findings leading to the idea of his Neuroscience of Free Will, demonstrated that there exists unconscious mental activity that decides the will to make a momentary action. This is shown by an experiment involving the physical movement (of a hand or part of the body), even before the individual is even aware of this decision.  In his experiment, subjects were wired up with EEG and asked to report the time in which they were aware of the urge to move their hands. The experiment indicated that the awareness of the urge existed milliseconds after initiation of brain activity that reflected this urge. Libet concluded that “the brain ‘decides’ to initiate, or, at least decides to initiate (certain actions) before there is any reportable subjective awareness, before such a decision has taken place” (Libet, 1985 p. 536).  He goes on to generalize that “if the ‘act now’ process is initiated unconsciously then conscious free will is not doing it” (Libet, 2001 p. 62).

Gazzaniga and Sperry’s split-brain subjects of the 1960s demonstrated the organized structure of the brain. In subjects where the left and right hemispheres of the brain were disconnected through severing of the corpus callosum, subjects showed almost normal functioning. These individuals, however, exhibited differences in behavior and abilities, which depended on which side of the brain got stimulated individually from the other and without the awareness of the other. Each hemisphere exhibited it’s own personality and its own way of cognitive operation.  This observation adds to the argument that the mind is linked to biology, and defeats the dualistic implication that there is a “spirit” somewhere operating biological machinery. Visual information that was no longer communicated from one side of the brain to another was perceived differently by different hemisphere, and the movement of muscles on one side of the body was initiated independent of the influence of the non-connected side of the brain.  This research provided for an interesting insight into the brain hemisphere function: it found the left hemisphere to be a dominant force in speech for language ability and the right hemisphere to be essential for visio-spatial tasks (among other interesting differences). These differences have extended consequence to the understanding of how human beings perceive the world, think and communicate.  The right hemisphere tends to perceive things as whole and has a sense for completing gestalts. It also tends to see things for “what it is”, at the present, and cannot interpret the ideas into language. The left-brain, however, takes the literal, static meaning of perceptions, and tries to analyze what it doesn’t fully understand into language. The latter phenomenon is also interpreted as “finding false memory” (Gazzaniga, 1998).

 

McGilchrist (2012), in his book, The Master and His Emissary: The divided brain and the making of the western world, weaves this idea of how the neurophysiology of the human brain shapes the way society thinks and how this leads, and has led, to the evolution of the human brain structure itself. McGilchrist, in my opinion, created a clever use of the two hemispheres of the human brain, and it’s structural asymmetry, as metaphor for humankind’s intellectual conflict with regards to the philosophy of science.

Clinico-anatomical methods of brain study developed in 1861 by Pierre Paul Broca, who studied the brains of patients suffering from aphasia. This method is still relevant today for studying brain function. For studying aspects of the mind and consciousness, only humans make reliable subjects. In the era of imaging, however, the researcher does not need to “wait” for subjects to die in order to find out the location of lesions in the brain that caused the symptom.

While we are still in the dark about what makes brain matter consciousness, there is much progress made in the study of perception, memory, emotions and processes like dreams. A field of study that I have recently found to be very interesting is work on psychedelic chemicals on the brain. This branch of research had suffered three decades of governmental ban. The effect of psychedelic drugs is now being studied with brain imaging technology, fMRI. A notable study was done by Carhart-Harris et al. (2011) on psilocybin—a hallucinogen found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. The studies demonstrated the effect of the substance on the blood flow to the region of the brain associated with the Default Mode Network or DMN, a highly connected part of the brain.

Carhart-Harris et al. (2010) in a paper entitled, The default-mode, ego-functions and free-energy: a neurobiological account of Freudian ideas, explored the notion of Freudian constructs regarding the ego and id, as having “neurobiological substrates”, and demonstrated the theory that Freud’s descriptions of primary process are consistent with the neurophysiological changes in the DMN during hallucinogenic drug states.  The DMN has also been implicated in processes involving self-judgments, recall of autobiographical memories, mental simulations, mind wandering, and daydreaming.  (Bruckner et al. 2008 & Northoff et.al., 2006). To further demonstrate the link between the DMN and ego function, Ino et al. (2011) found brain activation at the DMN during activity of autobiographical memory retrieval.

Neuro-imaging techniques have given scientists tools to observe changes in brain activity dynamically. The development in the understanding of brain activity has grown exponentially with improvement in imaging technology. Technology, however, still requires psychoanalytical concepts to make sense of what is being recorded by technology. Whether neuroscience proves or disproves a psychoanalytic concept, it still uses psychoanalysis as a template from which to base its understanding of the images.

Bibliography

Bruckner, R, Andrews-Hanna, J & Schacter, D. (2008). The brains default network: Anatomy, function, and relevance to disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1124, pp.1-38.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2010). The default-mode, ego-functions and free-energy: a neurobiological account of Freudian ideas. Brain, awq010.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., et al. (2011). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Vol 109 no. 6. 2138-2143.

Ellenberger, H. F. (2008). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. Basic Books.

Greenwood, J. D. (2015). A Conceptual History of Psychology: Exploring the Tangled Web. Cambridge University Press.

McGilchrist, I. (2012). The master and his emissary: The divided brain and the making of the western world. Yale University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M., & Smith, C. (2012). Phenomenology of perception. D. A. Landes (Trans.) NY:Routledge.

Northoff, G., Heinzel, A., Greck, M., Bennoihl, F., Dobrowolny, H. & Panksepp, J. (2006). Self referential processing in our brain: A meta-analysis of imaging studies on the self.  Neuroimage, 31(1), 440-457.

Weiskrantz, L. (1986). Blindsight: A case study and implications.

Wundt, W. (1902). Outlines of Psychology. (C.H, Judd, Trans.). Leipzig: Engelmann. (First Published in 1897).

Optical and Auditory Illusions

The human brain is not merely a receptor of qualia, like a microphone or camera. The brain processes raw data received from the environment, and converts this data into perception. Sensory data gets converted into meaning via areas in the posterior cortex of the brain called the association zones. Perception is a function of consciousness, and how we perceive a sensory stimulus is learned. The learning process involves memory function (Solms and Turnbull, 2002).

The split brain experiments of Gazzaniga gives us clues to which side of the cortex is responsible for creating illusions. The work of the right hemisphere is more apt at turning shapes into forms and melody from notes because it has the tendency to create wholes from parts. This is the basis of our optical and auditory illusions.

Artists and psychologists throughout history have been fascinated with the use of illusions.  The latter, in fact, use illusions often instinctively in order to render 3 dimensional objects onto 2 dimensional spaces. One notable artist and painter is Josef Albers (1888-1976). Albers famous series, Homage to the Square, is a beautiful study of color interactions. He presented color theory as a way to offer illusion of depth, space and temperature. Commonly found on buildings are also trompe l’oeil paintings that have 3D effects, accomplished with the clever painting of drop shadows as illustrated in figure 1.  With the simple grey shades, we perceive the shape as sticking out of the paper.

 

Figure 1 (Picture by Nicole Helbig)

Notable researchers of optical illusions have studied various forms of optical illusions. Some of these illusions, like the figure-ground puzzles allow the eyes to see two different motives on the same picture, but at different instances, depending on where one’s focus of the picture lies. A famous example is Rubin’s vase, developed around 1915.  Rubin discovered the first phenomenological laws of figure/background articulation (Albertazzi, 1999). The figure is seen to become differentiated from the background in an alternating manner because of the chromatic contrast between the shapes. The lines in which the figure and ground are clearly separate and provide the contrast.

Gestalt psychology was developed during the time of the First World War.  The major contributors at that time were Kurt Koffka, Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Köhler.  Their premise is that objects are perceived within an environment in their context. In other words, we perceive parts and pieces and perceive these as whole “gestalts”. Similar objects are also seen as groups, rather than discreet pieces.

 

Kanizsa triangle

The Kanizsa triangle is an example of a figure that forces our minds to create phantom shapes that were not illustrated on the diagram because our minds perceive the missing shapes nevertheless. Figure 2 is my attempt at recreating such an optical illusion.

Figure 2

Müller-Lyer created a simple, but clever illusion consisting of a stylized arrow. Lengths of the line that make the central part of the arrow can be seen as longer or shorter than the other, depending on whether the ends of the arrow have sharp points pointing outwards or inwards, even though the lengths of both arrow lines are similar.  This kind of optical illusion, unlike the figure ground puzzles, cannot be willfully “unseen”.  Researchers like Berry (1968), however have found evidence that optical illusions like the Müller-Lyer illusion do not get seen by peoples of cultures who have not the exposure to certain rectilinear.  What we infer from this phenomenon is that perception, like culture, is learned.

Auditory illusions are interesting because we may often be exposed to them unawares. I had some difficulty distinguishing from the sample of African music played in class which notes were really played and which were auditory illusion created by “a fast running sequence of sounds in disjunct intervals” (Kubik, 2010). It is hard to imagine that one is hearing that which is not really there, and that the sounds are the product of our perception. Most incredible about this piece is that the instruments are traditional instruments played by hand.

Other popular audible illusions have been created with electronic instruments. Audible illusions, like optical illusions, come in various forms.  Some examples are Binural beats, where by two pure tones are played in each ear leading the listener to perceive an illusionary third tone.  Risset’s rhythmic effect is used often in modern day disco-techs. Named after Jean Claude Risset (b. 1938), the beats give the impression of being in perpetual acceleration.

 

Bibliography

Albertazzi, L. (1999). Shapes of Forms: From Gestalt psychology and phenomenology to ontology and mathematics 275. NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Berry, J. W. (1968). Ecology, perceptual development and the Müller-Lyer illusion, British Journal of Psychology 59 (3): 205–210,

Kubik, G. (2010). Theory of African music (Vol. 2). University of Chicago Press. p.107

Mundy-Castle, A. C. (1966). Pictorial depth perception in Ghanaian children. International Journal of Psychology, 1(4), 289-300.

Solms, M., & Turnbull, O. (2002). The brain and the inner world: An introduction to the neuroscience of subjective experience. Karnac Books.

 

Transcultural Orientation of Psychology

History of has shown us, that it is not so easy to study psychology transculturally because we tend to see the world through the lens of our own culture. The study of psychology with the emphasis on culture makes for interesting work; in fully understanding another culture, we have little choice but to become more aware of our own culture.

Hudson in the 1960s created simple illustrations on cards to study children from “unacculturated groups” in South Africa who had no exposure to children’s literature familiar to the western world, to see how the children interpreted the images (Hudson, 1967). He learned from experience working with the children that what we take for granted in the form of looking at 2 dimensional drawings while being able to understand the perspectives and interpreting the images as 3 dimensional representations, children who have not learned to see these images simply have no comprehension of them.  Mundy-Castle used the same cards, and the on a separate group of children in Ghana, and made some interesting observations from that as well.

Cicero (in 45BCE) Rome defined cultivation of the soul. In the Middle Ages “cult” is used to mean religious forefathers. By the 18th century, anthropologist, Johan Herder (1744-1803), defined culture as the point of separation between man and nature. He elaborated that language is the adaptation tool of the human species, which is used to pass information down from one generation to the next. Language is something we use for learning.

Studies in neuroscience and cultural anthropology demonstrate that culture is learned. How we perceive the world is how we make meaning to whatever reaches our senses. We learn from our culture through the process of socialization.  This starts with upbringing and continues for life through a lifetime of learning.  The learning process is possible through language.

Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941) mentioned that all our thinking is language. This idea is quite similar to Jacques Lacan’s (1901-1981) famous essay, the agency of the letter in the unconscious, that the unconscious is structured like a language (Lacan, 1977). Lacan’s idea is somewhat different because he talks about the “unconscious” and not thinking, and he mentioned that it is structured “like” but not necessarily is, language.  We are faced then with the dilemma of distinguishing between “what we think” and “how we think”.  What seems more plausible, deducing from split-brain studies, is that the right hemisphere thinking is linked to what Freud calls primary processes, while the left hemisphere does the work of the language driven super-ego (Galin, 1974). This would then be contrary to the idea of Lacan.

It is true that we do not know everything about our own culture. Even so much of what we inherit of culture is through upbringing. Throughout life we adapt to changing cultural environment and evolve culturally through a learning process called “enculturation”. This process happens naturally due to influences to the socio-cultural development of our time.

Culture is a dynamic situation that each individual lives with, and every aspect of our lives is culture, and this includes inherited and adopted customs and practices, laws, symbolism, food, technology and taboos. As psychologists or psychotherapists, we have to be aware of our own culture glasses when working cross-culturally.  We also cannot overlook the ever-changing cultural environment in which we live in, and how technology and new habits shape our lives, environment and relationships.  Sherry Turkle (2012), in her book, Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other, brings us to the awareness of how we are relying more of technology to get through with the boredom of life. Boredom and loneliness play a key role in our growing dependence on technology. The goal of psychotherapy in this instance is to find the root of these emotions.

Bibliography

 

 

Cicero, M. T. (45 BC). Tusculanes (Tusculan Disputations). pp. II, 15.

Galin, D. (1974). Implications for psychiatry of left and right cerebral specialization: A neurophysiological context for unconscious processes.Archives of General Psychiatry, 31(4), 572-583.

Hudson, W. (1967). The study of the problem of pictorial perception among unacculturated groups. International Journal of Psychology, 2(2), 89-107.

Lacan, J. (1977). The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious.

Turkle, S. (2012). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. Basic books.