Monday, December 22, 2008

People Obey Authority, Even if It Means Hurting Others

After decades, someone has finally been able to replicate Stanley Milgram's experiment concerning authority figures' effect on obedience.

For anyone who is not familiar with the experiment, in the 1960s, Stanley Milgram at Yale University conducted a series of experiments where he told volunteers he was studying the effects of punishment on learning. In each experiment, Milgram told the volunteer that he or she would either be acting as a teacher or a learner. The volunteer was always the teacher while a confederate (a person working with Milgram) played the role of "learner."

The learner's arms were strapped into a chair and electrodes attached to him. The volunteer witnessed this as well as the learner becoming apprehensive, telling both the volunteer and Milgram he had a heart condition.

Milgram then took the volunteer into an adjoining room, where he or she could communicate with the learner over an intercom. The teacher was instructed to read the learner questions on a verbal memory test, and was told every time the learner got a question wrong he or she must administer an electric shock to him. The electric shock generator consisted of shocks from 15-450 volts in intensity. Each time the learner got an answer incorrect, the teacher had to administer an increasingly stronger shock to him.

Initially, the learner did not respond to the shocks. However, when he received a shock of 150 volts, the learner cried out in pain. He continued to cry out in pain and even insisted the study be stopped, but Milgram insisted that the study must go on, that the volunteers must continue to administer the shocks for every incorrect answer.

The results of Milgram's study may surprise you greatly. Likewise, the results of the replicated study may surprise you.

To read more about the two studies and their results, please visit:
People Obey Authority Figures, Even When It Hurts Others

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Enhanced" Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Individuals with Eating Disorders

A new study in the United Kingdom shows a new variation on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy may be effective in treating a majority of individuals with eating disorders.

Eating disorders in the UK are classified somewhat differently than they are in the United States. Mainly, they classify eating disorders as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and "atypical" eating disorders, which is the United States' equivalent to Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. "Atypical" eating disorders in the UK are defined as having both features of anorexia and bulimia, such as self-starvation, binge-eating, making oneself throw up purposefully, taking laxatives, and exercising excessively.

The new "enhanced" Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was developed from the previous form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which was specifically designed for individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa by Professor Christopher Fairburn, who is a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He also developed the new "enhanced" Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, intended to help even more individuals suffering from eating disorders.

Fairburn and his colleagues conducted a study with 154 individuals suffering from eating disorders. Two types of enhanced Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E) were developed, a simple version and a more complex version. The simple version focused on the primary issue of the eating disorder while the more complex version of CBT-E focused on the eating disorder as well as other features that are commonly associated with eating disorders, such as depression, self-esteem, and perfectionism.

Each individual participating in the study received 20 50-minute sessions of simple or complex CBT-E over the span of 20 weeks.

The researchers discovered that participants responded well to both types of CBT-E and that these improvements held over a one-year period, the time in which relapse into an eating disorder is most common. More specifically, of the participants who completed treatment, two-thirds made a full recovery from their eating disorders. Although one-third of participants relapsed into their eating disorders, they maintained significant improvement.

This study seems to indicate that CBT-E is an effective treatment for a majority of individuals who are suffering from eating disorders. Fairburn and his colleagues are also conducting a large study in order to measure the effectiveness of CBT-E on individuals suffering from anorexia, specifically.

Psych Central: Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders