Mock Case Study for Psychology 101
Who is Allen Whitcomb Now?
Allen Whitcomb is 47-year-old man, who is married with two children is college. For the most part he has been healthy his whole life until recently he got in a bad car accident and lost his leg due to texting while driving. He claims that the car that hit him was further away and slower than it was, and he is also color blind. Since the accident he has been experiencing pain for which he takes over the counter medications and has gained 20 pounds and has trouble sleeping. He has also reported that when he hears the song that was playing during the accident his heart rate increases. His wife reports that he seeks a quiet and calm environment and is quite mean to her after he watches violent television, she describes him as quiet, tense, anxious, unfriendly, and on edge. In regard to work he has been having attendance problems, either being late or not showing up at all. His manager reports he has problems with memory and processing the new filing system that has been put in place at his job. He also seems to forget information after a few moments.
Allen’s reports can be attributed to a few topics and studies in psychology, including the central core of the brain and how behavior is affected by damage to the limbic system, sensation, association areas of the cortex, which includes memory, learning, and emotion and I will talk about these individually and discover who Allen Whitcomb is now with the information I have learned about the brain
Brain and Behavior
When talking about the brain and how it relates to Allen’s behavior I want to talk about the central core of the brain and the main structures as most of them pertain to Allen. Starting with the medulla, which is what controls heart rate and this is the part of the brain that causes Allen’s elevated heart rate every time he hears the song that was playing during his accident. More specifically the hypothalamus because it triggers a survival response, otherwise known as “fight or flight” response. Feldman, R. (2020). This response is activated when he hears that song or similar sounding song because his body associates this with survival. Feldman, R. (2020).
The next structure is the forebrain, and located in the forebrain is reticular formation, which determines whether or not a specific action or reaction is necessary. Feldman, R. (2020). With the information that I have, I can determine that there is damage to the forebrain that causes Allen to react when a reaction is not necessarily called for in a given situation. But the reticular formation also controls sleep and sleep patterns, Feldman, R. (2020), so this could be the reason that Allen has trouble sleeping, since he claims his sleep-wake cycle has been disrupted.
Sensation and Perception
Sensation as it relates to Allen has everything to do with the amount of pain that he has had since his accident. Pain could be a reaction to a few different things, one being perceptual, meaning it could be a reaction to how he feels about his accident or even a thought. Feldman, R. (2020). In Allen’s case, he attributes his poor work ethic to pain while his therapist suggests it is most likely anxiety. Both could potentially be factors. Something extremely small in the grand scheme of all of Allen’s issues could cause anxiety. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen also claims that he is depressed and in response his therapist has suggested that he smile more. This specific request might sound unnecessary, but it does have a purpose. It is a cognitive treatment that some psychologists have been known to use and it involves reconstructing the way he may think. If he swaps his negative thoughts for positive ones, that sense of control, no matter how big or small, that does have the potential to decrease the pain he has. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen is also an amputee, which could explain his discomfort in the form of phantom limb pain, which can be offset through a therapy called mirror pain therapy. Feldman, R. (2020). In mirror pain therapy, mirrors are used to make it look like both limbs are intact, Feldman, R. (2020), for Allen it is his legs. This is supposed to make the brain stop sending messages that are perceived as pain to the leg that is no longer there Feldman, R. (2020). This could help Allen stop having pain and get back to work if employed properly and by the correct psychologist.
Learning and Memory
The limbic system is actually involved with thinking and memory as well as emotions and aggression. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has substantial damage to this part of his brain, more so, than any of the others. His boss has reported that Allen is having trouble learning the new filing system at work and that he frequently forgets things after a couple of minutes. This is caused by damage to the hippocampus, which renders him unable to remember recent events, while leaving the memories prior to the accident intact. Feldman, R. (2020). More specifically, damage to the hippocampus is especially sensitive to tasks where objects need to be linked together and placed in specific locations. Rolls ET. (2018). This could be the cause of Allen getting confused by the new filing system that has been implemented at his job, seeing as significant damage has been done to the hippocampus.
Allen reports that his problems at work are because of pain, however, his therapist disagrees, she believes his problems at work are the cause of anxiety. This anxiety is why he now feels that he will not be good enough at work, which directly translates to why he does better work with others than he does on his own. He lacks the confidence in himself to be able to live up to the standards his job expects of him.
He has reported feeling judgement since the accident and has claimed that people look at him differently. His boss reports that he is often late or calls in sick, anxiety about feeling both judgement from others and the anxiety that he may not be able to perform well is most likely the cause of his attendance problems. Not to mention he works the night shift, and that may be why he has problems sleeping.
Motivation and Emotion
The motivation to eat is seen as a primary drive and is controlled by the hypothalamus which regulates food intake. Feldman, R. (2020). This relates to Allen because he has gained 20 pounds since his accident which would imply that there has been some damage to this area of the brain. The hypothalamus affects the weight set point, the specific measure of weight that the body attempts to maintain, either telling the body to eat more or less to manage this weight set point. Feldman, R. (2020). Certain drugs, such as the over the counter medications that Allen takes for pain, can also be the cause of his weight gain, they can distort the weight set point, causing the hypothalamus to tell the body to increase the amount of food that is eaten. Feldman, R. (2020).
His manager has reported that he is currently working with Allen to resolve his attendance issues by setting attendance goals with him, Allen is working toward earning lunch for his entire team based on timely attendance. This is an example of a positive reinforcer, Feldman R. (2020). Something is being added or given as a reward, the lunch for his team, to encourage or increase a certain behavior, timely attendance, Feldman, R. (2020). This reward should motivate Allen to be on time, and maybe increase the judgement he feels from co-workers as well.
The amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain, is crucial to the expression of emotions. Feldman, R. (2020). The amygdala supplies a connection to the perception of a cause of an emotion and the recollection of that cause at a later time. Feldman, R. (2020). This sequence of events applies to Allen’s accident, because he doesn’t remember the accident but remembers the song that was playing, causing him to associate that song with the accident. Because of damage to amygdala, this display of classical conditioning could also be the cause of Allen’s elevated heart rate when hearing the song, it causes him to feel stress and fear in anticipation of the accident. This could also be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is reliving the traumatic experience, in this case his accident, either in the form of a vivid flashback or a dream, Feldman R. (2020). This flashback can be caused by something that seems irrelevant, like the song playing during the accident, but it elicits a very strong reaction in the person who is suffers from the disease. Feldman R. (2020).
Development that is impaired or stunted in childhood can affect adulthood, Feldman, R. (2020). Nature and nurture is a common debate among developmental psychologists, because some biological factors like genetics and maturation have an effect on how people may develop later on in adulthood, while some factors that affect development in adulthood are the cause of the environment, such as how well the family functions and what the family’s SES (socioeconomic status) is. Feldman, R. (2020). For Allen, his mother always said he was not good enough. This is most likely the cause of Allen’s anxiety, as he does not want to fail and lacks confidence to even try for fear of failure. His therapist also has pointed this out to Allen as a cause of his anxiety, especially when it involves work.
His wife has stated that Allen does not have many close friends. This can affect development in that people normally have a need for affiliation, this just means that people have a desire to make friends and keep them. Feldman, R. (2020). People who withdraw themselves from friends or do not have any, as in Allen’s case, have the potential to become depressed and experience sadness. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has reported to his therapist that he is experiencing feelings of sadness and fatigue, which are two symptoms of depression as well. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen’s personality has been affected in a few ways. His wife has described him as quiet, tense, anxious and unfriendly. These are part of the neuroticism dimension in Hans Eysenck’s theory of traits. Feldman, R. (2020). Eysenck referred to the neuroticism dimension as being able to decide how stable a person’s emotions are, which in turn, allowed Eysenck to research people across all of the dimensions and gain the ability to foresee how they may behave. Feldman. R, (2020). Allen also displays low self-esteem in the work environment, low self-esteem is also a trait in the neuroticism dimension as described by Eysenck. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen’s wife has also reported that he watches television a lot since the accident, and after he watches violent television shows he treats her unkindly, but he seems to feel bad and is trying to stop that. This aggression, is directly correlated with the violence he sees on TV, psychologists believe that the frequency and the amount of time spent watching violent television makes them more likely to act aggressively than they normally would if they did not engage in watching violent television. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen’s social behavior has been largely affected due to his injury, it has caused people to look at him differently and to judge his abilities based only on his disability. Allen’s attitude toward certain situations and people have also been affected. Allen thinks that all of his managers at work are unfair and overly directive. Attitudes have the potential to change our behavior toward a person or a belief, Feldman, R. (2020), in Allen’s case his attitude about his managers affects his motivation at work and his willingness to perform well. Allen has also developed an impression formation about his managers, which is how one categorizes the facts he knows about an individual, his managers, to form a generalization or impression of that individual, they are overly directive and unfair. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has developed a schema, or an expectation about how these managers act, so that he can anticipate how he will later interact with them. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen is especially susceptible to stereotype vulnerability, in which he is aware of how other people view disabled people. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen is directly connected to this because of the judgement he faces at work and because of his mother always saying that he is not good enough. As a result of his co-workers judging him, coupled with his mothers belief that he is not good enough, he has come to accept this belief, and actually think that they are not good enough. Since he has accepted this, he fears that he will confirm his mother’s belief, and will fail or will not even try because he is under the impression that he is not good enough and won’t be good enough regardless of the efforts he puts in. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen may also be a victim of poor coping skills when it directly involves stress, the more times we try to beat stress could cause psychological issues that cause issues in our health to arise. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has chosen to deal with his stress by watching television and overeating, also known as avoidant coping, where one uses a more direct path in order to cope, which has causes unhealthy habits that normally are out of character for them, Feldman, R. (2020), the weight gain and most likely the fatigue he feels is a result of his avoidant coping. The more he is exposed to stress, the more his immune system deteriorates, and causes a decrease in the ability to fight off infections or diseases. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen could also be in the third stage of general adaptation syndrome, which is exhaustion, as is described by Hans Selye a stress theorist, who studied the consequences of long-term stress and their effects on the body. Feldman, R. (2020). During this final stage the person’s fight to overcome the cause of the stress decreases to the point where physical damage and psychological damage can start to be seen. Feldman, R. (2020). This could be the cause of Allen’s lack of focus at work and his irritability which causes him to lash out at his wife, unintentionally. His wife has suggested that Allen remain as active as possible, which is one thing that can be used to offset the damages that can cause stress, and promote healthier habits and coping mechanisms. Feldman, R. (2020).
Allen has a lot of hard work ahead of him in order to fix and cope with some of the damage that has been inflicted on him because of his car accident. He suffers from depression and anxiety that severely hinders his attendance at work, a lack of self-confidence and motivation that affects his willingness to work and work hard while ignoring the preconceived notions that his co-workers have toward him. Poor coping skills, have caused his weight gain and excessive amounts of television has made him aggressive toward his wife. He has significant damage to some of the systems in the brain, most notably the limbic system, association areas of the brain, and the hippocampus, which has caused problems with memory and learning new information related to new systems at work. Damage to the amygdala is responsible for expression of emotion, and therefore has caused his aggression. His therapist has suggested cognitive restructuring and biofeedback techniques, like mirror therapy could be applied to Allen for pain management of the amputated leg. The aggression from damage to the amygdala may imply that serious personality changes are present and it is too soon to tell if he will ever be able to restore the damage done to it. In short, proper nutrition, intensive therapy, exercise, and the proper dosage of medications are the only ways that any of this damage can start to repair and it may only repair some of it. Only time will tell what is in store for Allen Whitcomb, but we all have gained a little bit more of an understanding of who Allen Whitcomb is now as a person since his unfortunate accident.
Feldman, R. (2020). Psychology and Your Life with P.O.W.E.R. Learning (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. Rolls ET; Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, England. (2018). Cell and Tissue Research [Cell Tissue Res] 2018 Sep; Vol. 373 (3), pp. 577-604. Berlin, New York, Springer-Verlag