Category: Psychology


Critical Analysis of a theme in The pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness was a commercially successful film whose main appeal is its ‘feel-good’ ending.  It treads the much worn path of the rags-to-riches narrative, albeit with some variations in plot, characterization and context.  This paper would argue that despite the commercial success of the film, it fails as a social instrument.  In other words, if the purpose of cinema is not merely to entertain but also to educate, the Pursuit of Happyness fails on the latter count.

The main criticism is toward its core message that among the thousands of honest aspirants for the American Dream only a few lucky ones make through.  The final shot of the film is not merely the triumph of its protagonist, but equally the defeat of multitudes of his brethren. The defeated cannot said to have all been less industrious than our hero.  Luck plays a major role in deciding who succeeds. One also needs to question the kind of culture in which the odds are so stacked that . . . Read More

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Is Ahab the uncivilized one in Moby Dick?

There is no doubt that Ahab is the most uncivilized and barbaric of the sailors.  Although he is the captain of the ship and holds authority over the entire crew, his actions do not merit him respectability.  The harpooners carry a tarnished image by virtue of their profession – they are obligated to massacre the whales.  But Ahab’s livelihood is more of his own choice. He could easily have chosen a merchant’s life and look at fishing and hunting as merely commercial opportunities.  Indeed, Ahab was reminded of this saner and safer option by his lieutenants in the Pequod. But his vanity is too big for such humbling decisions.  Even before the grand ship set sail, Ahab was deep in his ambition of killing Moby Dick the white whale.  His battle cry is full of vehemence and bloodlust, as his final moments spent fighting the giant beast clearly reveal: “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from . . . Read More

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Theme of Personal Obsession in The Emperor’s Babe and Purple Hibiscus

Both the stories in question have a female, colored protagonist.  The two central characters Zuleika and Kambili are also similarly aged – it is their teenage years that are being explored.  Even before they reach adulthood they go through enormous upheavals in their lives. Moreover, their stories fit into a colonial discourse with attendant features of cultural displacement, social alienation and economic exploitation.  There is yet another interesting similarity between the two heroines, namely, their personal obsessions. But the objects of their obsessions are not the same. Likewise, secondary characters in the two stories have obsessions of their own. This essay endeavors to show how there are a range of psychological dispositions among various characters which account for their obsessions  and how the authors’ own obsessions bear upon them.

The Emperor’s Babe is a fresh and vivid verse narrative of a young woman in Ancient Rome.  Born into poverty and . . . Read More

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How does Freudian Theory help to explain social formation?

Freudian Theory has been criticized by feminists for espousing a patriarchal social formation. The most vocal critique among Second Wave feminists is Betty Friedan, whose cornerstone work Feminine Mystique (published in 1963) took issue with Freudian psychoanalysts. She perceived Freudian Theory to comply with a subordinate role for women in and outside the household. The 1950s was a time when working-class and middle-class women were “suffering from suburban domesticity”. (Rorty, 2008, p.56) Second Wave feminists fought against this view of social formation. They found a natural ally in the cause of black Americans for their civil rights. Hence the 1960s witnessed a strong social movement along the twin axis of race and gender. In the beginning feminists were sceptical – if not antagonistic – to psychoanalysis. They marked it as spawning patriarchy and with it the earlier quiescence of women. But by 1973,

“women psychoanalysts, psychologists, and . . . Read More

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Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S.A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582.

Aggression is all around modern society. We witness it in television, video games, news, cinema, etc. The research article by Bandura, Ross & Ross makes it near conclusive that children learn and replicate the behaviours of their models (meaning adults). The two main classes of adult behaviour exposed to children in the experiments are ‘aggressive’ and ‘non-aggressive’. And depending on the type of exposure the children imbibe and replicate the same type of behaviour when placed in a similar setting. So, witnessing parents perform violent actions (even if against toys) leads to children internalizing that behaviour as acceptable. Likewise witnessing parents conduct themselves in a non-violent manner leads to reinforcement of this type of behaviour. There is also a correlate on gender . . . Read More

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What are effective discipline strategies to use with a child who is going through the “”terrible 2’s?”

There is truth to the popular belief that toddlers of 2-3 years old are the most difficult to deal with. This is so because during this phase, toddlers are exercising and consolidating their newly acquired motor and language skills.  They tend to speak or babble a lot and also run about the space at home.  Such behavior helps them discover the three-dimensionality of space and learn to master maneuvering through it.  The incessant verbal output prepares them for social interaction that awaits them in subsequent stages of development.  But the most dreaded part of ‘terrible 2s’ for parents is the tantrums thrown by toddlers.  This is due to the beginnings of the process of decentralization whereby the ego-centric perception is slowly lost.  The tantrums are partly a reaction to this ‘loss’. To compensate for this feeling of insecurity, toddlers resort to tantrums which bring them parental attention and . . . Read More

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The dramatic differences found by Piaget in the development of preschoolers and elementary-age children

A child undergoes rapid physiological and cognitive developments in the first few years.  Preschoolers or toddlers slowly shed their ‘ego-centric’ view.  This means that a newborn baby does not have the capacity to think of and for others.  This ability to understand that there are others in the world is slowly gained during the years 0-3.  After a year and half the toddler begins to verbally express its likes and dislikes.  This is an important cognitive milestone, for the language ability has significant ramifications for psychosocial and later academic performance.  The preschool stage is when most of the gross and fine motor ability is acquired and exercised.  So the graduation from moving limbs to crawling to walking signify the baby’s growing capacity for self-expression in physical space.  During the elementary school age, the child understands that the world is comprised of people like itself with similar motivations and needs.  During this stage crucial . . . Read More

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy: An analysis

One of the later works of Leo Tolstoy, the novella is preoccupied with the meaning of death, and by extension the meaning of life.  The main character, Ivan Ilyich, is a sort of a symbol for common man in the industrial age.   Outwardly, he has all the trappings of a successful life, but there is a persistent feeling of hollowness and ennui.  As Tolstoy writes, his life had been “the most simple, the most ordinary and therefore most terrible”.  This sentiment is all too common in the capitalist age, the rise which Tolstoy witnessed firsthand.

It is basic human individual psychology to ward off the idea of their own death although everyone understands death in the abstract.  The Death of Ivan Ilyich is not so much a work about death in the abstract, but death as a personal confrontation.  It is ironic to note that even as he is terminally ill, Ivan cannot come round to grasp his own extinction.  To the contrary he still believes that death is something that happens . . . Read More

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How the Brain Learns?

It is now a standard theory that students’ prior understanding of a subject matter plays the pivotal role in furthering their understanding.  The easiest demonstration of this theory at work is the design of school curricula from primary education through high school and college.  Basic concepts are introduced at earlier levels, which are further built upon in higher levels of education.  Likewise, the effectiveness of students’ learning also depends on the personal interests and motivations they bring to the table.  The learning experience is most meaningful for the student when it comes out of personal interests and motivations.  Otherwise, it tends to be academic or abstract, negatively affecting learning outcomes. (Hardiman, 2001, p.53)

Researchers have identified biological and cognitive predispositions of students as key factors in learning.  For example, the capacity and functioning of working memory and the sensory registers are key determinants in . . . Read More

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A Study of Aristotelian tragedy in Oedipus

The great Greek myth of Oedipus continues to be integral to the Western literary canon even today.  Starting from 5th century B.C., various ancient writers of the Hellenistic era made references to Oedipus in their works.  The best known version of the Oedipus myth comes from Sophocles’ trilogy of Theban plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Reading the biography of Oedipus through Aristotle’s conception of tragedy makes for an interesting scholarly exercise.  One of Aristotle’s most influential works concerning literary theory is his Poetics.  In it he articulates with eloquence and clarity various facets of good theatre.  Tragedy is acknowledged as a powerful genre of drama.  Aristotle goes on to set out various rules of thumb for making aesthetically and emotionally satisfying tragedies.   His concise definition of tragedy is that it is “an imitation of an action that is serious … with incidents arousing pity and fear, in . . . Read More

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