Blog 4

Blog 4

The main difference between blogs as an assignment method, compared to normal essays, is that blogs allow students to pick their own areas of discussion. This should probably increase the students’ intrinsic motivation and breadth of knowledge. Ryan & Edward (2000) showed that intrinsic motivation was the biggest indicator of self-motivation and meant that individuals would work harder on a particular task with less procrastination if they were more intrinsically motivated. This is a very clear advantage of increasing students’ intrinsic motivation that it causes individuals to work harder. There was, however, still a very high level of extrinsic motivation for students to complete the blogs. Brownlow & Reasinger (2000)S found that when the level of external motivation was higher then students were more likely to procrastinate than when it was lower. However this result was only true in tasks with a lower level of intrinsic motivation or in students who were already prone to procrastination, so it may be useful to try and reduce the level of external motivation in assignments it is not as useful as increasing the level of intrinsic motivation.

Giving speeches explaining our blogs was also generally useful, it helped students develop public speaking skills. Giving these speeches induces fear in a large proportion of people (Slater et al 2006). Stipek (1993) argued that fear is one of the biggest motivators of students to learn and work hard, this is related to a number of different models of motivation and fear could be used to increase motivation in particularly unmotivated students. Fear can often reduce motivation in some people if it is too high and the student expects to do badly, this means that if a student is particularly anxious about giving a speech then they may lose motivation due to having to give a speech on their blog.

Reference List

Brownlow, S. & Reasinger, R., D. (2000). Putting It Off Until Tomorrow What is Better Done Today: Academic Procrastination As A Function of Motivation Toward College Work. Journal of Social Behaviour and Personality, 15(5), 15-34. Retrieved from: http://www.csulb.edu/~djorgens/brownlow.pdf

Ryan, R., M. & Edward, D., L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development and Well Being. American Psychologist, 55(1),  68-78. Doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.58.

Slater, M., Pertaub, D. P., Barker, C., & Clark, D. M. (2006). An experimental study on fear of public speaking using a virtual environment. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(5), 627-633. Doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9.627.

Stipek, D. J. (1993). Motivation to learn: From theory to practice. United States of America: Needham Heights. Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Gender and Individual Differences

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The majority of psychological research is conducted using the nomothetic approach, which focuses on large group differences or fundamental human characteristics, as opposed to the idiographic approach, which focuses on the ways in which individuals differ. The nomothetic approach is generally the best approach scientifically, individual differences are often large and ignored in the study of psychology. This apparent blind spot is particularly apparent in the study of human emotion, specifically studies investigating emotional gender differences. When researchers do not consider individual differences in research this can lead to their research having incomplete conclusions. If the individual differences found are much larger than the difference between the investigated groups (e.g. men and women) then it is dangerous to assume that there is a difference between people between these groups, especially as the research might be used to influence real-world situations (education).

Many studies investigated the role of the amygdala in emotion and concluded that the amygdala is mainly involved in anticipatory emotions. These studies also concluded that the amygdala was only involved in the intensity of the presented stimuli not the valence of the stimuli (e.g. Domes et al 2007). Cunningham & Brosch (2012) pointed out that there was a large amount of individual differences between the amygdala responses of the participants to any presented stimulus. The presented results of the studies was merely an average of many different responses with many conflicting responses. This means that the amygdala response of the participants to the given stimuli must be related to the personal nature of the stimuli to the individual participants. The large individual differences found in amygdala research demonstrates that the role of the amygdala is probably far more complicated than the researchers initially concluded when just investigating the average amygdala response of their participants.

There have been a relatively disproportionate number of studies which have investigated emotional differences between men and women. Fischer et al (2004) found that across different cultures generally men experience more powerful emotions, these were emotions which meant that the person is more likely to approach a given stimulus (e.g. anger or happiness. The researchers found that women were more likely to experience powerless emotions, emotions which made the person less likely to approach a given stimulus (e.g. sadness or fear). Under a more detailed analysis of the data the researchers found large individual differences within their study, the differences between individual people was much larger than the differences between men and women generally. This lead the researchers to investigate a number of possible confounding variables which could help explain the gender differences better. Each country investigated in the study was measured using the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and an interaction was found between gender differences in the power of emotions found and the GEM measured in the presented country. This study shows the importance of considering individual differences in emotional gender research, as even though the study found a consistent gender difference across most countries more detailed investigation suggested that cultural effects may be the cause of the gender differences. These differences were also far from universal across all people.

Emotion based research into gender research does have some limited uses, these are normally overstated by the researchers in their discussion sections. The best use of this research is that it provides confirming or contradictory evidence regarding evolutionary models, e.g if a large gender difference is found for emotional intelligence then this suggests that this may be a sexually selected trait or have a gender-specific social or survival advantage. Miller (2000) argued that the most interesting phenomenon regarding gender differences is that there is almost no gender differences between most psychological traits, e.g intelligence. This is useful as it discredits many models of evolution which could be used to explain humans’ large and costly brain.

 Other than investigating evolutionary models and some general interest studying emotional gender differences has a very limited benefit. Brackett, Mayer & Warner (2004) found that women had significantly higher emotional intelligence compared to a similar sample of men, the researchers also showed that a lower emotional intelligence was correlated with a variety of negative behaviours (including alcohol use, deviant behaviours and poor relations with friends. In their discussion section the researchers made the assumption that the study had important educational and social implications, this assumption means that due to this general gender difference in emotional intelligence men and women should be treated differently in educational and social settings in order to challenge this general difference. This assumption is fundamentally wrong because of the large amount of crossover between the two genders, a randomly selected man still has quite a good chance of having a higher level of emotional intelligence than a randomly selected. In order to be fair to these relatively anomalous people it is necessary to ignore gender differences and treat each person based on their own individual traits.

In conclusion individual differences should be assessed by researchers in order to revel the true implications of their research. This is especially applicable when discussing emotional gender differences, individuals should not define individuals by their gender and should treat them based on their own individual merit.

Reference list

Brackett, M., A., Mayer, J., D. & Warner, R., M. (2004). Emotional Intelligence and It’s Relation To Everyday Behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(6), 1387-1402. Doi: 10.1016/SO191-8869(03)00236-8

Cunningham, W., A. & Brosch, T. (2012). Motivational Salience: Amygdala Tuning From Traits, Needs, Values and Goals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1),  54-59, Doi: 10.1177/0963721411430832.

Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Glascher, J., Buchel, C., Braus, D., F. & Herpertz, S., C. (2007). Oxytocin Attenuates Amygdala Response to Emotional Faces Regardless of Valence, Biological Psychiatry, 62(10), 1187-1190, Doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2007.03.025

Fischer, A., H., Mosquera, P., M., Vianen, V., Annelies, E., M. & Manstead, A., S. (2004). Gender and Culture Differences in Emotion. Emotion, 4(1), 87-94. Doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.4.1.87.

Miller, G. (2000). The Mating Mind. Great Britain: London. Vintage Press.

 

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People Do Not Behave Rationally But Instead Are Led By Their Emotions.

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For a long time in philosophy it was assumed that people behave almost entirely rationally, people make decisions and form opinions using a cognitive deliberation of all their available options, this is called rationalism. However Hume challenged this viewpoint and argued that people instead form opinions and make decisions based largely on their emotional response and later rationalize their decision in order to give the illusion of rationalism, confusingly this is called rationalization. Experimental evidence seems to suggest that people do behave, at least partly, using rationalization. Although emotions may provide a more rapid and in many cases more useful decision-making system the decisions and opinions formed may be irrational and possible even dangerous.

There are many situations where people clearly make decisions based on their emotional response. Cameron & Payne (2011) demonstrated that as the number of people in need increases the level of compassion shown decreases, this is thought to happen because people are unable to emotionally deal with mass suffering. This was demonstrated in a more realistic setting by Brammersma (2007). The researchers found that people were more likely to donate to a telephone based charity appeal if they were given a detailed story about one individual as opposed to a statistical display of the number of people suffering. This phenomenon demonstrates that people are more likely to help people based on their emotional response they experience from one emotional story than when they are shown a larger amount of suffering, in which rationally need more help.

The opinions that people hold generally have a very emotional basis, or at least are held emotionally and are hard to challenge. Halperin (2013) found that participants exhibited anger and disbelief when presented with evidence which challenged their previously stated political beliefs. This study shows the emotional nature of political beliefs held by people, and the lack of rationalism in these beliefs. This is because people do not rationally consider any opposing evidence to their personally held beliefs. The main problem with this study is that political beliefs may have a particularly high level of emotional saliency, and perhaps cannot be generalised to all beliefs and opinions.

There has also been some recent neurological evidence demonstrating the effect of emotions on individual’s decision making, which ties in well with the previous experimental research. Dolcos & McCarthy (2006) demonstrated that distractors which were the most emotional in nature were the ones which effected the decision-making process the most. The researchers also demonstrated that activation in the neural areas associated with emotion (amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex) was associated with the level of activation in areas of the brain associated with decision-making. This study demonstrates the effect that emotions can have on decision-making neurologically and suggests that humans possess an emotionally-driven decision-making system.

 So it seems to be the case that people do, in fact, form opinions and make decisions based using their emotions rather than cold rationale, however perhaps this emotional-decision making system is not irrational. Toda (1980) argued that the emotional decision making system is a rational system in its own right, one which is shaped and primed by evolution to make the best decisions available. Tamir, Ford & Gilliam (2012) demonstrated that participants who believed that emotions were useful tools in everyday life increased their levels of anger when negotiating with an unreasonable stooge, these participants made better decisions in the negotiation. This study demonstrates the utilitarian use of emotions in making decisions, however this study seems particularly susceptible to demand characteristics and cannot really be generalised to more real-world situations in which emotions are used. The argument that emotions can be useful in making decisions and forming opinions is very powerful, as if an emotional decision making system has evolved then it must have been useful in the primitive world.

In order to argue that emotions are evolved to make rational decisions then I must briefly discuss the reason why emotions evolved in the first place, and why they would be used in order to make decisions. Crawford (2010) argued that basic emotions are used to make very short-term decisions in order to survive in the natural world (eg. Whether to fight or run when faced with a predator), these sort of emotions include fear, surprise and disgust. These basic emotions are only used to make short-term survival-based decisions. More conmplex emotions are used in order to make social decisions (eg. Whether to barter for an object or take it by force), these emotions generally evolved much later and include guilt, embarrassment and spite. Although these types of emotions are less irrational than basic emotions they can still lead to overly-hedonistic decisions.

Well, it seems that humans do in fact have an emotionally based system for making-decisions and forming opinions. This system is more rapid than a more rational system and is very useful in a more primitive environment, in which making a quick decision is very important. This system does however have some drawbacks and can lead to people virulently holding irrational beliefs.

 

Reference List

Brammersma, J. (2007). A Charity’s Marathon: Charity Advertising, the Telethon and Consumer Response. International Business, 1(3), 127-145. Doi: 10.1162/0898929055002426

Cameron, C., D. & Payne, B., K. (2011). Escaping Affect: How Motivational Emotion Regulation Creates Insensitivity to Mass Suffering. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(1), 1-15. Doi:10.1037/a0021643

Crawford, C. (2010). Evolutionary Psychology, Public Policy and Personal Decisions. (pp. 93-109.) United States of America: New Jersey. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Dolcos, F. & McCarthy, G. (2006). Brain Systems Mediating Cognitive Interference by Emotional Distraction. Journal of Neuroscience, 26(7), 2072-2079. Doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5042-05.2006

Halperin, E. (2013). Emotion, Emotion Regulation, and Conflict Resolution. Emotion Review. Doi:10.1177/1754073913491844

Tamir, M. Ford, B., Q. & Gilliam, M. (2012). Evidence for Utilitarian Motives in Emotion Regulation. Cognition & Emotion, 27(3), 483-491. Doi:10.1080/2699931.2012.715079

 

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Is it possible for a person to be motivated to become more creative?

It is commonly assumed that certain people are naturally creative people. In this view these people are able to produce novel and useful ideas to a solution, which other people would simply not be able to think of. This view is, however, very lacking and has led to a severe lack of emphasis on developing creativity both in education and the workplace. It now appears that people can be actively motivated to be more creative.

Creativity can be seen as the ability to spontaneously create new and unique ideas to a presented problem. This is completely independent of general intelligence, although a person’s intelligence does affect how useful the idea produced is (Stermberg 1999). At face value, it would appear that people are genetically more creative. Mc Crae (1987) found a positive correlation between personality ratings of openness of a person’s face and that person’s level of creativity. This study does suggest that creativity does at least have a genetic component, as creativity was correlated with a very stable genetic trait (facial features). The problem with this conclusion is that the participants involved in the study were actually being rated on their levels of openness, a personality trait which can clearly change a person’s motivation to think about a problem in different ways.

Barron & Harrington (1981) argued that creativity is a function of a number of inherited traits, including certain personality traits and types of intelligence. Creativity appears to be a highly specialized trait, creative tasks usually involve a high level of activation in specific areas of the frontal lobe particularly in the right hemisphere. This led Barron & Harrington to assume that creativity is mostly a genetic trait which is a determined by how effective these areas of the brain can function. This argument ignores the plasticity of the brain and the effect that personality traits can have on a person’s intrinsic motivation.

More recent research has suggested that rather than being a genetic trait creativity is actually an intrinsically motivated state of mind which can be actively sought after. Kwiatkowski (2002) found that participants emitted a very different ERP response (which involved a larger response in the right hemisphere and a more variable amount of activation) when trying to complete a task which requires creativity. This study suggests that in order to produce more creative ideas people must enter a different neurological state in which their brains become primed to think about a problem from many different angles in order to produce novel solutions. The problem with this study is that it just showed a general ‘creative neurological state’, more research into the specific details of this state needs to be conducted.

It is possible for a person to be motivated in order to think in a more creative manner. Amabile (1996) assessed the production of creative ideas in both children in education and adults in the workplace. In both situations intrinsic motivation was the largest indicator of the production of creative ideas, extrinsic motivators did not encourage creativity. This study suggests that is a person is genuinely interested in a problem then they will be able to produce more creative ideas relating to the problem, this perhaps explains the relation between creativity and openness.

If creativity is a state of mind which can be achieved with enough intrinsic motivation then it must be possible to be able to set up an intervention which can be used to encourage creativity. Koestner, Ryan, Bernieri & Holt (2006) showed that interventions designed to increase levels of intrinsic motivation in children (including a consensual assessment method) greatly increased the production of creative ideas in schoolchildren. This study demonstrates the link between creativity and intrinsic motivation and shows that creativity is not a constant trait but a skill which can be actively developed.

In conclusion although, like most things, creativity is partly determined by genetic factors it is not a purely genetic trait and can be actively developed. Creativity is also most strongly effected by a person’s level of intrinsic motivation.

 

Reference List

Amabile, T. M. (1998). How to kill creativity (pp. 77-87) United States of America: Harvard.  Harvard Business School Publishing

Barron, F., Harrington, D., M. (1981). Creativity Intelligence and Personality. United States of America: University of California. Annul Reviews inc.

Koestner, R., Ryan, F., B., Bernieri, F., Holt, K. (2006). Setting limits on children’s behavior: The differential effects of controlling vs. informational styles on intrinsic motivation and creativity. Journal of Personality, 52(3), 233-248. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1984.tb00879.x

Kiawatkowski, J. (2002). Individual Differences in the Neurophysiology of Creativity. Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 59. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/etd/59

McCrae, R., R. (1987). Creativity, Divergent Thinking & Openness to Experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1258-1265. Retrieved from: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&uid=1987-28199-001

Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (1998). Handbook of creativity. England: Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

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Homophobia as a ‘self phobia.’

Homophobia can be described as a extreme hatred or discrimination against homosexual people. It is not completely clear what the causes of this are. Ryan (2012) assessed 4 different studies into this issue and concluded that intense homophobia can be caused by a person being unconsciously homosexual and consciously repressing this and so becoming extremely hateful or fearful of homosexual people. This repression is assumed to be caused by a low level of autonomy support.

The main problem of the conclusions of all of the studies presented is that they all try to measure the activities of the unconscious mind in a very flimsy manner and then draw conclusions from these weak measures. One method used in the study was to is to use a reaction time measure in which participants were asked to classify words as being either homosexual or heterosexual, the words other or me were then flashed subliminally in front of the participants, the research found that when the words me and homosexual were together the participants which were rated as being more homophobic had a significantly quicker reaction time than in any other instance. This method of measurement does not in any way show the person’s unconscious sexual drives, the assumption made that if a person responds more quickly when the words me and homosexual are together then they are unconsciously homosexual is an enormous leap to make, it could be that they were reacting in a quicker way because they are not homosexual and therefore not distracted by the homosexual words.

Another method used is that the participants were allowed to browse through pictures of attractive people, the researchers found that people who were rated as being more homophobic looked more at pictures of attractive members of the same sex than the participants than other people, this was measured by observing eye movements. This again does not show the person’s attraction they may have viewed the members of the same sex due to disgust.

However although the conclusions of this study are very lacking there is no really good way of measuring any of the unconscious mind and therefore impossible to test the theory that homophobia is caused by a repression of homosexual thoughts. Perhaps in the future with advances in brain scanning technology it will be possible to observe a person’s unconscious mind. It would be good if a study investigates the views of people who are not homophobic but were raised in a setting with a low level of autonomy support, as according to this theory there would be a large number of these people in this situation. There must be heterosexual people who were raised in a setting with a low level of autonomy support.

Ryan, W. S., et al (2012) Parental autonomy support and discrepancies between implicit and explicit sexual identities: Dynamics of self-acceptance and defense. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 102(4), Apr 2012, 815-832. doi: 10.1037/a0026854.

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The causes of post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the charity Mind (see http://www.mind.org.uk) Post-Traumatic Stress disorder affects around 3% of the population. This disorder is caused by a very traumatic experience, if this experience is caused maliciously by another person then this disorder is more likely to develop and normally has stronger symptoms. The symptoms of this disorder could include, reliving aspects or deliberately avoiding memories of the event and a number of emotional problems. This disorder is mainly caused by the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the experience.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is thought to be caused by the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of traumatic events. Foa, Zinbarg & Rothbaum (1992) found that the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder could be recreated in animals after they were subjected to aversive events which were both uncontrollable and unpredictable. Although these results cannot necessarily be generalised to post-traumatic stress in humans they do show causation in a very strictly controlled laboratory setting, in which cannot be used on humans. This finding is also supported by a number of retrospective studies. Foa (1989) reviewed a number of different studies and found that the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are best explained by the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the aversive, although the severity of these symptoms is also affected by the fear and pain experienced during the aversive event. Although both retrospective and animal studies have very significant short-comings, they are the only effective way of investigating the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder and can be used to overcome most of each others’ shortcomings.

Although the severity of the traumatic event can affect the severity of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder it does not make the development of the disorder more likely. Feinstein & Dolan (1991) found no correlation between the severity of the stressor and the instance of post-traumatic stress disorder. This study shows that the severity of the traumatic event cannot be a cause of the disorder and therefore disproves the theory that the severity of the stressor makes the development of post-traumatic stress disorder more likely. However the measure of the severity of the stressor used in this study may lack validity, the researchers only rated the event on it’s level of severity which does not account for individual differences. It could be that some people are more susceptible to aversive events and experience them as being more stressful than others. This means that the results of this study may lack internal validity.

In conclusion the cause of the development of post-traumatic stress disorder is the high level of unpredictability and uncontrollability of the aversive event, although more research is required into the specific causes of this disorder

            Reference list.

Feinstein, A. & Dolan, R., (1991). Predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder following physical trauma: an examination of the stressor criterion. Institute of Neurology and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, London. Retrieved from

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=5B127D958A1E8A7294BA2C7B39047E7B.journals?fromPage=online&aid=5011952

Foa, E. B., (1989). Behavioral/cognitive conceptualizations of post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical College of Pennsylvania, USA. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000578948980067X

 

Foa, E. B., Zinbarg, R. & Rothbaum, B. O., (1992). Uncontrollability and unpredictability in post-traumatic stress disorder: An animal model.

 

Psychological Bulletin, Vol 112(2), Sep 1992, 218-238. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.112.2.218

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The best way of treating eating disorders.

The American Psychological Society describes an eating disorder as a severe distorted attitude about eating, weight and shape. These are also often accompanied with a mood disorder. The most effective method of treatment for these is a combination of cognitive-behavioural and pharmacological treatments.

There is a wide range of evidence which support the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for eating disorders. Brownley,  Berkman , Sedway, Lohr & Bulik (2007) reviewed twenty-six different studies, the researchers found that pharmacological treatments were the most effective way of treating an eating disorder. This study is useful as it reviews a number of different studies, each of which has different strengths and weaknesses. This means that the study can overcome the weaknesses of each study in order to create a realistic model of the effectiveness of each treatment, for example one study could have low validity but high experimental control whereas another could have high validity but a low level of experimental control. However the researchers found that there was a high level of treatment-related harm due to pharmacological treatments. Pharmacological treatments do often carry a high risk of side effects, for example the patient could become chemically dependent on the medication, and the benefits of the medication do however outweigh the potential risk of side-effects.

Pharmacological treatment is found to be highly effective although the benefits of this are found to be short-term. Yanovski, Gormally, Gwirtsman & Yanovski (1994) conducted a long-term study into the benefits of pharmacological treatment on people with eating disorders and found that although pharmacological treatment was found to be very effective initially although it normally lost it’s benefit after a year of treatment as the patient’s cognitive deficits still remained, this is why cognitive-behavioural treatments should be used in conjunction with pharmacological treatment

Cognitive-behavioural treatments are useful in combination with pharmacological treatments. Pharmacological treatments can be used to stabilise the chemical imbalance of people with eating disorders and cognitive-behavioural treatments can be used to change the cognitive deficit of the patient. Thomson (2001) brought together the observations of a number of clinical psychologists along with a number of noted studies. This study found that a combination of cognitive-behavioural and pharmacological treatments had the most empirical evidence in support of it’s effectiveness. This study ties together the highly valid observations of real clinical cases along with a number of reputable experiments, meaning that the conclusions of this study are both valid and reliable. However a large amount of the results used in this study are based on the researcher’s personal observations, which may lack objectivity and puts these observation at risk of experimenter bias.

In conclusion although pharmacological treatment for eating disorders can be a very effective treatment they should be used with cognitive-behavioural treatments in order to increase the long-term benefits of the treatments.

References

Kimberly A. Brownley,  Nancy D. Berkman , Jan A. Sedway, Kathleen N. Lohr & Cynthia M. Bulik. (2007.) Binge eating disorder treatment: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. DOI: 10.1002/eat.20370 Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.20370/abstract

Kevin J. Thomson. (2001.) Body image, eating disorders, and obesity: An integrative guide for assessment and treatment. doi: 10.1037/10502-000. Retrieved from: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2004-14112-000/

Yanovski SZGormally JFLeser MSGwirtsman HEYanovski JA. (1994.) Binge eating disorder affects outcome of comprehensive very-low-calorie diet treatment. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16353422

 

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