PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

When I reviewed Allen Whitcomb’s notes and the reports by his wife, therapist, and manager, I found it was not hard to see due cause for his recent personal crisis. Mr. Whitcomb, a husband, who is color-blind, with two children in college, lost a leg due to a recent, texting-and-driving car accident. It has been stated in his profile that although a healthy, working man before, Allen Whitcomb currently experiences chronic pain that affects his work since the accident. He frequently feels sadness, has trouble sleeping and is often fatigued. Erin Whitcomb, his spouse, has reported that Mr. Whitcomb “always seems on edge” and “he is always seeking a calm, quiet environment. Mr. Whitcomb is often tense, quiet, anxious, and unfriendly. He often seeks quiet and calm environments. She has also reported that he “treats her unkindly after watching violent television shows,” although he seems to feel bad after and is working on stopping this behavior. His wife continues to encourage him to stay as active as possible and wants him to continue to contribute to their family, community, and society. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

Dawn Taylor, Allen Whitcomb’s therapist, reports that since the accident, Mr. Whitcomb has been having difficulty sleeping, has had continued pain, and states that he has feelings of sadness and fatigue. Although Allen Whitcomb retains the memory of how to drive a car, he admitted to his therapist that he could only remember the song that was playing on the radio on the day of and at the time of the accident. He has stated that he experiences an increase in heart rate when he hears this song or one similar. Per Feldman, “Psychophysics is the study of the relationship between the physical aspects of stimuli and our psychological experience of them” (Feldman, 2013, p. 87). I believe psychophysics is playing a vital role in Mr. Whitcomb’s behavior since the accident. His therapist, Dawn Taylor, is teaching him to control his heart rate and breathing when he feels stressed. She has suggested that he smile more throughout the day to try to improve his mood and she has been encouraging him to develop a feeling of self-worth and the feeling of contributing by taking online classes. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

Mark Flowers, Mr. Whitcomb’s manager, has stated that Allen works the night shift, but he is having attendance problems b frequently showing up late and calling in sick. His manager is setting attendance goals with him and working toward earning lunch for his team based on timely attendance. At work, Mr. Whitcomb shows signs that he is experiencing a delay in cognitive function demonstrated by his lack of new information retention due to him having trouble remembering information for more than a few minutes and because the filing system has changed since his accident and he is often confused by it.

I believe Allen Whitcomb to be showing signs of depression due to his irrational behavior towards his wife, lack of sleep, confusion from changes at work, his tardiness and attendance issues at work, and his substantial weight gain from the constant pain and fatigue. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

I chose Cognitive Distortion and Depression in Chronic Pain: Association With Diagnosed Disorders by Timothy W. Smith, Jennifer L. O’Keeffe, and Alan J. Christensen, to assist in my case study of Mr. Allen Whitcomb.  This journal article documents a study that researches the association between chronic pain and depression, and “examined levels of cognitive distortion in patients with depressive conditions diagnosed through structured interviews and with appropriate controls” (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 62(1), Feb 1994. pp. 195-198.)  This study contained four groups of patients that were evaluated: depressed pain patients, non-depressed pain patients, depressed non-pain patients, and non-depressed non-pain patients. This journal article will help in shaping my case study on Allen Whitcomb due to the topic of the journal article, and therelationship of the study relates to the psychodynamic perspectives and the psychophysics that attribute to Mr. Whitcomb’s behavior. I believe this article represents how chronic pain and depression most likely affected Mr. Whitcomb’s behavior, decision making, and cognitive processing in my case study. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

I believe Mr. Whitcomb’s chronic pain and depression symptoms relate to his cognitive processes; including any cognitive distortions he may be experiencing and the effects they may have on his behavior, mood, decision-making, and productivity. With proper diagnosis and prognosis, (barring any permanent damage to his memory), Mr. Whitcomb may come to remember the car accident to a point where he would be comfortable enough to share his experience with others.

Brain and Behavior

The brain is the most complex organ that ever existed in the human body. The brain is composed of a vast network of billions of nerve cells; better known as neurons. These neurons coupled with the spinal cord form a “command center” of sorts and is part of the body’s central nervous system.  “No simple one-to-one correspondence exists between a distinct part of the brain and particular behavior. Instead, a behavior is produced by complex interconnections among sets of neurons in many areas of the brain: our behavior, emotions, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are produced by a variety of neurons throughout the nervous system working in concert.”, (Feldman, 2013. p. 63).

Keeping in mind that his therapist reported that Mr. Whitcomb would often have difficulty sleeping, that in turn, caused him to feel fatigued and sad. He also reported having chronic pain, all symptoms that occurred after his car accident. Mr. Whitcomb’s wife mentioned his ongoing battle with irritability, feeling on edge and often anxious. Finally, his manager at his workplace recalled that Mr. Whitcomb frequently becomes confused and has trouble retaining information. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

The brain functions that could account for Mr. Whitcomb’s behavioral and emotional changes can be one, if not a combination of, the following, but not limited to: the reticular formation, the pons or the limbic system of the brain. Reticular formation acts as a pain modulator, blocking specific pain signals to the brain. It also plays a central part when dealing with stages of consciousness like alertness and sleep. The pons is a communications hub to several parts of the brain. It allows the relaying of messages to different areas of the brain; like the cortex or the cerebellum. Disturbances to either of these brain structures because of his car accident would explain Mr. Whitcomb’s reports of chronic pain as well as his inability to sleep, which could, in turn, explain Mr. Whitcomb’s constant fatigue and irritability.

There’s also the limbic system, which deals in three significant functions: emotions, memories, and stimulation or arousal. Disturbances in this function could account for Mr. Whitcomb’s inability to create new memories, retain information as well as his mood swings and behavior at home. It could also explain why Mr. Whitcomb doesn’t remember the accident. Mr. Whitcomb and his wife’s love life could also have suffered if there was damage to this brain structure. “The structures of the limbic system jointly control a variety of basic functions relating to emotions and self-preservation, such as eating, aggression, and reproduction.”, (Feldman, 2013. p. 67). According to the textbook, an injury sustained to the amygdala, which is the part of the limbic system that plays a role in human’s perception of fear, aggression and other emotions as well as emotional behaviors. It could be possible that Mr. Whitcomb’s emotional instability, and the treatment of his wife after watching violent shows, could have been adversely affected after his accident. The limbic system is also responsible for learning and memory. However, more sophisticated cognitive abilities of the brain are handled by the cerebral cortex.PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

The cerebral cortex is the most developed part of the human brain. It is mainly responsible for thinking, producing, perceiving and understanding language, (Dartmouth, 2006). The cerebral cortex where thinking, memory, language, and speech occurs, is in parts of the brain referred to as association areas. When parts of the association areas are damaged, people undergo personality changes that affect their ability to make moral judgments and process emotions. If Mr. Whitcomb did suffer a brain injury from his recent accident, and these structures were, in some way, compromised, that has affected these structures, could account for some of his changes in perception and perpetual activities such as recognizing shapes, differentiating a tree from a human, or possibly one’s ability to judge distance. The fact that he is also color-blind leads me to wonder if his perception abilities were compromised before his accident. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

Mr. Whitcomb did mention that the car he hit appeared to be farther and was driving slower than it indeed was. It is my opinion that this part of Mr. Whitcomb’s brain may not have been severely affected because, in this case, I consider driving to be a constant activity since he was able to continue operating an automobile without interruption; save the time he took to heal from his accident. In fact, Mr. Whitcomb not only remembers how to drive but can also recall the song that was playing on the radio at the time of the accident. He also recalled his perception of the distance and speed of the other car involved in the accident; even though, according to Mr. Whitcomb, he cannot recall the accident itself. Given the outcome, Mr. .

Sensation and Perception

“Sensation is the activation of the sense organs by a source of physical energy. Perception is the sorting out, interpretation, analysis, and integration of stimuli carried out by the sense organs and brain.”, (Feldman, 2013. p. 86). Mr. Whitcomb mentioned how his heart rate would increase whenever he heard the song that was playing, or anything resembling the song, on the car radio around the time of the accident. This stimulus could directly affect Mr. Whitcomb’s sensation and perception. An accelerated heart rate, because of the music, has influenced Mr. Whitcomb’s sensory responses and psychophysics, (the relationship between physical aspects of stimuli and the psychological experience of them), related to his anxious behavior and emotional changes. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

Mr. Whitcomb also reported being color blind. Being color blind could impair his ability to distinguish specific colors. Color blindness also can hurt a person’s depth perception. This could be a possible explanation concerning his account of the distance and speed of the other car involved in his accident. If Mr. Whitcomb’s perception and senses aren’t efficiently working, his recollection or ability to retain information accurately can be called into question in all facets of his life.

Learning and Memory

“Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior that is brought about by experience” (Feldman, 2013. p. 206), and memory is the process by which we encode, store and retrieve information. Mr. Whitcomb could suffer from a delay in learning due to his inability to retain new information/experiences. This can be supported by the report his manager gave concerning how Mr. Whitcomb frequently gets confused by new methods while on the job. The manager also stated that Mr. Whitcomb has trouble remembering information for more than a few seconds. This also lends support to the fact that Mr. Whitcomb cannot recall the actual accident; possibly indicating that his ability to store long-term memory might have been negatively affected. With his reported inability to retain or recall information, Mr. Whitcomb could go down a path where he is incapable of motivating himself, of being motivated by others, and even affecting his emotional state. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay


Motivation and Emotion

Motivation is defined asfactors that direct and energize the behaviors of humans and other organisms (Feldman, 2013, p.252).  “Emotions are feelings that generally have both physiological and cognitive elements and that influence behavior” (Feldman, 2013, p.276).  Mark Flowers, Allen’s manager, says Allen is having attendance problems.Allen is coming in late and often calling in sick.  Mr. Flowersis focusing on operant conditioning with Allen.  Operant conditioning is defined as learning in which a voluntary response is strengthened or weakened, depending on its favorable or unfavorable consequences (Feldman, 2013, p176).  He has set goals with Allen in hopes of encouraging him to arriveat work on time and not call in sick as much.  When Allen meets this goal, Mr. Flowersplans to buy lunch for him and everyone on Allen’s team.  This is a positive reinforcer. A positive reinforcer is a stimulus added to the environment that brings about an increase in a preceding response (Feldman, 2013, p178). PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay


Development is shown by starting out as an infant and growing into an adult.  Growing up, Allen’s mother often told him he was not good enough.  This is an example of nature-versus-nurture.  In this environment, Allen was put down by the woman that gave birth to him.  This is the person who Allen spent his life with as a child.  This indicates that there was no attachment developed between Mr. Whitcomb and his mother.Attachment is defined as the positive emotional bond that develops between a child and a particular individual, is the most important form of social development that occurs during infancy (Feldman, 2013, p307).


Personality is the pattern of enduring characteristics that produce consistency and individuality in a given person (Feldman, 2013, p349).  It allows people to decide if they would get along with you or if there might be too much of a difference between the two.  As for Allen’s personality, he appears to be standoffish.  Allen never socialized very much, and he has never had many friends, even as a child. He doesn’t seem tohave any self-worth. With Allen showing up late to work, it he doesn’t have the passion or the drive to want to work. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

Per Carl Jung, it would suggest that archetype best represents Allen.  It is defined as a “universal symbolic representations of a particular person, object or experience (such as good and evil)” (Feldman, 2013, p. 357).  Allen seems to want to do good for others but feels sorry for himself because he now is bound to a wheelchair from the accident.Other than from his wife and therapist, Allen has never had any real encouragement.  Especially as a child when it is needed the most.

Social Behavior

Allen has started watching a lot of television when he is at home.  He does not often socialize at work.  Allen’s wife confirms that he does not have many friends and has never had many close friends.  As stated earlier, his wife Erin does try to encourage him to get out and be more active.  Dawn, Allen’s therapist, has told Allen to smile more throughout the day to help improve his mood.  Dawn has also been encouraging Allen to take online classes to develop his sense of self-worth and feelings of contributing to the greater good. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

With the amount of stress and coping that Allen has been forced to learn to manage and go through, it appearsthat he has , or PTSD.  Posttraumatic stress disorder is a phenomenon in which victims of major catastrophes or strong personal stressors feel long-lasting effects that may include re-experiencing the event in vivid flashbacks or dreams (Feldman 2013, p520. It has impacts on the mind that make it hard for the person to cope with the issue (Feldman, 2013).


he became depressed because he lost a limb. Losing a limb forces you to have to learn an entirely new way of living and coping.  I believe that with ongoing therapy and learning new life skills, that Allen can return to a semblance of his former life and perform better at his workplace. He can also learn to cope better with his new disabilities and with his depression. PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay


  • edu staffers, (2006). The cerebral cortex. The limbic system. Retrieved from:
  • Feldman, R. (2013). Psychology and your life (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Cognitive Distortion and Depression in Chronic Pain: Association with Diagnosed Disorders. By: Smith, Timothy W., O’Keeffe, Jennifer L., Christensen, Alan J., Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 0022006X, 19940201, Vol. 62, Issue 1 (Feb 1994). PSYC 1001 – Introduction to Psychology Essay

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