Psychology: Graph on behaviour

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Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby folmerveeman » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:38 am UTC

First of all, I'm really not sure if this belongs here, but mods: feel free to move this topic if necessary :)

Right off the bat I want to state that I have 0 experience with psychology, but I still consider myself an amateur, and I tend to psycho-analyse a lot of actions of a lot of people, and generally my predictions seem to be true. :)
Anyway, I always argue with people that a lot of our actions are based on a degree of hopelessness. For example, suicide would be an act of extreme hopelessness, and violence would also be an expression of hopelessness.

But, today I got the idea of making a graph on behaviour, with hopelessness/hopefulness as one axis.
As a possible other axis, I figured that egoism/altruism would work. Not in the sense of willingness to help other people, but more like the focus of attention.
For example, someone with a lot of hopelessness and on the egoism end of the graph would be suicidal, while someone with a lot of hopelessness on the altruistic end of the graph would reach out for help.

First of all I was wondering if other people have tried to evaluate behaviour on these bases. I personally haven't found anything, but I don't have any expertise at all, nor do I have the google magic to find it :)

Second of all, is this way of behaviour analysis even viable? Most importantly, is the hopefulness/hopelessness a good value to consider? The egoism/altruism axis is just out of lack of better words/ideas.

Pleaaaase discuss this with me :)
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby Dopefish » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:30 am UTC

Not a pysch person, but I would imagine you would have a rather hard time coming up with an objective way to measure hopelessness or altruism in order to have relative values to plot. Just sortof handwaving "Yeah, that guy is pretty hopeful, and fairly altruistic, so he goes here on the graph" isn't likely to get you very far for all sorts of reasons, since you'll be full of confirmation bias as well as it seems improbable that someones outward appearance in those regards may not reflect how they really feel.

Your mention of altruism did remind me of egoism which isn't quite what you're describing, but it is something that might interest you to read about.

A lot of pysch (from what little of it I know) comes down to carefully defining your variables in a clear way that minimises the liklihood of confounding effects, while still being something you can effectively measure. Can you clearly define each of the things you hope to measure? Is there anything more fundemental that might be influencing those variables that you could measure more directly? Do you expect that there will be a particular relationship between those two variables, or a fairly even distribution in all four quadrants? Do you expect your choice of variables will allow predictions, and if those predictions pertain to a third attribute, why not make plots against that third attribute directly?

Of course, if you're just doing it for passive interest, handwaving works fine and you can probably produce some 'true' results, but I'd be inclined to think it'd be true in the same sense that many horoscopes tend to be 'true'. It's not due to some special predictive power, so much as having sufficiently vague terms and definitions that you can almost always interpret things as being correct. As such if you want anything serious, you're really got to be explicit in your definitions. This isn't to say that you can't relatively general terms as your measures (and so your proposed ones could well be fine), but you do have to be careful in explicitly saying how your defining those terms, and how you're measuring it.
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby folmerveeman » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:55 am UTC

Dopefish wrote:Not a pysch person, but I would imagine you would have a rather hard time coming up with an objective way to measure hopelessness or altruism in order to have relative values to plot. Just sortof handwaving "Yeah, that guy is pretty hopeful, and fairly altruistic, so he goes here on the graph" isn't likely to get you very far for all sorts of reasons, since you'll be full of confirmation bias as well as it seems improbable that someones outward appearance in those regards may not reflect how they really feel.

Your mention of altruism did remind me of egoism which isn't quite what you're describing, but it is something that might interest you to read about.

A lot of pysch (from what little of it I know) comes down to carefully defining your variables in a clear way that minimises the liklihood of confounding effects, while still being something you can effectively measure. Can you clearly define each of the things you hope to measure? Is there anything more fundemental that might be influencing those variables that you could measure more directly? Do you expect that there will be a particular relationship between those two variables, or a fairly even distribution in all four quadrants? Do you expect your choice of variables will allow predictions, and if those predictions pertain to a third attribute, why not make plots against that third attribute directly?

Of course, if you're just doing it for passive interest, handwaving works fine and you can probably produce some 'true' results, but I'd be inclined to think it'd be true in the same sense that many horoscopes tend to be 'true'. It's not due to some special predictive power, so much as having sufficiently vague terms and definitions that you can almost always interpret things as being correct. As such if you want anything serious, you're really got to be explicit in your definitions. This isn't to say that you can't relatively general terms as your measures (and so your proposed ones could well be fine), but you do have to be careful in explicitly saying how your defining those terms, and how you're measuring it.


First of all, thanks for the link :) It was a very interesting read, but that wasn't what I was going for with Egoism and Altruism. What I meant was more like, whether someone's focus is inward or outward.. so maybe introversion/extraversion would be more specific?

And yeah, you bring up a really good point with needing more specific terms, that is one of the things I struggle with most for now..

What do you mean by the 'third attribute' thing though?
And I have no experience whatsoever pertaining to this subject, so this is mostly a learning opportunity.. it would still be cool to actually find a correlation to reality though :)
And my goal isn't to find a correlation between the two axes, but more like what results from every combination of those two axes :)
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby Dopefish » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:31 am UTC

What I mean by third attribute would be something along the lines of if you want to say "High 'hopeful' scores and high 'introverted' are positively correlated with (e.g.) higher incomes", the third attribute would be income, and so you could plot hopeful-ness against income and introversion against income and see what that looks like. Or more appropriately, do a 3d plot so you could have all 3 at once. I didn't mention that originally since it tends to be less practical when you have more than 3 variables, but theres all sorts of nifty stats tricks that can deal with those cases.

On that note, actual pysch is pretty big on stats, since people are pretty complicated things with a ton of variables. You want to control for as many variables as possible, since it's essentially impossible to know if the result you're observing is because it truely is a real result or if it's just due to some other variable you forgot to account for. You could go through a significant study involving 100's of people and conclude that there is an extremely strong positive correlation between someones hopeful-ness scores, and their likelihood to wear shorts. If you neglect to include something like temperature as a possible variable though, it might just be that there was a heat wave over the span of your study. Basicly if you can think of something that might influence your experiment (be it a characteristic of the subject, or the environment), you should include that something as another variable, or otherwise try and control it. Of course, you quickly end up creating a very artificial enviroment if you try to control for everything, and it's hard to conclude anything about real life behaviour when theres nothing real about your experiment.

But ahem, my point is people are inherently many-many dimensional beings, so it's unlikely that any two variables should be especially predictive towards their behaviour on the whole. Figuring out what exactly your hypothesis is, and then designing an experiment (which includes what variables to measure and what to control for) to test it is a huge part of what pysch is, and it's often followed with a large amount of rather detailled statistical analysis to figure out whether all of your painfully collected data tells you anything significant. It's largely not about stroking your chin and going "hmmm, this specific individual does this, and so I can reliably predict that this individual will behave in this way when exposed to this distinct situation". TV and mentalists and the like can occasionally make it seem like you can make reliable predictions just by identifying a few key things, but in reality stuff is way more complicated.

(Again though, I'm not a pysch person, so someone who's actually had more then a first year class in it could well come in and be fully justified in saying to ignore everything I've said. I think most of what I've said is pretty reasonable however.)
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby Puppyclaws » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:55 pm UTC

folmerveeman wrote:First of all, I'm really not sure if this belongs here, but mods: feel free to move this topic if necessary :)

Right off the bat I want to state that I have 0 experience with psychology, but I still consider myself an amateur, and I tend to psycho-analyse a lot of actions of a lot of people, and generally my predictions seem to be true. :)


We call this bias. Most of our predictions seem to be true to us, which is why we do statistical analyses (and other "science-y" things) to prove/disprove them.

Anyway, I always argue with people that a lot of our actions are based on a degree of hopelessness. For example, suicide would be an act of extreme hopelessness, and violence would also be an expression of hopelessness.


Suicide is caused by a lot of things. "Hopelessness" could certainly be argued to be one of them, but it isn't the only cause. I would probably argue based on the evidence that violence is rarely a matter of "hopelessness," unless you are using a fairly broad definition of hopelessness and a fairly strict definition of violence.

For example, someone with a lot of hopelessness and on the egoism end of the graph would be suicidal, while someone with a lot of hopelessness on the altruistic end of the graph would reach out for help.

First of all I was wondering if other people have tried to evaluate behaviour on these bases. I personally haven't found anything, but I don't have any expertise at all, nor do I have the google magic to find it :)

Second of all, is this way of behaviour analysis even viable? Most importantly, is the hopefulness/hopelessness a good value to consider? The egoism/altruism axis is just out of lack of better words/ideas.

Pleaaaase discuss this with me :)


Durkheim (among the first to write about suicide from a sociological perspective) argued that altruistic suicide was a thing, so, you may have some trouble with your definitions there. People sometimes commit suicide because they feel others would be better off without them (or that they bring shame to their group). I would advise, if you are interested in suicide specifically, to start with Durkheim's work and the criticism that developed out of that. A lot of work has been done on suicidality. I think you may be right also that egoism and altruism are not really opposites in this situation, also, and that you need to explore this idea a bit more.

I think Dopefish is right, your terms are a bit vague, that is a good thing to look at first.
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby folmerveeman » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:09 am UTC

How about (feeling of) Powerfulness/Powerlessness on one axis and introversion/extraversion on the other?
Would that be more specific?
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby Puppyclaws » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:17 pm UTC

I do think those are more easily definable and specific terms, yes. Generally speaking this is where a lot of research runs into trouble, the transition from theoretical to operational definitions. I know introversion has been pretty well defined in terms of this; I can't really speak to effective measures of feelings of hopefulness/hopelessness. Perhaps this is something you could develop!
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby kalakuja » Thu Feb 23, 2012 3:01 am UTC

You can measure bodily functions,like pulse, sweat production, movement, brainwaves etc and get good base values for some data. Too bad they don't exactly measure the things you will want.
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby folmerveeman » Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:01 am UTC

Haha that is true :P

But the powerfulness/powerlessness is derived from a theory of mine that most negative emotions/actions come from a feeling of powerlessness. For example, if a bully takes your lunch money, and your careful arguments don't convince him to give it back.. and you really need that money, you feel powerless. so you resort to violence.
This is a very basic example but like, it's all in my head and all refined.. it's just got a lot of trouble coming out :P

EDIT:
And if it's any help, I never meant for it to be like a scientific graph, but more of a reference table, just like political charts for example.
You can't measure left-ism, authoritarianism and libertarianism, but you can still judge parties by it... I hope that makes more sense:P
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Re: Psychology: Graph on behaviour

Postby Telchar » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:21 am UTC

There are several psychological tests that would do a lot of what you are attempting (the MMPI, BDI, several hopelessness indexes) but the metric information you would need isn't available to the public. Most of them don't use graphs and some can have extremely complicated scoring indexes (the MMPI in particular). You could ask a PhD level psychologist for more info, but they probably won't be able to give you much.
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