09 Jul 2009

Sample Essay: Psychology Research.The Aftermath of 9/11: Effect of Intensity and Recency of Trauma on Outcome

1. The Primary Source

In the paper, ‘The Aftermath of 9/11: Effect of Intensity and Recency of Trauma on Outcome’, B. Ganzel and B. G. Casey of the Cornell University and G. Glover of Stanford University undertake to verify the hypothesis that exposure to trauma can lead affect psychological reactions and lead to psychological disorders later in life, even if it does not cause any immediate consequences like PSTD, depression and anxiety. They support their claim by citing a number of credible sources such as Otte et al., Rauch et al., Williams et al., and Shin et al.

In their experiment, they analyzed the reactions of 22 people to three types of images: a fixation, a fearful face and a calm face. Out of the 22 right-handed people chosen for the study, 11 (5 women) were within 1.5 miles of WTC at the time of the disaster while the remaining 11 (5 women) were not less than 200 miles from WTC. All of them were in no way connected directly with either the cause or the consequences of 9/11.

The subjects’ written consent was taken; they were screened for past psychological trauma using the PTSD module of the University of Michigan – Composite International Diagnostic Review and the Impact of Events Scale. Thereafter, they were exposed to the images in the form of a pseudorandom sequence of nine blocks. The subjects were scanned with fMRI scanners and the preprocessing and analysis of fMRI data was done using Statistical Parametric Mapping.

Findings suggested that there was a considerable increase in the amydala activity for the people in the first group of 11 people. This confirms the hypothesis that trauma exposure leads to increased brain activity, especially heightened emotional responses.

2. The Secondary Source

The title of the article summarizes the results of the research in one long sentence: ‘Exposure to Trauma Can Affect Brain Function in Healthy People Several Years after Event; May Increase Susceptibility to Mental Health Problems In The Future.’ It reports in a much lighter vein the findings of the paper. It describes the subjects, the experiment and the findings succinctly.

In the experiment conducted on 22 volunteers, the measurements indicate that the bilateral amydala activity remains higher for those exposed to a trauma. This increase in the amydala activity lessens as the intensity of exposure to the trauma decreases and the period of elapse of the trauma increases. Also the report implies that this increase in the amydala activity may not be accompanied by immediate symptoms such as PSTD, depression and anxiety.

The report points out some interesting facts: exposure to trauma could lead to heightened emotional responses not only to other traumatic responses in the future but to normal day-to-day stimuli at large. This heightened amydala activity can persist for many years due to slow recovery. It also leads to symptoms not associated with psychological or mental disorders but with an increased acuity for mental stimuli, leading to irritation, lack of concentration, etc. As a result, the researchers have concluded that there must be strong neurobiological correlates to the trauma exposure metrics.

3. Shortcomings

Though the experiment takes appropriate measures to avoid any cases where the subject has suffered from any trauma other than 9/11, one can never be sure. Also the findings cannot be sure in all probability of the absence of any decisive connection between the disaster and the subjects.

4. Comparison

The original paper explores in much detail the branches of psychological scientific literature pertinent to the experiment. Indeed, a major part of the commencement is dedicated to this purpose. It is not the case with the report which does not profess to be authentic but only serves to disseminate the findings and conclusions of the project.

The paper describes in full measure the process of conducting the experiment, adherence to ethics during the conduct of the experiment, metrics and devices employed in conducting the experiment, the analysis of data, and the deductive generation of conclusions. The report on the other hand is a non-academic article written for the layman. It states only the most important details in as lucid and succinct a manner as possible so as to capture the interest and imagination of the reader.

The paper follows strict formatting guidelines and includes all tabulated data gathered from the experiment and required to draw the conclusions. The report on the other hand does not adhere to such strict rules for formatting and authenticity. Indeed the authenticity of any secondary source in not guaranteed. The reader must himself check with the primary source to be sure of the validity of facts cited in the secondary source.

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