31 Jan 2010

Sample Essay: Serial Killers In Great Britain: A Structural Condition Rather Than a Medical-Psychological One

Introduction

The dreaded menace called serial killing has been sowing terror in many societies for many decades, yet there has been definitive conclusion to what really causes this scourge.  Basically, a serial killer can be defined as a person who usually kills more than three people on different occasions within a span of 14 days (Leung, 2004, p.1).  Consequently, two dominant schools of thought have emerged to explain the reality of serial killers namely the medical-psychological standpoint and from a structural, environmental perspective.  In particular, the medical-psychological perspective attempts to explain the existence of serial killers within the context of the person’s psyche, while the structural view focuses on particular societal structures or conditions as the causes of serial killing (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.1).  While the examination of serial killers can be assessed from both perspectives, there is a prevailing view that serial killings perpetrated by British citizens on British soil from 1960 to 2006 may have been  a result of structural factors rather than medical-psychological ones.  This paper examines this view from the studies developed in recent years.

Definitions, Characteristics, and Perspectives of Serial Killing

Before jumping into the assessment of the reasons for the emergence of British serial killers, it is appropriate to first define what serial killing is.  Basically, serial killing involves a specific number of killings or murders and a time period.  For example, Grover and Soothill (1999, p.2) cited the six point identification of a serial killer by Egger (1984) specifically: there must be at least two victims; there is no relationship between the perpetrator and the victim; the murders are committed at different times and have no direct connection to previous or following murders; the murders occur at different locations; the murders are not committed for material gain; subsequent victims have characteristics in common with earlier victims (quoted in Grover and Soothill, 2007, p.2).  However, in line with the British serial killings from 1960 to 2006, David Wilson shares a simpler definition of a serial killer as a murderer who has “killed three or more victims in a period greater than 30 days” (Wilson, 2007, p.34).

Aside from the volume of murders and timeframe, serial killers also display certain mannerisms on personality characteristics.  As derived from the research study by Cindy Pokel entitled A Critical Analysis of Research Related to the Criminal Mind of Serial Killers, she cited Sear’s (1991) description of serial killers as those “suffering from anti-social personality disorder which tend to have the following characteristics: superficial charm, intelligence, absence of delusions or irrational thought, lack of nervousness, unreliable, untruthful and insincere, exhibit poor judgment and fail to learn from experiences, and incapable of love” (Pokel, 2000, p.45).  Consequently, as quoted in Wilson (2007, p.38), Holmes and Deburger (1988) derived four different types of serial killers from a study of 400 serial cases, with each type explained as follows:

Visionary – killer is impelled to murder because he has heard voices or seen visions demanding that he kill a particular person, or category of people.  The voice or vision may be for some a demon, but others may be perceived as coming from God;

Mission – killer has a conscious goal in his life to eliminate a certain identifiable group people.  He does not hear the voices or have visions.  He  mission is self-imposed;

Hedonistic – killer kills simply for the thrill of it – because he enjoys it.  The thrill becomes an end in itself;

Power/Control – killer receives gratification from the complete control of the victim.  This type of murderer experiences pleasure and excitement not from sexual acts carried out on the victim, but from the belief that he has the power to do whatever he wishes to another human being who is completely helpless to stop him.

All the documented British serial killers have manifested at least one of aforementioned manifestations from a period from 1960 to 2006.  As cited from Wilson (2007, p.27), there have been 19 British serial killers with a combined murder count of 326 victims.  Those killed were classified as elderly; women involved in prostitution; homosexual men; runaways and throwaways; and children.

The Medical-Psychological Perspective

As indicated earlier, one of the two main perspectives to explain the development of serial killers stem from medical-psychological factors.  The medical-psychological view can further be divided according to biological, psychological, and sociological causes.  In terms of biological causes, related literature point to physiological factors and human chemistry as factors triggering serial killings.  In particular, Sears (1991) presents several human biological conditions such as brain development, head trauma, heredity, and genetics, and male sex drive as factors that breed serial killers (quoted in Pokel, 2000, p.40).  Meanwhile, Scott (2000) identified extra chromosomes, high testosterone, and heavy metals found in the human body to describe the biological state of serial killers, while Mitchell (1996) identified five biological aspects involving evolutionary/ethological processes; neurological contributions; biochemical approaches; genetics; and race as the main determinants in serial killers (Pokel, 2000, p.40).

From a psychological perspective, Sears (1991) and Mitchell (1996) addressed the issues related to sexual sadism, paraphilias, and gender identity disorders, and both adhered to a Freudian approach to attaching serial killing to sexual impulse (Pokel, 2000, p. 46).  Meanwhile, Mitchell also focused on the aspect of multi-personality disorder of serial killers (Pokel, 2000, p.46).   Furthermore, Scott (2000) viewed serial killers as psychopaths who “often see the victim as a symbolic object and that psychopaths are generally out of touch with reality, but seem to know what is right and wrong with society” (Pokel, 2000, pp.45-46).

The third category under the medical-psychological perspective of serial killing is the sociological aspect.  Specifically, Pokel cites four main areas namely the aspect of power or control; societal norms and culture; and violence, family issues, and issues of self (Pokel, 2000, p46).  Of these factors, the need for power and control was considered by Pokel (2000, p.44) as the most prominent feature.

The Structural Perspective

One of the main proponents of the structural perspective of serial killers is Elliot Leyton who developed an excellent study entitled Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Multiple Murderer (Leyton, 1986).   Fundamentally, Leyton argues that to “truly understand why serial killers kill, we need to investigate the very nature of the social structure – the society – that has created these people whom we label as serial killers” (Wilson, 2007, p.17).  He further declares that “multiple murder is not the province of the mentally disturbed and that one has to look beyond the individual to the society, and in particular, the social structures in which he or she lives of one is to explain more fully multiple killing” (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p. 5).  Consequently, Mitchell (1996) also supports the structural view by theorizing that serial killers are people who are unable to meet the goals and values of society as a whole and consequently turn into outcasts (Pokel, 2000, p.36).  Mitchell also broached the “Strain Theory” that explains the behavior of strained people who are unable to derive achieve and success in society and thus resorts to killing as a means to self-accomplishment (Pokel, 2000, p.36).

The social structures that helped breed serial killers, as developed by Leyton (1986), encompass economic and political systems.  To illustrate the development of serial killers in society, he identified three major historical periods or epochs, each showing significant changes in the socio-economic conditions in society, and explained that in “these three periods, the social genesis of multiple killers and their victims are socially specific” (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.5).  Furthermore, he theorized that there have been significant changes in the socio-economic background of killers and their victims between the historical epochs” (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.5)   As seen in Table 1, the historical periods are the pre-industrial age (i.e. pre-late 19th century); the industrial period (i.e. late 19th century); and the modern period (i.e. post World War II).  In gist, the socio-economic conditions prevailing during the three historical epochs spawned serial killers who reacted violently in a term called “Homicidal Protests.”  Leyton explains this term as follows:

In each of the historical periodisations, the configuration of the social structure is such that some persons when faced with their challenges to their position in the social hierarchy react to those challenges the protest of killing members of the threatening group.  Homicidal protest can take different forms (qtd. in Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.5)

Table 1:  Three Historical Epochs, Serial Killers, and their Victims

Pre-Industrial

(Pre-late 19th century)

Industrial

(late 19th century)

Modern

(Post World war II)

Killer Aristocratic Middle Classes

(e.g. doctors, teachers, etc.)

Upper working/lower middle-class;

(e.g. security guards, computer operators)

Victim Peasantry ‘lower orders’

(e.g. prostitutes, housemaids)

Middle classes

(e.g. university students)

Source:  Leyton (1986:269-95)

Ultimately, the structural perspective of Leyton implies that that the “acts of serial killers are not simply the result of deranged or dangerous personality, but more importantly, may be the consequence of a socio-economic system which cannot by its rabidly competitive dynamic reward the efforts of all, and may dangerously marginalize certain people” (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.2)

The British Experience

The British experience in serial killing is considered by David Wilson in his book entitled Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer as a product of a structural perspective and reflects a form of “Homicidal protest” to the socio-economic changes in Britain in the last three decades.  However, Grover and Soothill (1999, p.13) does not consider Leyton’s structural analysis as mirroring the British experience since the latter described serial killers based on circumstances in the American setting.  However, they do acknowledge the vital role of Leyton’s structural analysis to serial killers in “understanding the meaning of serial killing at a societal level” (1999, p.13)

In examining serial killing in Britain, this paper turns to the work of David Wilson.  As cited by Wilson (2007, p. 27), serial killing emerged in Britain beginning 1960 and grew in significance in the succeeding years.  In particular, from 1960 until 2006, there have been a total of 19 confirmed serial killers murdering a total of 326 people.  However, Wilson also noted that there were no serial killers in the 1920 until the 1930’s as compared to Germany which had 12 cases (Wilson, 2007, p. 16).  Even up to the 1950’s, Britain was considered to be relatively peaceful and serial killing had still not taken root.  Thus, the question arises – why then did serial killers emerged suddenly beginning 1960?

Wilson answers this question by explaining the social-economic transformation that occurred in the Great Britain beginning 1960.  In particular, prior to 1960’s, the country in the 1950’s was considered as “one of the most conservative, stable, and contended societies in the world” (Wilson, 2007, p.28).  The socio-economic environment of Great Britain prior to the 1960’s was described as follows:

…the vast majority of people continued to go happily about their businesses, large part because of the foundations of the Welfare State laid down by Clement Atlee’s Labour Government of 1945-1951 – known by some historians as the post-war settlement.  By this they mean that there was political commitment from both the left and the right to full employment; state-funded social security; a national health service; free education; health and employment benefits; a mixed, part private, part public economy; and recognition of trade unions…(Wilson, 2007, p. 28)

With a generally stable, peaceful environment in Britain during the mid 1940’s until the 1950’s, there was no marked serial killing activity in the country.  Essentially, the stability in the socio-economic order in the country created a sense of “inclusiveness” in British society characterized by a community bonded in family and work security for everyone (Wilson, 2007, p.29).  By 1960’s and 1970’s, however, the political and economic landscape in the country has changed rapidly.  By this time, new economic demands such as free enterprise, advances in industrialization, and changes in the global labor market have emerged.  A “market society” soon developed whereby employment became a privilege of those who deserve or are qualified for it.  The shift from an “inclusive” environment to that of an individualistic, “every person from himself” mentality became the trend in British society as the economic, market-driven environment fostered by the Thatcher government was installed in 1979.  Eventually, the highly competitive, individualistic socio-economic environment which shattered the reality of job security soon changed the way Britons viewed themselves.  Jock Young, a criminologist who analyzed the historical evolution of British criminality in his book The Exclusive Society: Social Exclusion, Crime and Difference in Late Modernity described the breaking down of societal ties during this period:

The market brings together wide swathes of the population…it creates the practical basis for comparison.  It renders visible inequalities of race, class, age, and gender.  It elevates a universal citizenship of consumption, yet excludes a significant minority from membership (Young, 1999, p.47)

Consequently, Young concludes that the advent of individualism has “undermined “relationships and values needed for a stable social order and hence gives rise to crime and disorder (Young, 1999, p.50).  In this kind of environment, some groups inevitably became marginalized and some individuals who were unable to deal with the new demands of society resorted to violence to fill a need for some kind of achievement.  This scenario ushered in the birth of serial killers in Britain.

Wilson further illustrates the tumultuous period of free enterprise and market-driven principles advocated by British government upon the ascendancy of the Thatcher administration and onwards by citing employment statistics culled from a study done by Will Hutton entitled the State We’re in (5th ed.).  For example, according to Hutton, “one in four of the adult male population were unemployed or idle as of 1995; unemployment had increased six-fold since the oil crisis of 1973; one in three children were living in poverty; and that the state is doing all it can to wash its hands of future generations of old people” (Hutton, 1995, p.199).  Furthermore, Hutton also indicated that the trade unions, which were instrumental in securing job security to union members, weakened considerably from 1979 to 1993; and that the period of the 1980’s was a time when “qualifications unemployment benefits and support became tougher; the state pension became progressively devalued in relation to average earnings; and the distribution of income more unequal” (quoted in Wilson, 2007, p.31).  Amidst this depressed socio-economic environment, Wilson notes that the country in 1986 “produced more serial killers that at any other point in British history” (Wilson, 2007, p.31).

The supremacy of the Structural Perspective versus Medical-Psychological in Britain

The structural, socio-economic perspective was deemed to have significantly accelerated the development of serial killers in Britain.  Although the medical-psychological view was never debunked to explain the serial killer development in the country, the current line of thinking supports the primacy of the structural perspective over medical-psychological explanation when it comes to analyzing the British serial killer cases.  As cited by Grover and Soothill (1999, p.4), “there has been a change within the psychological approach over the past 30 years as contemporary psychologists are willing to recognize the importance of the social context much more readily than formerly” (Grover and Soothill, 1999, p.4).  More significantly, Grover and Soothill (1999, p.4) also expressed the fact that psychiatrists had been unable to reconcile the paradox of correlating mental deviance with psychiatric abnormality when in actuality, “few offender are so psychiatrically disturbed as to be termed mentally ill.”  Furthermore, Mitchell (1996) declared that the link between genes and serial killer has not been proven and that it is “not possible to make a general statement that all serial killers as psychopaths” (Pokel, 2000, p.41).  Instead, Mitchell argues that our current society seems to be moving away from a common societal goal and that serial killers remain outcasts in society and are unable to meet the changing needs of society (Pokel, 2000, p.49)

Conclusion

The spate of serial killings in Britain from 1960 to 2006 can best be explained through the rapid, tumultuous socio-economic changes beginning in the 1960’s.  The breaking down of cherished values such as a sense of community, family, and job security to give way to  a market society driven by free enterprise, individualism and competition has inevitably marginalized some groups and filled others with intense hate and a disposition to kill.  The fact that the highest number of serial killers emerged during a period of intense socio-economic breakdown marked by massive unemployment, poverty, and declining incomes only reinforces the view that environmental, societal influences sparked the development of serial killers in Britain.  However, this paper does not attempt to discredit or nullify the possible link between medical-psychological factors to serial killers.  In fact, future study might derive some biological and psychological influences to explain the emergence of British serial killers.  Nevertheless, the pressing question still remains – if medical-psychological factors do influence serial killing, then the time element should have been rendered insignificant.  In effect, serial killers should have emerged every year in Britain since time immemorial – even in stable, peaceful times – since the causes are internal, biological, and innately psychological, which implies the absence of external causation.  The reality, however, is that serial killings in Britain emerged at a specific period in the country’s history.  In this light, the structural view remains the logical choice.

References:

Grover, C and Soothill, K 1999, ‘British Serial Killing: Towards a Structural Explanation’,

British Society of Criminology, vol. 2, pp.1-17

Holmes, RM & De Burger, J 1988. Serial murder: Studies in crime, law and justice, Vol. 2.

Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Leyton, E 1986.  Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer, McClelland and

Stewart, Toronto, Canada

Leung, J 2004, The Personality Profile of a Serial Killer, A research paper in Forensics

Mitchell, EW, 1996, The Actiology of Serial Murder: Towards an Integrated Model,

Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Pokel, C 2000. A Critical Analysis of Research Related to the Criminal Mind of Serial Killers,

Research paper, The Graduate College University of Wisconsin-Stout, United States

Scott, SL 2000. What Makes a Serial Killer Tick? <www.crimelibrary.com>

Sears, DJ 1991.  To Kill Again: The Motivation and Development of Serial Murder, Scholarly

Resources: Wilmington, Delaware

Wilson, D 2007.  Serial Killers: Hunting Britons and Their Victims, 1960-2006, Waterside

Press, United Kingdom

Young, J 1999, The Exclusive Society: Social Exclusion, Crime and Difference in Late

Modernity, Sage Publications, London

17 Oct 2009

Essays on Typee

In Typee, two shipmates who are both tired of life at sea decide that they will not return to the ship they were on and choose instead to stay on an island that is inhabited by two tribes, the Typee and the Happars.  When the two shipmen, Toby and Tommo, find a valley and begin to descend into the valley, they are greeted by two natives that they hope are Happars.  In a moment of sudden inspiration, they answer Typee when challenged, which is acknowledged by the natives as a proper response.  They have fallen into the cannibalistic tribe of the Typee.  Throughout the book, Toby and Tommo’s desperation to escape from the Typee and return to civilization grows as they become increasingly concerned for their personal well-being.

Typee was written by Herman Melville in 1819.  Herman started his work life at the age of 18, trying many different professions with little success until he began writing.  After signing up to be a shipman on a whaler, Melville used this experience as the basis for Typee, which he wrote due to his family’s need for money.  With the warm welcome of the market, Melville was encouraged to continue writing.  He subsequently wrote many other famous and significant novels including the best seller Moby Dick.

The character interactions in Typee are mainly between the main character Toby and Tommo.  Toby and Tommo are shipmates who have relied upon each other for their very lives aboard ship.  Throughout the story, their interaction is mainly the idea of staying together to try and escape from the Typee tribe without incurring their wrath.  Tommo falls in love with a Typee girl named Fayaway.  Her essence is what originally keeps him from trying to leave the island itself, but with events making it clear their safety may not be ensured, this reluctance is short lived.

Typee has many underlying messages.  Though it is easy to dismiss it as a simple tale of adventure, it also examines many aspects of human nature.  The effect of the relationship between Tommo and Fayaway is a significant example.  Though the situation with the Typee is obviously dangerous, Tommo is strongly tempted to risk everything to be with her.  Human nature is such that we, too, are willing to endure harsh conditions to obtain or maintain something we believe desirable, often to our own detriment.

Students today face similar conditions.  Though not life threatening, the academic arena is an area of great personal and professional risk.  Without help, many students become frustrated with the all-too-often overwhelming volume of homework and writing assignments.  Though it is important for a student to prove they have learned the course materials, occasionally students need assistance in keeping up with these tasks.  Our company assists by providing professional quality writing services on virtually every topic imaginable.  All we need is your order.

06 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Outcome Evaluation of a Public or Non-Profit Organization

1. Introduction

Public sector across levels of governance is under intense pressure to provide better services with the least resources possible. It is essential to optimize the usefulness of available resources in order to achieve the best possible results. Non-profits likewise need to utilize the available tools and human resources to the maximum, since they often have to depend on external unreliable sources of funding and hence must guard against the possibility of shortage of capital and other resources.

Policy analysts and public managers, therefore, are also under the scanner for their ability to harness the resources available to the maximum. They ought to be able to decide as to which programs should be implemented and given priority over other programs with respect to the allocation of funds, time, effort and other resources. Hence, they need to be able to prioritize what services will be offered and evaluate whether the programs designed to provide such services have been effective and efficient.

The most commonly used interdisciplinary approaches and methods for evaluating policy impacts and program outcomes are cost-benefit analysis, randomized field experiments, quasi-experimental assessment, and participatory assessment. Thus we have a host of designs to choose from for the study.

The quasi-experimental design is of many types which includes the following:

1. One-Group Posttest-Only Design:

It is extremely simple and rarely found being used in social science research.

2. One-Group Posttest-Only Design with Multiple Substantive Posttests:

It allows pattern matching, as well as multiple, unique, and substantive posttests

3. Pretest-Posttest One-Group Design:

It can be implemented either the same units or different units receiving both pretest and posttest. It however suffers from single group threat.

4. Nonequivalent-Groups Design (NEGD):

Since the distribution is not random, there is a risk of selection bias. It is a method that can handle the discrepancy of internal group threats well. It incorporates the concept of a control group to eliminate internal validity problems.

2. Methodology

A non-equivalent groups design (NEGD) was followed, based on a pre-test and post-test of both an experimental and a control group, as suggested by Trochim (2002). Only the experimental group was exposed to the intervention. The control group was included in the study to control the possible history-effect as a threat to the internal validity of the study. The non-equivalent groups design is a quasi-experimental design and is widely used in social research. It differs from a pure experimental design in that the groups are not randomly assigned (Trochim 2002).

Sampling

In this study thirty-six people were included in the experimental group. They were chosen because they had already enrolled for the six-month training intervention that was to be evaluated. The participants were all between the ages of 18 and 25. Fourteen participants were female, and twenty-two were male. The experimental group members were not engaged in any formal secondary or tertiary studies at the time, although all of them had completed secondary school and some of them already had tertiary qualifications.

In selecting the control group, care had to be taken to select a group that would provide an adequate control. In order to ensure that the two groups could be validly compared in terms of previous exposure as well as motivation levels, the main criterion was that the control group, like the experimental group, should be in the same intermediary phase between school and work, and should also be actively involved in some way or another in preparing themselves for the workplace. Another criterion was that the control group should not have been exposed to the training intervention or elements thereof. For the reasons mentioned above, the control group comprised twenty second-year commerce students from the University of Pretoria, ranging in age from 20 to 22. Ten members were male and ten were female. They were all in the intermediary phase between school and work and they were all actively involved in preparing themselves for the workplace. The fact that they had already successfully completed their first year of studies, coupled with the fact that they (out of a class of more than fifty) decided to take part in the study, is a further positive indicator pertaining to motivation levels. During the six-month period that the experimental group participated in the training programme under review, the control group continued with their daily class routine. In terms of the control group not being exposed to the social constructivist training programme or elements thereof, it is significant that second-year students were chosen: the undergraduate commerce programme at the University of Pretoria is not at all structured in a social constructivist manner. Classes are very big (fifty plus); students do not form learning communities in small groups but attend their respective programmes individually; the programme is divided into separate subjects with a strong focus on conveying content and assessment is done according to traditional examination methods. Thus, although one can never create a true experimental situation where members of a control group are not exposed to any form of social constructivist learning whatsoever in their academic or personal lives, the research team felt confident that the control group experience was significantly removed from true social constructivism to provide an adequate control for the purposes of the study.

The Training Intervention

The training intervention was designed and presented by a private educational initiative consisting of team members from various fields such as psychology, education, theology and business. The intervention was a six-month full-time (8:00 -16:00) programme and was funded by private investors, as well as by the registration fees from the participants themselves. The programme aimed to develop individuals to be successful in the workplace of the future. The primary goal of the programme was to develop certain characteristics that could form the foundation for developing the participants’ ability to function in the workplace of the future. Although the characteristics they would require were seldom explicitly focused on, the programme design and training methodology aimed to develop these characteristics as an indirect consequence of the day-to-day training interventions. Some of the themes covered by the training interventions were life skills and personal mastery, entrepre-neurship and business, making sense out of history, news and politics, economics and statistical reasoning and environmental awareness.

The training methodology that was followed could be broadly divided into two main categories, namely facilitated group interventions and facilitated one-on-one interventions. While the group interventions allowed for the participants to explore and master the desired learning objectives collaboratively, the one-on-one sessions took place between a learner and a learning partner (coach) and allowed the learner to reflect on her/his progress in relation to her/his personal future goals and objectives. The learning partners and group facilitators were all experienced HRD practitioners qualified in the fields of psychology and education.

The group sessions made extensive use of activities that engaged the learners in a process of discovery and group reflection. Some of these activities were simulated, while others were real life experiences. Many activities were also designed by the learners themselves, which created considerable buy-in from learners into the learning process.

One example of a simulated set of activities that was used is a high ropes adventure experience. These activities took the learners out of their comfort zones and stimulated discussions around group dynamics, leadership, interpersonal relationships, uncertainty, change, personal goal-setting and risk. One example of a real life activity that was used was the ‘R50 business’. Each student received R50 on a Thursday morning and on the following Monday had to report on the profit she/he had made. Principles of entrepreneurship and business opportunities were derived from this activity. The subject matter was thus experienced by the learners as an integrated whole, situated within the context in which it would be used again in future.

Facilitators steered the process and created an environment in which the learners could arrive at their own conclusions. The learners also came from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, which extensively influenced discussions and conclusions.

Assessment was an ongoing dialogical process between peers, the learning-partner (coach) and the learner, the facilitator and the learner and self-assessment. Except for the psychometric assessment that was conducted as part of this study, assessment of progress never took place by means of a test or exam and was continuously used to set new development targets and to celebrate targets that had been reached. Table 1 compares the practical implementation of the training intervention with the principles of social constructivism.

The Research Process

Based on the literature review, a number of specific characteristics were identified as necessary for success in the workplace of the future. A battery of psychometric instruments was compiled to measure these characteristics. The pre-test for the experimental group was done on the first day of the training programme and the post-test on the last day. There was thus a six-month period between the pre-test and the post-test for the experimental group. The control group also had a period of six months between the pre- and post-tests, but were not exposed to the training intervention. The control group’s tests were administered during class time, as they all continued with their day-to-day university classes over the six-month period. The testing conditions for both groups were very similar, as both groups were tested under controlled classroom conditions.

Measurement Instruments

The psychometric battery that was used as the assessment instrument consisted of sixteen tests from the Situation Specific Evaluation Expert (SpEEx) and Potential Index Batteries (PIB) series. The individual tests that were included in the psychometric battery have satisfactory, well-researched reliability (ranging between 0.58 and 0.92) and validity (ranging between 0.70 and 0.94) statistical records (Schaap 2004). The tests measured the following constructs: creativity, stress tolerance, type A/B behaviour, frustration tolerance, self-acceptance, adaptability, internal/external actualisation, conformity/non-conformity and the demonstrative, Samaritan (behaviour), persevering and evaluative social styles. Table 2 indicates how the constructs that were measured are linked to the characteristics that the training programme focused on.

3. Results

Statistical Analysis

The Mann-Whitney U-test was used to determine the significance of the differences between the variation that took place in the experimental group and in the control group over the six-month period between the pre- and post-tests. In this test, each treated entity is compared to each control entity. This test is used when any treated entity can be validly compared to any control entity. The interpretation of the results of the Mann-Whitney U-test is similar to that of the normal except that the U-test uses the sum of rank orders rather than the statistical mean. The statistical decision criterion was set on the level of Where results were statistically significant, the practical significance (meaningfulness) and effect sizes were also calculated. The reporting of effect sizes is encouraged by the American Psychological Association in their Publication Manual (APA, 1994). For differences between averages the meaningfulness level was set at d = 0.5 (medium effect size) (Cohen, 1988). The meaningfulness (d) pertaining to the comparison of the experimental and the control groups is represented as follows (Steyn 1999):

Where:

d = Meaningfulness

= The mean of the post-measurement of the experimental group

= The mean of the pre-measurement of the experimental group

= The maximum standard deviation between the pre- and post-measurement of the experimental group.

For results with medium and large effect sizes, the Bonferroni adjustment to alpha levels was made (Hsu, 1996).

The direction of the change in the experimental group was positive in the cases of creativity, adaptability and self-acceptance and negative in the case of the evaluative social style. The differences on the adaptability (large effect size), self-acceptance (medium effect size) and creativity (medium effect size) scales are also practically meaningful according to Cohen’s test for meaningfulness (practical significance). If the Bonferroni adjustment to alpha levels is made to rule out coincidental differences, only the difference on the adaptability scale remains significant. However, when doing the Bonferroni adjustment, care should be taken not to discard results that could in fact be valid (Hsu, 1996).

4. Discussion

If the Bonferroni adjustment is applied the alternative hypothesis can be fully accepted only for the adaptability of the experimental group in comparison to that of the control group. Still, given the fact that the creativity and self-acceptance differences are also meaningful (practically significant) according to Cohen’s formula, and given the danger of discarding valid results through the use of Bonferroni’s adjustment, the alternative hypothesis for the dimensions of creativity and self-acceptance is (at least) preliminarily accepted. Participants in the programme were thus significantly more capable of adapting to a continuously changing environment than they were before participating in the training programme. Participants were also able to display relatively higher levels of creativity and creative approaches to problem-solving than they had been prior to the intervention. The levels of confidence and acceptance of self were also relatively increased. The attributes of creativity (Grulke, 2001; Brownstein, 2001; Cetron, 1999), adaptability (Boyatzis, 1999; Herman and Gioia, 1998) and self-acceptance (Branden, 1997) are all regarded as essential for succeeding in the workplace of the future.

The demonstrative and evaluative social styles of the participants also underwent a statistically significant (though not a practically meaningful) change. This could mean that participants were relatively more willing to express themselves assertively and to take part in group discussions than they were before the intervention. They were also relatively less evaluative in their social approach, meaning that they would take decisions faster and with less worrying about having every bit of information before taking action. Being willing and able to express oneself, take risks, get involved and create action are also regarded as essential attributes for succeeding in the workplace of the future (Ridderstrale and Nordstrom, 2004; Boyatzis, 1999; Epstein, 1998; Branden, 1997).

However, according to the results, the training programme did not have a statistically significant impact on constructs such as stress and frustration tolerance, type A/B behaviour, internal/external locus of control, conformity/non-conformity and the social styles called ‘perseverance’ and ‘Samaritan’. For these dimensions, the zero-hypothesis is accepted. The training intervention was thus partially successful in developing the characteristics that were measured.

The purpose of this research was to determine whether or not a training programme which was based on the principles of social constructivism was effective in developing individuals for the future world of work. In order to determine this, a psychometric test battery was used to measure a number of constructs that are related to what certain scholars regard as being characteristics needed for success in the future workplace.

First, we need to acknowledge that the idea of a ‘future workplace’ will remain (at best) a hypothetical one that will keep on changing as we move towards it. Second, we have to admit that many questions regarding developing people for this workplace still remain unanswered as this study indicated only the development of adaptability, creativity and self-acceptance while a score of other characteristics and competencies will very probably also be required in future workplaces. However, this study does add value in that it extends the insights we already have in terms of human learning to the area of developing young people (in the phase between school and work) for the workplace(s) they are about to enter. As all organizations are confronted with the challenges and uncertainties of the future, the way in which we develop young people to enter these organizations should be re-evaluated on a continuous basis. This training programme used a social constructivist approach that acknowledges the fact that people learn best when doing, discovering and sharing. In this way the divide between learning and real life decreases and are we able to also develop ‘softer’ characteristics such as adaptability, self-acceptance and creativity.

This study had three main limitations. First, due to logistical constraints, the groups were not assigned randomly. Second, due to the cost of the intervention which limited the number of participants to the programme, a Solomon four-group design could not be followed. The Solomon four-group design would require an additional two control groups that did not take part in the pre-test evaluation (Trochim, 2002). This would control the effect that the pre-test might have had on the participants. The limited sample size also makes it difficult to generalize these results to the wider population.

A third possible limitation of the study is situated at a more philosophical level. The training programme that was evaluated was based on the educational principles of social constructivism – a markedly post-modern philosophy and approach. In addition to this, the context which forms the backdrop for this study is that of the workplace of the future – a context that certainly tends increasingly to the ‘post-‘ side of modernism. The study thus evaluates a post-modem training programme, based on a post-modem educational philosophy, in order to determine whether or not it effectively develops people for a post-modem workplace. However, the methodology which is applied in executing the study is very modernist and positivist in its approach. It is a methodology where human characteristics are broken down into psychometric constructs which are (almost mechanistically) measured and statistically analysed. This becomes especially problematic when one tries to link each construct measured seamlessly with the exact nuances that the literature associates with the successful individual of the future. The question is whether the world of metaphor, story and dialogical understanding can be subjected to the measurement instruments and research methods of the world of mechanistic and systematic understanding in any valid way. However, this study wishes to communicate its message effectively to the modernist remnants in our present-day institutions responsible for preparing young people for the workplace. It therefore has to be able to express itself in the language and idiom best understood by these institutions. Still, it would be interesting to see how a more qualitative or even narrative research model would have evaluated this training programme.

Further research that could add further valuable insights might be a post-post assessment to indicate the sustainability of the changes that took place. This could most effectively be joined with a qualitative assessment in order to determine the real level of success the experimental group achieved in the future workplace over a longer period of  time. From the researcher’s subjective experience of the experimental group’s development, the question of age may also be of interest. Does age have an impact on the efficiency of a social constructivist learning experience? The age-differential between the two groups was too small to make any conclusions in this regard, although there were stages in the programme where the older participants seemed to be getting more value from the process than their younger classmates.

Works Cited

Trochim, William M.K. (2001), The Research Methods Knowledge Base, Cincinnati, OH: Atomic Dog Publishing, pp.191-254.

Trochim, W. M. K. (2002), Nonequivalent groups analysis, The Research Methods Knowledge Base. Available at: <http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/statnegd.htm>

Shadish, William, Cook, Thomas and Donald Campbell (2002). “Ch. 4: Quasi-Experimental Designs that either lack a control group or lack pretest observations on outcome,” Quasi-Experimentation, Dallas, TX: Houghton Mifflin.

Hsu, J. C. (1996). Multiple Comparisons Theory and Methods, (London: Chapman & Hall).

Cohen, J. (1988) Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, revised ed (Orlando, Florida: Academic Press).

Grulke, W. (2001) Radical Innovation (South Africa: Thorolds Africana Books).

Brownstein, B. (2001) Collaboration: the foundation of learning in the future, Education 122(2), p. 240.

Cetron, M. (1999) Fair or foul? Forecasts for education, School Administrator, 56, p. 6.

Boyatzis, R. E. (1999) Self-directed change and learning as a necessary meta-competency for success and effectiveness in the 21st century, in: R. Sims and J. G. Veres (Eds) Keys to Employee Success in the Coming Decades (Westport, CN: Greenwood).

Branden, N. (1997) Self-esteem in the Information Age, in: The Organization of the Future (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass).

Ridderstrale, J. and Nordstrom, K. A. (2004) Karaoke Capitalism (Stockholm: Bookhouse Publishing).

11 Aug 2009

Sample Essay: Competitve Anxiety And Football (Soccer)

Sports offer participants a lot of opportunity for growth – chances to push back personal boundaries means by which to liberate the body and the mind, and rise above from challenges. There is nothing damaging about the stress associated with a sporting contest, and in fact stress can be a very positive influence that leads us to tackle the challenges that make life far more rewarding and hopeful. However, when we perceive stress to be negative, it causes anxiety and therefore, much depends upon how we view the demands placed upon players and participants.

Anxiety is a natural reaction of the human body and mind to circumstances and threats in the environment and surroundings. It is an automatic and primitive response on the part of survival either to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from perceived harm or attack. It involves a feeling of fear or a perception of threat and which may be specific to a particular situation. Possible symptoms are nausea, loss of composure, reduced motor coordination and aggression .At the same time as providing challenge and stimulation, sport also provides considerable uncertainty, similar psychological and bodily responses as there is often a threat posed towards the ego and sense of self-esteem, which is possibly the dread of performing low, and losing face because every sport is either a win or a loss situation. Essentially, anxiety is the inevitable outcome when the demands of training, competition and expectations and demands exceed one’s perceived ability. At the precise moment the referee blows the first whistle, the outcome is unknown. The stress that sport provides therefore is inevitably linked with its inherent uncertainty. Sport is a cultural focal point because it is a theatre of unpredictability just like war.

While stress and uncertainty may motivate some athletes, they induce anxiety in others. There are some distinct factors that can increase athletes’ level of anxiety. For example, the more important the contest the greater the stress, and the more likely it is that competitors will be prone to anxiety. Participants in individual sports have been shown generally to suffer more anxiety before, during and after competition than participants in team sports. This is because the sense of isolation and exposure is much greater in sports such as athletics, tennis and golf than in the relative anonymity of field and team sports. But overall, sport places a wide variety of stressors upon participants, especially football or soccer. The game being the most popular and spectacular in the whole world, passions and expectations runs high in every game. Also, spectators and fans can have a huge impact on how athletes feel. In fact, cases of the home advantage phenomenon show that teams playing at their home venue win on average, around 56-64% of the time depending on the sport, the impressive medal count of host nations during Olympic Games, in particular the record-breaking haul of medals won by Australia in Sydney (2000) and by Greece in Athens (2004); and the surprisingly amazing performance of the underdogs Korean national football team, when Japan and South Korea jointly hosted the FIFA World Cup.

Potential stressors include the climate – temperature, jet-lag, playing environment – stadium, spectators, surface, game officials and finally stress created by opponents or between players and the coach. The intensity of these influences on stress depends on the individual perception or inner experience of the player. The possibility of getting hurt can also be a source of anxiety, because historical rivalries tend to flare up in fields and evidences of intentional fouling and feuding can be seen. Take for example the hooliganism of English football fans and the deep rooted traditional animosity of the Catalans and Spaniards, as between matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid.  It can be physically and mentally exhausting as hostile fans might verbally abuse players; and when teams are pitched against superior opponents, the elements of dread and emotional frailties are constantly laid bare for all to see. Coaches and team managers may, however, have a key role to play in buffering the effects of anxiety. We have seen many instances of Red and Yellow cards shown even to aggressive coaches, Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson being the most notorious ones.

The pressure experienced by soccer players especially at professional levels is recognized as one of the major influences in playing performance. Heavy playing schedules, competition for team places, the media and fans as well as the pressure to win trophies all play a part in players developing high stress and anxiety levels. Take the case of Copa-American Footballers from Brazil and Argentina, who are in much demand in the European leagues. They all have heavy playing schedules for their respective clubs but when it is time for the international tournaments, they have to b present for their national teams. This takes a huge toll on young and emerging players who haven’t learnt to fit into these heavy schedules between  professionalism, duty and honor Even experienced players can suffer from pre-match stress and so developing ways to control this is important in order to prevent players from “falling” apart or burning out. As a consequence of stress and anxiety, those involved in soccer especially at top levels need a lot of pre-competition relaxation strategies. Helping the mental state will have a positive effect on the physical state of the player and using relaxation techniques may be able to control their thinking to remove tension and conserve energy. Anxiety can also strike during a game for example after a mistake. This anxiety may cause some critical changes in technique. For example, leading scorers can be clumsy in their leg movements or goal shots, any of which may result in further degradation of their performances. An additional factor that causes anxiety is the expectation of success. The expectations held by English fans for their national team filled with star players with a huge load of individual talent have hung over the players like a dark clouds and that might be the potential reason for their failures in delivering the goods when it comes to crucial matters.

Coaches and team managers can be helpful in fighting competitive anxiety. By getting to know a player well, a coach can sometimes diagnose why a player is over-anxious. However, it may be difficult to get through to players suffering from anxiety thus much discretion is needed. A coach can look for various signs such as moments of anger or loss of confidence and players who no longer utilize their skills correctly. Players can as well become isolated and hide away from their team mates or become aggressive and blame everyone else for their problems.

Dr Costas Karageorghis explores the nature of anxiety and its common symptoms, reviews the latest competition anxiety research, and provides us with five techniques that either control anxiety or channel it positively into performances. Costas Karageorghis is a reader in sport psychology at Brunel University, west London where he also manages the Athletics Club. He has published extensively in the field of sport and exercise psychology and has been a BASES accredited sport psychologist for 11 years.

His studies indicates that when a competitor ‘freezes’ in the big moment or commits an inexplicable error, anxiety, in one of its many guises, is very often the root cause and  far too many athletes accept high levels of anxiety as an inevitable part of the total sporting experience and fail to reach their potential. He has proposed five techniques to help control competition anxiety, which includes:

1. Establishing a ‘winning feeling’ to help create an optimum competition mindset through consciously reproducing the desired elements.

2. Centering which involves focusing attention on the centre of your body, the area just behind your navel. This is a technique that is particularly effective during sports that have breaks in the action, such as in between sets in tennis and prior to penalty shoot-outs in soccer.

3. The five breath technique anxiety control exercises which  can be performed and  ideally used just before competition, or whenever players feel particularly tense

4. Thought-stopping technique can help to create a sharp refocus of attention keeping you engrossed in the task at hand and  forget a a negative experience or unwanted thought

5. Letting go which relieves the tension in overall body parts, and keeps players tranquil and deeply relaxed.

He concludes that, when players are alert but relaxed, they can make better, quicker decisions during a match. An over-anxious player will often make incorrect decisions. Athletes can as well be more motivated when they realize that they can control their anxiety and are then free to play at their top level.  In soccer, players may need to develop relaxation skills to counter moments of stress and anxiety which are interrelated. Players also need to develop a positive way of looking at the game during moments of difficulty. The coach needs to be aware of the various signs and symptoms of players suffering from stress and anxiety; and a sports psychologist can help players to reach and stay at their maximal potential.

Sports is littered with the broken dreams of those who wavered when they most needed to be in control of themselves and focused on the task at hand. Some athletes rise to the challenge imposed by public expectation while others can choke. We should look upon players like David Beckham and Roberto Baggio, who previously have been singled out and, blamed and ridiculed for their team defeats in previous matches; but have fought whatever anxiety and rose to the occasion when given second chances.

Filed under: Sample essays — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:05 am

12 Nov 2008

Essays on Frankenstein

The Year Without a Summer was in full swing as British author Mary Shelley put ink to paper, penning the first few words of Frankenstein, an epic novel that would become an immortal favorite in literary, academic, and entertainment circles that even today is the basis of nightmares, horror films and even a few comedy films. The cold, dreary conditions of 1816 established the environment that inspired Mary Shelley’s descriptions in Frankenstein.

Frankenstein presents a broad range of potential essay themes. In the early 1800s the scientific and technological community was under heavy attack in the British Empire by Luddite forces (those opposed to technology), an environment depicted glaringly in Frankenstein’s theme of scientific experimentation gone wrong. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster also exhibits the fundamental human need of companionship and emotion of remorse during the course of the novel. Frankenstein also presents the haunting effects of an individual’s past mistakes which, if left unaddressed, can ultimately cause their destruction.

The dark themes of Frankenstein have inspired generations over the past two centuries with the story being translated, retold, and translated into many different movies, including several comedic versions. The theme of scientific experimentation going wrong has also been the basis of many non-Frankenstein literature and entertainment forms.

  • Expand on the concept of scientific experimentation gone wrong. What fears does Frankenstein present and how do those fears compare with today’s fears of uncontrolled technology and scientific experimentation?
  • Analyze the psychological aspects of Frankenstein. Explain how the “monster” demonstrates its human origin.

Mary Shelley created a novel so profound in its themes that its prose and force has survived for almost 200 years. The themes of Frankenstein have been cited as inspirational to thousands of medical professionals. Perhaps not what Shelley had in mind when she wrote Frankenstein, but a significant fact none the less.

Evaluation of novels like Frankenstein must be considered in light of the events and social climate in which they are written. Our writers are able to combine their knowledge of history with the novels to give accurate, insightful essays evaluating the aesthetic and critical value of Frankenstein and any other historic documents.

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