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Individual Differences; Perspectives: Issues and Debates; Approaches - Anne Stimulus

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Unit 5: Individual Differences; Perspectives: Issues and Debates; Approaches

June 2002 - Section C - Question 9

Anne enjoys fast driving. She enjoys it when she is in someone else's car going fast but she enjoys it even more when she is driving fast herself. She finds high speeds exhilarating. Within a year of passing her test Anne has been charged with breaking motorway speed limits three times and is now in danger of losing

her licence.

(a) Describe how two approaches might try to explain Anne's exhilaration from speeding.

Biopsychology could explain the enjoyment Anne gets from fast driving in terms of biological changes. Excitement such as that Anne experiences has been linked with changes in neural and hormone activity.

Anne's behaviour may also be linked with addiction. Pleasurable activities have been found to cause the release of endorphins. This 'endorphin rush' has the potential of being addictive. Endorphins activate opioid receptors and stimulate activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine which results in a reduction in the number of dopaminergenic (dopamine-sensitive) receptors (downregulation). After downregulation has occurred, a feeling of 'let-down' is experienced under normal conditions where dopamine requirement has been increased. This may serve as an explanation for Anne's continued speeding; following initial experiences driving fast, dopamine requirement is increased meaning she experiences letdown at normal speeds and seeks further exhilaration by driving fast repeatedly. The fact that she has been charged three times for speeding and shows no sign of stopping suggests that she has become dependent

of the thrill of fast driving.

(b) Assess one of these explanations of Anne's exhilaration from speeding in terms of its strengths and limitations.

The biopsychological explanation of Anne's behaviour as it is reductionist, discounting any possibility of non-biological factors affecting the behaviour e.g. social influence and evolutionary explanations. Also, if the explanation leads to Anne's behaviour being diagnosed as that which an 'addict' would display, this may have an adverse affect on her treatment as it makes it more difficult to become a non-addict. This counterproductivity is outlined by Levi Bryant;

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