Ernst Lanzer's Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis

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Key approaches studies
Psychodynamic approach

The ‘Rat Man’

Aim: Investigate the underlying cause of Ernst Lanzer’s obsessive-compulsive neurosis.

Method: Freud saw Rat Man for about a year; he stated that he had obsessive and fearful thoughts about rats and that these thoughts resulted in obsessive behaviours. The origins of these obsessive thoughts of rats seemed to come from his military training. He had a particularly nasty torture where rats were placed in a bucket, which was then tied to the buttocks of a person. Rats would then eat their way into the person through the anus. The Rat Man was so fearful that this would happen to his father or a woman that he admires that he engaged in obsessive-compulsive behaviours.

Results: Freud stated that behaviours resulted from the love and unconscious hate the Rat Man felt for his father whom he wished to torture with rats.

Conclusion: Freud stated that obsessive-compulsive behaviours helped the Rat Man to overcome his feeling of guilt and so reduce his anxieties.

Evaluation: No reference to his mother, was a domineering figure in his life. Feelings of abandonment as a child may be a more plausible explanation for the obsessive-compulsive behaviours as an adult. Lacks generalizability due to use of case study.

Little Hans
Method: Hans, the son of Freud’s friend, had developed a phobia of horses. Freud asked the father to write about his son’s development to interpret it in terms of his psychoanalytic theory.

Results: Hans was particularly afraid of large white horses with black blinkers and black around the mouth. Hans was afraid to leave the house because a horse may either fall on him, or bite him.

Conclusion: Freud’s fear of horses was an outward expression of his unconscious castration anxiety. The fear was a displaced fear of his father, especially because he wore dark glasses and had a beard. The fear was strong because his mother was pregnant, making him jealous and the fear of a horse falling on him was an unconscious desire to see his own father drop down dead. Provides evidence for existence of Oedipus Complex.

Evaluation: Difficult to generalise from a study with one subject, most other boys would not show the same anxiety as Hans. Freud was accused of interpreting the case to support his theory. Freud never met Hans so the evidence is unreliable. It later transpired that Hans had previously witnessed a horse and cad accident; perhaps classical conditioning is a better explanation for this fear.
Social Learning Theory

Bobo-Doll Experiment: Albert Bandura 1960’s

Aim: Research the extent to which aggressive behaviour is imitated, depends on the consequences of the model.

Method: Bandura showed 3-6 year old boys and girls a video in which children behaved aggressively towards a Bobo Doll.
1. Adult in the film positively reinforced the behaviour
2. Adult in the film punished the behaviour
3. Adult made no comment at all

After this, children were placed in a room with a doll and their behaviour was observed.

Results: Boys showed greater levels of aggression towards the doll. Girls were more influenced by the negative comment video. The children who observed the punishment acted less aggressively towards the doll.

Conclusion: Bandura learned that children acquire a new behaviour regardless of the consequences therefore the environment + mediating cognitive factors = imitation.

Evaluation: Laboratory experiment lacks ecological validity. Involves the use of strangers carrying out artificial behaviours.

Biological approach

Phineas Gage: 1848.

Aim: To explain the cause of the change in Phineas’ personality.

Method: Gage worked for Rutland and Burlington Railroad in New England at the age of 25. Phineas was preparing for a blast for a section of rock using explosives to create a new railway line; he accidentally dropped his tamping iron on the rock and the explosive ignited. The metre-length pole hurled through his left cheek, behind his left eye,