The Yerkes-Dodson Law in Clinical Settings: It’s good for another 100 years. Bradford C. Richards, Ph.D. Meagan C. Parmley, Ph.D. Jennifer A. Harrington, Ph.D. Pamela J. Stanley, LPCC, ACT. The Cognitive Behavioral Institute of Albuquerque. Goals:.
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The Yerkes-Dodson Law in Clinical Settings: It’s good for another 100 years
Bradford C. Richards, Ph.D.
Meagan C. Parmley, Ph.D.
Jennifer A. Harrington, Ph.D.
Pamela J. Stanley, LPCC, ACT
The Cognitive Behavioral Institute of Albuquerque
The Yerkes-Dodson apparatus
The Original Findings: Black/White Discrimination Training
I – Experiment 1, moderate difficulty
The results were surprising to the authors, who had expected a linear decline. The authors then decided to vary task difficulty.
II – Experiment 2, low difficulty
The task was made easier by making the black door appear even darker. “Our results do not represent, in this instance, the point at which the rapidity of learning begins to decrease, for we did not care to subject our animals to injurious stimulation.”
III – Experiment 3, high difficulty
The task was made more difficult by making the black door appear much lighter.
“This leads us to infer that an easily acquired habit, that is one which does not demand difficult sense discriminations or complex associations, may readily be formed under strong stimulation, whereas a difficult habit may be acquired readily only under relatively weak stimulation.”
What would the Yerkes-Dodson curve look like if we were to draw it in terms of two competing parallel processes?
(let’s use the arousal of fear as our protypical example…)
The case of arousal as fear: A Main task and an Escape task
Emotion theorists agree:
Emotions DO activate implicit tasks
Architecture of the Cohen, Dunbar, & McLelland computer simulation of Stroop task.
The general model can be applied to any task-interfering emotion:
Clinical case C.H. comes to therapy irregularly, usually at the pleadings of family members.
He is single, 40 years old, and is a heavy drinker and an indiscriminant womanizer. He usually states that he prefers this lifestyle.
C.H. was once engaged to a woman named Mia, but his desire to retain his freedom resulted in the end of the relationship.
His indiscriminant dating has recently escalated. Many of his dating partners are married. C.H. has recently been the victim of beatings and death threats by some of the jealous husbands of some of his new dating partners.
Since we are stuck with feelings, we might as well try to understand them. Toward this end, can the YD model be used to help us understand emotions about emotions?
Why not? Psychodynamic theory maintains that people remain emotionally stuck or “neurotic” because useful emotional experiences are prevented by the automatic deployment of “defense mechanisms.” The graph above shows a typical case.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): A Brief OverviewJennifer A. Harrington, Ph.D.The Cognitive Behavioral Institute of Albuquerque, LLC
NMPA Friday Forum
December 5, 2008
Commonly Used Treatments
Targets for intervention:
=> Private events
=> To change their form, frequency, intensity
- DSM is based on: 1.) topography and 2.) assumption of healthy normality
- Paradoxical Effects: “If you aren’t willing to have it, then you’ve got it.”
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Target of intervention:
=> How clients evaluate and respond to their private events
=> To change the function of private events, rather than their form or frequency
- Based on assumption that human suffering is universal
- A functional, contextual intervention that deliberately focuses on psychological exposure and the weakening of avoidance of private verbal events
“Behavior whose primary function is the elimination, minimization, or reduction in the form, frequency, or situational sensitivity of various private events”
(Hayes, Wilson, Gifford, Follette, & Strosahl, 1996)
- Thought suppression may be considered a specific instance of experiential avoidance
- Experiential avoidance itself is not an abnormal part of being verbal, and only becomes a pathogenic process when it becomes a barrier to valued action
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CBT Case Conceptualization of Character Defenses: The Gentle Art of Character Assassination
Pamela J. Stanley, LPCC, ACT
Yerkes Dodson Illustration of NPD Case
What is the Gentle Art of Character Assassination?
Helping the patient to change his/her definition of themselves and relationships (without killing them!).