Is Social Learning or Psychoanalytic Theory more applicable to the Jamaican Society?

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Psychoanalysis, coined by neurologist Sigmund Freud, has been viewed with much skepticism in old and modern societies alike and was formed on the assumption that human beings have an unconscious mind and one’s behavioral patterns throughout life is determined by childhood experiences. Freud took interest in and formed theories supporting the structure of the mind, defense mechanisms and psychosexual development as it influences human behavior.

The psyche encompassed the soul, mind or personality of an individual, and although Freud did not create the concept of the unconscious mind, his theories of instincts, drives and structure of the mind made him most renowned. He also invented the structure of the mind – the id, the ego and the superego.

While the id, the pleasure principle, the structure which maximizes pleasure and avoids pain involved in decision making, the superego is the part of the mind which is the internalization of societal standards and beliefs. In contrast, there is the ego, the rationale, which is responsible for creating a balance between the demands of the moralistic character of the superego and the id’s impulses. He proposed eight defense mechanisms which are utilized by the ego to defend us against our anxiety which may erupt when striking this balance; which are repression, denial, reaction formation, regression, displacement, sublimation, regression, as these mechanisms are unconscious ways activated in light of stressors and distress.

Another claim to fame was his psychosexual development – which encompassed the oral, anal, phallic and genital stages – and dealt with the concepts of the libido, fixation, castration anxiety, penis envy and the latency period. However, Freud’s theories within his era attracted several differences and criticisms which led to the analysis of whether or not it is applicable to to the Caribbean sense. In Freud’s era, there were many socio-economic, cultural, and historical influences of his time making it unable to be suitable in the Caribbean setting unless the theories were modified.

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A majority of Freud’s patients were females, Caucasian, were of high socio-economic status and also mentally disturbed. Ironically, women were looked down upon as inferior, especially by Freud and the society and this could be seen when one of Freud’s patients was willing to exchange his daughter to the husband of his lover so that he could acquire his lover. Also, their lives were centered in the household, to which a majority of the family structures accounted for within that time period – nuclear family.

As it relates to the Jamaican perspective, there are many aspects of the Freudian theories which deem it not suitable within the country. For one, it did not take into account the diversity of race, ethnicity and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds which the Jamaican population fosters.

Black quotes img-thingAs Freud dealt with Caucasian patients, the Jamaican perspective would not be able to account for potential ethnic and racial diversity and would not be able to attribute a positive or negative correlation with ethnicity or race with behavior which is seen as a limitation in Freud’s theory.

The country is diverse with various classes, the majority of the individuals in Jamaica belong to the middle- class and this contrasts with the upper-class patients to which Freud analyzed. The middle class and lower class experience more struggles regarding financial stability and other issues which is discounted by Freud since dealing with upper-class individuals who do not experience the world like the lower classes, this is another limitation of the theory as it fails to appreciate behavior as a result of living in the lower income society. Not to mention family structures and religious beliefs and societal norms.

The family structure of the Jamaican population varies from nuclear to single parent and the religious beliefs, although the majority of the island is Christian, the population would not be readily in acceptance of Freud’s psychosexual development. For a theory to be tested for relevance, be it in a specific geographical area or era, it has to be deemed replicable as well as take into consideration socio-cultural influences, race/ethnicity, socio-economic backgrounds and other factors which are seemingly discounted by Freud.

The social learning theory is a learning and developmental theory proposed by Albert Bandura which posits that individuals observe and model others which in turn fosters learning and accounts for various behaviors, but may not necessarily cause behavior modification.  The term “imitation” in Bandura’s theory stressed that there are four mental functions involved which determine whether or not behavior can be modeled – attention, retention, motor reproduction, motivation. Attention plays an integral role in observational learning, as it is mainly characterized by characteristics of the object being observed.

Retention of information learned from social learning, where individuals are able to recall previously stored memory and mentally process the observed behaviour.  Another mental function is motor reproduction – this is the ability to regurgitate stored information and ‘put it into practice’. Motivation is the last mental function, known as the desire/drive for individuals to in turn mimic the learned behavior.

This theory would be best suited for the Jamaican population due to the fact that Jamaicans are heavily influenced by the world via mass media. Internationally, the Jamaican culture is saturated with fragments of the American and European culture, even though the majority of Jamaicans embrace the culture of their country, they indirectly are influenced by foreign cultures which are popular. For example, men with sagging pants, fashion sense, celebration of American and European holidays, cuisines and beliefs, to name a few.

Even locally, individuals of the specified area population are guilty of having listened or watched Jamaican dancehall music or videos and although it is in their subconscious, whether or not it is modeled depends heavily on their mental functions and morals. Individuals who hold strong to their Christian views or are not exposed to high levels of dancehall, would not find the culture of dancehall enticing enough to be modeled as opposed to their counterparts. Another instance of social learning in the Jamaican perspective is the occurrence of the Maggoty high school children dancing inappropriately to a dancehall themed track.

This form of learning is modeled as the individuals mimic the dancehall celebrities and dancers in the videos who have taken the country’s media by storm, e.g. ‘Gyal a Bubble by Konshens’. It is enticing to certain people of the population due to the fact that it is seen as ‘acceptable’ by adults and the media. Primary and secondary agents of socialization facilitate observation learning and social learning caters to all persons of race, socio-economic and socio-cultural backgrounds.

All in all, although Freud was the father of psychoanalysis on which the basis of the unconscious was conceptualized, there was the notion that during his time the knowledge of the unconscious was already on the lips and ears of the philosophers and mathematicians that Freud in light of this was influenced. Freud’s theory has made its place in history and has evolved many other theories by Neofreudians, but at the same time has attracted many criticisms.

The era in which the theories were conceptualized was deemed suitable in his time, however the replicability of his theories in the later generations and other geographical areas led question, then and even today. The social learning theory as opposed to the Psychoanalytic theory is in fact more suitable as individuals in the Caribbean setting can better identify with little to no issues for effective application.

By Alexandra Daley



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