DIAGNOSTICS OF PSYCHIC STATES, Methodological problems of diagnosis...


Methodological problems of diagnosing mental states

A mental state is a temporary, dynamic characteristic of a person's mental activity. This concept is used in psychology for a conditional release in the human psyche of relatively unstable, variable aspects of it, in contrast to such a characteristic as a psychic property indicating the stability of the manifestations of the psyche, their permanence and repeatability. The mental state is an integral characteristic of mental activity over a certain period of time. It has a beginning and an end, varies with time under the influence of various factors (both external and internal). The mental state is reflected in the peculiarities of the course of mental processes (perception, memory, attention, etc.), manifests itself in activity and behavioral reactions, and includes experience. Subjective experience of a state may not fully correspond to externally expressed characteristics. For example, a feeling of fatigue may not correspond to fatigue, manifested in working capacity. However, the same behavior can be associated with different experiences. Thus, motor activity may be a manifestation of both the state of wakefulness and the state of stress. This circumstance is especially important to take into account when diagnosing mental states, trying to evaluate their different sides.

There are many different mental states that differ in each other in different ways. As a consequence, there is no single universal classification of them. Therefore, depending on the research or practical problem, as well as on the theoretical views of psychologists, different grounds for their classification are distinguished. So, N.D. Levitov proposed to divide them into states related to cognitive activity, emotions and will (by analogy with the classification of mental processes). In medical psychology, pathological forms of mental states are distinguished and studied. You can distinguish between mental states depending on the activities performed by the individual - game, educational, labor, sports.

Of particular practical importance is the diagnosis of human states in the performance of their labor activity. In the psychology of labor and ergonomics, the term functional states is used to refer to the states studied and diagnosed there. This emphasizes, first, the attribution of states to the activities of individual organs, physiological systems and the organism as a whole, and secondly, it is indicated that it is about the states of the working person (states in the process of performing activities). The specificity of this aspect of research and diagnosis of conditions is that they are considered in relation to the effectiveness of the activity performed by them, their correlation with the capabilities of a person in a particular condition, to perform a successfully defined type of activity. Therefore, special attention is paid to states of fatigue, monotony, stress, anxiety.

The concept of functional state originally originated and developed in physiology. It is in physiology that great attention has always been paid to the study of states. Especially the brain and the nervous system. Thus, Pavlov considered the study of states of higher nervous activity as the most important task, treating them with the physiological mechanism of mental states, and psychology as the science of internal (mental) states.

But the analysis of only the physiological basis of mental states can not be considered sufficient. Each state has a variety of manifestations, related not only to the physiological, but also to the psychological and behavioral levels. Researchers of this problem consider mental states as a complex systemic response of a person in response to external influences, manifested in both physiological and psychological reactions. A functional state is understood as an "integral complex of the available characteristics of those functions of a person's qualities that directly or indirectly determine the performance of an activity." Therefore, changes in the state of a working person can be recorded by registering both the functioning of various physiological systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, motor, etc.) and the flow of basic mental processes (perception, memory, attention, etc.) and the severity of subjective experiences (fatigue, lethargy, impotence, irritation, etc.). The multi-leveling of mental states manifests itself in different approaches to their diagnosis.

In general, one can not help but note that the problem of diagnosing states in differential psychological and psychodiagnostic studies is of secondary importance. This is due to the fact that diagnostics as applied science is primarily aimed at finding and measuring relatively stable human properties, allowing to build long-term forecasts. In this regard, diagnostic procedures are subjected to a special test for the reproducibility of diagnostic results during a second examination.

Moreover, often functional states in diagnostics are considered as a factor that disguises or, on the contrary, promotes the manifestation of individual traits. In both cases, the condition reduces the accuracy of the latter's estimates, prevents the objective diagnosis and prognosis. Therefore, traditionally in the books on psychological testing and differential psychology there are no sections devoted to mental states.

However, the psychodiagnosis of mental states can have its own special application value. Measurement of the states of people emerging in the course of activities can be used to develop recommendations on the organization of the work and rest regime, on optimizing the process of performing activities, normalizing working conditions, normalizing workloads, and so on. It was these tasks (among others) that successfully solved psychotechnics in the 1920s and 1930s. XX century. Diagnosis of mental states of individuals is needed to determine their suitability in extreme situations, to assess their reliability in complex and dangerous situations, to prevent "banned" states, for the development of recommendations on the correction of states.

Development of methods for diagnosing mental states is associated with the solution of a number of problems stemming from their specificity as dynamic entities that are multilevel in nature. For these methods, homogeneity indicators are used, but the concept of retest reliability can not be applied to them, since it is impossible to reproduce the diagnostic results with repeated measurements.

To establish the validity of diagnostic techniques for mental states, the same methods are used as for other diagnostic tools. It emphasizes the special value of validity in content, because the condition is a complex reaction of a person with many symptoms, and it is difficult to expect in each case the manifestation of their entire population. The problem of the norm, in the opinion of psychologists dealing with the issues under consideration, should be put differently, transforming into a problem of "background" or background state level .

The main difficulties in diagnosing mental states are related to their multi-leveledness and the large number and variety of factors on which they depend. Considering the state as a complex system reaction of a person to an effect, psychodiagnostics develops different methods for their evaluation. Usually they are divided into three groups - physiological, behavioral and subjective (VP Zinchenko, Yu. K. Strelkov). There is another classification proposed by AB Leonova, in which physiological and psychological methods are distinguished.

In physiological methods , various parameters of the central nervous system, as well as vegetative shifts, are used as indicators of functional states. Among them, an electroencephalogram (EEG), an electromyogram (EMG), a skin-galvanic reaction (GSR), heart rate, vascular tone, the size of the pupil diameter, and others. Depending on the nature of the functional state, different physiological indicators and their combinations are more suitable than others. Thus, electrical activity of the brain is traditionally a direct indicator of the level of activation of the individual. Tension and fatigue, associated with high energy costs, are manifested in increased gas exchange and increased heart rate. GSR is used to diagnose emotional states.

The main difficulties in using physiological indicators are related, first, to the problems of establishing a reference level of functioning of physiological systems and the nonlinearity of their shifts; secondly, with the need for special equipment and often sophisticated techniques for conducting measurements; thirdly, with the variability of the physiological parameters of different individuals.

To psychological methods diagnostics of functional states include assessments of the success of a particular type of activity. Indicators of shifts in the state are changes in the quantity, quality and speed of its implementation. Often the parameters of real work activity are subjected to analysis.

However, despite the fact that mental states affect the success of the activity, it is impossible to draw unambiguous conclusions about the presence of this or that state from external manifestations of the dynamics of its effectiveness. Thus, for example, an increase in the number of marriages, a decrease in the speed of work can be explained by many reasons not associated with a change in the mental state. In addition, quantitative indicators of success can not be found in some activities.

Therefore, the most suitable psychological means of diagnosing mental states are special short functional tests, characterizing the effectiveness of various mental processes in the performance of certain tasks. As such, virtually any technique for assessing perception, attention, memory, thinking and other mental functions can be used. The most frequently used for assessing mental states include corrective tests, Schulte tables that characterize attention, the method of paired associations, the Ebbinghaus method, Krepelin's continuous counting techniques, and the elementary encryption of Pieron-Rouzer, designed to assess memory and thinking.

In addition to the listed methods are used to measure the absolute and differential sensitivity of different analyzer systems. These are well-known techniques for determining the critical frequency of flicker fusion (CSFM) and detecting the dynamics of successive images.

In addition, methods are used to evaluate motor functions (measuring the reaction time for various sensorimotor tasks, a test).

As indicators of changes in mental states in functional tests, the success and speed of tasks are used. There is a search for integral criteria for estimating the shifts in mental states.

As a major drawback of functional tests as methods for diagnosing functional states, psychologists see differences in the content of tasks performed in diagnosing, on the one hand, and in the process of real activity, on the other. Therefore, it is often impossible to predict the occurrence of a state in an activity based on the results of the functional test used. In a number of cases, this can be explained by the use of any compensatory mechanisms, for example, by mobilizing additional energy resources during fatigue, if the work is particularly responsible and meaningful.

In addition to the noted, the lack of functional tests is seen in the fact that with their help it is possible to obtain only an external evaluation of the performed function without revealing the causes and mechanisms of the shifts that occur. The fact is that these shifts can be nonspecific (that is, the same changes occur in different mental states), which necessitates obtaining information about the state as an integral system reaction involving the use of special adaptive mechanisms. Therefore, it is considered advisable to use not one but a complex of functional samples that are subject to the effect leading to a change in state, and the latter should be evaluated on the basis of an analysis of the specifics of the combination of data from all methods.

Along with functional tests that reflect the real dynamics of mental processes under the influence of shifts in mental states, psychologists are widely used to diagnose different types of different types, allowing to identify states through complexes of subjective sensations and experiences of the individual. Despite a number of difficulties associated with the use of questionnaires (the susceptibility of their results to the influence of attitudes, motivation, dependence on skills of reflection, etc.), one can not deny the necessity of taking experiences into account as part of the latter. Diagnosis of mental states involves the need for a comprehensive approach, consisting in evaluating physiological functions, the dynamics of mental processes and the severity of subjective feelings and experiences.

The development of questionnaires aimed at diagnosing mental states requires careful identification of subjective symptoms of experiences of measured states. The forms of the questionnaires are varied. In some of them, different symptoms of mental states, presented in the form of verbal descriptions, the subject should relate to his own feelings and experiences and give an answer on the dichotomous principle ("yes" or "no"). Quantitative evaluation of the severity of each symptom is not required, and the conclusion about the presence and level of the functional state is given on the basis of the number of symptoms noted. So built a personal scale of manifestations of anxiety J. Taylor (more about it will be reported below). The disadvantage of this type of questionnaire of mental states is that the indicator of the total number of marked symptoms is too rough and rough.

Another form of questionnaires is presented in the form of a list of statements describing the symptoms of the mental state, and the subject must evaluate the severity of each of them using the adjective scale proposed for this (usually three to five-step). For example, in the Asthenic State Scale, each of which should be assessed for its own state on a four-step scale ("wrong", "perhaps so", "true", "quite right").

Another form of the questionnaire offers the listener a list of situations that cause a certain condition, and the subject needs to assess on a certain scale each situation in terms of how much it can cause this state. So the Scale of social-situational anxiety About. Kondash.

And, finally, another form of questionnaires suggests subjective scaling of symptoms of their own states according to a number of quantitative gradations given by a psychologist. These questionnaires are usually represented by either a pair of polar signs ("passive-active"), or by a separate short statement ("weakness", "tired", "rested", etc.). The subject needs to assess the severity of each symptom, correlating the intensity of his own experience with a given assessment scale. Bipolar scales are modifications of the known method of the semantic differential C. Osgood, and monopolar - with variants of so-called lists of adjectives.

Individual questionnaires differ in the number of symptoms included in their composition of mental states. An analysis of their comparative effectiveness led psychologists to the conclusion that the volume of signs should not be excessive, and its reduction should be accompanied by inclusion in the questionnaire of not minor, but the most significant, key symptoms.

One of the problems that arises in the development of any questionnaire is the accuracy of the wording, the choice from many words that exist in each language to refer to the symptoms of mental states that are most clear and understandable to most of those for whom the questionnaire is designed.

When developing methods for subjective scaling, the question arises about the dimension of scales. As a rule, scales containing 5, 7 or 9 gradations are used, but there are attempts to dramatically increase the graduality (up to 100). Ungraded and graphical scales are used when the subject on the line segment should observe a distance subjectively corresponding to the intensity of the experience being measured.

Completing the discussion of issues related to the methodological support of the diagnostic practice of assessing mental states, it should be vindicated that the main line of development is associated with the use of complex methods, which make it possible to simultaneously measure the state with the help of qualitatively different indicators. This integral evaluation is considered the most adequate, reflecting the mental state in the form of a syndrome of objective indicators. The development of diagnostic methods that allow obtaining information on structural rearrangements occurring in the activity of functional systems and reflecting the dynamics of states is recognized as promising.

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