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Chapter 16: Psychological Disorders
Unlike most medical
conditions, the diagnosis of psychological disorders rarely rests on
objective measures such as blood tests, x-rays, or even brain imaging.
Instead, the decision to diagnose a psychological disorder is based on the
clinician’s impressions of the speech, cognitions, and other behaviors of
the person being examined. Although most clinicians like to consider
themselves scientific and unbiased, others are concerned that diagnostic
methods leave the door open for mistakes, especially when the person
examined belongs to a racial or ethnic minority group.
Learning Objectives for the Problem
After completing the problem, students will:
1. Be familiar with diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia.
2. Understand the process of diagnosis, including its strengths and weaknesses.
3. Know demographic data regarding schizophrenia.
4. Be familiar
with cultural influences on psychological disorder.
Before implementing the PBL method in a classroom, instructors should familiarize themselves with PBL materials provided by Samford University at http://www.samford.edu/pbl/. Our method follows these guidelines.
1. Introduce the concept of PBL and offer a rationale for its use in your course.
Determine how you will assess student progress on the problem, and communicate your grading rubric to students. Discuss a timeline for work, including what class time will be available.
2. Set the stage.
Assign students to groups, and identify a group leader. Some faculty also ask students to take the roles of encourager, skeptic, and scribe. Most PBL exercises are carried out in small groups from 4-6 students. If you plan to use more than one problem in a term, decide if groups will change or remain the same. If students stay in the same group, you may want to rotate their roles.
3. Discuss steps in problem solving.
a. Define your problem. What exactly are you trying to solve?
b. What information is needed? What do you already know that is relevant to the problem? What else do you need to know to solve the problem?
c. What actions must be taken to solve the problem? Brainstorm possible solutions and narrow your choices to a few. Prioritize your list of solutions.
d. Test your solutions, and determine which one is the best.
e. Present your results.
4. Evaluate student performance. This might be a combination of peer evaluation and instructor evaluation. Students may give presentations, write papers, or answer questions related to their problem.
John Zeber, an analyst for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and his colleagues reviewed the cases of 134,523 patients with mental illness in the VA registry. His results were surprising. Even though schizophrenia is known to affect about 1% of the population worldwide, regardless of race or ethnicity, Zeber found that African-Americans were four times as likely as whites to be diagnosed with the disorder. Hispanics were more than three times as likely as whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Zeber controlled for wealth, drug addiction, and other variables and concluded “The only factor that was truly important was race.”
Blow, F.C., Zeber, J.E.,
McCarthy, J.F., Valenstein, M., Gillon, L., & Bingham, R. (2004).
Ethnicity and diagnostic patterns in veterans with psychoses. Social
Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 39(10), 841-851.
Your task is to
write a set of procedures for clinicians designed to prevent the
misdiagnosis of schizophrenia as a result of racial and ethnic
These materials are being prepared for the password-protected instructor’s resource site for Discovering Biological Psychology. Uploading them onto a searchable site such as this one would obviously defeat the purpose of asking students to do this work. However, if any instructor would like a copy of these materials to review, please email me from your university account at firstname.lastname@example.org
The instructor’s materials contain a list of resources for further information, evaluation rubrics for different types of assessment activities, and a model solution.
© 2007, Laura Freberg , animations © 2007, Karla Freberg