Professor Dr. Manfred Velden

Email Prof. Manfred Velden:

  • Studied psychology at University of Bonn (Germany) and University of California, Berkeley
  • Professorships held at University of Mainz, Technological University of Berlin, University of Osnabrück
  • Professor emeritus
  • Fields taught: methodology, general psychology (perception), biological psychology, psychosomatics
  • Present fields of research: critical analysis of biologistic approaches in psychology (attempts to explain psychological functions on a biological basis), particularly in the framework of evolutionary psychology, quantitative genetics (heritability estimates), molecular genetics as well as neuroscience

I. Critique of biologism It is maintained that there are narrow limits set for explaining mental processes via biological functions. The project to ultimately explain psychological functions by recurring to biological functions (biologism) is seen as illusory and is attributed to misconceiving psychology as a natural science.

  • Velden, M. (2022). Human-Like Computers - A Lesson in Absurdity, Berlin: Schwabe Verlag
  • Velden, M. (2016). Psychology: A Study of a Masquerade. Göttingen: V&R unipress
  • Velden, M. (2012). Darwin's Shadow. Göttingen: V&R unipress
  • Velden, M. (2010). Biologism – the Consequence of an Illusion. Göttingen: V&R unipress

II. The heritability of mental traits It is shown that the methodological instruments used in order to make affirmations about genetic and environmental determinants of psychological traits are unsuitable for this purpose. Neither with the help of quantitative genetics (determination of “heritability coefficients”) or molecular genetics (DNA analyses) reliable and valid assertions can be made as to the heritability of mental traits.

  • Velden, M. (1995). Human behavioral genetics what can it teil us? Journal of Psychophysiology, 9, 164-168.
  • Velden, M. (1997). The heritability of intelligence: Neither known nor unknown. American Psychologist, 51, 72-73.
  • Velden, M. (1999). The heritability of intelligence: A never ending debate? Current Psychology of Cognition, 18, 248-251.
  • Velden, M. (2001). The heritability of mental traits: Science and ideology. Osnabrück: Universitätsverlag Rasch.
  • Velden, M. (2003). The heritability of mental traits in humans: A proposal for a more coherent discussion. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 62, 5-10.
  • Velden, M. (2014). Brain Death of an Idea – The Heritability of Intelligence. Göttingen: V&R unipress.

III. Psychosomatics Petition for a „rational“ psychosomatics, i.e. one trying to reveal, as far as that is possible, the physiological malfunctions that lead from a psychological cause to the bodily ailment.

  • Velden, M. (2007). Psychosomatik. Göttingen: V&R unipress.

IV. Methodological problems in psychophysiology Three problems had to be solved: (1) Should electrodermal activity (changes in the electrical properties of the skin) be reflected in terms of the physical dimension resistance or conductance? (2) How can the effect of a vagal innervation of the heart be traced in the form of changes in heart rate? and (3) How can heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure be depicted on a real time scale (successive seconds)?

  • Velden, M., & Vossel, G. (1985). How can skin conductance responses increase over trials while the corresponding resistance responses decrease? Physiological Psychology, 13, 291-295.
  • Velden, M., & Vossel, G. (1986). Differences between skin resistance and skin conductance responses with respect to change over trials: A mathematical expianation. Psychophysiology, 23, 713-714.
  • Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1987). Depicting cardiac activity over real time: A proposal for standardization. Journal of Psychophysiology, 1, 173-175.
  • Velden, M., & Graham, F.K. (1988). Depicting heart rate over real time: Two procedures that are mathematically identical. Journal of Psychophysiology, 2, 291-292.
  • Velden, M., Karemaker, J.M., Wölk, C., & Schneider, R. (1988). Brown and Eccles‘ depiction of vagal effects: An old and widely used method reexamined. Psychophysiology, 25, 366-368.
  • Velden, M., & Karemaker, J.M. (1990). Once again: “Vagal effect curves“, a method revisited and revised. Psychophysiology, 27, 356-357.
  • Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1990). Plotting systolic, diastolic, and pulse pressure on a real time scale. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 10, 99-10 1.
  • Velden, M., Karemaker, J.M., Wölk, C., & Schneider R. (1990). Inferring vagal effects on the heart from changes in cardiac cycle length: Implications for cycle-time dependency. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 10, 85-93.
  • Wölk, C., & Velden, M. (1991). Measurement of phasic blood pressure changes with the FINAPRES-System. In: H. Rüddel & 1. Curio (Eds.). Noninvasive continuous blood pressure measurement (pp. 61-78). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  • Velden, M. (1999). New aspects when depicting heart rate and blood pressure over time? Journal of Psychophysiology, 13, 92-94.

V. Signal Detection Theory and its applications The application of the theory to specific performance tasks (e.g. tasks by which the course of attention is measured over extended periods of time) allows to seperately assess the two important aspects of the behaviour of the subjects: performance and error risk taking. It was shown that the theory should not be applied to so-called “rating data” (ones used in order to objectively determine moods). The application of the theory in order to objectively measure experimental pain appears possible in principle, but turns out to be extremely laborious.

  • Velden, M. (1978). Experienced aversiveness: Partial control of response bias when using rating procedures. In C. D. Spielberger & 1. G. Sarason (Eds.). Stress and Anxiety (Vol. 5) (pp. 36 1-365). Washington: Hemisphere.
  • Velden, M. (1979). Does signal detection methodology allow to measure discrimination, but not pain? Pain, 7, 377-378.
  • Velden, M., & Ciark, W. C. (1979). Reduction of rating scale data by means of signal detection theory. Perception and Psychophysics, 25, 517-518.
  • Velden, M. (1980). Some further comments on the use of signal detection theory (SDT) in pain measurement. Pain, 9, 380-381.
  • Velden, M. (1982). Response bias in the measurement of achievement and stress: Applications of signal detection theory. In H. W. Krohne & L. Laux (Eds.). Achievement, stress, and anxiety (pp. 345-3 54). Washington: Hemisphere.
  • Schumacher, R., & Velden, M. (1984). Anxiety, pain experience, and pain report: A signal detection study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 339-349.

VI. Do so-called “cycle time effects” exist? In 1934 it was shown by Brown and Eccles (the latter a Nobel Laureate 1963) that when shortly (20 msec) stimulating the vagal fibres that lead to the pacemaker cells of the heart the effect on heart rate depends on at exactly what moment during the cardiac cycle (time from one heartbeat to the next) the stimulus is given. The same effect was postulated and allegedly demonstrated by psychophysiologists for psychological stimuli (e.g.acoustic stimuli announcing the go-signal in a reaction time task). It could be shown, both theoretically and empirically, that this effect is an artefact resulting from data reduction procedures.

  • Velden, M., Barry, R., & Wölk, C. (1987). Time-dependent primary bradycardia: A new effect? International Journal of Psychophysiology, 4, 299-306.
  • Velden, M., & Karemaker, J.M. (1990). Once again: “Vagal effect curves“, a method revisited and revised. Psychophysiology, 27, 356-357.
  • Zimmermann, U., Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1991). Empirical evidence against the “cycle time dependency“ assumption. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 11, 125-129.

VII. Neuronal heart-brain interaction

A central position in this area of research is held by the so-called “baroreceptor hypothesis”, which holds that brain electrical activity may be modulated by changes in cardiac activity (the reciprocal mechanism, changes in heart rate due to changes in brain activity is well known). It was shown that changes in brain electrical activity in the form of synchronization or desynchronization of EEG waves may be affected by changes in heart rate. This may have effects on the induction and maintenance of sleep.
  • Velden, M., & Juris, M. (1975). Perceptual performance as a function of intra-cycle cardiac activity. Psychophysiology, 12, 685-692.
  • Wölk, C., & Velden, M. (1987). Detection variability within the cardiac cycle: Toward a revision of the “baroreceptor hypothesis“. Journal of Psychophysiology, 1,61-65.
  • Wölk, C., & Velden, M. (1989). Revision oft the baroreceptor hypothesis on the basis of a new cardiac cycle effect. In N.W. Bond & D. A. T. Siddle (Eds.). Psychobiology: Issues and Applications (pp. 371-379). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Wölk, C., Velden, M., Zimmermann, U., & Krug, S. (1989). The interrelation between phasic blood pressure and heart rate changes in the context oft he “baroreceptor hypothesis”. Journal of Psychophysiology, 3, 397-402.
  • Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1995). Cardiac cycle effects: A key to the understanding of neural heart-brain interactions. In D. Vaitl & R. Schandry (Eds.). From the heart to the brain (pp. 121-13 1). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  • Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1996). Excluding blood pressure as the relevant variable modulating perceptual-motor functioning. Homeostasis, 37, 67-71.
  • Velden, M., & Wölk, C. (1996). Baroreceptor activity and the induction of sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 82, 178.

VIII. Orienting Response theory
The orienting response, an attentional response first described by Pavlov in the form of behavioural changes and in detail described by Sokolov in the form of accompanying physiological changes (e.g. changes in electrodermal or brain electrical activity) is relevant for learning processes in particular. The scientific analysis mostly deals with the stimulus conditions that lead to an orienting response.
  • Velden, M. (1974). An empirical test of Sokolov‘s entropy model of the orienting response. Psychophysiology, 11, 682-691.
  • Velden. M. (1978). Some necessary revisions oft the neuronal model concept of the orienting response. Psychophysiology, 15, 181-185.
  • Velden, M., & Schumacher, R. (1979). Orienting and defensive cardiac responses. In H. D. Kimmel. E. H. van Olst, & J. F. Orlebeke (Eds.). The orienting reflex in humans (pp. 199-218). Hillsdale: Lawrence Eribaum.