WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY
is the science of understanding people.
Formally, it is the scientific study of thought and behavior.
- How does psychology differ from other fields that
attempt to understand human behavior?
tries to understand people through story, character exploration, place,
and word artistry.
tries to understand people by describing and analyzing past events.
studies people by looking at large-scale social forces and focuses on
groups rather than individuals.
- Is psychology a science?
- Yes! It is
not just couches and analyzing “crazy” people. Psychology is often a social science
but increasingly it is also a biological science.
- Moreover, not only is it a science, in an analysis
of all of the scientific disciplines, it emerged as one of the few core
sciences around which other sciences revolve. The other core sciences
were medicine, earth science, chemistry, physics, and math (Boyack, Klavans, & Börner, 2005).
- One aspect of psychology that makes it unique among
the sciences is the fact that the subject and the object of the work are
the same. It’s humans studying how humans think
and behave (the exception being animal studies).
Why Should You Study
- Psychology is considered a part of a good general
education, because its content is useful to many fields. Understanding the
thoughts, feelings, and motives of others and yourself is helpful for any
- From our first days, humans have been inherently
interested in other humans for survival purposes.
Subdisciplines of Psychology
- Cognitive psychology is the study of how we perceive, how we
learn and remember, how we learn and use language, and how we solve
- Those who do research on cognition and learning are
often referred to as experimental
psychologists, because they conduct laboratory experiments to address
their research questions.
psychology explores how thought and behavior change and show stability
across the life span.
neuroscience studies the links among brain, mind, and behavior.
Neuroscience is an area that cuts across various disciplines and subdisciplines of psychology. That is, one can study
brain functions involved in learning, emotion, social behavior, and mental
illness, to name just a few areas.
- A related subdiscipline, biological psychology, examines
the relationship between bodily systems and chemicals and their influence
on behavior and thought.
psychologists examine the role of psychological factors in physical
health and illness.
Pointer: What is going on
in our minds can make us more or less susceptible to illness. This
connection between nature and nurture is a powerful one.
psychology considers what makes people unique as well as the
consistencies in people’s behavior across time and situations.
psychology considers how the real or imagined presence of others
influences thought, feeling, and behavior.
Why do crowds inhibit helping behavior? Research on the bystander effect focuses on this
- Clinical psychology focuses on the treatment of mental,
emotional, and behavioral disorders and ways to promote psychological
health. This is the single largest subdiscipline
- A related field is counseling psychology. Counseling
psychologists are more likely than clinical psychologists to work with
less severe psychological disorders.
have training in medicine and an MD degree. In addition to offering psychotherapy,
they can also prescribe drugs.
psychology examines how students learn, the effectiveness of
particular teaching techniques, the dynamics of school populations, and
the psychology of teaching. It also attempts to understand special
populations of students, such as the academically gifted and the learning
psychology is a related field that is generally practiced by
counselors in school settings.
(I/O) psychology applies to a broad array of psychological concepts
and questions to work settings and problems. I/O is one of the fastest
growing subdisciplines in psychology.
psychology examines the psychological factors in sports and exercise
(Weinberg & Gould, 1999).
psychology is a blend of psychology, law, and criminal justice (Adler,
THE ORIGINS OF PSYCHOLOGY
- This section looks at the two main forms of
psychology: clinical practice and science.
A Brief History of the
Practice of Clinical Psychology
- Most prehistoric cultures had medicine men or women
known as shamans, who
treated “possession” by driving out the demons with rituals such as
exorcisms, incantations, and prayers.
shamans used trephination – the drilling of a small hole in
the person’s skull to release the spirits and demons that possessed the
were the first cultures to focus on natural and physical explanations for
- Hippocrates was the first to write about
acrophobia – the fear of heights.
- At this
same time, the Chinese were focusing on natural and bodily
explanations of psychological disorders (e.g., they made connections
between a person’s bodily organs and his emotions).
to Early Modern Views
- During the Middle Ages
people were again diagnosed as being possessed, as opposed to having an
physical disorder. Remember, this
is the era of witches!
- How did they test to see if a person was a
witch? One popular method was the
float test, in which a person’s
hands and feet were tied and she was thrown into a lake or river. If she
floated, she had to be guilty because only the Devil could make someone
float; if she sank, she was innocent.
- It was during the 16th century
witch-hunts that the first facilities for the mentally ill were
created. Called asylums, these facilities were
really nothing more than warehouses for the socially undesirable.
- In response
to the horrible conditions of the asylums, moral treatment movements
began. The main idea was to provide a relaxing place where these
patients would be treated with dignity and care.
- The first modern views of psychological disorders
viewed them as any other form of illness – things to be diagnosed and
treated with the proper therapy.
- Emil Kraepelin began a
systematic method of classifying and diagnosing psychological
disorders. He identified “dementia
praecox” (premature dementia), later changed to “schizophrenia,” and was
the first to distinguish thought disorders from the mood disorders.
- Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis, a clinically based approach to understanding
and treating psychological disorders.
This perspective focused on the unconscious and early childhood
experiences in adult psychological disorders.
- By the middle of the 20th century, three
of the major modern developments in clinical psychology had emerged: modern
diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, psychotherapy, and drug
therapy. Chapters 15 and 16 will
cover these issues in depth.
- Today, psychologists use the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual, 4th
edition, Text Revision (DMS-IV-TR) to diagnose psychological disorders. In fact, this standardized
manual diagnoses more than 250 psychological disorders.
A Brief History of Scientific
- There are two parent disciplines of scientific
psychology: philosophy and physiology.
Philosophy of Empiricism
- John Locke established empiricism – the view
that knowledge and thoughts come from experience. Locke believed that the mind begins as
a blank slate (tabula rasa), and that experience (what one sees, hears,
tastes, touches, and smells) establishes its contents.
is not held to the scientific requirements of psychology – that is, it
doesn’t need to collect data. It
was not until around 1970 that the first psychological laboratory was
opened in Germany.
Psychophysics of Human Perception
- The first researchers in psychological science
studied psychophysics – the
subjective experience of physical sensations. They presumed that if the
mind consists only of what we sense, then understanding the senses would
lead to a direct understanding of the mind.
- One important principle of psychophysics is that
perception of physical properties is not the same as the physical
- Ernst Weber, Gustav Fechner, and Hermann von
Helmholtz were among the first experimental psychologists. Their research will be examined in
Helmholtz’s work laid the foundation for several areas of psychology,
including neuroscience (Chapter 3), sensation and perception (Chapter 4),
and memory (Chapter 7).
- In 1879 Wilhelm Wundt set up his psychology
laboratory in Leipzig,
Germany. This is considered the birthplace of
- William James, who worked at Harvard
University, is considered the
founder of psychology in the United States.
- G. Stanley Hall studied with both Wundt and
James. He earned the first PhD in
psychology as James’ student. Hall also opened the first U.S. laboratory of psychology at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore
thereby establishing psychology as a science in the United States. He founded the
American Psychological Association (APA) and become its first president
- Francis Cecil Sumner, a student of Hall’s, was the
first African American to earn a PhD in psychology (1920).
- Mary Whiton Calkins
(1863-1930), another of James’s students, became the first female
president of the APA in 1905.
- The primary question here is whether it is more
important to study the elements of experience in order to understand
human thought and behavior, or to study the functions behind human
thought and behavior.
- Structuralists believe that breaking down experience
into its elemental parts provides the best way to understand thought and
- To do this, they used introspection – looking into one’s own mind for information about
the nature of conscious experience.
who also used introspection, felt it was better to look at why the mind
worked the way it did, rather than to describe its parts.
- Founded by John Watson, behaviorism proposes that psychology can be a true science
only if it examines observable behavior, not ideas, thoughts, feelings,
- Skinner modified Watson’s ideas and argued that
rewards and reinforcement shape behavior.
Watson, Skinner, and behaviorism had tremendous influence on the
psychology of learning (Chapter 7).
- Behaviorism is an
extreme form of environmentalism in which Locke’s idea of tabula rasa is
most clearly expressed.
and Positive Psychology
psychology focuses on personal growth and meaning as a way of
reaching one’s highest potential.
- Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers founded this
movement, but their popularity waned in the 1970s.
- Martin Seligman and Mihalyi
Csikszentmihalyi started the movement called positive psychology in the 1990s.
It shares with humanism a belief that psychology should focus
on studying, understanding, and promoting healthy and positive
psychological functioning with more of a scientific focus.
Humanistic personality psychologists developed theories of personality
based on humans at their best and striving to be better (Chapter 13).
behaviorism moved away from internal motives and thoughts as being
important scientific concepts, two events kept them in the minds of
psychology, developed by Max Wertheimer, proposed that we perceive
things as wholes rather than a compilation of parts. Moreover, our
brains actively shape sensory information into perceptions.
- Second, mental processes returned to psychology at
full force in the 1950s and 1960s – right at the peak influence of
behaviorism. Now, though, the
term cognition appeared to
discuss thoughts and mental processes.
- Cognitive science used the computer as a metaphor
for the mind. Computers store,
retrieve, and process information, just as the brain stores, retrieves,
and processes sensations, memories, and ideas. Sensation was the input;
perception was the interpretation and processing of the input; and
behavior and thoughts were the output.
- By the 1980s, cognitive science combined many
disciplines, including psychology, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology,
artificial intelligence, and neuroscience.
Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience
- By the 1980s, psychologists were becoming receptive
to the ideas that who we are, how we got here, and what we do and think
are very much a result of brain activity, are influenced by genetic
factors, and have a long evolutionary past. This movement was encouraged
by developments in the fields of behavioral neuroscience, behavioral
genetics, and the emergence of evolutionary psychology.
Our genetic code is not set at birth. Genes are turned on or off by
experiences we have, foods we eat, and even foods our mothers ate while
pregnant with us (Chapter 3).
WAYS OF THIKING ABOUT MIND, BODY, AND EXPERIENCE
The Nature-Nurture Debate
This debate is over whether innate biology or
life experience determines our personality and behaviors.
The nature-only view is that who we are comes from
inborn tendency and genetically based traits.
The nurture-only side states that we are all
born essentially the same, and we are a product of our experiences. Again, Locke would support this idea.
This notion is very North American in nature.
Rather than pit nature against nurture, this
book supports the notion of nature
through nurture: The environment – be it the womb or the home – constantly
interacts with biology to shape who we are and what we do (Begley, 2007;
Pointer: The environment and
biological events, such as when genes get expressed and the formation of
synapses, mutually influence each other.
This debate is over how much separation there is
between our mind and our body. From this
perspective, the mind controls the body. The body can occasionally control the
mind too, but mainly when we lose our better judgment, such as in the throes of
passion. Mostly, mind and body are separate.
This dualism, or separation of mind and body,
allows for the idea of a soul that survives bodily death. This allows for ideas of reincarnation and
The Evolution of Behavior
is the change over time in the frequency with which specific genes occur
within a breeding species.
Charles Darwin was the first to discuss a major
principle at play in evolution – natural selection.
This is formally defined as a feedback process whereby nature favors
one design over another, depending on whether it has an impact on reproduction.
Every once in a while, genes change for no
apparent reason. These are called chance
mutations. Mutations can cause
variation in the design of a structure or a set of behaviors.
The key for natural selection to work is that
the behaviors have to increase reproductive success, because reproduction and
the passing of genes drive the whole process.
The accumulation of chance mutations underlies
Natural selection creates structures and
behaviors that solve adaptive problems. Adaptations are inherited solutions to
ancestral problems that have been naturally selected because they directly
contribute in some way to reproductive success, and they continue to perform
that function (Tooby & Cosmides,
psychology is the branch of psychology that is about understanding the
functions of the human mind rather than just describing what it does.
Students can imagine they are driving on the
highway and the car in the lane next to them has just cut them off. They slam
on the brakes to avoid the accident.
They experience fear and they do so because fear has been naturally
selected because it helps us deal with problems. It moves us into action so we can protect
Structure/features that perform a function that
did not arise through natural selection are called by-products or exaptations. For example, humans didn’t evolve to speak in
fully grammatical sentences but once they started doing so, there were
legitimate adaptive reasons to continue.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Making
Connections in Psychology
See separate section for detailed explanation.
adaptations: inherited solutions
to ancestral problems that have been selected for because they directly
contribute in some way to reproductive success; they continue to perform that
function though the problem that required the adaptation no longer exists.
asylums: facilities for treating
the mentally ill that existed in Europe during
the Middle Ages and into the 19th century.
behavioral neuroscience: the study of the links among brain, mind,
behaviorism: a school of
psychology that proposed that psychology can be a true science only if it
examines observable behavior, not ideas, thoughts, feelings, or motives.
biological psychology: the study of the relationship between
bodily systems and chemicals, and how they influence behavior and thought.
psychology: the field that
deals with the treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and the
promotion of psychological health.
cognitive psychology: the study of
how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.
cognitive science: a theory of
psychology discipline that focuses
on the scientific study of human
developmental psychology: the study of how
thought and behavior change and remain stable across the life span.
educational psychology: the study of how
students learn, the effectiveness of particular teaching techniques, the social
psychology of schools, and the psychology of teaching.
empiricism: the view that all
knowledge and thoughts come from experience.
evolution: the change over time
in the frequency with which specific genes occur within a breeding species.
evolutionary psychology: the branch of psychology that aims to understand the
functions of the human mind by looking at and understanding what adaptive
problems it may have solved earlier in its ancestral past.
psychology: the study that
combines psychology and the legal and criminal justice systems.
functionalists: a school of
psychology that argued that it was better to look at why the mind worked the
way it did than to describe its parts.
Gestalt psychology: a
theory of psychology that proposes that we perceive things as wholes rather
than a compilation of parts.
health psychologists: scientists
who examine the role that psychological factors play in regard to physical
health and illness.
humanistic psychology: a theory of psychology that focuses on personal growth
and meaning as a way of reaching one’s highest potential.
industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology: the application of
psychological concepts and questions to work settings and problems.
introspection: the main method
of investigation for structuralists; it involves
looking into one’s own mind for information about the nature of conscious
treatment: approach to
treatment of the mentally ill that began in Europe
during the 18th and 19th centuries; its goal was to offer
dignity and care in a relaxing environment.
natural selection: a feedback process whereby nature favors one design
over another, depending on whether it has an impact on reproduction.
nature through nurture: the position that the environment—be it the womb
or the home or the entire world—constantly interacts with biology to shape who
we are and what we do.
personality psychology: the study of what makes people unique and
the consistencies in people’s behavior across time and situations.
positive psychology: a theory of psychology that shares with
humanism a belief that psychology should focus on studying, understanding, and
promoting healthy and positive psychological functioning, but does so from a
scientific rather than theoretical perspective.
psychoanalysis: a clinically based approach to
understanding and treating psychological disorders; assumes that the
unconscious mind is the most powerful force behind thought and behavior.
psychology: the scientific study
of thought and behavior.
psychophysics: the first scientific form of
psychology; laboratory studies of the
subjective experience of physical sensations.
shamans: medicine men or women
who treat the possessed by coaxing and driving out the demons with elaborate
rituals, such as exorcisms, incantations, and prayers.
social psychology: the study of how living among others influences
thought, feeling, and behavior.
psychology: the study of
psychological factors in sports and exercise.
school of psychology that argued that breaking down experience into its
elemental parts offers the best way to understand thought and behavior.
Subdisciplines of Psychology
CONNECTION: Why do crowds inhibit helping behavior? Research on the
bystander effect focuses on this
question. This issue is outlined in
detail in Chapter 14.
Have students recall experiences in First Aid or Health classes they have
taken in which they learn CPR. They
walk up to Rescue Annie (the doll they resuscitate) and the first thing
they ask her is “Are you all right?
Are you OK? YOU call
911.” And as they say that last
sentence they have to point to one person in the crowd. Why?
Because you must allocate responsibility; otherwise people just
stand around as if silently asking, “who, me?”
A Brief History of Scientific Psychology
CONNECTION: Helmholtz’s work laid the foundation for several areas
of psychology, including neuroscience, sensation and perception, and
memory. These issues are discussed in
Chapters 3, 4, and 7, respectively.
- Discussion: Hemholtz made
important contributions to the study of memory, physiology, and color
vision, but also made seminal contributions to the laws of conservation in
physics, music theory, meteorology, and geometry, and designed a workable telephone
years before Alexander Graham Bell (Benjamin, 2007). Ask students to discuss how this is
related to psychology. For example,
discuss how they can have a conversation with their roommate about
choirs. The words sensed by the
ears are the same for both people but the perceptions of the conversation
could be quite different.
CONNECTION: Watson, Skinner, and behaviorism had tremendous
influence on the psychology of learning (Chapter 8).
- Discussion: How we learn is of huge interest to
psychologists. How might
behaviorists and psychoanalysts differ in their perceptions of learning?
CONNECTION: Humanistic personality psychologists developed theories
of personality based on humans at their best and striving to be better (Chapter
- Discussion: Ask students if they think this is a
valid personality theory. That is,
based on their experiences, do they think people strive to be the best
they can be? Who does? Who doesn’t?
Humanistic psychology was faulted for its lack of scientific rigor. How could these concepts be tested?
CONNECTION: Our genetic code is not set at birth. Genes are turned
on or off by experiences we have, foods we eat, and even foods our mothers ate
while pregnant with us (Chapter 3).
This combination of nature and nurture influencing development has been of
huge importance in psychology.
Which influences us more?
Ask students for their thoughts.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Making
Connections in Psychology
Can a person actually become addicted to online activities? What does it
mean to be addicted to electronic interaction (Chapter 16)?
- Activity: Using the CPS
clicker, ask students how many hours they spend online. Then ask them how they spend that
time. What sites do they
visit? Why are they online? Ask if they think they are addicted to
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Making
Connections in Psychology
- How do
psychologists from different subfields study electronic communication
(such as e-mail, blogs, cell phones, texting, instant messaging, etc.) and
human behavior and thought?
- Researchers in this area would likely ask questions such as: Does
the brain respond in the same way to electronic interactions as it does
with face-to-face interactions? If it responds differently, what other
brain region might be activated?
- Brain imaging research usually requires participants to be lying
down in a scanning machine that holds the head perfectly still. For this
reason, it is difficult to get brain images of people on the internet or
using cell phones. But these activities can be simulated while in a
scanner and will no doubt be studied by behavioral neuroscientists.
Cell phone use has sparked a number of research
questions – especially with regard to driving. Thus far, researchers have
reported that the person’s driving ability is similar to a person’s driving
ability while drunk (Strayer et al., 2006).
Developmental psychologists are interested in
questions such as: At what age is a person too young to form electronic social
networks? At what age does usage of
internet social networks peak? Will they always be for the younger generation?
Will people 60 and older use them? Does gender affect interest and
participation in SNSs? How have cell phones and other
electronic methods of communicating changed how teenagers interact with each
Research has reported tentatively that older
teenage girls and young women are more likely to participate in social
networking sites than boys and young men (Boyd, 2007; Hargittai, 2008).
Electronic interactions are popular with
adolescents due to psychological factors such as identity, autonomy, intimacy,
and sexuality (Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 2008).
- One of the first applications of the internet for social purposes
was online dating services. This type of electronic interaction may work best for those who suffer from
social anxiety (Stevens & Morris, 2007).
- Electronic interactions cannot easily be used to hide one’s “real
personality” and to avoid ever having real face-to-face contact with
others (Couch & Liamputtong,
- Being privately
public means connecting
with many other people, while being relatively non-public about sharing
information about who you are. You disclose a lot of details of your
private life and may or may not limit access to your site (Lange,
- Another electronic behavior
is the concept of “friending.” If someone allows
you access to their site, they have “friended”
you. This in turn leads to ancient issues of being “popular,” socially
excluded, rejected, and accepted.
- These psychologists may ask:
Are people who interact extensively with other people via Facebook more or less extraverted than those who do
not? Whose tube is YouTube, anyway (Hargittai,
2008)? Moreover, how much of one’s personality is reflected in the style
of their websites and Facebook pages?
- When the impressions formed
from websites are compared to self-reported personality data, the
web-based personality evaluations are fairly accurate but the accuracy
depended on which personality trait was being rated (Vazire
& Gosling, 2004).
- There is also the
psychologically very interesting phenomenon of creating your alternative
personality or avatar in the gaming world. People sometimes take on
personalities that are very different from their own in an online world
which allows them to express and say things they would not in direct
face-to-face contact. And yet,
there is some evidence that it is very difficult to shed completely one’s
offline personality when being an online personality (Smith & Kollock, 1999).
- A very innovative and at least partially successful application of
electronic media is using the cell phone to post health information and
symptoms of various diseases. This type of communication erases the
embarrassment of having to obtain a health diagnosis face-to-face.
One of the main criteria for a mental illness is
when it interferes with everyday life and functioning. If one is online for
10-12 hours a day, is that healthy? What about the danger involved in meeting
someone in person who you only know from online interaction? Sexual predators
are known to use these connections to obtain victims. Sexual predators, in
fact, contact potential victims through chat rooms, instant messages, and
email. In one study, one in five teens (ages 10-17 years) had been sexually
solicited online (Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2001). Social learning probably offers the best
explanation as to how smoking behavior is acquired. Most smokers start smoking
as teenagers, and most teens start smoking because they seek some of the
rewards that appear to come with smoking: coolness, peer acceptance, looking
like an adult. Kids see that others who
smoke get some of these rewards for smoking. Thus they might model the smoking
behavior in order to obtain these rewards themselves.
Can a person actually become addicted to online activities? What does it mean
to be addicted to electronic interaction (Chapter 16)?