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Introduction to Psychology

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Chapter 1 Review:

Introduction to Psychology:

Although the definition of psychology has changed over the years, first focusing on the study of the mental processes, then on the study of observable behavior, today Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes, behaviors and other unseen processes that go on inside the organism.

History of Psychology:

It is important that the history of psychology be reviewed, beginning with the founding of psychology as an independent “scientific discipline” (i.e. formal academic discipline).

1879: Wilhelm Wundt: the first Experimental Laboratory in Psychology (at Leipzig University in Leipzig Germany) and the first school of thought in psychology, Structuralism,

Structuralism: (1st school of thought is psychology) an approach that emphasized breaking down consciousness and mental activity into structural components and analyzing them individually.

1889: William James established the first American school of psychology at Harvard University, call Functionalism.

Functionalism: an approach that stressed how modern human thought might result from progressive adaptations our ancestors experienced.

Then psychology was influenced by the foundation of Psychoanalysis, by Sigmund Freud
(Psychoanalytic theory 1st force in Psychology).

Psychoanalysis: Analysis of the unconscious motives and conflicts of patients in an attempt to develop insight into their present mental or behavioral problems.

Then Max Wertheimer established the Gestalt school of thought in psychology.

Gestalt psychology: an approach that examines patterns of thought and behavior, emphasizing the situation or context in which they occur.

Followed by the “shift in focus” in American psychology to the study of observable behavior, resulting from John Watson’s establishment of Behaviorism, and subsequently drawing on the later work of B.F. Skinner.

Strict Behaviorism: (2nd force of Psychology) an approach that considers only overt behavior to be appropriate subject matter for psychology.

Still later, Psychology was influenced by two of the most contemporary schools of thought in psychology with the emergence of the Humanistic (3rd force of Psychology) school resulting from the work of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rodgers
(with its focus on the uniqueness of human beings, and the development of human potentialities);

Humanistic Psychology: (3rd force of Psychology) an approach that emphasizes human values, goals, and desire for growth, fulfillment, and peace and happiness.

And the rise of the Cognitive school resulting from the original pioneering work of Jean Piaget

Cognitive approach: a contemporary trend, based largely on the information-processing model that emphasizes mental and intellectual processes such as learning, memory, and thought.

The Three Types of Research Methods:

The three types of research methods that make psychology a “scientific discipline” are:

  1. Descriptive Methods:

    The descriptive methods include:

  • Naturalistic and Controlled observation:

  • The survey methods (3 types)

    Surveys are widely used, and typically require selection of a sample of participants (subjects) from a larger population of potential subjects. It is important to know how a sample can be selected so that it is representative (i.e. random selection) how questionnaires are use, and why structured interviews often have an advantage because of elaboration of details that is made possible when good “rapport” is established between the subject and the interviewer.

  • Clinical/Case study method (the “hybrid” method)

  1. Experimental method:

    The experimental method is the research method that meets the demand and conditions required to establish whether a cause and effect relationship exists between two (or more) variables.

  • All experiments begin with a hypothesis to be tested, about the casual relationship between an independent variable and a dependant variable.
  • If an experiment confirms the hypothesis, the next question that must be addressed is whether the same results apply in other situations.
  • There are several problems that can occur in an experiment that can influence or bias the results.
    • These problems can include a bias because of how the experimental and control groups are chosen; experimental bias (i.e. the experimenters expectation influences the participant responses, or the study outcomes);
    • the placebo effect (i.e. the subjects behave according to their own expectations, or predispositions about the outcomes of the experiment).

It should also be noted that sometimes the “controls” used in an experiment make the setting or situation seem highly contrived and unnatural (adversely impacting the outcomes).

  1. Correlational method:

    The correlational method is a research method used to analyze research data to determine the relationship between variables (other than cause and effect relationships).

  • When a correlation is high, the presence (or absence) of one variable predicts the presence or absence of another variable.
  • Psychological researchers have often used a wide variety of test to collect research data, and many tests are used in correlational research.

Research findings are verified by “replication” of psychological studies. If research findings (results) are valid, the replication of the study will yield the same, or very similar, results.

Meta-analysis” is a method of combining and integrating the results of a number of research studies.

Applied Research:
Refers to scientific study and research that seeks to solve practical problems. Applied research is used to find solutions to everyday problems, cure illness, and develop innovative technologies. Psychologists working in human factors or industrial/organizational fields often do this type of research.

Basic Research: Refers to study and research on pure science that is meant to increase our scientific knowledge base. This type of research is often purely theoretical with the intent of increasing our understanding of certain phenomena or behavior but does not seek to solve or treat these problems.

Behavioral perspective: maintained that psychology should confine itself to the study of observable behavior, rather than explore a person’s unconscious feelings. The behavioral perspective explains mental illness, as well as all of human behavior, as a learned response to stimuli. In this view, rewards and punishments in a person’s environment shape that person’s behavior. For example, a person involved in a serious car accident may develop a phobia of cars or generalize the fear to all forms of transportation

Behaviorism: an approach to the study of psychology that concentrates exclusively on observing, measuring, and modifying behavior.

Biological perspective: Psychiatry has increasingly emphasized a biological basis for the causes of mental illness. Studies suggest a genetic influence in some mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, although the evidence is not conclusive.

Cognitive Psychology: the scientific study of cognition. Cognition refers to the process of knowing, and cognitive psychology is the study of all mental activities related to acquiring, storing, and using knowledge. The domain of cognitive psychology spans the entire spectrum of conscious and unconscious mental activities: sensation and perception, learning and memory, thinking and reasoning, attention and consciousness, imagining and dreaming, decision making, and problem solving. Other topics that fascinate cognitive psychologists include creativity, intelligence, and how people learn, understand, and use language.

Cognitive perspective: The cognitive perspective holds that mental illness results from problems in cognition—-that is, problems in how a person reasons, perceives events, and solves problems. American psychiatrist Aaron Beck proposed that some mental illnesses—such as depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders—result from a way of thinking learned in childhood that is not consistent with reality. For example, people with depression tend to see themselves in a negative light, exaggerate the importance of minor flaws or failures, and misinterpret the behavior of others in negative ways. It remains unclear, however, whether these kinds of cognitive problems actually cause mental illness or merely represent symptoms of the illnesses themselves.

Correlational method correlation is a statistical measurement of the relationship between two variables. Possible correlations range from +1 to –1. A zero correlation indicates that there is no relationship between the variables. A correlation of –1 indicates a perfect negative correlation, meaning that as one variable goes up, the other goes down. A correlation of +1 indicates a perfect positive correlation, meaning that both variables move in the same direction together.

Critical thinking: type of critical analysis: disciplined intellectual criticism that combines research, knowledge of historical context, and balanced judgment

Descriptive research:

Double Blind Study
In a blind trial, patients do not know whether they receive the new drug or a placebo. In a double-blind trial, neither patients nor physicians know who is receiving the new treatment. This secrecy is important because patients who know they are taking a powerful new drug may expect to feel better and report improvement to doctors. Researchers who know that a patient is receiving the test treatment may also see improvements that really do not exist.

Evolutionary perspective:

Experimental method:
The experimental method involves manipulating one variable to determine if changes in one variable cause changes in another variable. This method relies on controlled methods, random assignment, and the manipulation of variables to test a hypothesis.
– Control Group
– Experimental Group

Experimental bias

Humanistic Psychology Humanistic psychology was born out of a desire to understand the conscious mind, free will, human dignity, and the capacity for self-reflection and growth. An alternative to psychoanalysis and behaviorism, humanistic psychology became known as “the third force.”

Humanistic perspective:
Both the humanistic and existential perspectives view abnormal behavior as resulting from a person’s failure to find meaning in life and fulfill his or her potential. The humanistic school of psychology, as represented in the work of American psychologist Carl Rogers, views mental health and personal growth as the natural conditions of human life. In Rogers’s view, every person possesses a drive toward self-actualization, the fulfillment of one’s greatest potential. Mental illness develops when circumstances in a person’s environment block this drive. The existential perspective sees emotional disturbances as the result of a person’s failure to act authentically—that is, to behave in accordance with one’s own goals and values, rather than the goals and values of others.

a preliminary assumption or tentative explanation that accounts for a set of facts, taken to be true for the purpose of investigation and testing; a theory.

Independent variable the factor that an experimenter varies (the proposed cause) is known as the independent variable and the behavior being measured (the proposed effect) is called the dependent variable. In a test of the hypothesis that frustration triggers aggression, frustration would be the independent variable, and aggression the dependent variable.

Levels of analysis
– Micro
– Molecular
– Molar

Meta-analysis a method designed to increase the reliability of research by combining and analyzing the results of all known trials of the same product or experiments on the same subject

Naturalistic Observation Naturalistic observation is also common among developmental psychologists who study social play, parent-child attachments, and other aspects of child development. These researchers observe children at home, in school, on the playground, and in other settings.

scientific study of nervous system: a scientific discipline that studies nerve cells or the nervous system, e.g. neuroanatomy or neurophysiology, or all such disciplines collectively 2. molecular and cellular neurology: the scientific study of the molecular and cellular levels of the nervous system, of systems within the brain such as vision and hearing, and of behavior produced by the brain

Predisposition factors
– Dispositional factors
– Situational factors

Placebo an inert substance, such as sugar, that is used in place of an active drug. In testing new drugs, placebos are used to avoid bias. That is, in a blind test, patients do not know if they have been given the active drug or the placebo; in a double-blind test, physicians observing the results also do not know. Placebos may be administered to some patients who have incurable illnesses in order to induce the so-called placebo effect: an improvement, at least temporarily, of the patient’s condition.

Placebo effect
Some researchers suggest that all therapies share certain qualities, and that these qualities account for the similar effectiveness of therapies despite quite different techniques. For instance, all therapies offer people hope for recovery. People who begin therapy often expect that therapy will help them, and this expectation alone may lead to some improvement (a phenomenon known as the placebo effect).


Psychoanalysis a psychological theory and therapeutic method developed by Sigmund Freud, based on the ideas that mental life functions on both conscious and unconscious levels and that childhood events have a powerful psychological influence throughout life.
2. treatment by psychoanalysis: treatment by psychoanalysis, interpreting material presented by a patient in order to bring the processes of the unconscious into conscious awareness

Psychoanalytic perspective psychodynamic perspective views mental illness as caused by unconscious and unresolved conflicts in the mind. As stated by Freud, these conflicts arise in early childhood and may cause mental illness by impeding the balanced development of the three systems that constitute the human psyche: the id, which comprises innate sexual and aggressive drives; the ego, the conscious portion of the mind that mediates between the unconscious and reality; and the superego, which controls the primitive impulses of the id and represents moral ideals. In this view, generalized anxiety disorder stems from a signal of unconscious danger whose source can only be identified through a thorough analysis of the person’s personality and life experiences. Modern psychodynamic theorists tend to emphasize sexuality less than Freud did and focus more on problems in the individual’s relationships with others.

Psychology the scientific study of behavior and the mind. This definition contains three elements. The first is that psychology is a scientific enterprise that obtains knowledge through systematic and objective methods of observation and experimentation. Second is that psychologists study behavior, which refers to any action or reaction that can be measured or observed—such as the blink of an eye, an increase in heart rate, or the unruly violence that often erupts in a mob. Third is that psychologists study the mind, which refers to both conscious and unconscious mental states. These states cannot actually be seen, only inferred from observable behavior.

Random selection Random selection is how you draw the sample of people for your study from a population

Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure. A test is considered reliable if we get the same result repeatedly. For example, if a test is designed to measure a trait (such as introversion), then each time the test is administered to a subject, the results should be approximately the same. Unfortunately, it is impossible to calculate reliability exactly, but there several different ways to estimate reliability.

Replication the process of repeating, duplicating, or reproducing something

Representative sample


Selection bias

Socio-cultural perspective

Survey method








Written by Joseph Eulo

May 28, 2008 at 5:30 am

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