‘Welcome to PYB100’
Lecture 1 – Week 1
PYB100 – Foundation Psychology
Psychology is a Science and a Profession
While at uni, you are actually studying the science of psychology. This knowledge is the key
to effectively succeeding in psychology as a profession, where you may be studying and
working as a psychologist specifically. However, the skills learnt across the duration of your
degree, such as an understanding of behaviour and ability to research effectively, may also
be just as useful in a range of other professions.
Psychology as a Scientific Discipline
Studies human behaviour and the mental processes that underlie it (i.e. thinking,
remembering, & feeling). Psychology is an Empirical discipline – that is, it is derived from
experiences, systematic observations, and experiments. Psychology is based on factual
evidences, rather than speculations.
Psychology as a Profession
In a professional context, psychology applies the skills learnt through studying as a
discipline, and in doing so, is able to solve a wide range of problems and provide a service to
those in need. In addition to helping others, psychology as a profession often involves
research participation and encompasses a multitude of different research methods to
obtain statistics etc. and help further the understanding and development of psychology as
we know it.
So, what is Psychology?
Psyche: soul, spirit, or mind
Logos: the study of
Psychology has early roots in philosophy, therefore has elements of philosophy such as
empiricism, rationalism, and materialism.
Empiricism: As stated earlier, it is the knowledge that is derived through careful observation
- inductive reasoning. In inductive reasoning, the premise may not necessarily guarantee the
truth of the conclusion; however, it is thought to provide reasonable evidence to support its
probable truth. In other words, if the author of the argument believes that the truth of the
premise does not necessarily mean the truth of the conclusion, however it probably
provides a good reason to believe that it is true, then it is still inductive reasoning.
e.g. ‘It has stormed in Brisbane every summer in recorded history, therefore it will storm in
Brisbane this summer.’
Here, it is assumed that because it has stormed every other summer, it will do so again.
While this may not be true, there is still strong evidence to support that it will. Therefore,
this is an example of inductive reasoning. Rationalism: Knowledge derived through logic and careful reasoning – deductive reasoning.
In deductive reasoning, it is assumed that the premise will provide a guarantee of the
conclusion, provided it is correct. In other words, the premise supports the conclusion so
strongly that, if it is true, there is no possible way the conclusion can be wrong.
e.g. ‘All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.’
Theory: All men are mortal.
Observation: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.
Here, provided that all men are, in fact, mortal, there is no possible way Socrates (being a
man) could not be. This is a strong deductive argument. A weak argument may be one in
which a false premise is used, and therefore can be disproved. However, even this is still a
deductive argument because it is not based on the validity of the premise, but rather the
relationship between the premise and the conclusion.
Materialism: The belief that the mind is made up of matter and that human behaviour can
actually be explained in physical terms.
Philosophical Issues of Psychology
Free Will vs. Determinism: the argument of whether we are all born with the capacity of
free will, in which we are all subject to making our own decisions freely, or whether our
decision-making is the result of predetermined factors, such as biology, religious/divine
interference, social conditioning etc.
Nature vs. Nurture: the argument of whether our individual traits and human qualities are
a result of biology (nature) or individual environmental circumstances, and the way in which
we are raised etc. (nurture). It is most commonly asserted that we are, in fact, a complicated
interaction that has resulted from a mixture of both factors.
Rationalism vs. Empiricism: As described earlier, the differences between inductive and
deductive reasoning, and the ideas of thinking critically and with pure logic, as opposed to
experimentation and observation. In a psychological context, both methods of reasoning are
applied to behavioural situations and theories.
Continuity vs. Discontinuity: In relation to studying humans and making comparisons
between us and members of other species. The idea that comparisons can be made, and the
arguments between what extent we share behavioural similarities and differences with
Individualism vs. Relationality: based on the fact that Westernised cultures have a far
stronger sense of ‘individualism’ as opposed to other cultures, which may invest more
importance in ideals of relations and a sense of unity. Thus, it is important to see
perspectives in a cross-cultural sense. Conscious vs. Unconscious: to what extent are our thoughts and behaviours conscious and
unconscious, and what significance do each play in a psychological context.
Mental vs. Physical: what is the relationship between the way we think (our brain processes
etc.) and our physical behaviour.
Major Trends in the Development of Psychology
Early schools of thought 1950s ~
Functionalism Cognitive revolution
Early 1900s ~
Psychoanalytic 1980s ~
Wilhelm Wundt – father of psychology, first founder of psychology lab. During this time, chemistry was an
emerging scientific phenomenon, and as a result, Wundt attempted to make connections between the
mental and psychological processes and chemistry.
He looked for the elemental ‘building blocks’ of conscious experience, much in the way we understand that
water is made of hydrogen and oxygen etc. Wundt also attempted to train himself to use introspection –
looking at one’s own thoughts. However this was a faulty effort, as it is simply too difficult to monitor one’s
thoughts at all times.
William James – leading figure in the functionalist approach. Functionalism holds its roots in Charles
Darwin’s theory of evolution. Functionalists believed that in order for psychology to be a science, one must
study and observe things that are able to be observed. Therefore, they rejected the use of introspection, as
it simply was not an effective way of monitoring thought processes.
Rather than focussing on the reasoning behind our thoughts, functionalists explored the ‘functions’ of our
behaviour. From an evolutionist perspective, they studied the way in which we altered our behaviour over
time to best suit our needs as a species and ensure survival.