Levels of Analysis
What is Psychology?
Is really all about you.
Teaches us how we think, feel, develop, learn, love, interact, and grow.
Teaches us about who we are.
Has a long past, but a short history.
A Brief History of Psychology
Aristotle and Plato
Contemplated psychological questions.
“How do we learn and remember?”
“Where does knowledge come from?”
Later philosophers would soon find the answers.
Suggested that the mind and body were distinct entities that were casually
linked in a dualistic relationship.
The mind controlled the movements of the mechanical body; the mind in
turn received information about the outside world through the sense organs.
This dualistic view became influential to the work of physiologists.
Innovations in technology helped to make the 1800s a particularly exciting
period for physiologists who had new tools to explore and make significant
discoveries about the brain.
Muller proposed that like an electric current flowing along a metal
conductor, the messages transmitted by nerves were coded as electrical
impulses that travelled along different channels. He also proposed that
different areas of the brain serve different functions.
Flourens systematically destroyed parts of an animal brain to study the
function of different regions (which brain region controls heart rate,
breathing, visual reflexes, etc.)
Helmholtz measured speed of nerve impulse.
Psychology as an Independent Field
1879- German scientist Wilhelm Wundt opened the first lab to the study of
He believed that conscious experience could be studied using the same
experimental tools chemists and physicists use. By 1881, Wundt launched the first scientific journal devoted to publishing
One of Wundt’s students, G. Stanley Hall would go on to open the first
psychology lab in North America at John Hopkins University in 1883.
Introduction To Levels of Analysis
Psychological Level of Analysis
May be the most intuitive level to approach an understanding of human
thought and behaviour.
Concerns itself with the role of what lies within a subject’s mind.
How do thoughts, memories, and emotions motivate our actions?
Biological Level of Analysis
Psychologists focus on the physiological mechanisms that underlie thoughts
May include structure and function of the brain, the molecular effects of
neurotransmitters and hormones, and how genetic factors contribute to
Ex. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter in mood disorders.
Environmental Level of Analysis
Concerned with understanding how social, cultural, and learning interactions
can influence thought and behaviour.
Working to change external influences to bring about positive behaviour.
Introduction to Perspectives in Psychology
From a broad view, psychologists may choose from psychological, biological,
and environmental analyses to help frame the research questions that will be
Some commonly used perspectives include: behavioural, evolutionary,
cognitive, neuroscience, developmental, and socio-cultural.
John B. Watson- father of behaviouralism.
According to this perspective, overt behaviour is the only valid means of
measure in psychology.
Treat the mind as a “black box”.
Whatever happens inside the “black box” is outside the domain of science.
Watson believed in the role of “nurture” over “nature” in influencing human
His quote said to give him a dozen healthy babies and he will turn them into
whatever specialist he wants- doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. He made the statement to be purposely provocative in making the case for
the important role of environmental influences on behaviour.
This strong “nurture” view was later carried on by B.F. Skinner who argued
that everything we want to know about an organism could be gained by
studying its behaviour.
An organism will repeat a behaviour if it leads to something pleasant, and not
repeat a behaviour if it leads to something unpleasant.
These ideas formed the core of a therapy called behaviour modification,
which is widely