Psychology Web Module Notes
Introduction/ Levels of Analysis
Psychology teaches us how we think, feel, develop, learn, love, interact and grow; psychology
teaches us about who we are.
Experimental psychology uses the scientific method to collect, evaluate and interpret
information to draw sound conclusions.
Rene Descartes 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.
Levels of Analysis
The modern approach to different questions of psychology draws on expertise from many
converging fields including: physical, biological, chemical, social, mathematical and computer
A problem can be approached from a number of perspectives that take into account one or
more of three basic levels of analyses- Psychological, Biological and Environmental.
The Psychological Level of Analysis
May be the most intuitive level to approach an understanding of human thought and behaviour
This level concerns itself with the role of what lies within a subjects mind: how do thoughts,
memories and emotions motivate our actions?
The Biological Level of Analysis
Psychologists focus on the psychological mechanisms that underlie thoughts and behaviour.
This may include the structure and function of the brain, the molecular effects of
neurotransmitters and hormones, and how genetic factors contribute to behaviour.
Study the role of key neurotransmitters, genetic factors, etc.
The Environmental Level of Analysis
Concerned with understanding how social, cultural and learning interactions can influence
thought and behaviour.
Study the conditions that trigger and maintain certain states of mind or feelings (such as
Working to change some external influences may bring about positive changes.
Perspectives use Multiple Levels of Analysis
From a broad view, a psychologist can choose from psychological, biological and environmental
levels of analyses to help frame the research questions that will be explored.
Involves more than one of the levels of analyses
Some commonly used perspectives include: Behavioural, Cognitive, Neuroscience,
Developmental, Evolutionary and Socio-cultural.
The Biological Perspective
The “Black Box”
The father of Behaviourism, Watson believed that behaviour is the only valid means of measure
in psychology. Watson argued that scientists should consider the mind to be an off limits “black box” that takes
input and makes output.
What actually happens inside the “black box” should be considered to be outside the domain of
science (at least for the present).
Researchers adopting a behavioural perspective focus on designing carefully controlled
experiments to understand the influence of the environmental level of analysis on behaviour.
Watson strongly believed in the role of “nurture” over “nature” in influencing human behaviour
as he famously argued in 1924: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed and my own
special world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one type of specialist I might
select and regardless of talents, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.”
This strong “nurture” view was later carried on by him who conceded that although internal
mental events must surely exist, they remained impossible to measure in a scientific way.
General laws of stimulus-response could explain that an organism will repeat a behaviour if it
leads to somethin