PSYC 100 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Wilhelm Wundt, Western Philosophy, Natural Selection
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•Applied psychologists work as non-academics (clinical, government, advertising)
•Psychologists carry out or read and apply research about behaviour and mental processes
•Psychologists study mental processes and behaviour
•Psychology most closely related to Biology
Philosophical Roots of Psychology
•Psychology has roots in Western philosophy, which originated with the ancient Greeks.
•Greek philosopher questions “Do people have free will?”, “Are people good or evil?”
•Rationalism – Pursuit of truth through reason and logic.
•Plato’s work had talks between Socrates + students: “Do our perceptions equal reality?”
•Through logic, Socrates found that our perceptions are not always the same as reality
•Empiricism: Observe phenomenon, collect data, interpret it, come to conclusions; belief
that people can describe world through rules made by observation, quantification, and
principle of parsimony
•Empiricism most likely to reject idea that mental events are appropriate subject for psych
•Rationalism is to logic, as empiricism is to observation
•Psychophysicists measure relationship between changes in magnitude of physical energy
in a stimulus (e.g., light intensity) and our sensation of the changes in stimulus magnitude
(e.g., how we perceive its brightness). Groceries made heavier as you walk to car
•Helmholtz and Fechner contributed to beginning of psychophysics
•Founding fathers of psychology: Wilhelm Wundt and William James
•Wundt and followers focused on smaller elements that make up human experience
•James and fellows focused on advantages resulting from different human attributes
•Wundt, von Helmholtz, Fechner now considered structuralists, emphasize elemental
constituents of experience
•Structuralism is to elements of consciousness; functionalism is to purpose of
•Took lead from physics and chemistry, attempted to understand perception by dissecting
it into its component sensations, then cataloguing and exploring them.
•Introspection was one tool, but importance of introspection often overemphasized.
•Hallmark of structuralist view is analysis –if we can break things down into simpler parts
and understand these, then we can understand the whole.
•William James: medical doctor, philosopher, physiologist; studied aspects of psychology
•In 1890, his classic textbook The Principles of Psychology was published.
•Tip-of-tongue phenomenon-word on tip of tongue named by James
•Natural selection most important for studying functions of behaviour
•Functionalism emphasizes not the elemental structure of processes, but their purpose
•For example, take the perception of an apple. Structuralists would focus on the elemental
components of the perception – they would say that you didn’t perceive AN APPLE –
you perceived redness, and roundness, sweetness, and crunchiness.
•In contrast, a functionalist might think about why we perceive apples.
•Structuralism and functionalism different; focus on different aspects of a phenomenon
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