Chapter 1: Psychology: Yesterday & Today (09/06/2013)
What is Psychology?
-Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes & behaviour. The four goal of
1. Description=describe what’s going on, eg. observing kids & expose them to an
unusual situation and describe how they react
2. Explanation=explaining the WHY, eg. why people and animals behave the way
they do, why am I tired today?
3. Prediction=psychologists are interested about the future, they carry out
prediction studies to determine what drives people to do what they do; they
elucidate explanatory factors. Eg. why students go to one class but not the other,
maybe this is because of the number of tests or the interest level.
4. Control=not meant to be harmful, eg. UofT students are more unhappy than
Ryerson students, researchers can use control like maybe changing the
circumstances that make the students unhappy.
-When studying why a certain behaviour/mental process occurs, one can study the
influences of the 3 levels of analysis:
1. The brain=refers to neural activity; influences our feelings, eg. alcohol changes
our physiology by activating a “feel-good” neurotransmitter & this can temporarily
change brain activity.
2. The person=refers to the content of mental processes such as emotions, ideas
& thoughts; one’s belief system or everything about the person that’s subjective.
3. The group=the influence of being around people, eg. friends, family, culture;
how we display ourselves in a group setting. Eg. you ask individuals in a group
setting about their opinions about a certain topic & they tend to conform to the
common opinion instead of their original one & answers from each person are
more likely to be the same.
*All levels interact. Psychology is more about empirical data vs. morality.
Level What Is Analyzed Example: Using Social Media
The brain How brain structure and What are the patterns of brain
brain cell activity differ from activation as people interact with
person to person and “friends” online?
situation to situation
The How the content of the Are there personality factors that
person individual’s mental influence how much people use
processes form and different types of social media?
influence behaviour Can online social support or crisis
resources improve people’s
decision making and quality of life?
The How behaviour is shaped What features of social networking
group by the social and cultural sites, such as relative anonymity,
environments ease of access, and lack of face-
to-face contact, increase or
decrease users’ feelings of
belonging and connectedness?
Psychology’s Roots in Philosophy
-Many myths & ceremonies developed as a way to describe, explain, predict & control
our reality. Psychology defines itself through observable, rigorous & empirical data.
Philosophy is the study of knowledge & reality. Philosophers posed questions and discussed proposed solutions. Early debates in philosophy were important in the
formation of psychology:
-Plato argued we were born the way we were
-Aristotle argued the world made us who we are; we are shaped by our
-Hippocrates (actually a physician) used direct observation to test his theory of
medicine & developed one of the 1 psychological theories which is that
“Physical & psychological health are influence by the 4 humors” w/in us and their
balance in our bodies determine what a person is like.
~excess of black biledepression
~excess of bloodjoyous temperament, musical, passionate
~excess of yellow bileanger & irritability
~excess of phlegma bore, uninterested & disengaged w/ the world
*phleghmatic means slowed down/sluggish & this term came from Hippocrates.
The Early Days of Psychology
-Wilhelm Wundt: founder of psychology; he was the 1 to establish a psychology lab in
1879. He studied about consciousness by looking at where people direct their attention.
We have a finite amt of attention resources & Wundt studied how we volunteer that
attention in what is called voluntarism. Wundt asks the question, how come we volunteer
our attention in one direction & somehow tune out other attentions.
-Structuralism: Wundt got his students interested in psychology particularly Edward
Titchener who is the one that founded structuralism. He was interested in the basic
building blocks of consciousness. Structuralism is an attempt to indentify all of the
elements of consciousness; introduced us to introspection which means looking w/in
yourself to indentify conscious elements. The goal was to describe observable mental
processes rather than to explain, predict, control. Titchener brings people to his lab,
subject them to a stimulus & then ask them to vocalize what they were experiencing. His
model didn’t work very well b/c people would report different things, he couldn’t find a
common structure of human consciousness so eventually he gave up on his
structuralism movement. To this date, structuralism is the only school of psychology that
no longer exists.
-Functionalism: emerged first in the US; founded by William James. He set up the first
psychology lab in US at Harvard U as well as wrote one of the 1 psychology textbooks,
Principles of Psychology, published in 1980. James got us to think about the WHY.
Functionalism is the belief that mental processes were fluid (“stream of consciousness”)
& have a purpose; emphasizes the functions of the mind in adapting to a changing
environment. Their research includes animals & people w/ mental disorders.
-Psychoanalysis: The belief that people’s behaviours are based on their unconscious
desires & conflict. Emerged in Vienna, founded by Sigmund Freud at the same time
when Functionalism emerged in the US. Freud argued that we should study more about
the unconscious vs the conscious. The human mind is like an iceberg, the conscious
material is at the tip & everything we want to know about is submerged in deep waters &
needs to be explored. How would Sigmund Freud access our unconscious if the person
him/herself can’t access their own unconscious? Well, he developed a form of therapy
that aimed to resolve unconscious conflicts particularly dream analysis &
hypnosis/psychoanalysis. He made major contributions to psychology but also had
unpleasant viewpoints that are in no way scientific, eg. women by defin