PSYA01H3 Lecture Notes - Roshan Singh, School Psychology, Clinical Psychology
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Chapter 1 Notes
Psychology – The scientific study of the causes of behaviour; also, the application of the findings of
psychological research to the solution of problems. It comes from 2 Greek words, psukhe meaning breath
or soul and logos meaning word or reason. The modern meaning of psychology is the science of the mind.
This can be misleading as by definition it is the study of behaviour and not literally the mind. The reason
behind this is that in the development of psychology people perceived the mind as an independent, free-
floating spirit and later on they described it as a characteristic of a functioning brain whose ultimate
function was to control behaviour and thus the shift of focus. Since the brain accommodates both the
mind and behaviour it was soon incorporated as the study of the brain.
The ultimate goal of research in psychology is to understand human behaviour i.e. to explain why people
do what they do.
How do psychologists provide an explanation of behaviour?
First we describe it, then we categorize and measure behaviour in order to maintain the different
approaches of different psychologists, after that we must discover the causes of the behaviour we
observe and if we are able to discover them then we have explained it. The use of such different
levels of explanation is one reason why psychology is such a diverse discipline.
Causal event – An event that causes another event to occur.
What is the purpose of psychological research?
One answer could be curiosity but the main reason as to why psychologists conduct researches is
due to the fact that it holds the promise of showing how we could solve our most important and
pressing problems. Problems around the world today such as hunger, poverty, crime and many
others are all caused by human behaviour and if we are able to change people’s behaviour then
their living conditions could be improved drastically
Research psychologists differ from one another in 2 principal ways:
Types of behaviour they investigate
Causal events they analyze
Physiological psychology – The branch of psychology that studies the physiological basis of behaviour.
An organism’s physiology, especially its nervous system is considered to be the appropriate level of
explanation. They study almost all behavioural phenomena in non-human animals such as learning,
memory, sensory processes, emotional behaviour, motivation, sexual behaviour and sleep. It is considered
to be a model that can help us discover the causal events in human behaviour.
Comparative psychology – The branch of psychology that studies the behaviours of a variety of
organisms in an attempt to understand the adaptive and functional significance of the behaviours and their
relation to evolution.
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Chapter 1 Notes
They are likely to study inherited behavioural patterns such as courting and mating, predation and
aggression, defensive behaviours and parental behaviours.
Behaviour analysis – The branch of psychology that studies the effect of the environment on behaviour –
primarily, the effects of the consequences of behaviours on the behaviours themselves.
They are primarily interested in learning and motivation. They believe that an important cause of a
specific behaviour is the relationship between the behaviour and some consequent event i.e. good events
are tend to be repeated and bad events are usually not repeated. Their findings are done in labs and are
applied to teaching, business management, and psychotherapy.
Behaviour genetics – The branch of psychology that studies the role of genetics in behaviour.
They study the role of genetics in behaviour by examining similarities in physical and behavioural
characteristics of blood relatives. Also perform breeding experiments in order to see what aspects of
behaviour can be transmitted to an animal’s offspring.
Cognitive psychology – The branch of psychology that studies complex behaviours and mental processes
such as perception, attention, learning and memory, verbal behaviour, concept formation, and problem
The events that cause behaviour consist of functions of the human brain that occur in response to
The following are related to the field of research psychology:
Cognitive neuroscience – The branch of psychology that attempts to understand cognitive psychological
functions by studying the brain mechanisms that are responsible for them.
Development psychology – The branch of psychology that studies the changes in behavioural, perceptual,
and cognitive capacities of organisms as a function of age and experience.
They study the phenomena of adolescence or adulthood, particularly the effects of aging.
Social psychology – The branch of psychology devoted to the study of the effects people have on each
They study the phenomena of perception, cause and effect relations in human interactions, attitudes and
opinions, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics and emotional behaviours, including sex and
Personality psychology – The branch of psychology that attempts to categorize and understand the
causes of individual differences in patterns of behaviour.
They look for causal events in a person’s history, both genetic and environmental.
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