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Lecture

PSYC39H3 Lecture Notes - Psychopharmacology, Unification Church, John Wiley & Sons


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC39H3
Professor
Naussembaum

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Psychology and Law Lecture Notes
Lecture 1 Introduction to Psychology as a Science
Why Psychology is Not a Natural Science: Implications for Forensic Psychology
There are four requirements of a science:
1. Natural Law Requirement candidate science studies phenomena reflecting natural order in
the universe
2. Reductionistic Language Requirement candidate science has reductionistic language for
defining and ultimately explaining phenomena
3. Inter-Science Consistency Requirement candidate science meshes linguistically with those
levels of science immediately above and below
4. Empirical Test Requirement candidate science uses sound empirical methodology to
validate/invalidate its theories thereby refining knowledge
Going into more detail and to illustrate these four requirements:
Natural Law Requirement
Say you have a study where you wanted to look at the demographics in the typical
distribution of automobile types and years in a particular area
The method used is to look at the distribution of the cars that pass through a
intersection between 2-3pm and compile a list
The question is whether this is considered a “scientific study”?
The answer is no because there is no law of nature dictating the owner of the relative
car that drives through that intersection at that time
Reductionistic Language Requirement
Reductionism is an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing
them to the interactions of their parts and these complex things can be described in a
language with a limited number of core concepts, and combinations of those concepts
For example: the concept of motion brought out by Newton can be described with this
reductionistic language
Given the equation F = M x A to describe law of motion, we can explain it by saying
“Acceleration is defined as ^Speed/^Time, Speed is defined as ^Distance/^Time,
Distance and Time are fundamental and measurable in Newtonian world”
So you can see that high order constructs in motion (complex thing) are defined
in terms of precise relationships between lower order constructs (interactions of
their parts)
This is an example of reductionistic language describing phenomena by
defining the interactions between the parts
Inter-Science Consistency Requirement
You should see an overlap with other areas of science (such as biology, chemistry, and
physics) and show no contradictions or violations in the ideas suggested by these other
areas
Empirical Test Requirement
Uses research literatures from all sciences in order to validate or invalidate theories
Does Psychology Satisfy These Criteria for a Science?
Although many areas of psychology empirically study behaviors, they don’t really examine the
underlying processing of such behaviors. These studies are descriptive but the descriptions are not
amenable to evaluating at more fundamental levels and consequently do not meet criteria for
science.
Fundamental Problem with Psychology’s Current Status as a Science
There are a number of unfortunate consequences of Watson’s definition of behavior as being
externally observed actions of the organism:
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1. Linguistically severed psychology from neurobiology which is its natural conduit into
science
2. Introduces “circularity” problem (example confusing abstract description with
“explanation” for behavior)
3. Rendered “reductionism” as an evil to be avoided as opposed to a necessary tool in
understanding
4. Obscured the distinction between reductionistic explanation and the prediction process that
requires taking into account interacting phenomena at succeedingly higher levels
5. Turned psychology into a patchwork of unrelated descriptive domains each with its
“provincial” terms narrowly applicable only to immediate phenomena under study
6. Reductionism is misunderstood and has become a “straw man” (type of argument and s an
informal fallacy based on misrepresentations of an opponent’s position)
7. Watson’s definition necessitated the “unification” movement that’s illustrated by Staats
who attempted to resolve incongruities among behaviorism, language, and personality
psychology
Proposed Solution: A Re-Definition of Behavior
Behavior is better defined as Expressed Information
Information is represented (stored) and processed in and between neurons and perhaps other
central nervous system cells
Neuronal networks are segregated anatomically and physiologically affording specialized
and optimal processing of distinct types of information
What does “expressed information” signify?
The CNS stores a very large array of information in its various networks and cells
If activated at once, behavior would be grossly chaotic
Major organizer of behavior is inhibition of irrelevant information
Thus, behavior is the activity resulting from the disinhibited subset of the total information
stored in the CNS expressed information
So how is the explanation of expressed information better in defining behavior and how does it
solve the unfortunate consequences of Watson’s definition? There are five implications:
1. Theory psychology, the study of behavior, could then be connected logically and
linguistically with neurobiology rather than simple by “correlations”
Structure of psychological knowledge by processing systems:
Sensory/perception cognitive/motivational/emotional motor
Information content can be:
External (physical inanimate such as vision or auditory)
Intrapersonal (mood, pain)
Intrapersonal (personality as set of characteristic cognitive, motivational, and
emotional tendencies/biases)
Motor sequences
2. Research the goal of research is to understand:
I. Internal operations of the discrete systems
II. Interactions between the discrete systems
III. How environments, physical or social, activate and inhibit different systems to
process necessary informational subjects within networks
IV. Identify individual differences from anatomy to transmitter, receptor subtype and
controlling epigenetic and genetic substrates
3. Training and Education
Psychologists should be better and more broadly trained in behavioral neuroscience
Psychopharmacology and behavioral genetics should become part of core curriculum
Researcher training should include survey levels of ALL structural and functional
imaging and specialization with at least one functional imaging modality
4. Application
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