PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Erasmus Darwin, Wilhelm Wundt, Marine Iguana

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Published on 30 Nov 2011
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Alexandra Zylka
January 18th, 2011
PSY100- Lecture 2
History of Psychology
- The science of psychology has come a very long way over the past 1000
oEx. Most of human history, debate raged as to where consciousness
resided…the heart, the brain, the mind, the spirits?
- Science has always been contextualized in a larger set of
societal/historical./political/ideological/economic processes
oEx. Theological/religious barriers impeded the progress of physiological
sciences( and therefore psychology)
Direct study of human body was forbidden
Doctrines regarding human exemptionalism (therefore,
impossible to learn about human biology through animal
The Rise of Mechanism
- Descartes : 1600s
oAn extremely, intense, unbalanced driven personality.
oProposed a systematic account of the body as a machine; physiological
processes described in terms of mechanistic interactions controlled by
hydraulics (fluids) and mechanics (levers) slide
- Mind-Body Dualism
oHowever what set humans apart from animals was the MIND, which
was a non-physical but able (somehow….) to interact with the body.
oSet the mind apart from the body (Descartes)
oHow do you get the material realm to contact the immaterial realm?
oThis splitting of the mind and body still plagues us. We either have to
accept the body (brain) is the mind, in which case humans are just
(soulless) animals. Ex, bio-gunk, or we have to figure out how it is that
a more-than-physical mind could exist, what is substrate is, and how it
could interact with the physical body.
oHow does the soul communicate with the body?
- Much of the rest of the history of psychology can be described as a struggle
to answer questions that emerge from this dualism.
oEx. Is the Mind simply, a complicated. But deterministic machine or do
we have free will? Can we do anything creative, or are we merely
stimulus-response machines?
oWe want to believe that we have this inner-spark.
oHow can we study the mind scientifically? How does it work? What are
the connections between mind and body? Can we learn to control the
mind and use it more effectively?
- How to Study an Immaterial Mind?
oThe turning point that lead to a scientific study of mind really came
from studies of physiology, using reaction times to measure nerve
conductions (Helmholtz,1800s)
oPeople started realizing you can study nervous system process via
objective measure such as time.
oIf consciousness is an extension of the nervous system, maybe we can
study consciousness?
- Wilhelm Wundt
oPhysiologist, extremely curious and careful experimentalist, thinkers,
driven, lock on to a problem to figure it out, didn’t live a normal life.
oWondered whether two stimuli that struck sense at same time would
be perceived at the same moment (see and hear clapping hands – how
does that work? Can I simultaneously experience this at the same
moment at the same time?)
oNoticed that the pendulum was on its way down when Wundt heard
the bell.
oCame to the conclusion that the pendulum is not in contact when he
heard the bell
Where, when, period of pendulum etc.
oCarefully calculated the distance traveled by the pendulum and the
time as 1/10th of a second
oReasoned that it took humans 1/10th of a second to reorient their
attention. Therefore…
- Mental processes can be studied scientifically!
- Darwin
oPossibly the biggest influence on subsequent psychology was Darwin’s
theory of evolution
oMentally productive
oBuilt on previous ideas of evolution (vs. creationism theories): Erasmus
Darwin; Lamarck.
oInterestingly, Darwin’s ideas were influenced by the geological debate
on “uniformitalirms” slide
oIncredibly curious and observant (Darwin)
oOn Beagle voyage, collected countless speciments, many from species
never before know, and he generated a small library of his own
notebook observations.
oWondered, why do animals do the things they do? What was the
function of their behaviours?
oEx. A marine iguana “ I threw one several times as far as I could deep
pool left by the retiring tide, but it invariably returned in a direct line to
the spot where I stood…as often as I threw it in, it returned.
oPerhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidly may be accounted by
the circumstance, that this reptile has no natural enemy on shore,
whereas at sea it must often fall prey to numerous sharks etc.
oHence probably urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore
is its place of safety, whatever the emergency may be, it there takes
- The Geological Debate of the Times
oCatastrophism – reigning theory of the day, consistent with the Church
dogma (ex. Age of the Earth, the flood, etc); argued that geological
formations were the result of major catastrophies
oUniformitarianism – Lyell: argued that geological formations were the
result of gradual changes over an extremely long time
- Thomas Malthus
oEssay on population, described that species would, in struggle for
survival against environment, make maximal use of flood sources.
Without sufficient predation or disease populations would boom,
outstrip food supply, and collapse (which is generally true!)
- Functionalism
oWilliam James
Influenced by the things going on around him, Darwinian
Studied medicine, and then went through major emotional crisis
RE: determinism vs. free will. (existential crisis – distress)
Gets to a point where he feels like he can’t function as a
His resolution was to decide, by an act of faith, that there
is free will.
To be a scientist, he would approach the human as
though it were deterministic.
But to be human, he would assume that he had free will.
Coupled with emerging Darwinian thought, James’ pragmatism
firmly cemented the functionalist approach in psychology
Described thinking as a dynamic relationship between the
organism and the environment, focused on problems of
James wrote the Principles of Psychology, a huge 1400+ tome
that took 12 years and outlined all that was known about
psychology at the time
Argued that psychology should be a practical science. slide
Habit: recognized that we construct ourselves through our
actions, thoughts, and choices, how we behave and what we do.
Most of our present is determined by our past choices, and so, if
you want to be happier, more courageous, more disciplined,
more socially skilled, more knowledgeable about psychology, a
better love, funnier….PRACTICE.
Fixed mind-set messages ( I am not good a math…)
- This is the foundation upon which we are still building today:
oFunctionalism : adaptation of organism to environment
oConsciousness as a mixture of deterministic processes, and free will
(altho we still don’t know how free will is possible) slide
- The 20th century
oPsychology begins to fracture into many different paradigms and
schools of thought each battling it out for supremacy.
Ex. Beha
Beviourism (Watson, Skinner, Pavlov) gestalt, psychodynamic
theories (Freud, Jung, neo-Freudians),
Cognitive revolution – 1960s-1970s
Biological revolutions – 1980s –now
Neuroscience – 1990s – now. (see the brain working as it works)
- Adopting a Scientific Perspective on People