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INTRO NOTE Lecture 1

Course Code
Michael Inzlicht

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January 11, 2010:
Why study Psychology?
-Because you are interested in people, and psychology is supposed to be about
makes people tick.
-Because you want to help people
-you heard it was interesting
-or because you want to know how best to raise kids
-or because you want to know if self-esteem really matters
-or because you want to learn how to stop losing your keys all the time
-or because you want to deal with stress better
-or because you want to more effectively reach your goals
Psychology provides important insights into people, and is used in:
-counseling, teaching, research, selling cars, consulting, management, activism,
and of course: manipulating friends and loved ones.
Office: SS#4045 (across from 4th floor elevators)
Office hours: Wednesday 2-3
TAS office: SS#4042- PSY 100 Instruction Centre
Fundamental Insights of Psych:
-There are lessons that a century (+) of psychology research has taught us, and
they can deeply change the way you understand yourself, other people, and the
world around you.
Fundamental Insight #1:
Reality is a story told to us by our brains
Our brains are artists not mirrors.
-Our experiences do not reflect reality itself, but rather a construction or
representation of reality.
1)This construction process involves a lot of guesswork- filling in the gaps.
2)This subjective representation occurs within the brain.
We only have access to a limited subset of Reality:
-The limitations of our sensory- perceptual system are due to:
-the sensitivity of our sensory mechanisms
-our attentional capacity
Perception- drives behavior
Perception is a process of creative story telling and inference making. we have to
fill in a lot of gaps.
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-This is highly functional most of the time, allowing our brains to function super-
efficiently, with a small cost of accuracy.
-Much more profoundly though, this means that we are not directly interacting
with reality, but rather, we are creating a fiction about reality and interacting with
this fiction. and we hope its a pretty close match.
But how does the Mind perceive Reality?
-Perception is a process of PATTERN-MATCHING
-Our brains look for a correspondence between patterns that have been stored in
it though our past experiences, and the patterns of sensory stimuli it is currently
The brain uses it pre-existing patterns (i.e. knowledge) to decode incoming
sensory signals.
Thus what the brain has learned to see in the past, is largely what it sees in the
-What it cannot decode, it either guesses about (if it has some reasonable info) or
ignores entirely, or just sees what it wants/likes to see.
Fundamental Insight #1:
Reality is a story, told to us by our brains
We do not live in the real world, but in a constructed representation.
This construction process involves interpreting patterns of sensory information
with pre-existing patterns stored in the brain.
We regularly make errors in this construction process, and there are systematic
ways in which we do so. By understanding this, we can improve!
Fundamental Insight #2:
We have limited capacity to process information.
Therefore, we take shortcuts:
-We rely upon “heuristics” or rules of thumb, when engaging in reasoning and
decision making.
-Stereotypes: our beliefs about different social groups
e.g. Torontonians are uptight, judgemental, materialists who think they are the
centre of the universe and who care little about the rich diversity of perspectives
across Canada; VS.
Torontonians are a creative, open-minded, remarkably peaceful, and caring
tapestry of people who reflect the rich cultural diversity of the world, and who
provide a shining example of how this globalized world.
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