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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Intro to Psych Science and Research Methodology - January 15.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Dan Dolderman

January 15, 2013. Lecture 2 - Introduction to Psychological Science and Research Methodology Basic Summary  Psychological research goes through an ethical process  Proposals are made and experiments are given permission for execution  Partly to protect subjects of the study from unethical treatment during research o Wasn’t always the case o E.g. CIA mind control research at McGill o E.g. Studies about how people behave in situations of peril  People participate in a study about survival out in some place doing some thing when they’re told that they’ve wandered into a military air strike testing zone and have minutes to live to see what they do  Also to protect anonymity History of Psychology  Philosophy has come a long way over the past few thousand years o Wasn’t always “psychology” but areas of psychological study and thought fell under the territory of medicine, or philosophy, or even religion o E.g. for most of human history there was a great debate about where the mind, or consciousness, resided (the heart? The brain? Spirits?, etc)  Evidence discovered created by ancient societies (like Egypt) indicate that they had a good understanding of the brain housing our consciousness, but apparently they still felt the soul was in the heart  20 century  Central Nervous System and Brain is where our consciousness is  Dualism in the field of psychology, split between social sciences (humanities) and natural/physical/hard sciences o Different agencies fund different sections of study within psychology  We believe that consciousness and human functioning is all about the brain, but also recognize that the brain does not act completely alone and is tied into other factors, whether within our body or outside of it  Science has always been contextualized in a larger set of societal/historical/political/ideological /economic processes…  All these factors change how people think and perceive and therefore the conclusions they come to o E.g. theological/religious barriers impeded the progress of physiological sciences (and therefore psychology)  Direct study of human body was often forbidden (no cadavers, was blasphemous)  Doctrines regarding human exemptionalism (therefore, impossible to learn about human functioning through animal studies)  Post “enlightenment”  the rise of the supposed rational, self-interested human; deep divide between cognition and emotion; emphasis on the individual as the unit of analysis o Rational mind and emotional mind were thought of as two separate systems/entities within humans o Only within the last 20 years has this divide started to break down o We now view them as interdependent systems  Post biological revolution and neuroscience  the re-merging of cognition and emotion; emphasis on interdependence between the individual and the group Human Psychology as Mechanistic Processes  Descartes: 1600s o An extremely intense, unbalanced, driven personality o Spent decades trying to overthrow the last few thousand years of philosophical theory o Proposed a systematic account of the body as a machine; physiological processes described in terms of mechanistic interactions, controlled by hydraulics (fluids) and mechanisms (levers)  Bête machine, Terminator, natural programming, animal spirits, that whole thang o Thus, human and animal bodies were complicated machines, consistent with the mechanistic zeitgeist of the time; e.g., water statues, clocks Mind-Body Dualism  However, what set human apart from animals was the MIND (animal spirits), which was non- physical but able (somehow) to interact with the body  This splitting of the mind and body still plagues us. We either have to accept that the body (brain) IS the mind, in which case humans are just (soulless) animals, i.e., bio-gunk; or we have to figure out how it is that a more-than-physical mind could exist, what its substrate is, and how it could interact with a physical body  Much of the rest of the history of psychology can be described as a struggle to answer questions that emerge from this dualism o 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? o How 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? o How does the brain give rise to the mind? How does “objective” biological matter produce subjective experience? How to Study an Immaterial Mind?  Turning point that led to the scientific study of mind really came from studies of physiology, using reaction times to measure nerve conduction. o Helmholtz, 1800s  People started realizing you can study nerve system realities using something such as time Wilhelm Wundt  Physiologist; extremely curious and careful experimentalist, weird guy  Wondered whether two stimuli that struck senses at same time would be PERCEIVED at the same moment  Noticed that the pendulum was on its way down when Wundt heard the bell  Observed the pendulum for ages and…. th  Carefully calculated the distance thavelled by the pendulum, and the time as 1/10 of a second  Reasoned that it took humans 1/10 of a second to reorient their attention  Therefore: mental processes can be studied scientifically! Darwin  Possibly biggest influence on the subsequent psychology was Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection  Built on previous ideas of evolution (vs. creationism theories): Erasmus Darwin (his grandfather; theological views on evolution displayed through poetry); Lamarck (organisms changing their characteristics themselves over time and passing them on to offspring)  Interestingly, Darwin’s ideas were influenced by the geological debate on “uniformitarianism” vs. “catastrophism” o Catholic Church believed the world was only 6500 years old, and therefore it was made the way it was (with canyons and mountains and such). OR if there was evidence of some kind of change they surmised it must have been some kind of huge catastrophe to make that huge of a change in such a short time: catastrophism o Uniformitarianism: gradual change  Malthus: population boom/bust cycle in relation to species; without barriers of conflict or predators, populations will boom until resources restrict population growth and population plummets  Darwin was incredibly curious and observant (like Descartes and Wilhelm Wundt)  On Beagle voyage, collected countless specimens, many from species never before known, and he generated a small library of his own notebook observations.  He didn’t JUST study the finches, he studied EVERYTHING  Wondered, why do animals do the things they do? What was the function of their behaviours? o E.g. a marine Iguana: “I threw one several times as far as I could into a deep pol 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.” o “Perhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance, that this reptile has no [natural] enemy here on the shore….” o “Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever the emergency may be, it there takes refuge.” Functionalism  William James hugely influenced by Darwin, came from the profession and study of medicine o Struggled with similar questions as Decartes; major emotional crisis o I.e. determinism vs. free will o His resolution was to decide, essentially by an act of faith, that there was free will. o “My first act of free will, shall be to believe in free will.”  Acceptance of humans as just emotional automatons threatens our perceptions of the soul, free will, meaning in life, etc.  To be a scientist, he would approach the human as though it were deterministic.  But to be a human, he would assume that he had free will.  A very functional decision to make; breaking out of this emotional crisis and phase of depression  Allied with emerging Darwinian thought, James firmly cemented the functionalist approach in psychology.  Described thinking as a dynamic relationship between organism and environment, focused on problems of adaptation  Functions for every behaviour pattern o E.g. anger issues have functions, cutting behaviour has functions it serves, etc.  What functions are behaviours serving that maintain the behaviour and what functions did it serve in the past to give rise to the behaviour o Why do we think the way we do? Thought patterns have arisen/evolved during our lifetime in response to outside (and inside) influence. We adapt to our surroundings, even on a mental level.  James argued that psychology should be a PRACTICAL science, focused on improving human welfare, happiness, education, etc.  Emphasized the dynamism of psychological processes; we are a process of continual mind-world interaction o E.g. habit: we CONSTRUCT ourselves through our actions, thoughts, choices, etc…  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 blah blah, etc. – PRACTICE o Change is not easy, but it is possible to change WHO you are through repeated action and practicing being different than you are o It will feel unnatural and unlike “you”, but after going through the motions enough times with determination, it will start to feel more natural  This is the foundation upon which we are still building today:
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