What is Psychology?
Psyche = mind, spirit, soul
Greek – psyke
Logy = study of, discourse, to speak
Greek = logia
Study of the mind
Psychology is a science
Foundations in research
Based on the empirical method
People don’t respond the same way in situations – even one person may not respond to one
specific situation the same way twice
Psychology is the discipline concerned with behaviour and mental processes and how they are
affected by an organism’s physical and mental state, and it’s external environment.
A pet bear being brought to lecture vs. seeing a bear somewhere on campus
Watch out for pop psychology
Psychobabble – language using psych terminology
“Oh, I’m so depressed today” (You’re not depressed, you’re just having a bad day) “I have to
clean my office before I work… I’m OCD” (No, you’re procrastinating)
Pseudoscience –ideas put forth as science that is not (astrology, etc.)
Pseudo meaning fake
Main difference: Empiricism
Have a prediction, test it and observe the finding – then explain what happened
If psychology is a science, then what makes a psychologist?
Critical thinking skills
- Defining characteristics
o To asses claims, assumptions, conclusion
o To make objective judgements
o To reason using evidence and logic
o To have a touch of skepticism (a little not a lot) and accept uncertainty (you won’t
always have the answer and that’s okay) o Avoid emotion and anecdotes
- Prior assumptions concerning data are dangerous
o What you bring with you (e.g., beliefs, values, views) introduce bias
- Important to view a problem from more than one perspective
Critical Thinking Skills
1. Ask questions… wonder
- Coming up with a good question is the most difficult part
-“How does the brain produce consciousness?” is too complex. A better question is “what are
the critical aspects of conscious experience?”
2. Define your terms
-“Do non-human animals use language?”
-What does “language” mean? Ability to communicate? Spoken language? Written language?
3. Examine the evidence
-Do not accept conclusions without examining their basis
-For example: churches and crime (the more churches in the city, the more crime. The
conclusion: churches lead to crime. More churches = more people = more crime)
-You will hear over the course of your studies “However, there are exceptions…”
4. Analyze assumptions and biases
-Identify the unspoken assumptions that underlie the statements:
-E.g., Genes are responsible for all behaviour.
-Is this true or not? Why?
-Identical twins growing up separately can have substantially different behaviours, but adopted
kids growing up in the same environment can become very similar
5. Avoid emotional reasoning
-Emotion has its place, but not when it interferes with examining an issue critically
-For example, how do you react to the statement that “homosexuality is not a choice; it is a
result of biology?”
-People can become very narrow minded when their values are questioned
6. Don’t oversimplify
- Look beyond the obvious
-Is it better to control everything or calmly accept what happens to you?
-BOTH are oversimplifications
-Look beyond the obvious and don’t apply one rule to everything
7. Consider other interpretations
-Look for alternative interpretations
-Example: Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide
-Really? What’s the alternative explanation?
-They take antidepressants and if it doesn’t help, they get more depressed and they commit
suicide. When you’re depressed, you don’t have the energy to get out of bed – antidepressants
give you your energy back before they get rid of the suicidal thoughts. Once people get past that
initial stage, they get better. Some symptoms are alleviated before others. -Occam’s razor
- Choosing the solution that accounts for the most evidence while making the fewest
- Keep in mind that theories are most likely wrong.
-Why have theories?
Looking into theories gets us doing more research which leads to discoveries which can disprove
the theory. If we knew it, it’d be a fact. Everything is wrong until proven right.
The Face on Mars
-Nasa is covering up evidence that there was an ancient human civilization that sculpted a
human face 1500 m long and 1 km high on Mars?
- That in our evolutionary history, face recognition is very important and we have evolved brain
mechanisms to identify faces or shapes that appear similar to faces?
8. Tolerate uncertainty
-Sometimes there is no single answer to a question
Do we only use 10% of our brain?
Do we use very little of our brain capacity?
We may not use our brain to its full potential – every time we learn something new, we add to it.
Can we dramatically increase its potential?
To an extent, yes but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on it. All the cells in our brain are used.
We use all parts of our brain
All cells are acti