September 11, 2012
What is Psychology?
• The study of behavioral and mental events, broadly construed.
• Behaviour: Observable actions produced by the body.
• Mind: Private thoughts, beliefs and experiences.
Different studies: How people manage life issues, How we change during our life span, How we
interpret words, How we acquire new skills, Brain function and organization, anything else to do
with mind or behaviour.
Transition to Science
If you are the village shaman and someone comes to you that acts weird they must have a spirit
and you should cut a hole in their head to let it out.
• Believed that we could not trust our senses or observations and that logic and reasoning
was the best thing.
• He would starve himself and deny his senses so that he would be able to think better
about abstract things.
• Believed that our perception of the world was a shadowy view and that there was a real
world which is mathematically designed
• Said that triangles exist but not really in real life (i.e. pizza slice)
• Was a student of Plato
• Believed that observations were important as long as you observed properly. Wanted to
understand the world through careful scrutiny
• Empiricism: the practice of gaining knowledge of the world through observation
(assumes our senses are trustworthy) • Four Causes (part of observation is simply to realize that we don’t know the answers.
Push the boundaries of your knowledge back even further)
o Material: What is it made of?
o Formal: What are the relevant details of its shape?
o Efficient: How was it created?
o Final: For what purpose does it exist?
• Made of graphite, wood, aluminium, eraser, paint (but what type of wood, what are the
properties of the paint, what is the eraser made out of…)
• It’s cylindrical, long, small (if it were 5m long it wouldn’t be useful), the graphite is inside
the wood, the sharp end is opposite the eraser…
• Created at a factory…(but where did the wood come from, the eraser, how does it
• To write down knowledge, to erase knowledge, to kill people
September 13, 2012
The Christian Church burns/locks away a lot of books from Aristotle and Plato.
• The renaissance brought a revival of thought and reason that developed in ancient
• Empiricism gaining popularity
• Phrenology was one of the first empirical attempt at understanding the mind/brain.
o Mental faculties do not exist to the same extent in all humans. Some people are
better at different things.
o Faculties are in different parts of the brain. o Well-developed faculties result in a bump on the head and underdeveloped parts
result in a dimple.
Phrenology fell into disfavor and loses influence in academic circles. (kind of serves as a
warning for bad principles)
• Jean Flourens tested monkeys brains to see if they would behave like Phrenology said
they would when parts of their brains were cut out and they didn’t.
• Broca had patients with language impairments even when the “language area” of their
brain was undamaged.
• Franz Gall (the guy who made Phrenology) was a poor methodologist (poor notes,
unorganized) making it hard to test his claims. He was influenced by social and political
Even though phrenology has fallen out of favor, it still impacts how we thought about brain
function. Different parts of the brain have different functions (i.e. carbon monoxide poisoning
taking out ability to recognize faces)
Psychology as a Science
Study of the brain has really only began to be studied with the rigor and focus on empiricism
that is characteristic of a science.
• Kind of the father of studying the brain. Start of applying the scientific method to
• Created a thought meter which showed that it takes 1/10 of a second to act in a
different way. (was a clock with a pendulum which subjects were supposed to look at
when a bell rang)
Mind and Behaviour
• Was more analytical like Plato while Wundt was like Aristotle
o Interested in creating the psychological equivalent of the periodic table of
o Would sit down and reflect on a simple idea and deconstruct it into the “building
blocks” that made up that experience.
o HOWEVER, different people thought different things for a given object. o HOWEVER, some mental events had no basic elements.
Behaviorism (looming issue, mind or reflex)
• We know that things are behaving, we do not know why they do it but we know that they
• How are these behaviours trained or learned.
• Tells us things like phobias, sexual fetishes, how children acquire language…
• Note: Tells us how we behave, not why we behave
• 1920-1950 was dominated by behaviourism but lost influence when there was a new
way to study mind
The ENIAC (first computer) had 1/1000000 computing power than our
• The brain is like a computer and this is how we study it.
o We have very powerful computers (Watson) but Watson makes very weird
mistakes that we humans do not. Comparing a brain to a computer is useful but
only goes so far.
• Cognitive Psychologists are interested in finding the mental rules that govern the
production of behaviour. (How do we identify an object as that object)
Behaviour Based Robots
• Very simple robots can seem to have specific behaviours, even though it is just lines of
• Makes us think about what we are.
Sept. 18, 2012
Chapter 2 The Scientific Method
The hypothetico-deductive model is the main framework for inquiry within the scientific method.
• Form a theory
• Deduce hypothesis from theory
• Test predictions
• Evaluate theory in light of test
Theory: A statement of belief about the world, which has not yet been proven or disproven
In class example: Reading is just looking at letters which make up words which make up…
• The concept of “proof”
o Does not mean absolutely true. Means that this theory seems sound and we can
take it to be true right now but should keep coming up with new theories or
o When testing a hypothesis, we are actually trying to disprove it. The scientific
method cannot prove that things are true, because it is impossible to rule out all
alternative theories that may better account for details of our observation
o Science continually attempts to reduce the set of unfalsified theories
• Affirming the consequent
o If P occurs then Q must follow
o I have observed Q
o Therefore, P must have occurred as well
This does not work because other things could lead to P
Q: If science can only falsify, how do we know what’s true?
A: Science can never attain truth, it can only narrow down the set of theories that are unfalsified. A: At some point of disproving the theory, it becomes practical to treat the theory “as if it were
The practice of not taking the world at face-value but, instead, considering it in close detail
before drawing conclusions.
Scientists follow rules, critical thinking, when being skeptical
• Extravagant Claims
o The more extravagant the claim, the more persuasive the evidence for the claim
o Entertain all ideas. Before we accept the claim though we want to see evidence
Sept. 20, 2012
• Focus on falsifiable ideas
o Creationism is a theory that cannot be scientifically falsified. This doesn’t mean
that the theory is wrong but we can’t falsify it.
• Apply Occam’s Razor
o If two theories explain a phenomenon equally well, we should generally prefer to
work with the one that makes the fewest assumptions. Or rather, work with the
o Do not multiply entities beyond necessity (If it doesn’t make the subject clearer,
why add it?)
o Two theories of Intelligence
1904 – we have one general intelligence and then specialized
intelligences for pretty much every activity out there
1950’s - There are three parts of intelligence.
• Analytic – solving problems
• Practical – applying things to the world (MacGyver)
• Creative – creating stuff Both theories come out with the same result so it would be easier to work
with the second theory.
• Replicate observations
o Findings must be capable of being duplicated by independent researchers
following the same “recipe”
• Rule out rival hypotheses
o Set up a situation where rival theories will make different predictions.
Part 1: Measurment
A New Way of Understanding
• A long time ago, rulers were considered to be Gods so instead of trying to study why
things are the way they are with an empirical method when you could just ask God.
• Accurate measurement devices, are historically quite new.
• Key Terms:
o Operational Definition
Definition of an abstract property in terms of a concrete condition that can
• Students need to have adequate knowledge of course material.
Tested by performing tests at some given capacity
The characteristic of an observation that allows one to draw accurate
inferences about it
• How far you can shoot milk out of your nose does not help define
how aggressive you are
You could find that you have a very good way to measure something, but
a situation arises where you cannot measure in this way, so then you
choose the next best way.
Validity is a continuum. Goes from “completely irrelevant” to “exactly what
I want to measure.” Construct Validity: If one operational definition tells us one thing, we hope
that others do as well.
The tendency for a measurement device to produce the same result when
used to measure the same thing on different occasions.
Use operational definitions that have more reliability
Repeated Sampling – Take a whole bunch of measurements and average
it out. This is usually very reliable.
The extent to which a measurement consistently differs in a certain
direction away from what is supposed to be measured.
Eg. (if studying if video games make people violent, you need to study if
video games (COD, My little pony, pokemon..) not just if violent video
games make people violent)
September 25, 2012
How well the actual measurement device measures for your operational
definition. (a.k.a. sensitivity to change)
Sometimes we want to study the behaviour of a large group but it takes too much time to study
the whole population.
Random Sampling: When sampling a population we need to sample randomly, so everyone has
an equal chan