PSYC 2310 Study Guide - Final Guide: Experimental Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Confirmation Bias
SchoolUniversity of Guelph
Course CodePSYC 2310
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Exam Notes: Chapter One
Psychology: is the scientific study of behaviour and the mind. The term behaviour refers to actions and
responses we can directly observe, whereas the term mind refers to internal states and processes, such as
thoughts and feelings.
Clinical Psychologist: the study and treatment of mental disorders. Many clinical psychologists diagnose
and treat people with psychological problems in clinics, hospitals and private practices.
Some scientists conduct research on the causes of mental disorders and the effectiveness of
various treatments. Yet many psychologists have no connection with therapy and instead conduct
research in other sub fields.
Cognitive Therapy: specializes in the study of mental processes, especially from a model that views the
mind as an information processor. Examine topics such as: consciousness, attention, memory, decision-
making and problem solving.
Psycholinguistics: focuses on psychology of language (i.e. jumbled word exercise)
Biopsychology: focuses on the biological underpinnings of behaviour. Biopsychologists examine how
brain processes, genes and hormones influence our actions, thoughts and feelings. I.e. some
biopsychologists seek to explain how evolution has shaped our psychological capabilities.
Developmental psychologists: examines human physical, psychological and social development across
the lifespan. I.e. some explore the emotional world of infants, while others study how different parenting
styles psychologically affect children or how our mental abilities change during adolescence and
Experimental psychology: focuses on such basic processes as learning, sensory systems (e.g vision
hearing), perception and motivational states (e.g sexual motivation, hunger, thirst). Most research
involves laboratory experiments often with non- human animals.
Industrial- Organizational (i/o) psychology: examines people’s behaviour in the workplace. I/O
psychologists study leadership, teamwork, and factors that influence employee’s job satisfaction, work
motivation and performance.
Personality psychology: focuses on the study of human personality. Personality psychologists set to
identify core personality traits and how different traits relate to one another and influence behaviour.
They also develop tests to measure personality.
Social psychology: examines people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors pertaining to the social world, and
the world of other people. Study how people influence one another, behave in groups, and form
impressions, and attitudes. While they also study social relationships (attraction, love, prejudice, etc).
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Psychology’s Scientific Approach
Researchers share a common underlying scientific approach to studying behaviour. Science is a
process that involves systematically gathering and evaluating empirical evidence to answer questions and
test beliefs about the natural world.
Empirical evidence is evidence gained through experience and observation, and this includes
from manipulating or tinkering around with things and then observing what happens (experimentation). In
science these observations need to be systematic (performed according to a system or rules or conditions)
so they will be as objective and precise as possible.
Understanding Behaviour: Some pitfalls of everyday approaches
Science is only one of the ways we learn about human behaviour, family, friends, literature,
Internet, etc. all provide us with messages about human nature. Mixed in with our intuitions (knowledge
we acquire) and “conventional” wisdom, we have ingredients that generate our personal beliefs.
In life however, there are sources that promote misconceptions. Other people- conservations may
provide us with information believed to be accurate but are really not. Although our experiences and
everyday observations provide us with empirical information, unlike scientific observations, everyday
observations are usually casual rather than systematic.
Using Science to Minimize Everyday Pitfalls
By adopting a scientific approach, psychologists can take concrete steps to avoid or at least
minimize biases and problems that can lead to inaccurate conclusions. Science is also a public affair as
psychologists publish their findings. It allows scientists to scrutinize and challenge each other’s findings
if they wish. This approach reduces the risk of confirmation bias. New studies conducted, makes the
original findings be put to the test and possibly contradicted, forcing scientists to modify their beliefs and
conduct further research to sort out contradictory results.
In principle, science ultimately is a self- connecting process.
Thinking Critically about Behaviour
As you become familiar with the kinds of evidence necessary to validate scientific conclusions,
you will become a better informed consumer of the many claims made in the name of psychology.
Critical thinking involves an active role in understanding the world around you rather than merely
receiving information. It’s important to reflect on what that information means, how it fits in with your
experiences and its implications for your life and society. Also evaluating the validity of something
presented to you as fact.
As a science, psychology has four central goals:
1. To describe how people and other animals behave
2. To explain and understand the causes of these behaviours
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