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Psychology is studying the different ways of how to peek inside the mind in order to discover what
people are thinking and feeling.
the roots of psychology are found in philosophy and medicine
John Stuart Mill declared that psychology should become a science of observation and experiment and
he argued that through the methods of science, psychologists would better understand the processes of
the mind. As a result, psychology shifted from theorizing to experimentation
Prejudice and Psychology
prejudices or stereotypes against certain groups of people influences others beliefs and
expectations about others leading to racist behavior. Groups of people who are the victims of
prejudice often change their behavior according to others’ beliefs about them.
Psychologists look for ways to reduce stereotypes and prejudice, giving us a sneak peak into the
human mind, how it works and its relevance to human behavior.
Studying/observing the working brain
Brain imaging = a collection of techniques which involves assessing and documenting changes in
brain activity. IE noting where the blod flows through the brain as people process information.
Changes in blood flow represent changes in brain activity. Changes in brain activity indicate which
part of the brain is being used. For example, monitoring brain activity at a certain point (ie when a
threatening image pops up) shows which part of the brain is activated when one feels threatened
Implicit attitude test = a test that directly assesses how people associate positive and negative words
with certain groups of people (ie you hear the word black, you negatively associate it with African
Americans). So for this test, people would react negatively to images of unfamiliar faces, especially
if the people in the images were black, because ‘blackness’ has a negative connotation associated
with it (this is in comparison to how people would react if they saw an image of an unfamiliar white
This means that increasing familiarity reduces the likelihood of a fearful/threatened reaction.
So, if people were more familiar with black faces, their reaction to their images in this sort of of
study, wouldn’t activate their fear indicators in their brains. More familiarity with the black race
(as an example) could potentially reduce prejudice and discrimination
Psychologists cover a range of studies, including basic mental processes (ie learning, memory, emotion,
perception) and document changes in individuals from birth to seniority. Psychologists note the
importance and the affect of the social world in which we live, ie how people are influenced by the
presence of others and certain situations that lead certain people to prefer certain types of people. The
environment in which a person lives helps shape each individual in a unique way = personality.
The goal for psychologists today is to understand two main factors about people: a) individual factors ie
how a person’s brain processes information about others, b) contextual factors ie how societal beliefs
shape how individuals behave towards other people (like in the case of prejudices and stereotypes).
Psychology research and how it includes new research about biology shows that new discoveries about
genes and biology influence human mental life
Main goal of psychology research is to explain the most important human behaviors in real life context.
ie how people behave day to day. To do this, psychologists need to study biological information (how
the brain functions, genes), the individual him/herself and social contexts (social understandings, social
events, social beliefs).
Psychologies have to figure out what brain mechanisms (or which part of our brain is active) when we
interact with the environment, and how the environment influences our brain activity. They also have to
figure out how people are shaped by the cultures in which they live
psychological science = the study of the mind, brain and behavior
MIND = mental activity (thoughts/feelings), perceptual experiences that you have while
interacting with the world (your senses that become activated when you socialize), memories.
This sort of mental activity results from biological process within the BRAIN. Activity within
your brain enables the mind to feel, smell, see, touch, etc.
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BEHAVIOR = describes a wide range of actions, and it describes different mental states. Due to
recent technology that allows us to observe the working brain, psychologists are able to study
different mental states such as consciousness, which in turn, allows us to further understand
human behavior.
Themes of Psychological Science: understanding other people, what they are thinking about themselves
and others, their motives, their moods etc. Using our impressions of other people, we categorize people,
predict their intentions and actions. The people who study this are psychological scientists who use
methods of science to understand how people think, feel and act.
*The next 4 themes guide and direct the way psychological scientists study the mind, brain and
1. The Principles of Psychological Science are Cumulative - research on mind, brain and behavior has
accumulated over time to produce the principles (or themes) of psychological science.
a. Using what is known in psychological science to search for the unknown (ie with the concept of
memory, it is known that it is easier to recognize old information than recall old information)
2. Biological Revolution - new biological research brings forward a deeper understanding of the human
mind and behavior; New methods that give psychologists the opportunity to answer questions such as
“what is consciousness? what is emotion? where does emotion come from and how does it affect the
brain processes? how are memories stored in the brain?” Psychological scientists now have the
resources to understanding the biological aspect of these mental activities - looking at different sections
of the brain that are activated during certain activities that could lead to psychological disorders.
b. BRAIN CHEMISTRY is the first major development in the biological revolution.
ii. The brain works through neurotransmitters = chemicals that communicate messages between
nerve cells (the part of the brain that instructs your body how to act). By understanding the
chemical processes of the brain, we can get a better insight into mental activity and behavior.
These insights are useful in developing treatments to help those with psychological disorders
c. THE HUMAN GENOME (genetic processes) is the 2nd major development in the biological
c. the human genome is the basic genetic code, or the blueprint for the human body. Using this,
scientists are able to discover the link between genes and behavior, genes and memories etc.
ci. Almost all psychological and biological activity is affected by the actions of multiple genes.
So, shyness (for example) is the result of multiple genes that could possibly be inherited
cii.The expression of genes helps give rise to mind and behavior. Scientists are now looking to
understand how specific genes affect thoughts, actions, feelings and disorders
d. WATCHING THE WORKING BRAIN is the 3rd development in the biological revolution
d. studying how cells operate in the brain and how this influences behavior.
di. this advancement is possible from the cooperation between psychological scientists and
neuroscientists who are able to address different questions of the human experience in relation
to the brain (ie how different brain regions interact to activate the senses during an experience)
dii.The key is not just to watch where in the brain things occur, but to look at consistent patterns
of brain activity associated with specific mental tasks. This proves the connection between the
location, the activity within the brain, and the task itself.
3. The Mind is Adaptive - The mind has been shaped by evolution (biologically speaking and culturally
speaking). According to the evolutionary theory (theory that emphasizes the inherited adaptive value
of behavior and mental activity throughout the history of a species), the brain has evolved to solve
problems related to survival and reproduction. So those who were able to adapt to their environments
and survive had an advantage to those who were not. Naturally, these people passed on these skills to
further generations (Natural Selection). These physical characteristics, skills, and abilities (aka
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adaptations) increased their chances of survival and reproduction. The adaptations were passed along
to future generations. The evolutionary theory represents a way of thinking that can be used to
understand different aspects of mind and behavior. We will look at three aspects of the evolutionary
theory to illustrate this point:
c. SOLVING ADAPTIVE PROBLEMS - as humans evolve, we build our behaviors (physically and
mentally) according to our environments. Accordingly, the body contains specialized mechanisms
that have evolved to solve problems that require adaptation. The evolutionary theory is useful
when we think of adaptive problems that we, humans, have encountered over the years (ie
language, eating etc).
iii.the evolutionary theory is also useful when we think of the necessary adaptions with regard to
social behavior. One’s social environment and surrounding culture plays a part in how people
develop their own behaviors and attitudes. Now, with the evolutionary theory, many people
regard these behaviors as an adaptive solution to human problems (ie people feel the need to fit
in with a group, so naturally behaviors that lead to social exclusions are discouraged in order to
maintain the idea of social groups or cliques).
d. MODERN MINDS IN STONE AGE SKULLS - the evolutionary theory tells us that we must seek to
understand the challenges that our ancestors faced in order to understand our current challenges and our
current behaviors whether they be adaptive or maladaptive. Today’s current behaviors (ie reading
books, driving cars, watching tv etc) are considered by-products of adaptive solutions to earlier
adaptive problems.
e. One of the most difficult adaptive situations is when dealing with other human beings. Humans
rely on other humans for survival (ie babies at birth need caring from their parents). This
concept of interdependency is not unique to humans, and the complexity of the nature of
relations (group living) gives rise to culture (=one’s beliefs, values, rules, customs and norms
that exist within a group). The group is unified through a common language and environment.
We assume that this culture (the beliefs, values, rules, customs, norms) are passed through to
following generations through learning.
f. For example, how we behave, what we eat, how we express our emotions (these are examples
of something we can call our cultural rules) is largely influenced by the culture in which we are
g. our cultural rules reflect the adaptive solutions that have been worked out by previous
generations. For example, our ancestors figure out appropriate behavior in a certain
environment and pass on these solutions to next generations and so on. So, the whole group in
this environment (this culture) practises similar behavior and beliefs. This knowledge that is
passed down through the generations helps future generations solve current adaptive problems
h. culture plays a key role in shaping how people view and reason about the surrounding world.
Also, culture vastly differs amongst different groups, thus people’s views and reasonings are
vastly different in different culture groups. For example, Westerners are analytic and break
down complex ideas to simple components, they are logical and use rules to explain
information. Easterners, on te other hand, see the world as it is in front of them and look at all
the elements in front of them, regardless of their complexity level.
e. using research from centuries BCE, cultural psychologists study Western and Eastern
societies and conclude that Western societies focus on independency and autonomia;
Eastern societies focus on group harmonies and being a part of the collective.
i. Culture shapes beliefs and values, even those beliefs that seem unique to the individual (like
the example above comparing one’s emphasis on his/her interests versus the interests of the
j. Cultural rules are known as norms that specify how people should behave in different contexts,
material aspects of culture. Psychological scientists help provide a better understanding of the
relationship between culture and behavior.
k. So, we conclude that the human mind is adaptive both biologically and culturally speaking, and
provide solutions to survival and reproductive problems, as well as a strong framework for a
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