Module 1: Psychologists at Work
Psychology is the scientiﬁc study of behavior and mental processes.
The phrase behavior and mental processes in the deﬁnition of pyschology must be
understood to mean many things: It encompasses not just what people do but also their
thoughts, emotions, perceptions, reasoning processes, memories, and even the biological
activities that maintain bodily functioning.
The Subﬁelds of Psychology: Psychology's Family Tree
All subﬁelds have a common goal: understanding behavior
The different subﬁelds of psychology allow psychologists to explain the same behavior in
What are the biological foundations of behavior?
Behavioral neuroscience is the subﬁeld of psychology that mainly examines how the brain and
the nervous system - but other biological processes as well - determine behavior.
HOW DO PEOPLE SENSE, PERCEIVE, LEARN, AND THINK ABOUT THE WORLD?
Experimental psychology is the branch of psychology that studies the processes of sensing,
perceiving, learning, and thinking about the world. (The term experimental psychologist is
somewhat misleading: Psychologists in every specialty area use experimental techniques.)
Several subspecialties of experimental psychology have become specialties in their own right.
One is cognitive psychology, which focuses on higher mental processes, including thinking,
memory, reasoning, problem solving, judging, decision making, and language.
WHATARE THE SOURCES OF CHANGE AND STABILITY IN BEHAVIOR ACROSS THE
Developmental psychology studies how people grow and change from the moment of conception
through death. Personality psychology focuses on the consistency in people's behavior over time
and the traits that differentiate one person from another.
HOW DO PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS AFFECT PHYSICALAND MENTAL HEALTH?
Health psychology explores the relationship between psychological factors and physical ailments
or disease. For example, health psychologists are interested in assessing how long-term stress (a
psychological factor) can affect physical health and in identifying ways to promote behavior that
brings about good health.
Clinical psychology deals with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders.
Clinical psychologists are trained to diagnose and treat problems that range from the crises of
everyday life, such as unhappiness over the breakup of a relationship, to more extreme conditions, such as profound, lingering depression. Some clinical psychologists also research and
investigate issues that vary from identifying the early signs of psychological disturbance to
studying the relationship between family communication patterns and psychological disorders.
Counseling psychology focuses primarily on educational, social, and career adjustment problems.
Almost every college has a center staffed with counseling psychologists. This is where students
can get advice on the kinds of jobs they might be best suited for, on methods of studying
effectively, and on strategies for resolving everyday difﬁculties, such as problems with
roommates and concerns about a speciﬁc professor's grading practices.
HOW DO OUR SOCIAL NETWORKS AFFECT BEHAVIOR?
Social psychology is the study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and actions are affected by
others. Social psychologists concentrate on such diverse topics as human aggression, liking and
loving, persuasion, and conformity.
Cross-cultural psychology investigates the similarities and differences in psychological
functioning in and across various cultures and ethnic groups. For example, cross-cultural
psychologists examine how cultures differ in their use of punishment during child rearing.
EXPANDING PSYCHOLOGY'S FRONTIERS
Evolutionary psychology considers how behavior is inﬂuenced by our genetic inheritance from
our ancestors. The evolutionary approach suggests that the chemical coding of information in our
cells not only determines traits such as hair color and race but also holds the key to
understanding a broad variety of behaviors that helped our ancestors survive and reproduce.
Evolutionary explanations of behavior have stirred controversy. By suggesting that many
signiﬁcant behaviors unfold automatically, because they are wired into the human species,
evolutionary approaches minimize the role of environmental and social forces.
Behavioral genetics seeks to understand how we might inherit certain behavioral traits and how
the environment inﬂuences whether we actually display such traits.
Clinical neuropsychology unites the areas of neuroscience and clinical psychology: It focuses on
the origin of psychological disorders in biological factors.
Working at Psychology
Most psychologists work in academic settings, allowing them to combine the three major roles
played by psychologists in society: teacher, scientist, and clinical practitioner.
Find jobs at colleges/universities, business, government, managed care settings, other human
services, hospitals, private practice, and school districts.
PSYCHOLOGISTS: A PORTRAIT In the United States, women outnumber men in the ﬁeld, a big change from earlier years when
women faced bias and were actively discouraged from becoming psychologists.
The vast majority of psychologists in the United States are white, limiting the diversity of the
ﬁeld. Only 6% of all psychologists are members of racial minority groups.
PhD (doctor of philosophy) and a PsyD (doctor of psychology)
THE EDUCATION OF A PSYCHOLOGIST
Most psychologists have a doctorate, either a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or, less frequently, a
PsyD (doctor of psychology). The PhD is a research degree that requires a dissertation based on
an original investigation. The PsyD is obtained by psychologists who wish to focus on the
treatment of psychological disorders. (Psychologists are distinct from psychiatrists, who have a
medical degree and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders, often
using treatments that involve the prescription of drugs.)
Both the PhD and the PsyD typically take 4 or 5 years of work past the bachelor's level
About a third of people working in the ﬁeld of psychology have a master's degree as their highest
degree, which they earn after 2 or 3 years of graduate work.
CAREERS FOR PSYCHOLOGY MAJORS
An undergraduate major in psychology provides excellent preparation for a variety of
occupations. Because undergraduates who specialize in psychology develop good analytical
skills, are trained to think critically, and are able to synthesize and evaluate information well,
employers in business, industry, and the government value their preparation.
Module 2: A SCIENCE EVOLVES: THE PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THE FUTURE
Seven thousand years ago, people assumed that psychological problems were caused by evil
spirits. To allow those spirits to escape from a person's body, ancient healers chipped a hole in a
patient's skull with crude instruments—a procedure called trephining.
Our understanding of behavior has progressed tremendously since the 18th century, but most of
the advances have been recent. As sciences go, psychology is one of the new kids on the block.
The Roots of Psychology
We can trace psychology's roots back to the ancient Greeks, who considered the mind to be a
suitable topic for scholarly contemplation.
The 17th-century British philosopher John Locke believed that children were born into the world
with minds like “blank slates” (tabula rasa in Latin) and that their experiences determined what kind of adults they would become. His views contrasted with those of Plato and the 17th-century
French philosopher René Descartes, who argued that some knowledge was inborn in humans.
However, the formal beginning of psychology as a scientiﬁc discipline is generally considered to
be in the late 19th century, when Wilhelm Wundt established the ﬁrst experimental laboratory
devoted to psychological phenomena in Leipzig, Germany.
Structuralism - Wundt's approach, which focuses on uncovering the fundamental mental
components of perception, consciousness, thinking, emotions, and other kinds of mental states
Introspection - A procedure used to study the structure of the mind in which subjects are asked to
describe in detail what they are experiencing when they are exposed to a stimulus.
Over time, psychologists challenged Wundt's approach. They became increasingly dissatisﬁed
with the assumption that introspection could reveal the structure of the mind. Introspection was
not a truly scientiﬁc technique, because there were few ways an outside observer could conﬁrm
the accuracy of others' introspections. Moreover, people had difﬁculty describing some kinds of
inner experiences, such as emotional responses. Those drawbacks led to the development of new
approaches, which largely replaced structuralism.
The perspective that replaced structuralism is known as functionalism. Rather than focusing on
the mind's structure, functionalism concentrated on what the mind does and how behavior
Gestalt psychology emphasizes how perception is organized. Instead of considering the
individual parts that make up thinking, gestalt psychologists took the opposite tack, studying
how people consider individual elements together as units or wholes.
Gestalt psychologists proposed that “The whole is different from the sum of its parts,” meaning
that our perception, or understanding, of objects is greater and more meaningful than the
individual elements that make up our perceptions.
WOMEN IN PSYCHOLOGY: FOUNDING MOTHERS
Social prejudices hindered women's participation in the early development of psychology. For
example, many universities would not even admit women to their graduate psychology programs
in the early 1900s.
Margaret Floy Washburn (1871–1939) was the ﬁrst woman to receive a doctorate in psychology,
and she did important work on animal behavior. Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886–1939) was one
of the ﬁrst psychologists to focus on child development and on women's issues. She collected
data to refute the view, popular in the early 1900s, that women's abilities periodically declined
during parts of the menstrual cycle.
Today's Perspectives Major perspectives of psychology:
Neuroscience: Views behavior from the perspective of biological functioning
Cognitive: Examines how people understand and think about the world
Behavioral: Focuses on observable behavior
Humanistic: Contends that people can control their behavior and that they naturally try to reach
their full potential
Psychodynamic: Believes behavior is motivated by inner, unconscious forces over which a
person has little control
THE NEUROSCIENCE PERSPECTIVE: BLOOD, SWEAT, AND FEARS
The neuroscience perspective considers how people and nonhumans function biologically: how
individual nerve cells are joined together, how the inheritance of certain characteristics from
parents and other ancestors inﬂuences behavior, how the functioning of the body affects hopes
and fears, which behaviors are instinctual, and so forth.
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC PERSPECTIVE: UNDERSTANDING THE INNER PERSON
Psychodynamic perspective: The approach based on the view that behavior is motivated by
unconscious inner forces over which the individual has little control.
They view dreams and slips of the tongue as indications of what a person is truly feeling within a
seething cauldron of unconscious psychic activity.
The origins of the psychodynamic view are linked to one person: Sigmund Freud.
THE BEHAVIORAL PERSPECTIVE: OBSERVING THE OUTER PERSON
The behavioral perspective grew out of a rejection of psychology's early emphasis on the inner
workings of the mind. Instead, behaviorists suggested that the ﬁeld should focus on observable
behavior that can be measured objectively.
John B. Watson was the ﬁrst major American psychologist to advocate a behavioral approach.
Working in the 1920s, Watson was adamant in his view that one could gain a complete
understanding of behavior by studying and modifying the environment in which people operate.
THE COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE: IDENTIFYING THE ROOTS OF UNDERSTANDING
The cognitive perspective focuses on how people think, understand, and know about the world.
The emphasis is on learning how people comprehend and represent the outside world within
themselves and how our ways of thinking about the world inﬂuence our behavior.
Many psychologists who adhere to the cognitive perspective compare human thinking to the
workings of a computer, which takes in information and transforms, stores, and retrieves it. In
their view, thinking is information processing. THE HUMANISTIC PERSPECTIVE: THE UNIQUE QUALITIES OF THE HUMAN
Rejecting the view that behavior is determined largely by automatically unfolding biological
forces, unconscious processes, or the environment, the humanistic perspective instead suggests
that all individuals naturally strive to grow, develop, and be in control of their lives and behavior.
The humanistic perspective assumes that people have the ability to make their own choices about
their behavior rather than relying on societal standards. More than any other approach, it stresses
the role of psychology in enriching people's lives and helping them achieve self-fulﬁllment.
Module 3: Psychology's Key Issues and Controversies
Although there are major arguments regarding how best to address and resolve the key issues,
psychology is a uniﬁed science, because psychologists of all perspectives agree that the issues
must be addressed if the ﬁeld is going to advance.
However, every psychologist would agree that neither nature nor nurture alone is the sole
determinant of behavior; rather, it is a combination of the two. In a sense, then, the real
controversy involves how much of our behavior is caused by heredity and how much is caused
by environmental inﬂuences.
A second major question addressed by psychologists concerns conscious versus unconscious
causes of behavior. How much of our behavior is produced by forces of which we are fully
aware, and how much is due to unconscious activity—mental processes that are not accessible to
the conscious mind? This question represents one of the great controversies in the ﬁeld of
psychology. For example, clinical psychologists adopting a psychodynamic perspective argue
that psychological disorders are brought about by unconscious factors, whereas psychologists
employing the cognitive perspective suggest that psychological disorders largely are the result of
faulty thinking processes.
The next issue is observable behavior versus internal mental processes. Should psychology
concentrate solely on behavior that can be seen by outside observers, or should it focus on
unseen thinking processes? Some psychologists, particularly those relying on the behavioral
perspective, contend that the only legitimate source of information for psychologists is behavior
that can be observed directly. Other psychologists, building on the cognitive perspective, argue
that what goes on inside a person's mind is critical to understanding behavior, and so we must
concern ourselves with mental processes.
Free will versus determinism is another key issue. How much of our behavior is a matter of free
will (choices made freely by an individual), and how much is subject to determinism, the notion
that behavior is largely produced by factors beyond people's willful control? The last of the key issues concerns individual differences versus universal principles. How much
of our behavior is a consequence of our unique and special qualities, and how much reﬂects the
culture and society in which we live? How much of our behavior is universally human?
Psychologists who rely on the neuroscience perspective tend to look for universal principles of
behavior, such as how the nervous system operates or the way certain hormones automatically
prime us for sexual activity. Such psychologists concentrate on the similarities in our behavioral
destinies despite vast differences in our upbringing. In contrast, psychologists who employ the
humanistic perspective focus more on the uniqueness of every individual. They consider every
person's behavior a reﬂection of distinct and special individual qualities.
Understanding How Culture, Ethnicity, and Race Inﬂuence Behavior
There isn't even universal agreement on the use of terms such as race and ethnic group. Race, for
instance, is a biological concept that, technically, should be used only to refer to classiﬁcations
based on the physical characteristics of an organism or species. But in practice, the term has been
used to denote anything from skin color to culture. In contrast, ethnic group and ethnicity are
broader terms that refer to cultural background, nationality, religion, and language.
As its knowledge base grows, psychology will become increasingly specialized and new
perspectives will evolve. For example, our growing understanding of the brain and the nervous
system, combined with scientiﬁc advances in genetics and gene therapy, will allow psychologists
to focus on prevention of psychological disorders rather than only on their treatment.
Thinking Critically About Psychology: Distinguishing Legitimate Psychology from Pseudo-
How can we separate accurate information, which is backed by science and objective research,
from pseudo-psychology based on anecdotes, opinions, and even outright fraud? The best
approach is to employ critical thinking techniques.
What you need in order to evaluate information of a psychological nature:
Know who is offering the information and advice. Are the providers of the information trained
psychologists? What kinds of degrees do they have? Are they licensed? Are they afﬁliated with a
Keep in mind that there is no free ride. If it is possible to solve major psychological ills by
buying a $29.95 book, why do many people who suffer from such problems typically expend a
considerable amount of time and money before they can be helped? If you could buy a computer
program that would really “unlock the hidden truths” about others, wouldn't it be in widespread
use? Be wary of simple, glib responses to major difﬁculties. Be aware that few universal cures exist for humankind's ills. No method or technique works for
everyone. The range of difﬁculties attached to the human condition is so broad that any
procedure that purports to resolve all problems is certain to disappoint.
Finally, remember that no source of information or advice is deﬁnitive. The notion of infallibility
is best left to the realm of religion; you should approach psychological information and advice
from a critical and thoughtful perspective.
Scientiﬁc method is the approach used by psychologists to systematically acquire knowledge and
understanding about behavior and other phenomena of interest. It consists of 4 main steps:
1. Identifying questions of interest
2. Formulating an explanation
3. Carrying out research designed to support or refute the explanation
4. Communicating the ﬁndings
Theories: Specifying Broad Explanations
Theories are broad explanations and predictions concerning phenomena of interest.
Diffusion of responsibility - According to this theory, the greater the number of bystanders or
witnesses to an event that calls for helping behavior, the more the responsibility for helping is
perceived to be shared by all the bystanders. Thus, the greater the number of bystanders in an
emergency situation, the smaller the share of the responsibility each person feels—and the less
likely that any single person will come forward to help.
Hypotheses: Crafting Testable Predictions
A hypothesis is a prediction stated in a way that allows it to be tested.
An operational deﬁnition is the translation of a hypothesis into speciﬁc, testable procedures that
can be measured and observed.
Research—systematic inquiry aimed at the discovery of new knowledge—is a central ingredient
of the scientiﬁc method in psychology. It provides the key to understanding the degree to which
hypotheses (and the theories behind them) are accurate.
Archival Research In archival research, existing data, such as census documents, college records, and newspaper
clippings, are examined to test a hypothesis. For example, college records may be used to
determine if there are gender differences in academic performance.
Archival research is a relatively inexpensive means of testing a hypothesis because someone else
has already collected the basic data. Of course, the use of existing data has several drawbacks.
For one thing, the data may not be in a form that allows the researcher to test a hypothesis fully.
The information could be incomplete, or it could have been collected haphazardly.
In naturalistic observation, the investigator observes some naturally occurring behavior and does
not make a change in the situation. For example, a researcher investigating helping behavior
might observe the kind of help given to victims in a high-crime area of a city.
The important point to remember about naturalistic observation is that the researcher simply
records what occurs, making no modiﬁcation in the situation that is being observed.
Although the advantage of naturalistic observation is obvious—we get a sample of what people
do in their “natural habitat”—there is also an important drawback: the inability to control any of
the factors of interest. For example, we might ﬁnd so few naturally occurring instances of
helping behavior that we would be unable to draw any conclusions. Because naturalistic
observation prevents researchers from making changes in a situation, they must wait until the
appropriate conditions occur. Furthermore, if people know they are being watched, they may
alter their reactions and produce behavior that is not truly representative.
In survey research, a sample of people chosen to represent a larger group of interest (a
population) is asked a series of questions about their behavior, thoughts, or attitudes. Survey
methods have become so sophisticated that even with a very small sample researchers are able to
infer with g