Introductory Psychology Notes Part 2

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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 multiple ways. 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 LIFE SPAN? 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 and activities. 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 functions. 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 SPECIES 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. Exploring DIVERSITY 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. Psychology's Future 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- Psychology 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 particular institution? 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. MODULE 4: 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. MODULE 5: 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. Naturalistic Observation 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. Survey Research 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
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