PSYC 1100 – Principals of Behaviour
Chapter 1 – Psychology: The Science of Behaviour
The Nature of Psychology
• Psychology – the study of behaviour and the factors influencing it.
• Behaviour – actions that can be observed and mental events (thoughts, feelings etc)
• Science of psychology à explores nature, causes of behaviour and thoughts.
• Psychology also tries to solve human problems
• Psychological questions:
o How do we remember, think and reason?
o What makes us fall in love?
o Why do we sleep, and what functions do our dreams serve? What brain
processes regulate sleep and dreaming?
• There must be evidence to support a scientific claim!
Psychology as a Basic and Applied Science
• Basic research – quest for knowledge purely for its own sake (what causes certain
• Applied research – designed to solve practical problems with the use of basic research
• From Robbers Cave to Jigsaw Classroom
o How do intergroup hospitality and prejudice develop, and what can be done to
o The study was on 11 year old boys at summer camp in Robbers Cave. They
were divided into 2 research groups (Eagles and Rattlers). They got along well
until a series of competitive games created hostility. They would not make
friendships across groups. Increasing contact among the groups only created
more hostility. The hostility was decreased only when they were forced to work
together to complete a task important to both groups. (Fixing the water system,
renting a movie etc.)
o This study showed that competition breeds hostility and cooperation breed’s
friendships. o Could this form of basic research be used to increase harmony and academic
achievement in multicultural schools?
o The Jigsaw program – used to increase and reduce the racial hostility within
o The program forces kids to cooperate rather than compete in order to succeed.
There are groups of multicultural individuals, each with a piece of information and
in order to pass the test they must piece together the information like a jigsaw
puzzle. The only way for success is cooperation. They appreciate and feel
o These types of cooperative learning have encouraging results. Prejudice has
decreased and self esteem has increased.
• Goals of Psychology
o Psychologists have 4 basic goals
1. Describe how people and other animals behave
2. Explain and understand the causes of these behaviours
3. Predict how people and animals will behave under certain conditions
4. Influence or control behaviour through knowledge and control of its
causes to enhance human welfare.
o If we understand causes of behaviour we will be able to successfully predict
when the behaviour will occur. If we can’t control the causes we should be able to
Perspectives on Behaviour: Guides to Understanding and Discovery
• A university student wrote a letter talking about aggression and violent urges he had
coming out of nowhere and how he wanted an autopsy of his brain performed since he
was having severe headaches.
• After his death a tumour resting on the side of his brain that transmitted aggressive
behaviour. Was he predisposed to violent behaviour? Or was it because of the culture he
grew up in? (his father was abusive, he had a fascination with guns and was taught to
react in a violent manner) • There are 3 levels of analysis: biological, psychological and environmental.
Importance of Perspectives
• There are many different ways to view behaviour
• Perspectives are vantage points for analyzing behaviour and its causes.
• Perspectives on behaviour influences how psychology develops
• 6 major perspectives to understanding behaviour. They are; biological, cognitive,
psychodynamic, behavioural, humanistic, and sociocultural.
The Biological Perspective: Brain, Genes and Behaviour
• Mind body problem à the mind is the inner agent of consciousness and thought with
roots in the past. Is a spiritual entity separate from the body, or is it part of our body’s
• Pythagoras, Plato and Hippocrates believed the brain was the seat of mind and intellect
• Aristotle believed that the mind is located in the heart
• Mind body dualism – the mind is a spiritual entity not subject to physical laws governing
the body (research on body would never get insight into the mind).
• Monism – the mind is not a separate spiritual entity; it is one with the body. Physical
events are reactions from the brain.
• Biological perspective – physical side of human nature.
• Discovery of Brain – Behaviour Relations
o Biological perspective relies on science and technological developments.
o Karl Lashey – created damage in certain areas of the brain to study effects on
learning abilities to already trained animals.
o Electric nature of nerve conduction
1700s Galvani found a severed leg of a frog would be if electrical current
New findings on “nervous energy”
1870 – University of Berlin applied electrical stimulation to exposed
animal brains. Certain areas of the brain à movement of muscle
Certain areas of the brain that are damaged à behavioural impairments
o A McGill university professor in 1954 studied pleasurable areas of the brain
o 1929 – Electroencephalogram (EEG) allowed for the measuring of electrical
activity of areas of the brain through electrodes attached to the scalp.
• Evolution and Behaviour: From Darwin to Evolutionary Psychology
o Darwin – studies people in different parts of the world and noticed differences
between people in different environments. Species adapt to their environments.
o Species evolve over time in response to conditions of environment through
natural selection à survival of the fittest
o Natural selection – any inheritable characteristic that increases the likelihood of
survival will be maintained in the species because individuals having the
characteristics will be more likely to survive and reproduce.
o Some species possess traits to a greater degree.
o Attract males, escaping danger or acquiring food – these people are more likely
to survive and pass on genes (good genes increase over generations)
o Less likely to survive (aka bad traits) will die out
o Characters that natural selection favours are not always positive.
o Applies to all living things
• Modern Evolutionary Psychology
o Evolutionary psychology – focuses on the role of evolution in the development
of behaviour. An organisms biology determines its behavioural capabilities à if it
will or will not survive.
o Socio-biology – (controversial). Social behaviours are built into human species
as products of evolution. Natural selection favours those whose behaviours
increase the ability to pass on their genes. (I.e. aggression, competition, (f)
nurturing, (m) dominance). Sex differences in reproduction are significant. (I.e.
females produce fewer eggs than men do sperm). Genetic survival is more
important than physical survival.
Critics of socio-biology – Caporel believes socio-biology is
overemphasizing ones innate desire to pass on their genes. One is adapting to the demands of social and group living, not only the survival
• Behaviour Genetics
o Defined as: the study of how behavioural tendencies are influenced by genetic
o Development and behaviour are shaped because of a genetic blueprint that we
all are born with.
o Animals are also bred for both physical traits but behavioural traits as well
(intelligence). This is done by allowing highly intelligent /aggressive males and
females to mate over a number of generations.
o Human behaviour also is influenced by genetic factors (i.e. identical twins share
genetic makeup and are usually very similar whereas fraternal twins do not and
tend to be more different).
The Cognitive Perspective: The Thinking Human
• What sets humans apart from other species is their unique mental capabilities.
• Definition: Views humans as information processors and problem solvers whose actions
are governed by `thought and planning.
o Questions: how is information collected to make memories? How do mental
processes influence our motives, emotions and behaviour?
• Origins of the Cognitive Perspective
o 3 schools of psychological thought developed to study mental process and
contribute to cognitive perspective. Schools were structuralism, functionalism and
Definition: the analysis of the mind in terms of its basic elements.
Wilhelm Wundt (1832 – 1920) wanted to model the study of the mind after
the physical and biological sciences. (analyzing material with scientific
tools) He founded the first lab of experimental psychology in 1879 (trained first
generation of scientific psychologists)
Believed the mind could be studied if broken down to basic components
Sensations are basic elements of consciousness – study through
Participants to their experiments were exposed to sensory stimuli and
trained to describe their inner experiences
Psychology should study functions(whys) rather than structure of
Influenced by Darwin’s evolutionary theory. (adaptive behaviour helps
organisms respond to environment and survive)
Psychology now included biological process, mental process and
o Gestalt Psychology
Definition: how elements of experience are organized into wholes.
Opposite of structural approach. Argued our perceptions and other mental
processes are organized so that the whole is greater and different from
the sum of its parts.
The ability to perceive relationships is the essence of intelligence. Insight
– sudden perception of a useful relationship or solution to a problem.
Developed new interest in perception, problem solving and intelligence
o Piaget: Cognitive Development in Children
Concerned with how the mind and its development contribute to how we
adapt to environment. (functionalists)
He carefully observed children as they tried to solve problems – imagined
how they experienced the situation à found that new cognitive
development stages unfold as children mature (not explained by past
experience) The different levels represent different ways of understanding the world
o Cognitive approaches to psychological disorders
Influenced understanding of adaptive human thinking and human
unhappiness and problems in living.
Ellis (1962) and Beck (1976) tried to understand how mental distortions
and irrational thought patterns can create emotional problems (i.e.
distress and bad behaviour are caused by the way we think about
external situations . there was ways to help people to change self
• Modern Cognitive Science
o Artificial intelligence – devel