PSYC – Midterm Exam Topics
The Nature of Psychology
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and the mind.
Behaviour: Actions and responses that we can directly observe.
Mind: Internal states and processes, such as thoughts and feelings, that cannot be seen directly
and that must be inferred from observable, measurable responses.
- Clinical Psychology: Study and treatment of mental disorders; research the causes, and the
effectiveness of the treatments.
- Cognitive Psychology: Specializes in the study of mental processes, mind = information
processor. (Consciousness, attention, memory, decision making, problem solving)
- Psycholinguistics: Psychology of language.
- Biopsychology: Focuses on the biological underpinnings of behaviour.
- Developmental Psychology: Examines human physical, psychological, and social
- Experimental Psychology: (Learning, sensory systems, perception, motivational states)
- Industrial-organizational Psychology: People’s behaviour in the workplace.
(Leadership, teamwork, work motivation, performance)
- Personality Psychology: Human personality.
- Social Psychology: People’s thoughts and feelings.
(Attraction, love, prejudice, discrimination, helping, aggression)
Pitfalls of Everyday Approaches
- Mental shortcuts: Judgments, serve us poorly.
(Ex. Stereotypes; Don’t judge a book by its cover)
- Fail to consider alternative explanations
- A confirmation bias; selectively paying attention to information that is consistent with our
beliefs and downplaying or ignoring information that is inconstant with them.
Using Science to Minimize Everyday Pitfalls – PAGE 7
1 Critical Thinking
- Involves taking an active role in understanding the world around you rather than merely
- Evaluating the validity of something presented to you as fact.
1. To describe how people and other animals behave.
2. To explain and understand the causes of these behaviours.
3. To predict how people and animals will behave under certain conditions.
4. To influence or control behaviour through knowledge and control of its causes to enhance
Basic Research: The quest for knowledge purely for its own sake.
(In psychology the goals of basic research are to describe how people behave and to identify the
factors that influence or cause a particular type of behaviour.)
Applied Research: Designed to solve specific practical problems.
Levels of analysis
1. Biological Level
2. Psychological Level
3. Environmental Level
Mind-Body Interactions: The relations between mental processes in the brain and the functioning
of other bodily systems. (Interplay between the biological and psychological levels of analysis)
2 The Behavioural Perspective
Behavioural Perspective: Focuses on the role of the external environment in governing our
actions. (Behaviour is jointly determined by habits learned from previous life experiments and by
stimuli in our immediate environment.)
Origins: Roots in philosophy at birth the human brain is a “blank tablet” upon which
experiences are written, meaning that human nature is shaped purely by the environment. In the
1900s, we learnt that organisms learn through the consequences of their actions.
- In 1911, law of effect: responses followed by satisfying consequences become more likely to
recur, and those followed by unsatisfying consequences become less likely to recur.
Learning is the key to understanding how experience moulds behaviour.
Behaviourism: Thoughts that emphasize environmental control of behaviour through learning.
Behaviour Modification: Decreases problem behaviours and increases positive behaviours by
manipulating environmental factors.
Cognitive Behaviourism: (attention and memory) Learning experiences and the environment
affect our behaviour by giving us the information we need to behave effectively.
Humanistic Perspective: Emphasizes free will, personal growth, and the attempt to find meaning
in one’s existence.
Self-actualization: Reaching of one’s individual potential.
Positive Psychology Movement: Emphasizes the study of human strengths, fulfilment, and
optional living. Examines how we can nurture what is best within ourselves and society to
create a happy and fulfilling life instead of wondering “what is wrong with our world?”
3 The Cognitive Perspective
Cognitive Perspective: Examines the nature of the mind and how mental processes influence
behaviour. Humans are information processors whose actions are governed by thought.
Cognitive psychologists study the processes by which people reason, make decisions, solve
problems, form perceptions, and produce and understand language.
Explore the nature of attention and consciousness;
Study how unconscious processes influence behaviour.
Cognitive neuroscience: Uses sophisticated electrical recording and brain-imaging techniques to
examine brain activity while people engage in cognitive tasks, such as the business of learning
language, acquiring knowledge, forming memories, etc.
(Intersection of cognitive psychology and the biological perspective within psychology)
The Biological Perspective
Biological Perspective: Examines how brain processes and other bodily functions regulate
Behavioural Neuroscience: Examines brain processes and other physiological functions that
underlie our behaviour, sensory experiences, emotions and thoughts.
Neurotransmitters: Chemicals released by nerve cells that allow them to communicate with one
Behaviour genetics: Study of how behavioural tendencies are influenced by genetic factors.
Natural Selection – Page 22-23
Evolutionary Psychology: Seeks to explain how evolution shaped modern human behaviour.
Thus, through natural selection, adaptations to new environmental demands contributed to the
development of the brain, just as brain growth contributed to the further development of human
Sociobiology: Complex social behaviours are also built into the human species as products of
evolution. (Aggression, competition, dominance in males, cooperative and nurturing tendencies
4 Chapter 2
Scientific Principles in Psychology
Diffusion of responsibility, a psychological state in which each person feels decreased personal
responsibility for intervening.
Steps in the scientific process
1. Identify a question of interest.
2. Gather information hypothesis, a specific prediction about some phenomenon.
3. Test hypothesis by conduction research.
4. Analyze data, draw tentative conclusions, and report findings.
5. Build a body of knowledge.
Theory is a set of formal statements that explains how and why certain events are related to one
another. Theories are broader than hypotheses, and in psychology theories typically specify
lawful relations between certain behaviours and their causes.
Approaches to understanding behaviour
- Hindsight, After-The-Fact Understanding
Disadvantage: related past events can be explained in many creative, reasonable ways.
Advantage: Provide valuable insights; foundation on which further scientific inquiry is built.
- Understanding through prediction, control, and theory building
Theory development is the strongest test of scientific understanding because good theories
generate an integrated network of predictions.
Good theory =
1. Existing facts and observations, organizes information in a meaningful way.
2. Testable, generates new hypotheses and predictions whose accuracy can be evaluated by
gathering new evidence.
3. The predictions made by the theory are supported by the findings of new research.
4. Law of parsimony, if two theories can explain and predict the same phenomena equally
well, the simpler theory is the preferred one.
Variable, any characteristic that can vary.
Operational, defines a variable in terms of the specific procedures used to produce or measure it.
(Translate abstract concepts into something observable and measurable)
5 Self-report measures, ask people to report on their own knowledge, beliefs, feelings, experiences,
Social desirability bias, is the tendency to respond in a socially acceptable manner rather than
according to how one truly feels or behaves. (This can be avoided by assuring full
Overt behaviour – directly observable behaviour.
Unobtrusive measures, records behaviour in a way that keeps participants unaware that, certain
responses are being measured. (Since humans behave differently when they know they are being
Archival measures, gather information about behaviour by using records or documents that
6 Methods of research
Descriptive research seeks to identify how humans and animals behave, particularly in natural
settings. (Provides information about the diversity of behaviour)
Case study is an in-depth analysis of an individual, a group, or an event. (Discover principles of
- Data gathered through observation, interviews, psychological tests, physiological
recordings, task performance, or archival records.
o When a rare phenomenon happens, able to study it closely.
o May challenge the validity of a theory.
o Vibrant source of new ideas and hypotheses.
o Poor method for determining cause-ef