PSYA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Gestalt Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Relativism
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Psychology : CHAPTER 1
The Evolution of Science
Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. The mind refers to our private inner
experience, the ever-flowing stream of consciousness that is made of perceptions, thoughts,
memories, and feelings. Behavior refers to observable actions of human beings and nonhuman
animals, the things that we do in the world, by ourselves or with others.
Psychology is an attempt to use scientific methods to address fundamental questions about mind
and behavior that have puzzled people for millennia.
Scientists sometimes say that form follows function; that is, if we want to understand how
something works (e.g., an engine or a thermometer), we need to know what it is working for (e.g.,
powering vehicles or measuring temperature).
William James “invented” psychology, late 1860s; finds roots in philosophy.
Psychologists divided into different camps or “schools of thought”: structuralists, who tried to analyze
the mind by breaking it down into its basic components, and functionalists, who focused on how
mental abilities allow people to adapt to their environments.
Plato believed in nativism, certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn; Aristotle believed
in empiricism, all knowledge acquired through experience.
Descartes suggested that the mind influences the body through a tiny structure near the bottom
of the brain known as the pineal gland. The British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) argued
that the mind and body aren’t different things at all; rather, the mind is what the brain does. From
Hobbes’s perspective, looking for a place in the brain where the mind meets the body is like looking for
the place in a television where the picture meets the flat panel display.
Franz Joseph Gall went far beyond his evidence to develop a psychological theory known as
phrenology, which held that specific mental abilities and characteristics, ranging from memory to the
capacity for happiness, are localized in specific regions of the brain .
Broca and Flourens, then, were the first to demonstrate that the mind is grounded in a material
substance; namely, the brain. Their work jump-started the scientific investigation of mental processes.
Physiology is the study of biological processes, especially in the human body. Physiologists
had developed methods that allowed them to measure such things as the speed of nerve impulses, and
some of them had begun to use these methods to measure mental abilities.
Helmholtz trained participants to respond when he applied a stimulus—sensory input from the
environment—to different parts of the leg. He recorded his participants’ reaction time, or the amount
of time taken to respond to a specific stimulus.
In 1879, at the University of Leipzig, Wilhelm Wundt opened the first laboratory ever to be
exclusively devoted to psychological studies, and this event marked the official birth of psychology as
an independent field of study.
Wundt believed that scientific psychology should focus on analyzing consciousness, a person’s
subjective experience of the world and the mind. Consciousness encompasses a broad range of
subjective experiences. We may be conscious of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, bodily sensations,
thoughts, or feelings. So he and his students adopted an approach called structuralism, or the analysis
of the basic elements that constitute the mind.
Introspection involves the subjective observation of one’s own experience. Structuralist
approach faded, introspection not reliable enough.
William James decided to approach psychology from a different perspective entirely, and he
developed an approach known as functionalism: the study of the purpose mental processes serve in
enabling people to adapt to their environment. In contrast to structuralism, which examined the
structure of mental processes, functionalism set out to understand the functions those mental processes