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31 Oct 2010
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PSYA01 31/10/10 1:30 PM
WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY
psychology: a science- a science with a special focus on causes of behaviour.
- coming from 2 greek words, psukhe=breath/soul, logos=word/reason
- modern meaning psycho=mind, logy=science.
- people used to think the mind was a free floating spirit, was later considered to be the
characteristic of the brain whose ultimate function is to control behaviour.
- events that cause other events (or behaviour) are known as causal events.
- different types of psychologists will have different levels of explanation to behaviours.
- level refers to a choice of causes to study and methods of research to use
- 1 reason for studying psych: human behaviour is the root of many of the world’s problems:
poverty, crime, over pop., drug addiction, bigotry…etc
FIELDS OF PSYCHOLOGY
Areas of Psychological Research: research psychologists differ in 2 principle ways: 1. Types of
behaviour they investigate, and the causal events they analyze.
Physiological psychology
- exams the physiology of behaviour, esp. nervous system
- study almost all behavioural phenomina that can be observed in non-humans.
Comparative psychology
- the study of the behaviour of members of a variety of species in an attempt to explain
behaviour in terms of evolutionary adaptation to the environment.
- Likely to study inherited behavioural patterns
Behaviour analysis
- Branch of psychology that studies the effect of env. Events on behaviour
- Primarily interested in learning and motivation
- Relationship btw the behaviour and some consequent event is an important cause of a
specific behaviour. (behaviours w/pleasant outcomes tend to be repeated & vice versa)
Behaviour genetics
- Studies the role of genetics on behaviour. No 2 brains are exactly alike
- Examines similarities in physical and behavioural characteristics of blood relatives, as
well as breeding experiments to see what behaviours can be transmitted to offsprings.
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Cognitive psychology
- Study of mental processes and complex behaviours such as perception, attention,
learning, and memory, verbal behaviour, concept formation, and problem solving.
Cognitive neuroscience
- Attempts to discover the particular brain mechanisms responsible for cognitive processes.
- E.g. studying brains of people whose brains have been damaged
Developmental psychology
- Study of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developments of children, adolescence
or adulthood in particular, the effects of aging.
Social psychology
- Study of the effects people have on each others behaviour
- Cause and effect relationships in human interactions/
Personality psychology
- Study of individual differences in temperament and patterns of behaviour.
- Personality psychologists look for causal events in a person’s history, both genetic and
environmental.
Evolutionary psychology
- Seeks to explain cognitive, social and personality aspects of psychology by looking at
their adaptive significance during the evolution of modern species
- Uses natural selection as guiding principle
- Trace the dvlptmnt of such differences and to explore how their adaptive advantages
might explain the behaviours of modern human beings.
Cross-cultural psychology
- Study of the impact of culture on behaviour
- Different cultures developed different strategies for adapting to their env.
Clinical psychology
- Study of psychological disorders and problems of adjustment
- Most c.ps are practicitioners who try to help ppl solve their problems.
- Others are scientists who look for a variety of causal events
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THE GROWTH OF PSYCHOLOGY AS A SCIENCE
- started in late 19th century in Germany
PHILOSOPHICAL ROOTS OF PSYCHOLOGY
- we are aware of our consciousness and tend to relate it to our behaviours
- animism: the belief that all animals and all moving objects possess spirits providing their
motive force. (things back then were explained this way, eg. Sun, wind. Tides, gravity…)
- today when we explain behaviours of people we still refer to the action of a motivating
spirit namely a will.
- Psychology is strictly subjected to physical laws, this allows us to be disciplined (our
inclination might lead us to incorrect conclusions)
- Rene Descartes (1596-1650): the human body is controlled by natural causes and could
be understood by methods of science.
- reflexes: E. from outside reflected through nervous system, causing muscle to contract
- dualism: that belief that reality consist of mind and matter. (he believed physical bodies
do not think and minds are not made of ordinary matter. He believed the mind controlled the
body while the body supplied the mind with information
- model: a relatively simple system that works on known principles and is able to do at
least some of the things that a more complex system can do.
- John Locke (1963-1704): Took Decartes’s analysis 1 step forward
- empiricism: knowledge is obtained through experience (opp. of what Decarte’s said)
- George Berkeley (1685-1753): We must learn to perceive
- James Mill (1773-1836): Believed the mind, no less than the body was a machine
- Materialism: Belief that reality can be known only through understanding of the
physical world in which the mind is a part of.
BIOLOGICAL ROOTS OF PSYCHOLOGY
- Decartes’s muscle movement model was shown to be incorrect by Luigi Galvani
- Johannes Muller (1801-1858): Was a forceful advocate of applying experimental
procedures to the study of physiology.
- doctrine of specific nerve energies: different nerve fibres convey specific information
from 1 part of the body to the brain or from the brain to 1 part of the body.
- Muller concluded that since nerves are specific, there must be specific areas in the brain
specialized for different functions as well.
- Pierre Flourens (1774-1867): Provided experimental implications of Mullers D of nerve.
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Document Summary

31/10/10 1:30 pm psychology: a science- a science with a special focus on causes of behaviour. Coming from 2 greek words, psukhe=breath/soul, logos=word/reason. People used to think the mind was a free floating spirit, was later considered to be the characteristic of the brain whose ultimate function is to control behaviour. Events that cause other events (or behaviour) are known as causal events. Different types of psychologists will have different levels of explanation to behaviours. Level refers to a choice of causes to study and methods of research to use. 1 reason for studying psych: human behaviour is the root of many of the world"s problems: poverty, crime, over pop. , drug addiction, bigotry etc. Areas of psychological research: research psychologists differ in 2 principle ways: 1. Types of behaviour they investigate, and the causal events they analyze. Exams the physiology of behaviour, esp. nervous system. Study almost all behavioural phenomina that can be observed in non-humans.

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