Chapter One –The Science of Psychology
What is Psychology?
A science based on discovering and explaining the causes of behaviour.
Literally means “the science of the mind”, but misleading because science of behaviour not mind.
Why Behaviour is Studied
To provide an explanation for behaviour, psychologists must:
1) Describe it. Learn how to categorize and measure behaviour so that the phenomena being
observed is universal.
2) Discover the causes of the observed behaviour = “explain” it.
Causal events are events that cause other events (including behaviour).
There are different “levels of explanation” even when the samebehaviour is being studied;
psychology is such a diverse discipline. Ex. Seeking physiological causes (ex. Activity of nerves) vs.
Metaphorical sense (ex. Hypothetical mental states ex. Love, anger, fear)
Behaviour is studied because:
1) Intellectual curiosity.
2) May solve our most important and pressing problems.
3) Human behaviour is root of many of world’s problems (Ex. Poverty, crime, over-population,
terrorism, war, etc.)
4) Health related problems caused by human behaviour (Ex. Cardiovascular disease, some forms of
cancer, stress-related illnesses).
Fields of Psychology
Areas of Psychological Research
Research psychologists differ in terms of:
1) Type of behaviour they investigate.
2) Causal events they analyze.
Physiological Psychology: subdivision of behavioural neuroscience that studies neural
mechanisms of behaviour. ÆStudy the role of the brain in behaviour
They study learning, memory, sensory process, emotional behaviour, motivation, sexual behaviour
and sleep in non-human animals, which helps them better understand human behaviour.
Ex. Physiological psychologists discovered that all drugs that have potential for addiction all act on a
particular system in the brain that is involved with our reaction to pleasurable events. The drugs
artificially stimulate the pleasure that is otherwise naturally produced. They can now use this to
develop medication to help addicts stop their habits.
Comparative Psychology: study of the behaviour of members of a variety of species to explain
behaviour in terms of evolutionary adaptation to the environment. ÆStudy the evolution of behaviour
by comparing behavioural capacities of various behaviours.
They study courting and mating, predation and aggression, defensive behaviour, and parental
Ex. Comparative studies of the effects of drugs have shown that all species of mammals react like
humans to addictive drugs. If the animals are allowed to inject a drug into their vein, they will become
addicted to it.
Behaviour analysis: Studies the effects of the environment on behaviour – primarily, the effects of
the consequences of behaviours on the behaviours themselves. ÆBehaviours that product pleasant
outcomes thend to be repeated, whereas those that product unpleasant consequences (or none at
all) are less likely to be repeated.
Their findings have been applied to teaching, psychotherapy, and business management.
Ex. They have developed methods for studying the way that pleasurable events (ex. drugs) lead
people to repeat certain behaviours.
Behaviour genetics: the branch of psychology that studies the role of genetics in behaviour.
They perform experiments with lab animals to see what aspects of behaviour can be transmitted to an
They alter the genetic code of animals to see how genetic code relates to behaviour.
Ex. They can develop strains of animals that are susceptible to the effects of drugs and compare
them to animals that can become addicted and try to understand the physiological mechanisms
involved in drug dependence.
Cognitive psychology: the study of mental processes and complex behaviours such as perception,
attention, learning and memory, verbal behaviour, concept formation, and problem solving. Do not
study physiological mechanisms.
Ex. coming up with ways to help people resist temptations of drug addiction.
Cognitive neuroscience: Studies the particular brain mechanisms responsible for cognitive
They study the behaviour of people whose brains have been damaged by natural causes, such as
diseases, strokes, or tumors.
The easiest way to explain cognitive psychology is via a computer analogy. Computers have
hardware (chips, processors, fans, harddrives, etc...) and they have programs (i.e., software) that
directs the way information flows through all the hardware. The brain clearly has some basic biology,
but does it also contain rules or algorithms that ultimately control the way we think? Cognitive
Psychologists think it does, and it is those programs that they are trying to understand.
Ex. They have developed tests that show the effects that the intake of alcohol, nicotine, and other
drugs by pregnant women have on the development of their babies.
Developmental psychology: Studies the changes in behavioural, cognitive, and perceptual
capacities of organisms as a function of age and experience.
They study the effects of aging.
Ex. How drug-taking behaviour can change over the course of an individual’s life.
Social psychology: the study of the effects of people on people.
They study perception (of oneself and of others), cause-and-effect relations, attitude and opinions,
interpersonal relationships, group dynamics.
Ex. Children who begin smoking do not do it for pleasure, but actually because their peers & the
media that promotes it.
Personality psychology: Attempts to categorize and understand the causes of individual difference
in patterns of behaviour.
They look for causal events in a person’s history; both genetic and environmental.
Ex. Tests of personality that can be used to study the factors involved in susceptibility to drug abuse.
Evolutionary psychology: Explains behaviour in terms of adaptive advantages that specific
behaviour provided during the evolution of a species. They use natural selection as a guiding
Ex. Perhaps addictions are caused by processes that normally work to our benefit but interact
harmfully wrt certain substances that were not originally part of the environment of early humans.
Cross-cultural psychology: The study of the impact of culture on behaviour.
A science based on discovering and explaining the causes of behaviour. Literally means the science of the mind , but misleading because science of behaviour not mind. To provide an explanation for behaviour, psychologists must: describe it. Learn how to categorize and measure behaviour so that the phenomena being observed is universal: discover the causes of the observed behaviour = explain it. Causal events are events that cause other events (including behaviour). There are different levels of explanation even when the same behaviour is being studied; psychology is such a diverse discipline. 1: may solve our most important and pressing problems, human behaviour is root of many of world"s problems (ex. Intellectual curiosity. terrorism, war, etc. : health related problems caused by human behaviour (ex. Cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, stress-related illnesses). Research psychologists differ in terms of: type of behaviour they investigate, causal events they analyze. Physiological psychology: subdivision of behavioural neuroscience that studies neural mechanisms of behaviour.