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Psychology (9,695)
PSYA01H3 (1,206)
Steve Joordens (1,058)
Chapter 1

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Steve Joordens

CHAPTER 1 – PSYCHOLOGY: THE EVOLUTION OF A SCIENCE CHAPTER 1 – PSYCHOLOGY: THE EVOLUTION OF A SCIENCE Psychology – the scientific study of mind and behaviour  Mind – our private inner experience  Behaviour – observable actions of human and nonhuman animals What are the bases of perceptions, thoughts, memories and feelings, or our subjective sense of self?  All of our subjective experiences arise from the electrical and chemical activities of our brains  Our mental lives are nothing more or less than “how it feels to be a brain” How does the mind usually allow us to function effectively in the world?  If we want to understand how something works we need to know what it is working for  Psychological process are said to be adaptive which means they promote the welfare and reproduction of organisms they engage in  Emotions are adaptive because they function as signals that tell us when we are outing ourselves in harm’s way Why does the mind occasionally function so ineffectively in the world?  The mind often trades accuracy for speed and versatility  Our mental life is just as susceptible to occasional malfunction in our otherwise-efficient mental processing  We are all prone to a variety of errors and illusions PSYCHOLOGY’S ROOTS: THE PATH TO A SCIENCE OF MIND Psychology’s Ancestors: The Great Philosophers What fundamental question has puzzled philosophers ever since humans began thinking about behaviour?  How the mind works  Are cognitive abilities and knowledge inborn, or are they acquired only through experience Nativism – the philosophical view that certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn Philosophical empiricism – all knowledge is acquired through experience (Aristotle) From the Brain to the Mind: The French Connection  French philosopher René Descartes argued that body and mind are fundamentally different things – that body is made of a material substance, whereas the mind (or soul is made of an immaterial or spiritual substance  dualism  Descartes suggested that the mind influences the body through pineal gland and was largely alone in this view as other philosophers at the time either rejected his explanation or offered alternative ideas  Thomas Hobbes argued that the mind and body aren’t different; rather the mind is what the brain does  Franz Joseph Gall also though that brains and minds were linked but by size rather than glands  studied the brains of people who had died of disease, or as healthy adults/children and observed that mental inability often increaseswith larger brain size and decrease with damage to the brain Phrenology – developed by Gall; specific mental abilities and characteristics, ranging from memory to the capacity for happiness, are localized in specific regions of the brain  Surgeon Paul Broca worked with a brain-damaged person (small part of the left side of the brain now known as Broca’s area) who could comprehend but not produce spoken language  suggested that the mind is grounded in the material processes of the brain How did work involving patients with brain damage help demonstrate the mind-brain connection?  Broca had the crucial insight that damage to a specific part of the brain impaired a specific mental function, clearly demonstrating that the brain and mind are closely linked CHAPTER 1 – PSYCHOLOGY: THE EVOLUTION OF A SCIENCE STRUCTURALISM: APPLYING METHODS FROM PHYSIOLOGY TO PSYCHOLOGY Physiology – 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 the had begun to use these methods to measure mental abilities Helmholtz Measures the Speed of Responses  Helmholtz developed a method for measuring the speed of nerve impulses in a frog’s legs, which he then adapted to the study of human beings  Had trained participants to respond when he applied a stimulus – a sensory input from the environment – to different parts of the leg  He recorded the participant’s reaction time – the amount of time taken to respond to a specific stimulus, after applying the stimulus  Helmholtz found that people generally took longer to respond when their toe was stimulated than when their thigh was stimulated, and the difference between these reaction times allowed him to estimate how long it took a nerve impulse to travel to the brain Wundt and the Development of Structuralism  1879 – Wundt opened the first laboratory ever to be exclusively devoted to psychological studies  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 o Consciousness encompasses a broad range of subjective experiences  Wundt and his students adopted structuralism – the analysis of the basic elements that constitute the mind o Involves breaking down consciousness into elemental sensations and feelings  Wundt tried to analyze the stream consciousness in a systematic way using introspection – the subjective observation of one’s own experiences o In a typical experience, observers would describe the brightness of a colour or the loudness of a tone o They were asked to report on their ‘raw’ sensory experience rather than their interpretations of that experience  Wundt also attempted to carefully describe the feelings associated with elementary perceptions  Wundt tried to provide objective measurements of conscious processes by using reaction time techniques similar to those first developed by Helmholtz  Wundt used reaction times to examine a distinction between the perception and interpretation of a stimulus Titchener Brings Structuralism to the United States  Studied with Wundt for 2 years in the early 1890s  Came to the US and set up a psychology lab  Brought some parts of Wundt’s approach to America, but also made some changes between elements of consciousness James and the Functional Approach  Taught the first course at an American university  on the new experimental psychology developed by Wundt and his German followers  James believed that trying to isolate and analyze a particular moment of consciousness (as structuralists did) distorted the essential nature of consciousness  He argued that consciousness was more like a flowing stream than a bundle of separate elements  James decided to approach psychology from a different perspective e
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