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Psychology (9,699)
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Chapter 1

chapter 1

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Steve Joordens

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Chapter 1 Psychology: the evolution of a science William James learned about a new science called psychology (from a combination of the greek psyche, which means soul and logos, which means to study) Psychology was a new field taking a modern, scientific approach to age old questions about human nature- questions that had become painfully familiar to him during his personal search for meaning Psychologists today are exploring perception, memory, creativity, consciousness, love, anxiety, addictions, and more What happens in the brain when people feel anger, recall a past experience, undergo hypnosis, or take an intelligence test Impact of culture on individuals, the origins and uses of language, the ways in which groups form and dissolve and the similarities and differences between people from different backgrounds Psychology: the scientific study of mind and behaviour Mind: our private inner experience of perceptions, thoughts, memories, and feelings Behaviour: observable actions of human beings and nonhuman animals An attempt to use scientific methods to address fundamental questions about mind and behaviour that have puzzled people for millennia Subjective experiences arise from the electrical and chemical activities of our brains Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fmri) allows scientists to scan a brain and see which parts are active when a person reads a word, sees a face, learns a new skill, or remembers a personal experience. William James was interested in how people acquire complex skills (ie: the ability to play the violin) and he wondered how the brain enabled great musicians to produce virtuoso performances Professional pianists have less activity than novices in those parts of the brain that guide these finger movements Extensive practice at the piano changes the brains of professional pianists and that the regions controlling finger movements operate more efficiently that they do in novices Thinking is for doing, the function of the mind is to help us do those things that sophisticated animals have to do in order to prosper (acquiring food, shelter, mates) Psychological processes are adaptive (promote the welfare and reproduction of organisms that engage in these processes) Perception allows us to recognize our families, see predators before they see us, and avoid stumbling into oncoming traffic Language allows us to organize our thoughts and communicate them to others, form social groups and cooperate Memory allows us to avoid solving the same problems over again every time we encounter them and to keep in mind what we are doing and why Emotions allow us to react quickly to events that have life of death significance, and they enable us to form strong social bonds Emotions are adaptive because they function as signals that tell us when we are putting ourselves in harm’s way (upcoming exam, cheating on taxes) People often operate on autopilot or behave automatically, relying on well learned habits that they execute without really thinking William James thought they were absent minded people Minds mistakes are as instructive as they are intriguing Psychology is exciting because it addresses fundamental questions about human experience and behaviour, and the three questions we’ve just considered are merely the tip of the iceberg Psychology’s roots: the path to a science of mind William James: the first lecture in psychology that I ever heard was the first I ever gave Structuralists tried to analyze the mind by breaking it down into its basic components Functionalist focused on how mental abilities allow people to adapt to their environments Psychology’s ancestors: the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle were among the first to question how the mind works Plato argued in favour of nativism Nativism: the philosophical view that certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn Aristotle believed that a child’s mind was a blank state (tabula rasa) Philosophical empiricism: the philosophical view that all knowledge is acquired through experience From the brain to the mind: the French connection French philosopher rene decartes argued that body and mind are fundamentally different things- that the body is made of a material substance, whereas the mind (soul) is made of an immaterial or spiritual substance Descartes suggested that the mind influences the body through a tiny structure near the bottom of the brain known as the pineal gland British philosopher Thomas Hobbes argues that the mind and body aren’t different things as all, rather the mind is what the brain does French physician Franz Joseph Gall also thought that brains and minds were linked, but by size rather than by glands. He examined the brains of animals and of people who had died of disease, or as healthy adults, or as children, and observed that mental ability often increases with larger brain size and decreases with damage to the brain Gall developed a psychological theory, phrenology Phrenology: a now defunct theory that specific mental abilities and characteristics, ranging from memory to the capacity for happiness, are localized in specific regions of the brain Hippocampus is intimately involved in memory Amygdale is intimately involved in fear Biologist pierre flourens was appalled by gall’s far reaching claims and sloppy methods Surgically removed specific parts of the brain from animals and found that their actions and movements differed from those animals with intact brains Surgeon paul broca worked with a patient who had suffered brain damage to a small part of the left side of the brain. Damage to a specific part of the brain impaired a specific mental function, demonstrating the brain and mind are closely linked Structuralism: applying methods from physiology to psychology Physiology: the study of biological processes, especially in the human body Measure the speed of nerve impulses, mental abilities William james was drawn by Hermann von Helmholtz and Wilhelm wundt Helmholtz measures the speed of responses Developed a method for measuring the speed of nerve impulses in a frog’s leg, then adapted it to the study of human beings Stimulus: sensory input from the environment Reaction time: the amount of time taken to respond to a specific stimulus People generally took longer to respond when their toe was stimulated than when their thigh was stimulated Difference in reaction time allowed him to estimate how long it took a nerve impulse to travel to the brain Wundt and the development of structuralism Consciousness: a person’s subjective experience of the world and the mind Structuralism: the analysis of the basic elements that constitute the mind Approach involved breaking consciousness down into elemental sensations and feelings Introspection: the subjective observation of one’s own experience Observers (students) would be presented with a stimulus (colour or sound) and then be asked to report their introspections Tried to provide objective measurements of conscious processes by using reaction time techniques similar to those first developed by Helmholtz Distinction between perception and interpretation of a stimulus People who concentrated on the tine responded one tenth of a second more slowly that those told to concentrate only on pressing the button Broke new ground by showing that psychologists could use scientific techniques to disentangle even subtle conscious processes Titchener brings structuralism to the United States Wundt emphasized the relationship between elements of consciousness Titchener focused on identifying the basic elements themselves James and the functional approach Agreed with wundt on the importance of focusing on immediate experience and the usefulness of introspection as a technique Disagreed with the claim that consciousness could be broken down into separate elements Functionalism: the study of the purpose mental processes serve in enabling people to adapt to their environment (understand the functions those mental processes served) Darwin proposed the principle of natural selection Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s theory that the features of an organism that help it survive and reproduce are more likely than other features to be passed on to subsequent generations Hall’s work focused on development and education and was strongly influenced by evolutionary thinking As children develop, they pass through stages that repeat the evolutionary history of the human race The development of clinical psychology French physicians jean martin charcot and pierre janet Hysteria: a temporary loss of cognitive or motor functions, usually as a result of emotionally upsetting experiences Blind, paralyzed, or lost their memory Hypnosis (an alte
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