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Chapter 1

Psychology Chapter 1.odt

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Steve Joordens

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 served. Inspired by Darwin. Darwin proposed the principle of natural selection, which states 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. From this perspective, James reasoned, mental abilities must have evolved because they were adaptive—that is, because they helped people solve problems and increased their chances of survival. Psychologists have often focused on patients with psychological disorders as a way of understanding human behavior. Charcot and Janet reported striking observations when dealing with hysteria, or a temporary loss of cognitive or motor functions, usually as a result of emotionally upsetting experiences. Patients would be blind, paralyzed, or lose their memory, but when put in hypnotic trance would be normal again. Brain could create two different behaviors. According to Freud, the unconscious is the part of the mind that operates outside of conscious awareness but influences conscious thoughts, feelings, and actions. This idea led Freud to develop psychoanalytic theory, an approach that emphasizes the importance of unc
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