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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 PSYA01 TEXTBOOK NOTES.docx

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Steve Joordens

Chapter 1- PSYA01 TEXTBOOK NOTES What Do Psychologists Do? - Psychologists today are exploring perception, memory, creativity, consciousness, love, anxiety, addictions and more - They use state of the art technologies to examine what happens in the brain when people feel anger, recall a past experience, undergo hypnosis, or take an intelligence test - They examine the impact of culture on individuals, the orgins and uses of language, the ways in which groups form and dissolve, and the similarities and ifferences between people from different backgrounds Psychology: the scientific study of mind and behavior - 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 we do in the world, by ourselves or with others - psychology is the attempt to use scientific methods to address fundamental questions about mind and behavior that have puzzled people for millennia What are the bases of perceptions, thoughts, memories, and feelings, or our subjective sense of self? - For thousands of years, philosophers tried to understand how the objective, physical world of the body was related to the subjective, psychological world of the mind - Today psychologists know that all of our subjective experiences arise from the electrical and chemical activities of our brain - Psychologists and neuroscientistis are using new technologies to explore the relationship b/w perceptions, thoughts, memories, etc. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) : - allows scientists to scan a brain and see which parts are active when a person reads a word, see’s a face, learns a new skill, or remembers a personal experience - studies using this technology are beginning to transform many different areas of psychology - ex. Complex finger movement in novice and professional pianists were studied  found that professional pianists have less activity in the part of the brain and control finger movement because they’ve had more practice with it in comparrision to novice pianists 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 - 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 such as acquiring food, shelter and mates - psychological processes are adaptive  promote the welfare and reproduction of organisms that engage in those processes Perception: - allows us to recognize our families, see predators before they see us, avoid stumbling into oncoming traffic Language: - allows us to organize our thoughts and communicate them to others, which enables us to form social groups and cooperate Memory: - allows us to avoid solving the same problems over againe very 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 or death significance and they enable us to form strong social bonds Therefore, there is no psychological equivalent of the body’s appendix (no thoroughly useless mental process) The adaptiveness (as noted above) of psychological processes is very important. That is why people with definiciencies in those processes suffer. Ex. Elliot, the man who couldn’t experience emotions  lost his money b/c didn’t feel anxiety when pouring all his money into a useless business, lost his wives b/c he couldn’t experience sorrow, didn’t feel regret or anger when boss fired him Why does the mind occasionally function so ineffectively in the world? - the mind is like a machine and like all machines the mind often trades accuracy for speed and versatility which can produce bugs in the system - our mental life is just as susceptible to occasional malfunctions - we are all prone to a variety of errors and illusions - sometimes people operate on autopilot or behave automatically relying on well-learned habits that they execute without really thinking (this sometimes happens when we are not actively focusing on what we are saying or doing ex. Saying thank you to a bank machine when it gives you money) -breakdowns are not just about destruction and error, but rather pathways to knowledge (ex. Only when a car breaks down we find out about its engine, water pumps, and how they are actually supposed to work etc) - in the same way, understanding lapses, errors, mistakes and the occasionally puzzling nature of human behavior provides a vantage point for understanding the normal operation of mental life and behavior 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 behavior? - Greek thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle were among the first to struggle with fundamental questions about how the mind works - Greek philosophers debated many questions such as: Are cognitive abilities and knowledge inborn, or are they acquired through experience? - ex. Is propensity for child to learn language hardwired or learned through experience? - Plato argued in favor of nativism  certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn - Aristotle argued that the mind was a tabula rasa  blank slate on which experience were written - Aristotle argued for philosophical empiricism  all knowledge is acquired through experience From the Brain to the Mind : The French Connection: - Rene Descartes argued that body and mind are fundamental different things - The body is made of a material substance whereas the mind/soul is made of an immaterial or spiritual substance - But if they are separate things then how do they interact? This is the problem with dualism - Descartes suggested that the mind influences the body through a tiny structure called the pineal gland ( a lot of people was against this idea, either rejected or offered their own explanation) - Thoman Hobbes, for example, argued that the mind and body aren’t different things at all, rather the mind is what the brain does - For Hobbes, 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 display - 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, and observed that mental ability often increases with larger brain size and decreases with damage to the brain - Gall also developed a theory called phrenology  specific mental abilities and characteristics, ranging from memory to the capacity for happiness are localized in specific regions of the brain (different parts of the brain are specialized for specific psychological functions) - Gall thought that by feeling the different types of indentations on the skull, you can tell about a person’s characteristics corresponding to that section of the brain of where the indentations are found (but this was wrong, shape of skull cant reveal anything of the shape of brain underneath) - Pierre Florens conducted experiments in which he surgically removed specific parts of the brain from dogs, birds and other animals and found that their actions and movements differed from those of animals with intact brains How did work involving patients with brain damage help demonstrate the mind-brain connection? - Paul Broca worked with a patient who had suffered damage to a small part of the left side of the brain - the patient could only mutter the word “tan” but the patient understood everything that was said to him and was able to communicate using gestures - Broca had the crucial insight that damage to a specific part of the brain impaired a specific mental function (in this case, speech) - this clearly demonstrated that the brain and mind were closely linked ** Broca and Flourens then were the first to demonstrate that the mind is grounded in a material th substance, namely the brain. This was important in the 19 century because many people accepted Descartes idea that the mind is separate from, but interacts with the brain and the body Structuralism: Applying Methods from Physiology to Psychology: - In the middle of the 19 century, psychology benefited from the work of German scientists who were trained in the field of physiology  study of biological processes, especially in the human body - Herman von Hewlmholtz and Wilhelm Wundt were two physiologists Helmholtz Measures the Speed of Responses : - Had developed a method for measuring the speed of nerve impulses in a frog’s leg which he then adapted to the study of human beings - He trained participants to respond when he applied a stimulus  sensory input from the environment - He recorded his participants reaction time  amount of time taken to respond to a specific stimulus - He 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 - Scientists assumed that the neurological processes underlying mental events must be instantaneous for everything to be so nicely synchronized but Helmholz proved them wrong Wundt and the Development of Structuralism: - Believed that scientific psychology should focus on analyzing consciousness  a person’s subjective experience of the world and the mind - Structuralism  analysis of the basic elements that constitute the mind - This approach involved breaking consciousness down into elemental sensations and feelings - Wundt tried to analyze the stream of things running in your conscious in a systematic way - He used method of introspection  subjective observation of one’s own experience - A typical experiment, a person is presented with a color and asked to report on their “raw” sensory experience - He also attempted to carefully describe the feelings associated with elementary perceptions - Wundt used reaction times to examine a distinction b/w the perception and interpretation of a stimulus - His research students were asked to push a button as soon as they heard a tone (some were asked to concentrate on hearing the tone and others to concentrate on pushing the button) - Those who concentrated on the tone responded a bit slower than those concentrating on pushing the button. - Wundt reasoned that both fast and slow participants had to register the tone in consciousness - This type of experimentation showed that psychologists could use scientific techniques to disentangle even subtle conscious processes Titchener Brings Structuralism to the United States: - Titchener traveled to the United States to study with Wundt - Titchener focused on identifying the basic elements of consciousness themselves (whereas Wundt tried to figure the relationship b/w the elements) James and the Functional Approach: - William James agreed with Wundt that focusing on immediate experience is important and the usefulness of introspection as a technique - He disagreed with Wundt’s claim that consciousness could be broken down into separate elements - He belived that trying to isolate and analyze a particular moment of consciousness (as the structuralists did) distorted the essential nature of consciousness - He developed an approach called 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 How does functionalism relate to Darwin’s theory of natural selection? - Darwins theory of natural selection  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, James reasoned that mental abilities must have evolved b/c they were adaptive (b/c they helped people solve problems and increased their chances of survival) - he reasoned that consciousness must serve an important biological function - Stanley Hall’s work focused on development and education and was strongly influenced by evolutionary thinking - Hall believed that as children develop, they pass through stages that repeat the evolutionary history of the human race and therefore the mental capacities of a young child resemble those of our ancient ancestors **By the 1920’s functionalism was the dominant approach to psychology in North America The Development of Clinical Psychology: - Beginning to study patients with psychological disorder The Path to Freud and Psychoanalytic Theory: - Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet reported observations when they interviewed patients who had developed a condition known as hysteria  temporary loss of cognitive or motor functions, usually as a result of emotionally upsetting experiences - Hysterical patients became blind, paralyzed or lost their memories (even though there was no physical cause of their problems) - When the patients were put under hypnosis, all their symptoms disappeared (they could see, recollected memories, etc.) - Once coming out of hypnotic trance, the symptoms reappeared (kind of like two different people) - This suggested that the brain can create many conscious seleves that are not aware of each other’s existence - These observations striked the imagination of a another young physician, Freud - Sigmund Freud began to make his own observations of hysterics and develop theories to explain their strange behaviors and symptoms - He theorized that many of the patients’ problems could be traced to the effect of painful childhood experiences that the person couldn’t remember and that the powerful influence of these lost memories revealed the presence of an unconscious mind - 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 led him to develop psychoanalytic theory  an approach that emphasizes the importance of unconscious mental processes in shaping feelings, thoughts, and behaviors - From this perspective of psychoanalytic, it is important to uncover a persons early experience to Illuminate a person’s unconscious anxieties, conflicts and desires - Psychoanalytic theory formed a basic for a therapy that Freud called psychoanalysis  bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness - Psychoanalytic theory became controversial especially in US because it suggested that understanding a persons thoughts, feelings and behavior required a thorough exploration of the persons early sexual experiences and unconscious sexual desires Influence of Psychoanalysis and the Humanistic Response: - Within psych, psychoanalysis had its greatest impact on clinical practice but that influence has diminished over the past 40 years - Freud’s visition of human nature was a dark one emphasizing limitations and problems rather than possibilities and potentials - His inherent pessimism of his perspective frustrated those psychologists who has a more optimistic view of human nature - Freuds ideas were also hard to test and a theory that cant be tested is of limited use in psychology or other sciences - Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers pioneered a new movement called humanistic psychology  an approach to understanding human nature that emphasizes the positive potential of human beings - Humanistic psychologists focused on the highest aspirations that people had for themselves - Rather than viewing people as prisoners of events in their remote pasts (like Freud did), humanistic psychologists viewed people as free agents who have an inherent need to develop, grow and attain their full potential - Humanistic therapists sought to help people to realize their full potential The Search for Objective Measurement: Behaviorism Takes Center Stage How did behaviorism help psychology advance as a science? th - the schools of psychological thought had developed by the early 20 century – structuralism, functionalism and psychoanalysis - in each of these cases it was difficult to establish with much certainty just what was going on in people’s minds due to the unreliable nature of methodology -as 20 century unfolded, psychologists challenged the idea that psychology should focus on mental life at all - this was called behaviorism  psychologists should restrict themselves to the scientific study of objectively observable behavior Watson and the Emergence of Behaviorism: - John Watson believed that private experience was too vague and idiosyncratic to be an object of scientific inquiry - Science required replicable, objective measurements of phenomena that were accessible to all observers and the introspection method used by structuralists and functionalists were far too subjective for that - Watson proposed that psychologists focus entirely on the study of behavior, what people do rather than what people experience b/c behavior can be observed by anyone and it can be measured objectively - The goal of scientific psychology according to Watson should be to predict and to control behavior in ways that benefit society - Watson decided that the only way to understand how animals learn and adapt was to focus solely on their behavior and the suggested that the study of humans should proceed the same way - Ivan Pavlov did research on the physiology of digestion --> he noticed that the dogs would salivate when they saw their food and also when
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