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Psychology (9,569)
PSYA01H3 (1,196)
Steve Joordens (1,052)
Chapter 1

PSYA01 Chapter 1 notes.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Steve Joordens

Chapter 1 Notes • Psychology – scientific study of mind and behaviour o Mind – private inner experience – stream of consciousness o Behaviour – observable actions of human beings and nonhuman animals – things we do in the outer world • What are the bases of perceptions, thoughts, memories and feelings, or our subjective sense of self? o Psychologists know that all of our subjective experiences arise from the electrical and chemical activities that take place in our brain • fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging – scans the brain to see which parts are active while performing certain activities. o Eg – trained pianists have less activity than the novices in the areas of the brain that control finger movement. o This shows that extensive practice causes the brain to function more efficiently • How does the mind usually allow us to function effectively in the world? o Function of mind is to help us do those things that sophisticated animals have to do in order to prosper o Psychological processes are adaptive – they promote the welfare and reproduction of the organisms. • Perception – helps us recognize faces, see predators before they see us, avoid stumbling into oncoming traffic • Language – organizes our thoughts and allows us to communicate them • Memory – allows us to not solve the same problem over and over again and keep in mind what we are doing and why • Emotions – allow us to quickly react to events that hold significance – function as signals that tell us when we are putting ourselves in harm • People with lack of these psychological processes have a hard time o Case of Elliot – turned from a responsible hard working man to someone who made extremely bad decisions and could not experience emotions anymore after his surgery of the brain tumour • Why does the mind occasionally function so ineffectively in the world? o Our mind is like a machine and hence is not accurate enough, which creates “bugs” in the system. o We are all prone to a variety of errors and illusions. If our actions, thoughts, feelings were all the same then human behaviour would be very orderly, predictable, and dull. • Our mind has mental lapses which are a result of absentmindedness o Eg – “on leaving the room to go to the kitchen, I turned off the lights, although several people were in the room” o William called these lapses a result of absentmindedness o Understanding lapses, errors, mistakes and the occasionally puzzling nature of humans provides a vantage point for understanding the normal operation of mental life and behaviour • Structuralist – broke down the brain into basic components to analyze the mind • Functionalist – focused on how mental abilities allow people to adapt to their environment • Plato (428 BC – 347 BC) – argued in favor of nativism • Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) – argued that nativism doesn’t exist and we are born as tabula rasa – that is, born as blank slates o Believed in philosophical empiricism – knowledge is gained through experience • Nativism – certain kinds of knowledge are innate or inborn – eg – the knowledge of language • Rene Descartes (1596-1650) – argued that body and mind are two different things o Body is the materialistic substance and mind (soul) is the immaterial or spiritual substance o Suggested that the mind and body are connected through the pineal gland which is located at the bottom of the brain o Dualism – how mental activity can be reconciled and coordinated into physical behaviour • Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) – argued that the mind is that the brain does • Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) – thought that brains and minds were related by size o The larger the brain size, the higher the mental ability o The mental ability decreases with damage to brain o Came up with the psychological theory of phrenology which states that specific mental abilities and characteristics ranging from memory to the capacity for happiness are localized in specific regions of the brain – this theory was right o He took it to next level – said that by the size of bumps and indentions on skull, one can tell the size of the regions located underneath in the brain – this theory was proved wrong as the size of bumps and indentions don’t mean anything • Pierre Flourens (1794-1867) o Conducted experiments where he surgically removed certain brain parts and found that by removing certain brain parts the animals don’t function properly • Paul Broca (1824-80) o Worked with a patient who suffered damage to a small part on the left side of the brain, now known as Broca’s area • Flourens and Broca were the first ones to demonstrate and mind is rooted in a material substance called the brain. • Physiology – study of biological processes, especially the human body • Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-94) – developed a method of measuring the speed of nerve impulses in a frog’s leg o Stimulus – sensory input from the environment o Reaction time – the amount of time taken to respond to the stimulus o He found that people took longer to respond when their toe was stimulated than when their thigh was stimulated – difference between these times allowed them to estimate how long it took for the nerve impulse to travel to the brain o Scientists assumed that the neurological processes are instantaneous but Helmholtz proved them wrong • Wilhelm Wundt – published the book Principles of Physiological Psychology in 1874 o Believed that psychological study should focus on consciousness – a person’s subjective experience to the world and the mind o Structuralism - analysis of basic elements that constitute the mind – involved breaking consciousness down into elemental sensations and feelings o Wundt used introspection – the subjective observation of one’s own experience, to analyze consciousness o Him and his students hoped to uncover the basic structure of conscious experience by analyzing feelings and perceptual sensations • Edward Titchener (1867-1927) – Wundt emphasized the relationship between elements of consciousness, Titchener focused on the elements themselves • Structuralist approach failed due to introspection as the results weren’t repeated and there was no way to figure out if the introspection of the subjective experience was true or not which made it different psychologists to agree on the basic elements of consciousness • William James – used functionalist approach o Agreed with Wundt on some points – focusing on immediate experience and the importance of introspection as a technique o Disagreed with Wundt’s claim that consciousness can be broken down into basic elements o Functionalism – the study of the purpose mental processes serve in enabling people to adapt to their environments, set out to understand the functions those mental processes served o James was also inspired from Darwin’s theory of natural selection (the features of an organism that help it survive and reproduce are more likely to be passed on to next generations) – believed that mental abilities must have evolved because they were adaptive and that consciousn
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