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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Study Guide

11 Pages

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Dan Dolderman

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Chapter 1: Introduction to Psychological Science
What are the Themes of Psychological Science?
Psychological Science1 refers to the study of the mind, brain and behavior.
Mind refers to mental activity such as thoughts thoughts and feelings. Perceptual
experiences we have (senses - i.e., sight, smell, etc) are examples of the mind in
The Brain has biological processes which creates mental activity. In other words, it is
the physical brain that enables the mind.
Behavior is used to describe a wide variety of actions, from the subtle to the complex,
that occur in organisms from ants to humans.
The Principles of Psychological Science are Cumulative
The first theme is that research on the mind, brain and behavior has accumulated over
time to produce the principles of psychological science.
Example, the behavioral properties of memory are quite well known, and today no
psychologist has to demonstrate that it is easier to recognize old information than it is
to recall old information.
A New Biological Revolution is Energizing Research
The second theme is this: A new biological revolution of profound significance is in
progress at the dawn of the twenty-first century, bringing with it a deeper
understanding of the human mind and behavior.
Brain Chemistry:
The brain works through the actions of chemicals known as neurotransmitters which
communicate messages between nerve cells. Hundreds of different substances play
critical roles in mental activity and behavior. People remember things more when they
are aroused as opposed to when they are calm because chemicals involved in
responding to stimuli influence the neural mechanisms involved in memory.
The Human Genome:
Scientists have been able to map out the human genome (the basic genetic code or
blueprint for the human body), but they have also developed various techniques that
allow them to discover the link between genes and behavior. For instance, to study the
effects of a gene on memory, researches have been able to breed mice that either
lack a specific gene or have new genes inserted. By identifying the genes that are
involved in memory, researchers may soon be able to develop therapies based on
Chapter 1!PSY100
1 The study of mind, brain, and behavior
genetic manipulation that will assist people who have memory problems such as
Alzheimer"s disease.
Mapping the human genome has provided scientists with the foundational knowledge
to study how specific genes affect thoughts, actions, feelings, and various disorders.
Watching the Working Brain:
Using the methods of brain science, or neuroscience, psychological scientists have
been able to address some of the most central questions of human experience, how
various types of memory are similar or different, and how conscious experience
involves changes in brain activity.
We know that there is some localization of function, but that many different regions
participate to produce behavior and mental activity. The use of brain imaging has
allowed psychological scientists to make tremendous strides in understanding mental
states such as those involved in paying full attention to one thing while ignoring other
The Mind is Adaptive
The third theme of psychological science is that the mind has been shaped by
evolution. Humans are products of both biological and cultural evolutions, each of
which exerts an influence over how people think and behave.
From an evolutionary theory2 perspective, the brain is an organ that has evolved over
millions of years to solve problems related to survival and reproduction. During the
course of evolution, those ancestors who were able to solve survival problems and
adapt to their environments were most likely to reproduce and pass along their genes.
That is, those who inherited characteristics that helped them survive in their particular
environments had a selective advantage over those who did not, which is the basis of
the process of natural selection3.
Random gene mutations endowed some of our ancestors with physical
characteristics, skills, and abilities, known as adaptations4, that increased their
chances of survival and reproduction, which means that their genes were passed
along to future generations. Of course, if the environment changes, what once was
adaptive might become maladaptive (ex. The ability to store fat in the body may have
been adaptive when the food supply was scarce, but it may be maladaptive when food
is abundant).
Solving Adaptive Problems:
Chapter 1!PSY100
2 In psychological science, a theory that emphasizes the inherited, adaptive value of behavior and mental
activity throughout the entire history of a species.
3 Darwin"s theory that those who inherit characteristics that help them adapt to their particular
environment have a selective advantage over those who do not.
4 In evolutionary theory, the physical characteristics, skills, or abilities that increase the chances of
reproduction or survival and are therefore likely to be passed along to future generations.
Evolutionary theory is especially useful for thinking about adaptive problems that occur
regularly and have the potential to affect whether one survives and reproduces, such
as mechanisms for eating, sex, language and communication, emotions, and
aggression. People who lie, cheat, or steal drain group resources and thereby possibly
decrease survival and reproduction for other group members.
Such built in mechanisms of evolutionary theory assist in solving recurring problems
that faced our ancestors over the course of human evolution.
Modern Minds in Stone Age Skulls:
According to evolutionary theory, we must seek to understand the challenges that
faced our early ancestors to understand much of our current behavior, whether
adaptive or maladaptive.
Humans began evolving about 5 million years ago, but modern humans (Homo
sapiens) can be traced back only about 100,000 years to the Pleistocene era. The fact
that the human brain adapted to accommodate the needs of Pleistocene hunter-
gatherers means we should be looking at what life was like then, and look to
understand how the brain works within the context of the environmental pressures that
the brains of Pleistocene-era humans faced.
Many of our current behaviors of course do not reflect our evolutionary heritage.
Reading books, driving cars, using computer, talking on the telephones, and watching
television are behaviors that only very recently became part of human experience.
Rather than being adaptations, such behaviors can be considered by-products of
adaptive solutions to earlier adaptive problems.
Culture Provides Adaptive Solutions:
For humans, the most demanding adaptive challenges involve dealing with other
humans. These challenges include selecting mates, cooperating in hunting and
gathering, forming alliances, competing for scarce resources, and even warring with
neighboring groups. Unlike many animal species, humans are not able to care for
themselves at birth; they require substantial effort and resources from caregivers, who
themselves are reliable on other group members for survival.
The complexity of living in groups gives rise to culture5. The assumption being that the
various aspects of culture are transmitted from one generation to the next through
learning. For instance, our musical and food preferences, our ways of expressing
emotion, our tolerance of body odors and so on are influenced and affected by the
culture in which we are raised.
In contrast to biological evolution in humans which has taken place over several
million years, cultural evolution has occurred over a much shorter period, with the
most dramatic changes coming from the last few thousand years.
The flows of people, commodities, and financial instruments, often referred to as
globalization, have increased in velocity and scale in the past century in ways that
were unimaginable nearly 500 years ago.
Chapter 1!PSY100
5 The beliefs, values, rules, and customs that exist within a group of people who share a common
language and environment and that are transmitted though learning from one generation to the next.

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