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Chapter 1

Psychological Science - Third Canadian Edition - Chapter One Notes.docx

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University of Toronto St. George

INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY: STUDY NOTES (Chapter 1) PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE = study of the brain, mind and behaviour; intuitive by nature; involves explaining, predicting, and describing behaviour MIND = refers to mental activity; the perceptual experiences a person has while interacting with the world (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch); a person’s memories, thoughts and feelings; activity results from biological processes – the actions of neurons and their chemical reactions within the brain; the mind is what the brain does; the brain enables the mind BEHAVIOUR = a wide variety of actions that occur within organisms CULTURE = the beliefs, values, rules and customs that exist within a group of people who share a common language and environment and that are transmitted through learning from one generation to the next WHAT ARE THE SEVEN THEMES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE: 1. Psychology is an empirical science  scientists use the scientific method to understand how people think, feel and act; it involves careful observations of the natural world to examine how things work; to understand and tell which studies are credible and which are not; to become an intelligent consumer of research 2. Nature and nurture are inextricably entwined  throughout history there have been many nature/nurture debates concerning whether psychological characteristics are biologically innate or acquired through education, experience and culture; however both are so enmeshed that they cannot be separated; for example, it was thought in the 1950s that mental disorders resulted from bad parenting and environmental circumstances, but later research discovered that drugs could alleviate symptoms and that these conditions are heritable – so now mental disorders result from the brain’s wiring and how people are treated within cultures 3. The brain and mind are inseparable  throughout history, it was believed that the mind is separate from and in control of the body, a belief that a divine and immortal soul separates humans from nonhuman animals; Leonardo da Vinci challenged this belief with his brain diagrams and was one of the first to attempt to link the brain’s anatomy to psychological functions; Rene Descartes promoted dualism (the mind and body are separate yet intertwined); theory is too radical; now it is the belief that that mind is what the brain does 4. A new biological revolution is energizing research  the last 20 years or so have seen tremendous growth in the understanding of mental activities’ biological bases; three developments have set the stage for the biological revolution: a. Brain chemistry = the brain works through the actions of neurotransmitters, chemicals that communicate messages between nerve cells; hundreds play critical roles in mental activity and behaviour; knowledge has enabled scientists to develop treatments for various psychological disorders b. The human genome = scientists have mapped the human genome, the basic genetic code for the human body and have developed various techniques for discovering the links between genes and behaviour; the idea that a single gene causes a specific behaviour is overly simplistic – almost all psychological and biological activity is affected by multiple genes’ actions; mapping the human genome has given scientists the foundational knowledge for studying how specific genes affect thoughts, actions, feelings and disorders c. Watching the working brain = using the methods of neuroscience, scientists can address some of the most central questions of human experience; finding that consistent patterns of brain activation are associated with specific mental tasks suggests the two are connected 5. The mind is adaptive according to the evolutionary theory, the brain has evolved over millions of years to solve problems related to survival and reproduction; so the mind is adaptive in biological and cultural terms; the evolutionary theory is a way of thinking that can be used to understand many aspects of mind and behaviour; structures have evolved in the brain to solve adaptive problems; for example, humans have a fundamental need to belong to a group, and therefore all societies discourage behaviours that may lead to social exclusion and people who lie and cheat may drain group resources and thereby decrease the chances of survival and reproduction for other group members; culture provides adaptive solutions because many of the most demanding adaptive challenges involve dealing with other humans 6. Psychological Science crosses levels of analysis  researchers have started to explain behaviour at several levels of analysis; interdisciplinary efforts share the goal of understanding how biological, individual, social and cultural factors influence specific behaviours; four levels include a. Biological = deals with how the physical body contributes to mind and behaviour, as in the neurochemical and genetic processes occurring in the body and brain b. Individual = focuses on individual differences in personality and in the mental processes that affect how people perceive and know the world c. Social = involves how group contexts affect people’s ways of interacting and influencing each other d. Cultural = explores how people’s thoughts, feelings and actions are similar or different across cultures; differences highlight the role that cultural experience play in psychological processes and similarities reveal evidence for universal phenomena 7. We often are unaware of the multiple influences on how we think, feel and act  some factors influence our thoughts, feelings and actions at an unconscious level; this idea is associated with Sigmund Freud; these influences are referred to as the “automaticity of everyday life”; events can prime our minds so that we think, feel and behave in ways suggested by the priming stimuli, even though we may not be aware of or remember those influences WAYS OF KNOWING: 1. Intuition; gut-feeling; common sense 2. Logic 3. Authority 4. Observation; hallmark of the science discipline HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGY:  In the mid-1800s in Europe, psychology arose as a separate field of study using the experimental method  John Stuart Mill declared that psychology should leave the realm of speculation and philosophy and become a science of observation and of experiment  Since then, early psychologists increasingly studied mental activity through careful scientific observation  Rapid increases in knowledge about basic physiology were central to the development of psychological science  Eventually, schools of thought on psychology were developed SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT: STRUCTURALISM = an approach to psychology based on the idea that conscious experience can be broken down into its basic underlying com
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