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Chapter 1

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Ashley Waggoner Denton

Psychology Chapter 1 Notes - Psychologists seek to understand how people think, act, and perceive in a wide range of situations - Techniques such as brain imaging show which parts of the brain are involved in particular behaviours or particular mental activities - There was a study where white university students were shown pictures of white and black people - fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging was used) - When some of the participants saw pictures of black faces, the amygdala and anterior cingulate were activated - Amygdala is associated with threat detection - Anterior cingulate is associated with emotional response - This response was only shown in the people whose scores on the IAT (Implicit association test) indicated negative attitudes towards blacks - In another study, a new group of students were shown pictures of famous black people and this response did not occur - This suggests that increasing familiarity reduces the fear response - Psychological science is the study of the mind, brain, and behaviour - The mind refers to mental activity which includes the senses, memories, thoughts, and feelings - Mental activity results from the biological processes of the brain, which includes nerve cells (neurons) - The physical brain enables the mind - The term behaviour is used to describe a wide variety of actions - For many years, psychologists focussed on behaviours rather than mental states due to lack of technology but recent technology has changed that Seven themes of Psychological Science 1) Psychology is an empirical science 2) Nature and nurture are inextricably entwined 3) The brain and the mind are inseparable 4) A new biological revolution is energizing research 5) The mind is adaptive 6) Psychological science crosses levels of analysis 7) We are often unaware of the multiple of influence of how we think, feel, and act Psychology is an empirical science - Psychological scientists use the scientific method to understand how people think - The scientific method uses objective and systematic procedures that lead to an accurate understanding of what is being studied - We are all consumers of scientific research because we buy magazines 1 - We must be able to distinguish between good science and bad science - Good science utilizes well-conducted research such as the scientific method Nature and Nurture are inextricably intertwined - The nature/nurture debate are the arguments whether concerning whether characteristics are biologically innate or acquired through education, experience, or culture - Culture is 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 - Psychologists now study the way that nature and nurture influence each other - In the past, it was believed that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were thought to be the result of bad parenting or other environmental circumstances (meaning that the causes were nurture) - More recent research showed that these disorders could be heritable - Psychological scientists now believe that many mental disorders result as much as from the brain’s wiring (nature) and how people are raised in a particular culture (nurture) - People’s experiences change their brain structure which in turn changes how they experience the environment - PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) results from a traumatic event where people get recurring horrible memories - Although PTSD results from specific situations, recent research shows that there are genetic predispositions to developing it The brain and mind are inseparable - In the past, people have thought that the mind resided in many organs including the liver and the heart - Using a wax cast of the brain, Da Vinci found that the sensory images (sight, smell, and touch) went to the middle part of the brain called the sensus communis - The mind body problem asks whether the mind and body are separate and distinct or if the mind is simply the physical brain’s subjective experience - In the 1600s, Rene Descartes came up with the idea of dualism, the idea that the mind and body are separated yet intertwined - Descartes thought that the body was just an organic machine governed by “reflex” - Mental functions such as memory and imagination resulted from bodily functions - Descartes concluded that the rational mind was divine and separate from the rest of the body - He assigned to the body many mental functions that were previously considered the mind’s domain - Psychological scientists reject this notion because they think that the mind is what the brain does 2 A new biological Revolution is energizing research - Scientists have been asking questions such as “how are memories stored in the brain?” or “where does emotion come from?” - We want to identify the neural correlates of how we identify people - There have been three major areas of development for the biological revolution Brain chemistry - The brain works through actions of neurotransmitters, chemicals that communicate between nerve cells, though there are hundreds of other substances involved with brain activity - For example, people have better memories for events when they are aroused rather than when they were calm The Human Genome - The second major development is trying to understand how the genetic processes’ influence life - For instance, presence of a specific gene in mice can affect the quality of their memory - Situational contexts can also affect how a gene is expressed Watching the working brain - Using methods of neuroscience, psychological scientists can now address some of the most central questions of human experience, such as how different brain regions interact to produce perceptual experience, how various types of memory are similar or different, and how conscious experience involves changes in brain activity - For over a century, scientists have disagreed on whether psychological processes occur in specific parts of the brain or are distributed throughout the brain - We now know that there is some localization of brain functions but many brain regions still participate to produce behaviour and mental activity - The 1990s was the decade of the brain because we made a lot of progress in understanding the neural basis of mental life The mind is adaptive - Evolutionary theory was developed by Charles Darwin and it states that behaviour and mental activity are inherited throughout the history of a species - The brain has evolved over millions of years to solve problems related to survival and reproduction - Adaptations are the physical characteristics, skills or abilities that increase the chances of reproduction or survival and are therefore more likely to be passed to future generations - Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, - Charles Darwin came up with the theory of natural selection, where the beneficial mutations are more likely to be passed on and the mutations that hinder survival are less likely to be passed on - This idea is also known as survival of the fittest 3 Solving Adaptive problems - Just like how our skin has adapted to produce calluses when we do hard labour, specialized circuits have evolved in our brains to solve adaptive situations - Many behaviours and attitudes can also be considered adaptive solutions to recurring human problems - For example, all humans have a fundamental need to belong to a social group so societies discourage anti social behaviour - Cheaters and liars may drain group resources so groups may reject these people - Another adaptive mechanism that begins in infants is the “visual cliff” - If an infant that is just old enough to crawl is placed on a plastic surface that extends over a height, the infant will not climb off of the surface even if the mother is on the other side - This fear of heights is surely an adaptive mechanism that helps survival Modern minds in stone age skulls - Humans began evolving over five million years ago even though humans appeared 100,000 years ago, the Pleistocene era - If the human brain slowly began adapting during that time, they need to suit the needs of the hunters - Therefore, the evolutionary force has driven humans to like sweet and fatty foods - Though it is maladaptive now to eat sweet and fatty foods because they are available in excess Culture provides adaptive solutions - For humans, one of the biggest challenges involves dealing with other humans - This includes selecting mates, co-operating in hunting groups, competing for scarce resources, and warring with neighbouring groups - The complexity of living in groups gives rise to culture, which includes music and food preferences, tolerance of body odour, and ways of expressing emotion - In the last century, there have been dramatic changes in how human societies interact - The flow of people, commodities, and financial instruments around the world is referred to as globalization - Westerners tend to be more analytic by breaking complex ideas into simpler components and use logic and rules to explain behaviour - Easterners tend to see things as a more complicated whole - Robert Nisbett argues that these differences date back from the eighth through the third century BC, with ancient Greece and China - “family orientation” and “harmony” tend to be more important for the Chinese but not Westerners - Westerners are more likely to emphasize their personal strength while Easterners are more likely to emphasize their need for self improvement 4 Psychological Science crosses levels of analysis - Psychologists often team up with people in the fields of biology, computer science, physics, anthropology, and sociology to understand behaviour - Interdisciplinary efforts have been used to understand our behaviour - There are four levels of analysis for Psychological Sciences: Level Focus Details Biological Brain systems, Neurochemistry, This deals with how the physical body affects the Genetics mind and behaviour Individual Individual differences, This deals with the individual differences in perception and cognition, and personality and the mental processes that affect behaviour how people perceive and know the world Social Interpersonal behaviour and This deals with how group contexts affect how social cognition people think and act Cultural The thoughts, actions, and This deals with how people’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours in different societies and beliefs are similar or d
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