CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE
Lesson 1 Notes: What are the Themes of Psychological Science?
The goal for psychology today is to understand people by considering both:
- individual factors e.g. how a persons brain processes information about others
- contextual factors e.g. how societal beliefs shape how we behave toward other ppl
Ultimate ambition is to explain behavior in real-life contexts, from its most fundamental
aspects: biological, individual, social.
Psychological science is the study of mind, brain, and behavior:
- Mind: refers to mental activity, such as thoughts and feelings
o e.g. perceptual experiences (sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch)
o thinking about what to have for lunch
Mental activity results from biological processes within the brain.
For now, mind is what the brain does. It is the physical brain that enables the mind.
- Behavior: a wide variety of actions, from subtle to complex, that occur in organisms
from ants to humans
For many years, focused on behavior rather than on mental states because had few objective
techniques for assessing the mind (technology was bad). With technology, observe working
in brain in action, study mental states such as consciousness, develop fuller understanding of
What are the Themes of Psychological Science?
Psychological scientists try to figure out how people tick
- how people think, feel, and act.
- Use scientific methoduse of an objective, systematic procedures
- Typically conduct experiments to understand human behavior
1) Research on mind, brain, and behavior has accumulated over time to produce the
principles of psychological science
- typically, science progresses in smaller, incremental steps, builds on the foundation of
- we focus on what is known in psychological science
o example: modern understanding of memory builds on findings that have
accumulated over the past century
- one consequence of focusing on principles is that makes things seem simpler than they
o complexity is inherent in science as ideas and theories are modified by new
information that describes the conditions under which phenomena exist
2) A new biological revolution of profound significance is in progress at the dawn of the
twenty-first century, bringing deeper understanding of the human mind and behavior.
- THREE developments have set the state for a new biological revolution: brain
chemistry, the human genome, watching the working brain
1) Brain Chemistry: an understanding of brain chemistry
a. The brain works through chemicals called neurotransmitters, which
communicated messages between NERVE cells.
2) The Human Genome: enormous progress in understanding the influence of genetic
a. Scientist can map out human genome, the basic genetic code or blueprint for
human body, but also developed various that allow them to discover the link
between genes and behavior.
b. Almost all psychological and biological activity is affected by the actions of
3) Watching the working brain
a. How cells operate in brain has been know in past, but only since 1980s have
been able to study the working brain as it performs vital psychological
b. BRAIN SCIENCE = NEUROSCIENCE
c. Knowing location of something in brain doesnt tell you much BUT knowing
that there are consistent patterns of brain activation associated with specific
mental tasks provides evidence that the two are connected.
d. We know there is some localization of function, but that many different brain
regions participate to produce behavior and mental activity.
3) The mind is adaptive: the mind has been shaped by evolution
Humans are products of both biological and cultural evolution.
a. Evolutionary theory: the brain has evolved over millions of years to sovle
problems related to survival and reproduction. Emphasizes the inherited,
adaptive value of behavior and mental activity throughout the entire history of
b. Natural selection: Darwins theory that those who inherit characteristics that
help them adapt to their particular environment have a selective advantage over
those who do notc. Adaptations: 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. (from random gene mutations)
i. IF ENVIRONMENT CHANGES, what was once ADAPTIVE can
a. the ability to store fat in the body may have been
adaptive when the food supply was scarce, but it is
maladaptive when food is abundant.
THREE ASPECTS of evolutionary theory:
1) solving adaptive problems
a. the body contains specialized mechanisms that have evolved to
solve problems that required adaptation
1. mechanism that produces calluses has evolved to
protect the skin from hard work
b. evolutionary theory useful for adaptive problems that occur
regularly and have the potential to affect whether one survives and
reproduces, such as mechanisms for eating, sex, language,
communication, and aggression.
c. Before know that situational and cultural context important in social
behavior, now also think some are adaptive solutions