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Chapter 1

Textbook chapters 1, 3, 4, 5

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Michael Inzlicht

READING NOTES Chapter 1: Introduction to Psychological Science Major themes of psychological science Psychological science- the study of mind (mental activity, such as thoughts and feelings), brain (where the biological processes occur that give rise to the mind) and behaviour (the wide variety of actions that occur in organisms from ants to humans) 4 major themes that have defined and are defining psychology- o Research on mind, brain and behaviour has accumulated over time to produce the principles of psychological science. o A new biological revolution has enabled us to better understand the human mind and human behaviour. Three developments have contributed to this: An increased understanding of brain chemistry Much progress has been made in identifying neurotransmitters (chemicals that communicate messages through nerve cells) and their functions. It has been discovered that hundreds of substances (including neurotransmitters) influence mental activity and behaviour. An increased understanding of the influence of genetic processes Scientists have been able to map out the human genome- the basic genetic code or blueprint for the human body. Various techniques have also been developed to study the link between genes and behaviour. The development of methods to observe the brain in action- brain imaging Researchers have only been able to do this since the late 1980s. This has enabled them to better understand how the brain produces human perceptual experience, for example. Answer to the century-old debate over whether psychological processes are located in specific parts of the brain or distributed throughout- We now know that there is some localization of function, but that many different regions of the brain work together to produce behaviour and mental activity. o The discovery that the mind is adaptive, and has been shaped by evolution Evolutionary theory- emphasizes that the brain is an organ that has evolved over millions of years to solve problems related to survival and reproduction. Further, natural selection (Darwins theory) ensured that only our ancestors with adaptations (the physical characteristics, skills, or abilities that increase the chances of survival and reproduction) passed on their genes. Adaptive behaviours have been built into the brain (and body), and it has evolved specialized structures to deal with adaptive problems (e.g. the capacity to see well, recognize dangerous objects etc.). However, many of our current behaviours (e.g. reading books, driving cars, using computers etc.) dont reflect our evolutionary heritage and have only recently become part of human experience. However, these behaviours can be considered by-products of adaptive solutions to earlier adaptive problems. www.notesolution.com 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) also provides adaptive solutions. Although biological evolution took place over millions of years, cultural evolution has only been over the past several thousand years. - For example, researchers have found distinct differences between the worldviews of typical Easterners and Westerners. Social psychologist Richard Nisbett argued that these cultural differences date back to ancient Greek and Chinese societies. Cultural psychologists still find that Westerners tend to be independent and autonomous, stressing their individuality, while Easterners are more interdependent, and see themselves more as part of a collective. Psychological science can be studied on many levels of analysis. o Psychologists often collaborate with researchers from other sciences, including biology, computer science, physics, anthropology and sociology o Psychologists study three basic categories of behaviour and mental life: social, individual, and biological. Social analysis can be divided into cultural and interpersonal analysis Individual analysis can be broken down into the analysis of individual differences, perception and cognition, and behaviour Biological analysis involves brain systems, neurochemical and genetic analysis The intellectual origins of psychology Nature vs. nurture debate o Basically, whether psychological characteristics are due to nature (biologically innate) or nurture (acquired through education, experience, and culture o It is now recognized that both are important, but recent advances in scientific knowledge allow psychological scientists to specify when either nature or nurture is important, and how they interact. o For example, until the 1950s, it was believed that schizophrenia (a disorder in which people have unusual thoughts or experience unusual sensations) and bipolar disorder (characterized by dramatic mood swings from depression to euphoria) resulted from bad parenting and other environmental circumstances (nurture). However, in the 50s and 60s, drugs were discovered that alleviated symptoms, and more recent research shows that these conditions are heritable. o Psychological scientists now believe that many mental disorders are equally a result of nurture and nature. Another example is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a result of traumatic experiences, but research shows that some people are genetically predisposed to PTSD, indicating that nurture can activate nurture. o Also, social environment plays an important role in whether treatment is successful Mind-body problem o Considers whether the mind and body are separate and distinct, or whether the mind is simply the subjective experience of the physical brain www.notesolution.com
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