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Chapter Prologue

Psychology 46-115 Chapter Prologue: 46-115 Textbook Notes

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University of Windsor
Ken Cramer

Prologue (pg. 2 – 21) What is Psychology? • Psychology  study mind and brain • Levels of Explanation  a ladder from top to bottom (social  biological) • Sociotropes  people who believe in social factors (ex. parenting practices, peer influence) Psychology: A Nasty Little Subject • William James  founder of North American psychology, once described psychology as a “nasty little subject” • Prepare to find many of your preconceptions about psychology challenged; to learn new ways of thinking about the causes of your everyday thoughts, feelings and actions; and apply these ways of thinking to evaluating psychology claims in your daily life • Psychology poses Great Questions, ex. consciousness (how we become aware of our own existence and the question of whether all human behaviour derives from the activity of the nervous system • Mysterians say these Great Questions unanswerable, believe that certain deep question are difficult that they are beyond our capacity to solve them • They suggest that the human brain isn’t smart enough to comprehend itself fully What Makes Psychology Challenging and Fascinating • Because they remind us of the almost unimaginable complexity of human behaviour • Each challenge points us to another mystery • Ten things that make psychology challenging 1. Behaviour is difficult to predict  Meehl’s maxim (Paul Meehl)  best guideline predicting behaviour  Best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour  Ex. to see if someone will be a good employee, look at her past performance  Probabilistic  forecasts that are uncertain 2. Behaviour is multiply determined  Multiply determined  produced by many factors  Single-variable explanations  stock-in-trade of pop psychology (misleading because they’re incomplete 3. Psychological influences are rarely independent of one another  Multicollinearity  the overlap among different causes of behaviour 4. Psychological influences are often unknown  Unaware of key causes of people’s behaviour = virtually impossible to study 5. People affect each other  Extraverted person want people more outgoing, which makes you even more outgoing  reciprocal determinism: people influence each other’s behaviour = makes it hard to determine what’s causing what 6. Many psychological concepts are difficult to define  Psychologist can’t agree on definitions of important psychological concepts  Jangle fallacy  the mistake of assuming that measure that carry the same label  Psychopathic personality  psychopaths/sociopaths tend to be charming, dishonest, guiltless = confusing and contradictory 7. The human brain didn’t evolve to understand itself  Brains evolved for one reason: to maximize the chances that our genes get passed on  Jacob Bronowski  psychologists are trapped in the paradox of reflexivity  trying to use the human brain to understand itself  Robert Trivers believe that human mind evolved to deceive itself 8. People usually know they’re being studied  Results problem of reactivity  the tendency for people to act differently when they know they’re being studied 9. People differ from each other  Individual differences  variations among people in thoughts, emotion, and behaviour  Ex. one person electric shocks others, people react very differently 10.Culture influences people’s behaviour  Culture often shapes how we interpret the world  Ex. westerners vs. Japanese  Emic  study the behaviour of a culture from the perspective of a native/insider  Etic  study the behaviour of a culture from an outsider Historical Psychology • Truly experimental science was 130 years ago, began around the time of ancient Greeks • Hermann Ebbingbhaus  “Psychology has a long past, but only a short history” • slow but steady voyage from “séance to science” Psychology’s Liberation from Philosophy • Kant argued that psychology shouldn’t even both to become a science; mental experiences could never be quantified or subjected to experimentation • In late 1800s, dramatically change o In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt developed the first full-fledged psychological lab in Germany, 4 year after founded a lab at Harvard University o Become an experimental science o Questions: how long does it take us to react to a sound o He used a combination of experimental methods:  reaction time equipment, a technique called introspection (required trained observers to reflect and report their mental experiences o came to known as New Psychology  broke loose from philosophy and tried to emulate like physics Psychology’s Liberation from Spiritualism • the term psychology literally means the study of psych (spirit or soul) • mid- and late 1800s, people became fascinated with spirit mediums; claimed to have contact with the dead during séances (group sessions that took place in darkened rooms to channel the spirits of the dead) • individuals claim to possess powers of mind reading • ex. Kate and Margaret Fox created a sensation in the mid-1800s, claimed to hear spooky rapping and knocking sounds from basement • sounds supposedly originated from a man who murdered and buried there • eventually confessed to fraud (made sounds by cracking toes) • Paranormal  term used to describe events like extrasensory perception (ESP) • William James hoped to uncover definitive scientific evidence for their paranormal powers • Failed and never obtained compelling evidence for paranormal phenomena  developed a distance from spiritualism  human error and self-deception • Psychologists began asking “how can people fool themselves into believing things for which there isn’t solid evidence?” • Joseph Jastrow (leader of the human error and self-deception field) argued that human psychological apparatus is vulnerable to errors of thinking and emotion that lead people to accept the existence of paranormal • Parapsychology  the study of extrasensory capacities Psychology Today Reasons for Both Optimism and Concern Psychology and psychologists in the early twenty-first century • 500000 psychologists worldwide • Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), founded in 1939, now has more than 6000 members Psychology and Controversy • Controversy in modern psychology lies in clinical practice, particularly psychotherapy • Scientist-practitioner gap = scientist vs. practitioner o Psychologists who believe that clinical practice should primarily reflect scientific findings (scientist)  Hold positions in colleges and universities  psychotherapy should be based on evidence derived from controlled studies o Psychologists who believe that clinical practice should primarily reflect subjective clinical experience and intuition (Practitioner)  Psychotherapy is more like an art than a science and should remain the same • The gap widened in the 1980s and early 1990s when thousands claimed to recover long-forgotten early memories of child sexual abuse during or following psychotherapy (recovered memories) The Great Theoretical Frameworks of Psychology • “What unifying theoretical perspective best expl
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