Psychology 1000 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Gestalt Psychology, Naturalistic Observation, Empiricism
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Psychology – Text Book Summaries
The Nature of Psychology
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour. The term behaviour refers to actions and responses that can be
observed and measured directly as well as mental processes such as thoughts and feelings that must be inferred
from directly observable responses
Basic research is the quest for knowledge for its own sake, whereas applied research involves the application of
knowledge derived from basic research to solve practical problems
The primary goals of psychological science are to describe, explain, predict and influence behaviour and to apply
the psychological knowledge to enhance human welfare
Perspectives on Behaviour: Guides to Understanding and Discovery
Several perspectives have shaped psychology’s scientific growth. Each perspective views human nature
differently and focuses on different causes of behaviour
With roots in physiology, medicine and Darwin’s theory of evolution, the biological perspective examines how
bodily functions regulate behaviour. Physiological psychologists study brain processes and other physiological
functions that underlie our behaviour, sensory experiences, emotions and thoughts. Behaviour geneticists study
how behaviour is influenced by our genetic inheritance. Evolutionary psychologists examine behaviour in terms
of its adaptive functions and seek to explain how evolution has biologically predisposed modern humans toward
certain ways of behaving
Psychology’s intellectual roots lie in philosophy, biology and medicine. In the late 1800, Wundt and James
helped found psychology. Structuralism , which examined the basic components of consciousness, and
functionalism which focused on the purposes of consciousness, were psychology’s two earliest schools of
The cognitive perspective view humans as information processors, who think, judge and solve problems. Its
roots lie in the early schools of structuralism, functionalism and Gestalt psychology. Piaget’s work on cognitive
development, the study of linguistics, and the advent of computers sparked a new interest in mental processes.
Research in artificial intelligence develops computer models of human thought, whereas cognitive neuroscience
studies brain processes that underlie mental activity. Social constructivism maintains that much of what we call
reality is a creation of our own mental processes.
Psychodynamic perspective calls attention to unconscious motives, conflicts and defence mechanisms that
influence our personality and behaviour. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory emphasizes unconscious sexual and
aggressive impulses and early childhood experiences that shape personality
With roots in 18th century British empiricism, the behaviour perspective emphasizes how the external
environment and learning shape behaviour. Behaviourists such as Watson and Skinner believed that psychology
should only study observable stimuli and responses, not unobservable mental processes. They argued that to
change behaviour, the key is to modify the environment. Behaviourists discovered basic laws of learning through
controlled research with laboratory animals and successfully applied these principles to enhance human
Humanists reject the notion that people are controlled by unconscious forces or merely react to environmental
stimuli. Instead, the humanistic perspective emphasizes personal freedom and choice, psychological growth and
The sociocultural perspective examines how the social environment and cultural learning influence our
behaviour and thoughts. Cultural psychologists study how culture is transmitted to its member and examine
similarities and differences among people from various cultures. An orientation toward individualism versus
collectivism represents one of many ways in which cultures vary.
Integrating the Perspectives: Three Levels of Analysis
Factors that influence behaviour can be organized into three broad levels of analysis. The biological level of
analysis focuses on brain processes, hormonal and genetic influences and evolutionary adaptation that underlie
behaviour. The psychological level of analysis examines mental processes and psychological motives, and how
they influence behaviour. The environmental level of analysis calls attention to physical and social stimuli,
including cultural factors that shape our behaviour and thoughts.
To understand behaviour, we often move back and forth between these levels of analysis. For example when as
children we are first exposed to cultural norms, those norms reflect a characteristic of our environment.
However, once we adopt norm as our own, they become part of our worldview and now represent the
psychological level of analysis.
Biological, psychological, and environmental factors contribute to the development of depression. These factors
can also interact to influence a given behaviour. It may take only a mild setback to trigger depression in a person
who has a strong biological predisposition toward depression, whereas a person who doesn’t have such a
biological predisposition may become depressed only after suffering a severe setback.
Fields within Psychology
Psychologist specializes in numerous subfields and work in many settings. Their professional activities
include teaching, research, clinical work and application of psychological principles to solve personal and
Psychologists today conduct research and provide services around the globe.
You can use principles derived from psychological science to enhance your learning and increase your
likelihood of performing well on tests. These include time management principles, strategies for studying
more effectively, test – preparation strategies, and techniques for taking tests.
Scientific Principles in Psychology
Curiosity, skepticism, open-mindedness are key scientific attitudes. The scientific process proceeds through
several steps (1) asking questions based on some type of observation, (2) formulating a tentative explanation
and a testable hypothesis, (3) conducting research to test the hypothesis, (4) analyzing the data and drawing a
tentative conclusion, (5) building a theory, (6) using the theory to generate new hypotheses, which are tested by
In everyday life we typically use hindsight (after the fact understanding) to explain behaviour. This approach is
flowed because there may be countless possible explanation and no way to ascertain which is correct.
Psychologists prefer to test their understanding through predictions, control and building theories about the
causes of behaviour
A good theory organizes know facts, gives rise to additional hypotheses that are testable, is supported by the
findings of new research and is parsimonious(incomplete)
An operational definition defines a concept or variable in terms of the specific procedures used to produce or
Psychologists assess behaviour by obtaining participants self – reports, gathering reports from other who know
the participants, directly observing behaviour and measuring physiological responses
Methods of Research
The goal of descriptive research is to identify how organisms behave, particularly in natural settings. Cases
studies involve detailed study of a person, group or event. Case studies often suggest important ideas for further
research, but they are poor method for establishing cause – effect relations
Naturalistic observation gathers information about behaviour in real life settings. It often yields rich descriptions
of behaviour and allows the examination of relations between variables. Researchers must be careful to avoid
influencing the participants being observed and to interpret their observations objectively
Surveys involve administering questionnaire or interview to many people. Most surveys study a subset of people
(a sample) that is randomly drawn from the larger population of people the researcher is interested in. a major
advantage of surveys is that representative samples allow for reasonable accurate estimates of the opinions or
behaviours of the entire population. Unrepresented samples, however, can lead to inaccurate estimates. Survey
results also can be distorted by interview bias or biases in the way participants report about themselves
Correlational Research: Measuring Associations between Events
Correlational research measures the association between naturally occurring variables. A positive
correlation means that higher scores on one variable are associated with higher scores on a second variable.
A negative correlation occurs when higher scores on one variable are associated with lower scores on the
Casual conclusions cannot be drawn from correlational data. Variable X may cause Y, Y may cause X, or some
third variable (Z) may be the true cause of both X and Y. nevertheless, if two variables are correlated, then
knowing the scores of one variable will help predict the scores of the other
Experiments: Examining Cause and Effect
A well designed experiment is the best way to examine cause – effect relations. Experiments have three
essential characteristics: (1) one or more variables are manipulated; (2) their effects on other variables are
measured; and (3) extraneous factors are eliminated or reduced so that cause-effect conclusions can be drawn.
Each variable manipulated by the experimenter is an independent variable. Variables that are measured are
dependent variables. The independent variable is viewed as the cause, the dependent variable as the effect. The
experimental group receives a treatment or an active level of the independent variable, whereas the control
group does not. The behaviour of the control group sets a standard against which the behaviour of the
experimental group can be compared.
In some experiments different participants are randomly assigned to each condition, creating experimental and
control groups that are equivalent at the start of study. In other experiments the same participants are exposed
to all the conditions but the order in which the conditions are presented is counterbalanced.
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour. The term behaviour refers to actions and responses that can be observed and measured directly as well as mental processes such as thoughts and feelings that must be inferred from directly observable responses. Basic research is the quest for knowledge for its own sake, whereas applied research involves the application of knowledge derived from basic research to solve practical problems. The primary goals of psychological science are to describe, explain, predict and influence behaviour and to apply the psychological knowledge to enhance human welfare. Perspectives on behaviour: guides to understanding and discovery. Several perspectives have shaped psychology"s scientific growth. Each perspective views human nature differently and focuses on different causes of behaviour. With roots in physiology, medicine and darwin"s theory of evolution, the biological perspective examines how bodily functions regulate behaviour. Physiological psychologists study brain processes and other physiological functions that underlie our behaviour, sensory experiences, emotions and thoughts.