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Chapter 1

Psychology 1000 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Psychologies, Heredity, Behaviorism

by

Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYCH 1000
Professor
Nick Skinner
Chapter
1

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Chapter 1: What is Psychology?
Psychology: the discipline concerned with behavior and mental processes and how they
are affected by an organism’s physical state, mental state, and external environment; the
term is often represented by Ψ, the Greek letter psi.
Psychology, Pseudoscience, and Popular Opinion
Psychobabble: pseudoscience and quackery covered by a veneer of psychological and
scientific-sounding language.
e.g.: electrical gizmos that promise they will have both halves of your brain working at a
peak, or, psychics and astrologers
- promises easy fixes to lifes problems and challenges
- uncertainty about untested assumptions and beliefs can be a good thing
- popular opinion and “common sense” are not always reliable guides to human behavior
- beliefs in psychobabble exists because it gives people a sense of control and
predictability in a confusing world
- psychological findings to not have to be surprising or counterintuitive, however,
important
- psychological researchers strive not only to discover new phenomena and correct
mistaken ideas, but also to deepen an understanding of an already familiar world
Thinking Critically and Creatively About Psychology
Critical Thinking: the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective
judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons and evidence, rather than emotion or
anecdote.
- critical thinkers are able to look for flaws in arguments and resist claims that have no
support
- not merely negative thinking
- includes the ability to be creative and constructive, to come up with alternative
explanations for events, think of implications of research findings, and apply new
knowledge to social and personal problems
- indispensable in ordinary life, but, also fundamental to science, including psychological
science
- without critical thinking people cannot formulate a rational argument or see through
misleading ads that play on their emotions.
- clear thinking takes effort and practice
-open-mindedness does not mean that all opinions are created equal and that everybody’s
beliefs are as good as anyone elses
- if your opinion ignores reality, it is not equal to any other
- critical thinking requires logical skills, but other kinds of skills and dispositions are also
important
8 Critical- Thinking Guidelines:

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1. Ask Questions; Be Willing to Wonder:
The trigger mechanism for creative thinking is the disposition to be curious, to wonder, to
inquire.
2. Define Your Terms:
Once you’ve raised a general question, the next step is to frame it in clear and concrete
terms. Vague or poorly defined terms in question can lead to misleading or incomplete
answers.
3. Examine the Evidence:
Accepting a conclusion without evidence, or expecting others to do so, is a sure sign of
lazy thinking. Sometimes, checking the reliability of the evidence for a claim is not
practical. Then, critical thinkers would consider whether the evidence came from a
reliable source. Reliable authorities exercise critical thinking themselves.
4. Analyze Assumptions and Biases:
Assumptions are beliefs that are taken for granted. If we do not make explicit our own
assumptions and those of other people, our ability to judge an argument’s merits can be
impaired. When an assumption or belief keeps us from considering the evidence fairly, or
causes us to ignore the evidence completely, it becomes a bias.
5. Avoid Emotional Reasoning:
Passionate commitment to a view motivates people to think boldly, to defend unpopular
ideas, and to seek evidence for creative new theories. When “get feelings” replace clear
thinking, the results can be dangerous. All of us are apt to feel threatened and get
defensive whenever our most cherished beliefs are challenged. Because our feelings feel
so right and natural we may not realize that people who hold an opposing view point feel
just as strongly as we do.
6. Don’t Oversimplify:
A critical thinker looks beyond the obvious, resists easy generalizations, and rejects either
– or thinking. A common form of oversimplification is argument by anecdote-
generalizing to everyone from a personal experience or a few examples. Anecdotes are
often the source of stereotyping as well.
7. Consider Other Interpretations
A critical thinker creatively generates as many reasonable explanations of the topic at
hand as possible before settling on the most likely one. Once several explanations of a
phenomenon have been generated, a critical thinker chooses the one that accounts for the
most evidence while making the fewest unverified assumptions, a principle known as
Occams Razor: the principle of choosing the solution that accounts for the most evidence
while making the fewest unverified assumptions.
8. Tolerate Uncertainty:
Sometimes there is little to no evidence to examine, the evidence may permit only
tentative conclusions, or the evidence may seem strong enough to permit conclusions…
until new evidence throws our beliefs into disarray. Critical thinkers need to accept that a
certain amount of uncertainty does not mean that we must abandon all beliefs and
convictions.
- critical thinking is a process, not a once-and-for-all accomplishment.
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- we are all less-open minded than we think; it is always easier to poke holes in another
person’s argument than to critically examine our own position
Psychologys Past: From the Armchair to the Laboratory
- Psychology’s forerunners made some valid observations and has useful insights, but
without rigorous empirical methods they also made serious errors in the description and
explanation of behavior.
Phrenology: the now discredited theory that different brain areas account for specific
character and personality traits, which can be “read” from bumps on the skull.
The Birth of Modern Psychology
- The official founder of scientific psychology was Wilhelm Wundt, who formally
established the first psychological laboratory in 1879, in Leipzig, Germany.
Three Early Psychologies
- During the early decades of psychology’s existence, 3 schools of psychological thought
became popular. (One soon faded, another disappeared as a separate school but still
influences the field, and the third remains alive today).
STRUCTURALISM
- an early psychological approach that emphasized the analysis of immediate experience
into basic elements.
- structuralists hoped to analyze sensations, images, and feelings into basic elements
- asked what happens when an organism does something
- soon structuralism was abandoned in part because of its reliance on introspection
- structuralists reliance on introspection by volunteers also got them into trouble
- introspectors often produced conflicting reports
FUCTIONALISM
- an early psychological approach that emphasized the function or purpose of behaviour
and consciousness.
- was inspired in part of the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin; it emphasized the
purpose of behaviour.
- wanted to know how specific behaviours and mental processes help a person or animal
adapt to the environment, so they looked for underlying causes and practical
consequences of these behaviours and processes
- one of its leading proponents was William James; noted that the brain and the mind are
constantly changing
- asked how and why an organism does something
- they felt free to pick and choose among many methods, and they broadened the field of
psychology to include the study of children, animals, religious experiences and “stream
of consciousness” – describes the way thoughts flow like a river, tumbling over each
other in waves, sometimes placid, sometimes turbulent.
- functionalism, too, did not last long as a distinct school of psychology, but it greatly
affected the course of psychological science
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