Sunteți pe pagina 1din 3

Chapter 1: The Science of Psychology

Important Points

Psychology as a Science Approaches to Behaviour Contemporary Fields

The historian E.G. Boring once observed that psychology has a long past, but a short history. The long past indicates that psychology has roots extending back to the ancient Greek philosophers. Many were interested in the causes of human behaviour and wrote extensively on the topic. Breakthroughs in anatomy and medicine increased our understanding of the human condition and contributed to the study of psychology. But the study of psychology as a distinct discipline only began in 1879 when Wundt (pronounced vunt) established the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. So as an independent field of study, weve only been around for just over 100 years! As you go through chapter 1, there are 3 important topics to consider. 1. Psychology is a science. As a science, the field psychology follows particular methods of investigation. What we know about behaviour is based on observation, theory, and research methodology. Read the section on the Nature of Psychology ( p.4 - 8) very carefully. Note that theory is much more useful than common sense, and that to be a scientific theory, it must be testable. This criterion more than any other distinguishes scientific theory from other types of explanations regarding human behaviour. Whenever you are presented with a theory (or claim) about behaviour, ask yourself, how would I test that? If you can not come up with a reasonable answer, then the theory is not likely to be based on scientific principles.

2. Psychology takes many different approaches to the study of behaviour. A brief history of psychology is outlined on pages 8 - 30. The important material here lies in the approaches taken to the study of behaviour. For example, James was a functionalisthe stressed the uses of behaviour (or mental processes), particularly as they related to evolution and natural selection. A functionalist will ask what purpose a behaviour serveshow does it help an organism to survive. James believed that it was possible to study the mind, and saw consciousness as a continuous stream of activity (unlike the structuralists). By contrast, the behaviourists (e.g., Watson, Pavlov, Skinner) rejected the concept of the mind. They believed that the study of behaviour must be limited to only those things that are observable. If you could not see a concept or process, it was useless to discuss it. Note that this does not discuss the study of thinking or memoryit just limits the area of research to observable aspects (e.g., number of words recalled). As you read through this section, note the various approaches to psychology. Think about the ways in which they are similar, and then the ways in which they differ. For example, which approaches are focused primarily on internal causes of behaviour? Which are focused on external causes? Who would most disagree with the position taken by Freud? 3. Contemporary Fields of Study In any psychology department you will find individuals who look at behaviour in a wide variety of ways. Some of these areas come directly from the major approaches listed above, others are subspecialties, and still others represent a completely different view. The areas presented on pages 34 37 (and mentioned on earlier pages) are not exhaustivethe American Psychological Association lists over 50 separate divisions or affiliations for psychologists. Nonetheless, these are the major areas of study. As you read through these, think about the orientation taken by someone in this area. What would a cognitive psychologist study? Who is most likely to be interested in the abilities of a newborn? Which group is most likely to run experiments?

A note about names and dates. There are many researchers mentioned in this (and every) chapter in the text. Do not be concerned with memorizing the names and dates of all the researchers. For the most part, you will not be expected to know this information. I would expect you to know the big names in psychologyFreud, Skinner, Piaget, Pavlov, etc. These are people who have theories or an entire approach named after them. If I ask you a question about any particular example, I will always give you enough information in the question to help identify the concept. For example, I would not ask you what Darley & Latane (1968) studied. If I wanted to ask something about this study, I would phrase it something like, in the 1968 study by Darley & Latane on bystander intervention. It is much more important to focus on theories and concepts rather than details and examples.