Psychology = The scientific study of behaviour and the factors that influence it.

Taking into account Biological, Individual and Environmental factors.

Basic and Applied Science

  • Two types of research:
    • Basic research: Knowledge gained purely for its own sake. The goals are to describe how people behave and to identify factors that influence it. Research maybe carried out in lab or real world
      • e.g. Robert Cave – Jigsaw case study – showed how competition leads to hostility but could be reduced by making them dependent on each other.
    • Applied research: Knowledge gained to solve specific practical problems. Uses principles discovered via basic research to solve practical problems.

Goals of Psychology

  • Four basic goals: DEuPIc
    • Describe how people and animals behave
    • Explain and understand the causes of the behaviour
    • Predict how people and animals behave under certain conditions
    • Influence or control the behaviour through knowledge and control of causes

Importance of Perspectives

  • Diverse viewpoints allows for enriched understanding of behaviour and its causes
  • Six different perspectives: biological, cognitive, psychodynamic, behavioural, humanistic, and sociocultural. PBS & HBC
          • Psychodynamic – unconscious forces motivating behaviour
          • Behavioural – role of external environment on out action
          • Sociocultural – culture and behaviour relate
          • Humanistic – self actualization and free will
          • Biological – physical side of human nature, brain and genes
          • Cognitive – thought process

The Biological Perspective

  • Focuses on the physical side of human nature
    • Emphasizes role of brain, including biochemical processes
  • Mind-body dualism: The belief that the mind is a spiritual entity not subject to the physical laws that govern the body
    • No amount of research on the body could ever explain the mind
    • Ancient widely-held view, especially by Greeks
  • Monism: The belief that the mind and body are one, and mental events are a product of physical events
    • Modern view by most scientists

Discovery of Brain-Behaviour Relations

  • Late 1700s, Luigi Galvani discovered severed leg of frog moved with electrical current applied to it

o    Defied prior belief that bodily movements were caused by soul

  • By 1870, researchers applied electrical stimulation directly to brains of animals

o    Stimulation of specific areas on brain resulted in movements of particular muscles

  • Karl Lashley damaged specific regions of brain and studied effects on learning and memory abilities in animals trained to run through mazes
  • In 1929, invention of electroencephalogram (EEG) allowed researchers to measure electrical activity of large areas of brain

Evolution and Behaviour

  • Darwin’s theory of natural selection demonstrated that inheritable characteristics that increase likelihood of survival will be maintained. Proposed that humans and apes arose from the same ancestor.
  • Evolutionary psychology focuses on role of evolution in development of human behaviour

o    Psychologists stress organism’s biology determine its behavioural capabilities and behaviour

  • Sociobiology holds that complex social behaviours are built into human species as products of evolution

o    Natural selection favors behaviours that increase ability to pass on genes (aggression, competition, dominance in males, cooperation and nurturing in females, etc.)

o    Sociobiologists believe that one’s genetic survival is more important than one’s own physical survival (altruism)

o    Criticized for overemphasizing innate biological factors at expense of cultural and social learning factors in explaining complex human social behaviour

Behavior Genetics

  • Study of how behavioural tendencies are influenced by genetic factors
  • Animals can be bred not only for physical, but also behavioural traits (aggression, intelligence, etc.)
  • Identical twins, with identical genetic makeup, are very similar in behaviour compared to fraternal twins

o    Found even when identical twins reared in different homes

The Cognitive Perspective
  • Views humans as information processors and problem solvers whose actions are governed by thought and planning. What sets humans apart is that we have mental capabilities.
    • Studies how mental processes influence our motives, emotions, and behaviour
  • Several schools and individuals contributed to modern cognitive perspective:
    • Structuralism
      • Analysis of mind in terms of its basic elements
      • Studied sensations through introspection (“looking within”)Patients were exposed to stimuli and asked to explain their experiences.
      • Wilhelm Wundt wanted to model study of the mind after physical and biological sciences. Believed mind could be studied via breaking it down to its basic parts, this was called structuralism. Believed sensations were basic elements of consciousness.
        • Founded first laboratory of experimental psychology in 1879
    • Functionalism
      • Psychology should study the functions of consciousness (the “why’s) rather than its structure- (the What’s)
      • Influenced partly by Darwin’s evolutionary theory (adaption to succeed)
      • William James broad functionalist approach helped widen the scope of psychology to include biological/mental processes and behaviour
    • Gestalt Psychology
      • Concerned with how elements of experience are organized into wholes
        • Opposite of structuralism
      • Wolfgang Kohler concluded that ability to perceive relationships is the essence of intelligence
        • Defined “insight” as sudden perception of a useful relationship or solution to a problem
        • Demonstrated insight by observing chimpanzee use various items in a cage to reach a banana at the top
    • Jean Piaget
      • Studied how children think, reason, and solve problems
      • Concerned with how the mind and its development contribute to our ability to adapt to our environment
    • Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck
      • Attempted to understand how mental distortions and irrational thought patterns create emotional problems
      • Emphasized that distress and maladaptive behaviour are caused by the ways situations are thought about, not by external situations

Modern Cognitive Science

  • Artificial intelligence develops computer models of complex human thought, reasoning, and problem solving
  • Interested in how people produce and recognize speech and how creative solutions to problems are produced
  • Social constructivism: What we consider reality is in large part our own mental creation

o    Little shared reality exists apart from what groups of people socially construct through subjective meaning they give to their experiences

o    Believe male and female sex roles created not by nature, but by shared world view that exists within social groups

The Psychodynamic Perspective
  • Searches for causes of behaviour within workings of personality, emphasizing role of unconscious processes and unresolved conflicts from past
  • Sigmund Freud emphasized role of complex psychological forces in controlling human behaviour
    • Focused on hysteria, condition where physical symptoms develop without organic cause
    • Found improvement in patients after they reported and relived painful childhood sexual experiences
    • Led Freud to believe that most of human behaviour is influenced by unconscious forces
    • Believed repression was a defense mechanism to keep anxiety-arousing impulses, feelings, and memories in unconscious depth of mind
    • All behaviour is a reflection of unconscious internal struggle between conflicting psychological forces of impulse and defenses
  • Freud opposed laboratory research, and depended on clinical observations and personal self-analysis
The Behavioural Perspective
  • Focuses on the role of the external environment in shaping and governing our actions
    • Behaviour influenced by learned habits and by stimuli in the environment
  • History rooted in school of philosophy known as British Empiricism
    • All ideas and knowledge are gained empirically
    • John Locke: The human mind is initially a white paper, to be furnished by experience
    • Observation overrules reasoning, since “seeing is believing” while reasoning has potential for error
    • Pavlov found involuntary learning in dogs from external stimulus
  • John Watson lead movement of behaviourism in 1920s
    • Proper subject matter of psychology is observable behaviour, not unobservable inner consciousness
    • Devoted efforts to discovering laws that govern learning and performance
  • B. F. Skinner believed mental events, images, and feelings from within are behaviours and not causes
  • Behaviour modification techniques alter problem behaviours and increase positive behaviours through alterations in environmental factors
  • Cognitive behaviourism is an attempt to bridge gap between behavioural and cognitive perspectives
    • Environment exerts effects on behaviour by affecting thoughts
    • Mental abilities allow control of behaviour and influence of environment (control varies from environment à person and person à environment)
The Humanistic Perspective
  • Emphasizes free will, innate tendencies towards growth, and attempt to find ultimate meaning in one’s existence
    • Rejected images of behaviour control from unconscious forces
  • Understand role of internal personality processes, but stress importance of conscious motives, freedom, and choice
  • Active force toward growth and self-actualization (reaching individual potential)
  • Terror management theory constructs reality, often involving afterlife and sense of order and stability, to have sense of personal value
The Sociocultural Perspective
  • Focuses on the manner in which culture is transmitted to its members and on similarities/differences that occur among people from diverse cultures
  • Culture: Enduring values, beliefs, behaviours, and traditions shared among a large group of people
  • Each culture develops social norms
    • Norms: Rules that specify what is acceptable and expected behaviour
  • Humans have need to develop cultures
    • Introduce order and particular world view into social system, creating predictability, guidelines for thought and behaviour, and a map for life
  • Margaret Mead found striking differences in normal behaviour among men and women of three tribes
    • Cultural expectations and learning experiences can affect behaviour
  • One of most important differences in cultures is emphasis on individualism vs. collectivism
    • Individualism – North America, Europe
    • Collectivism – Asia, Africa, South America

Perspectives in Historical Context

  • 1879 – Structuralism (Wilhelm Wundt)
  • End of 19th century – Functionalism (William James)
  • End of 19th century – Psychodynamic (Sigmund Freud)
  • 1920s – Behaviourism (B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, John Watson)
  • 1960s – Cognitive (Allan Paivio)
  • Always – Biological

Integrating the Perspectives

  • Three levels of analysis for describing various aspects of behaviour and classifying casual factors: Biological, Psychological, Environmental
  • Biological
    • Everything psychological is biological
    • Can analyze behaviour in terms of brain processes, hormones, and genetics
    • Cannot explain experiences and feelings
  • Psychological
    • Can analyze role of thought, memory, planning, and problem solving
    • Takes into account motivational, emotional, and personality processes that influence people
  • Environmental
    • Takes into account the environment, past and present, and personal and cultural that shape and stimulate behaviour
  • Example: Depression
    • Biological – Genetic factors, disrupted brain rhythms, chemical factors
    • Psychological – Pessimism, severe losses/rejections from past
    • Environmental – Non-rewarding environment, loss of social suppor
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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