Introduction to psychology/Definition and History

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Definition and Purpose[edit | edit source]

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and cognitive processes. The purpose of psychology is to describe thinking and behavior and look at the relationships between them and try to explain the causes for them. When a psychologist describes behavior or thought he does so to understand, predict, modify, or improve.

  1. Understanding and Prediction: Occur when psychologist anticipates events, either in a natural situation or a contrived one
  2. Modification and Improvement: Occurs when the psychologist manipulates the situation and observes an expected result

Areas of Study[edit | edit source]

  • Humans and Animals: Psychology being the study of behavior and cognitive processes also includes studying animals. Most of the time animals are studied if it is unethical, the study would take to long, or cost prohibitive to study humans.
  • Hereditary and Environmental: Studying the influence of the environment, what the people learn from their sorroundings, and hereditary, what people know when they are born.
  • Conscious and Unconscious: Behavior is often the product of a conscious choice. Some behaviors, however, may result from motives that are below a level of awareness. Many theorists refer to these motives as unconscious. Both conscious and unconscious motives may lead to responses, and psychology therefore studies them both. Frued was a pioneer of this field.
  • Normal and Abnormal: Normal psychology studies normal behavior and cognition. Abnormal studies people with mental-illnesses, though it is hard to define what constitutes a mental-illness.
  • Age Range: Because behavior depends on hereditary charactaristicsas well as things learned throughout life psychologists are interested in with individuals from conception until death.
  • Theory or Applied: Theoretical is learning more about psychology, and applied is the use of psychology to fix a certain problem.

History[edit | edit source]

The usual date selected for the begining of psychology is 1879, when Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) Started a formal psychology research laboratory at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Psychology has been around since antiquity, some say that the Kama Sutra speaks of psychology. Other studies preceded psychology that are either concerned with the same subject, just go about a different method of solving their problem, or contributed to the method of solving the problem. These include philosophy, the natural sciences, and medicine.

  • Philosophy: Wanted to solve the same hypotheses but didn't use the same method as psychology
  • The Sciences: Physics, chemistry, biology, and phisiology were all important contributers to the methods that are used by psychologists. Chemistry offers new drugs to treat behavioral problems, while the biological theory of evolution gave strong support for comparative psychology. Biology also offers much information on genetics, heredity, and physiological structures and processes which have been used by psychologists in considering the effects of these factors on behavior and thought processes.
  • Medicine: In the 1800s people who exibited behavioral problems where thought to be possesed by the devil. In the early 1880s, medical interest brought the treatment for physical illnesses that were thought to cause abnormal patterns of behavior or thingking. By the late 1880s the abnormal patterns were classified as mental illnesses, and treatment changed accordingly. This led to the development of what is now called psychiatry, and had important effects on psychology.

The Early Development of Psychology[edit | edit source]

Early psychology was a period of systems of psychology. They were attempts to explain all behavior by using a single set of principles. Although none continues to be of major importance, all contributed significantly to modern psychology.

Current Outlooks in Psychology[edit | edit source]

Attempts to explain all behavior by reference to only one systematic position have been abondened. The modern trend is to limit areas of study to particular aspects of behavior. These areas are called specialties and can be grouped into several broad approaches to the study of behavior.

Different perspectives[edit | edit source]

Many psychologists take an eclectic position.

  • Psychodynamic: Emphasizes unconscious drives and the resolution of conflicts.
  • Behavioral: Emphases the acquisition and alteration of observable responses.
  • Humanistic: Achieve or maximize human potential, also called self-actualization.
  • Biological: Based on physiological explanations of behavior. Close to neuroscience.
  • Evolutionary: Is based on genes, evolution and natural selection.

Some more recent perspectives are:

  • Cognitive: This examines internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language.
  • Sociocultural: Compares idfferent ethnic or cultural groups.

Fields of Psychology[edit | edit source]

The hundreds of specialties in psychology are usually grouped into one of the following fields.

Applied Psychology[edit | edit source]
  • Clinical and Counseling Psychology: Over half of all psychologists work in this field. Clinical psychologists are more likely to treat or conduct research into the causes of abnormal behaviors, while counseling psychologists more often work with mild social or emotional problems. Typically people seeking the help of a counselor are not classified as abnormal or mentally ill.
  • Educational and School Psychology: Educational psychologists are concerned with the use of psycholgy to increase the effectiveness of the learning esperience, including facilities, curricula, teaching techniques, and student problems. A school psychologist assess, counsel or guide students who have emotional or academic problems.
  • Industrial/Organizational PsychologyIndustrial and organizational psychology (also known as I/O psychology, work psychology, occupational psychology, or personnel psychology) is the study of the behavior of people in the workplace. Industrial and organizational psychology applies psychological knowledge and methods to aid workers and organizations. I/O psychologists who work for an organization are most likely to work in the HR (human resources) department.
  • Consumer Psychology:Consumer behaviour is the study of how people buy, what they buy, when they buy and why they buy.
  • Engineering Psychology: See link
  • Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychology is the application of psychological priniciples and knowledge to various legal activities involving child custody disputes, child abuse of an emotional, physical and sexual nature, assessing one's personal capacity to manage one's affairs, matters of competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility & personal injury and advising judges in matters relating to sentencing regarding various mitigants and the actuarial assessment of future risk.
  • Sport Psychology: Sport psychology is a specialization within psychology that seeks to understand psychological/mental factors that affect performance in sports, physical activity and exercise and apply these to enhance individual and team performance.
  • Environmental Psychology: Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field focused on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. Areas of study include pollution effects, recycling efforts, and the study of stress generated by different physical settings.
Scientific Investigations in Psychology[edit | edit source]

Certian areas in psychology use scientific investigations primarily to explore fundamental questions of behavior or cognition. The experimental psychologists may study processes such as sensation, perception, learning, motivation, and memory, as well as the neurological or biological bases of these processes. Experimental studies are usually cunducted using the special approaches of the scientific method. Both human and animal subjects have been used in the wide variety of problems that have been investigated. Many studies look at the principles of behavior, without regard to practical application.

  • Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive psychology is the school of psychology that examines internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, and language.
  • Developmental psychology: Developmental psychology, also known as Human Development, is the scientific study of progressive psychological changes that occur in human beings as they age. Originally concerned with infants and children, and later other periods of great change such as adolescence and aging, it now encompasses the entire life span. This field examines change across a broad range of topics including motor skills and other psycho-physiological processes, problem solving abilities, conceptual understanding, acquisition of language, moral understanding, and identity formation.
  • Social Psychology: Social psychology is the study of how individuals perceive, influence, and relate to others. According to Gordon Allport's classic definition, social psychology is an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals is influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By imagined or implied presence, Allport suggests that the effects of social influence are felt even when there are no other people about.