Introduction To Psychology – Study Of Behavior And Mind

Psychology is the study of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought.

In this field, a professional practitioner or researcher is called a psychologist and can be classified as a social, behavioral, or cognitive scientist.

Psychologists attempt to understand the role of mental functions in individual and social behavior, while also exploring the physiological and biological processes that underlie cognitive functions and behaviors.

Psychologists explore concepts such as perception, cognition, attention, emotion, intelligence, phenomenology, motivation, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships.

HISTORY

In 1890, William James defined psychology as “the science of mental life, both of its phenomena and their conditions”. This definition enjoyed widespread currency for decades.

As a discipline, psychology has long sought to fend off accusations that it is a “soft” science. Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 critique implied psychology overall was in a pre-paradigm state, lacking the agreement on overarching theory found in mature sciences such as chemistry and physics.

Divisions still exist within the field, with some psychologists more oriented towards the unique experiences of individual humans, which cannot be understood only as data points within a larger population.

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BIOLOGICAL

Psychologists generally consider the organism the basis of the mind, and therefore a vitally related area of study. Psychiatrists and neuropsychologists work at the interface of mind and body.

The contemporary field of behavioral neuroscience focuses on physical causes underpinning behavior. For example, physiological psychologists use animal models, typically rats, to study the neural, genetic, and cellular mechanisms that underlie specific behaviors such as learning and memory and fear responses.

Evolutionary psychology examines cognition and personality traits from an evolutionary perspective. This perspective suggests that psychological adaptations evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.

The search for biological origins of psychological phenomena has long involved debates about the importance of race, and especially the relationship between race and intelligence.

GENES AND ENVIRONMENT

All researched psychological traits are influenced by both genes and environment, to varying degrees. These two sources of influence are often confounded in observational research of individuals or families.

Traditionally this research has been conducted using twin studies and adoption studies, two designs where genetic and environmental influences can be partially un-confounded.

When experimental psychology came to Britain, Francis Galton was a leading practitioner, and, with his procedures for measuring reaction time and sensation, is considered an inventor of modern mental testing In 1901, Cattell’s student Clark Wissler published discouraging results, suggesting that mental testing of Columbia and Barnard students failed to predict their academic performance.

In response to 1904 orders from the Minister of Public Instruction, French psychologists Alfred Binet and Théodore Simon elaborated a new test of intelligence in 1905–1911, using a range of questions diverse in their nature and difficulty. Binet and Simon introduced the concept of mental age and referred to the lowest scorers on their test as idiots.

Henry H. Goddard put the Binet-Simon scale to work and introduced classifications of mental level such as imbecile and feebleminded.

Following the Army Alpha and Army Beta tests for soldiers in World War I, mental testing became popular in the US, where it was soon applied to school children. The federally created National Intelligence Test was administered to 7 million children in the 1920s, and in 1926 the College Entrance Examination Board created the Scholastic Aptitude Test to standardize college admissions.

Eugenicists used mental testing to justify and organize compulsory sterilization of individuals classified as mentally retarded.

In the United States, tens of thousands of men and women were sterilized. Setting a precedent which has never been overturned, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of this practice in the 1907 case Buck v. Bell.

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BEHAVIORAL

Psychologists take human behavior as a main area of study. Much of the research in this area began with tests on mammals, based on the idea that humans exhibit similar fundamental tendencies.

Behavioral research ever aspires to improve the effectiveness of techniques for behavior modification.

Early behavioral researchers studied stimulus–response pairings, now known as classical conditioning. They demonstrated that behaviors could be linked through repeated association with stimuli eliciting pain or pleasure.

Ivan Pavlov, known best for inducing dogs to salivate in the presence of a stimulus previous linked with food, became a leading figure in the Soviet Union and inspired followers to use his methods on humans.

COGNITIVE

Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes underlying mental activity. Perception, attention, reasoning, thinking, problem solving, memory, learning, language, and emotion are areas of research.

Starting in the 1950s, the experimental techniques developed by Wundt, James, Ebbinghaus, and others re-emerged as experimental psychology became increasingly cognitivist—concerned with information and its processing

Technological advances also renewed interest in mental states and representations. The rise of computer science, cybernetics and artificial intelligence suggested the value of comparatively studying information processing in humans and machines.

PSYCHOANALYSIS

Psychoanalysis comprises a method of investigating the mind and interpreting experience; a systematized set of theories about human behaviour; and a form of psychotherapy to treat psychological or emotional distress, especially conflict originating in the unconscious mind.

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory was largely based on interpretive methods, introspection and clinical observations.

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OCCUPATIONAL & WORK

Industrialists soon brought the nascent field of psychology to bear on the study of scientific management techniques for improving workplace efficiency. An important early study examined workers at Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant in Cicero, Illinois from 1924–1932.

Western Electric experimented on thousands of factory workers to assess their responses to illumination, breaks, food, and wages.

The researchers came to focus on workers’ responses to observation itself, and the term Hawthorne effect is now used to describe the fact that people work harder when they think they’re being watched.

PERSONALITY

Personality psychology is concerned with enduring patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion, commonly referred to as personality, in individuals. Theories of personality vary across different psychological schools and orientations.

They carry different assumptions about such issues as the role of the unconscious and the importance of childhood experience.

The number of proposed traits has varied widely. An early model, proposed by Hans Eysenck, suggested that there are three traits which comprise human personality: extraversion–introversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.

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