Psychology Intro

Psychology is the study of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought. It is an academic discipline and an applied science which seeks to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

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, brain functioning, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships, including psychological resilience, family resilience, and other areas. Psychologists of diverse orientations also consider the unconscious mind.

Psychologists employ empirical methods to infer causal and correlational relationships between psychosocial variables. In addition, or in opposition, to employing empirical and deductive methods, some (especially clinical and counseling psychologists) at times rely upon

While psychological knowledge is often applied to the assessment and treatment of mental health problems, it is also directed towards understanding and solving problems in several spheres of human activity. By many accounts psychology ultimately aims to benefit society.

The majority of psychologists are involved in some kind of therapeutic role, practicing in clinical, counseling, or school settings. Many do scientific research on a wide range of topics related to mental processes and behavior, and typically work in university psychology departments or teach in other academic settings (e.g. medical schools, hospitals).


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. However, this meaning was contested, notably by radical behaviorists such as John Watson, who in his 1913 manifesto defined the discipline of psychology as the acquisition of information useful to the control of behavior.


The importance of the brain as the center of the nervous system, linked mental disorder with brain diseases, investigated the causes of dreams and insomnia, and advanced a theory of hemispheric lateralization in brain function.

Psychology was a popular topic in Enlightenment Europe. In Germany, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) applied his principles of calculus to the mind, arguing that mental activity took place on an indivisible continuum—most notably, that among an infinity of human perceptions and desires, the difference between conscious and unconscious awareness is only a matter of degree. Christian Wolff identified psychology as its own science, writing

However, Kant explicitly and notoriously rejected the idea of experimental psychology, writing that “the empirical doctrine of the soul can also never approach chemistry even as a systematic art of analysis or experimental doctrine, for in the manifold of inner observation can be separated only by mere division in thought, and cannot then be held separate and recombined at will (but still less does another thinking subject suffer himself to be experimented upon to suit our purpose), and even observation by itself already changes and displaces the state of the observed object.”


Gustav Fechner began conducting psychophysics research in Leipzig in the 1830s, articulating the principle that human perception of a stimulus varies logarithmically according to its intensity.[21] Fechner’s 1860 Elements of Psychophysics challenged Kant’s stricture against quantitative study of the mind.[19] In Heidelberg, Hermann von Helmholtz conducted parallel research on sensory perception, and trained physiologist Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt, in turn, came to Leipzig University, establishing the psychological laboratory which brought experimental psychology to the world.

Another student of Wundt, Edward Titchener, created the psychology program at Cornell University and advanced a doctrine of “structuralist” psychology. Structuralism sought to analyze and classify different aspects of the mind, primarily through the method of introspection.[26] William James, John Dewey and Harvey Carr advanced a more expansive doctrine called functionalism, attuned more to human–environment actions. In 1890 James

A different strain of experimentalism, with more connection to physiology, emerged in South America, under the leadership of Horacio G. Piñero at the University of Buenos Aires. Russia, too, placed greater emphasis on the biological basis for psychology,

Wolfgang Kohler, Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka co-founded the school of Gestalt psychology (not to be confused with the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls).

This approach is based upon the idea that individuals experience things as unified wholes. Rather than breaking down thoughts and behavior into smaller elements, as in structuralism, the Gestaltists maintained that whole of experience is important, and differs from the sum of its parts. Other 19th-century contributors to the field include the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, a pioneer in the experimental study of memory, who developed quantitative


Early practitioners of experimental psychology distinguished themselves from parapsychology, which in the late nineteenth century enjoyed great popularity (including the interest of scholars such as William James), and indeed constituted the bulk of what people called “psychology”. Parapsychology, hypnotism, and psychism were major topics of the early International Congresses. But students of these fields were eventually ostractized, and more or less banished from the Congress in 1900–1905.

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.[60] Because some areas of psychology rely on research methods such as surveys and questionnaires, critics asserted that psychology is not an objective science.

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. Critics inside and outside the field have argued that mainstream psychology has become increasingly dominated by a “cult of empiricism” which limits the scope of its study by using only methods derived from the physical sciences.



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. Biological psychology, also known as physiological psychology, or neuropsychology is the study of the biological substrates of behavior and mental processes. Key research topics in this field include comparative psychology, which studies humans in relation to other animals, and perception which involves the physical mechanics of sensation as well as neural and mental processing.

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. Cognitive neuroscientists investigate the neural correlates of psychological processes in humans using neural imaging tools, and neuropsychologists conduct psychological assessments to determine, for instance, specific aspects and extent of cognitive deficit caused by brain damage or disease.

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. Evolutionary psychology offers

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. The idea of white supremacy and indeed the modern concept of race itself arose during the process of world conquest by Europeans.[73] Carl von Linnaeus’s four-fold classification of


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.

In the United States, Edward Lee Thorndike initiated “connectionism” studies by trapping animals in ‘puzzle boxes’ and rewarding them for escaping. Thorndike wrote in 1911: “There can be no moral behaviorism became a widely used research paradigm.[26] A new method of “instrumental” or “operant” conditioning added the concepts of reinforcement and punishment to the model of behavior change. Radical behaviorists avoided discussing the inner workings of the mind, especially the unconscious mind, which they considered impossible to assess scientifically.

Noam Chomsky delivered an influential critique of radical behaviorism on the grounds that it could not adequately explain the complex mental process of language acquisition.


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. Classical cognitive psychology is associated with a school of thought known as cognitivism, whose adherents argue for an

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. Research in

A popular and representative topic in this area is cognitive bias, or irrational thought. Psychologists (and economists) have classified and described a sizeable catalogue of biases.


Social psychology is the study of how humans think about each other and how they relate to each other. Social psychologists study such topics as the influence of others on an individual’s behavior (e.g. conformity, persuasion), and the formation of beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes about other people. Social cognition fuses elements of social and cognitive psychology in


During World War II and the Cold War, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies established themselves as leading funders of psychology

Cartwright also wrote that psychologists had significant roles in managing the domestic economy. The Army rolled out its new General Classification Test and engaged in massive sties of troop morale. In the 1950s, the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency to fund research on psychological warfare. In 1965, public controversy called attention to the Army’s Project Camelot—the Disciplinary organization

Whilst central to magic, misdirection is also used in many other domains. Politicians are often accused of misdirecting the attention of thepublic away from bad news, and military generals occasionally use misdirection (e.g., feints) to gain advantage over their enemies (Although misdirection is not used in these examples to create a magical effect, many of the principlesare the same, e.g., making sure that there is no awareness of the misdirection itself

One of the earliest psychology societies was La Société de Psychologie Physiologique in France, which lasted 1885–1893. The first meeting of the International Congress of Psychology took place in Paris, in August 1889, amidst the World’s Fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. William James was one of three Americans among the.

American psychology gained status during World War I, during which a standing committee headed by Robert Yerkes administered mental tests (“Army Alpha” and “Army Beta”) to almost 1.8 million GIs. Subsequent funding for behavioral research came in large part from the Rockefeller family, via the Social Science Research Council. Rockefeller charities During World War II and the Cold War, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies established themselves as leading funders of psychology

Still less does another thinking subject suffer himself to be experimented upon to suit our purpose), and even observation by itself already changes and displaces the state of the observed object.”

Psychology of problem solving – misdirection but solved mystery

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