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History & Systems of Psychology
Chapter 1 - Introduction
What is psychology?
Literally, study of the mind (psyche)
Study of human behavior
Personality development
Nervous system/physiology
Mental processes
Mental illness/psychopathology
Applied areas such as child development, I/O, forensic psychology, psychotherapy, etc.
The Study of Psychology
Humanity’s interest in “psychology” is as old as humanity.
The history of psychology involves multiple disciplines, such as philosophy, theology, biology, and the arts.
Psychology as a formal science dates from the late 19th century.
Current view: Psychology is a science, & should be based on the scientific method.
What is Science?
Define science
Developed as a way to answer questions about nature by directly examining nature, in contrast to unquestionable acceptance of church dogma, past authorities, superstition, or by using abstract thought alone.
What is science?
“Traditionally, the systematic attempt to rationally categorize or explain empirical observations.” (from text, p. 25)
Science is systematic. (organized, logical, methodical)
Science is rational in its explanations. (using reason & logic to organize & explain info)
Science is based on empirical observations. (based on measurable, testable facts; direct observation of nature)
Science as a Combination of Empiricism and Rationalism
Two ancient methods of attaining knowledge:
Empiricism (direct observation, use of senses and measurements)
Rationalism (use of logic and reason)
After centuries of debating which was better, we found that neither alone is sufficient to advance knowledge.
The power of science comes from the combination of E and R.
Science, cont.
Science uses both E and R.
Empirical observation (use of sensory observation, direct study of nature and natural phenomena, measurement of data) is used to collect data.
Rationalism (logic) is used to formulate theories.
Scientific Theory
A good scientific theory has 2 functions:
Organize & explain empirical observations (make sense of what we observe)
Guide future data collection by generating testable hypotheses (predict what we may find in such a way that we can test it)
This is an ongoing process.
Revision to the Traditional View of Science: Karl Popper
Traditionally, science was seen as beginning with empirical observation. Karl Popper said scientists don’t wander around observing at random. Rather, they are interested in a particular problem, they have ideas about the problem, and they make observations that relate to it. The process is problem-theory-criticism.
Principle of falsifiability: A theory is only scientific if it can be tested and potentially disproved. Theories should make risky predictions.
Revision to the Traditional View of Science: Karl Popper
Theories that are not falsifiable are usually vague postdictions (explain something after the fact, or may rely on unsupported opinion or anecdotes).
The process described by Popper is thought to lead to a continual refining of theories, gradually developing theories with greater explanatory power.
Revision to the Traditional View of Science: Thomas Kuhn
The traditional view held that the scientific method guaranteed objectivity, and science progressed steadily to a greater understanding of truth.
Kuhn showed science to be highly subjective, governed by paradigms, or beliefs shared by members of the scientific community. Changes to the paradigm are resisted and come only after a large number of anomalies mount up. A change is called a paradigm shift.
Scientific Progress
Regardless of whether it progresses smoothly and objectively (Popper), or in a more “fits and starts” process (Kuhn), the hallmark of science is continual testing and development of theories through empirical observation.
Is psychology a science?
Successful uses of the scientific method in psychology include:
Discovery of lawful relationships between classes of stimuli and classes of behavior
Discovery of biochemical correlates of cognitive processes
Discovery of a genetic contribution to characteristics such as intelligence & personality
Determinism & the Search for Laws
Science traditionally involves the search for laws, or lawful relationships.
Scientific law: a consistently observed relationship between 2 or more empirical events.
Laws can be correlational or causal.
The search for causes is a major goal of science.
The assumption that causes exist for everything is called determinism.
Is psychology a science?
Psychology is only a science to the extent that psychologists embrace determinism (assumption that laws explaining human behavior exist & can be discovered).
Biological determinism
Environmental determinism
Sociocultural determinism
Psychical determinism
Some accept indeterminism (uncertainty principle).
Some hold to nondeterminism, or a belief in free will.
Persistent Questions in Psychology
What is the nature of human nature?
In other words, what is universally true about humans? What are we all born with?
Are we inherently good, inherently evil, or neither?
How are humans related to animals?
Are they quantitatively or qualitatively different?
Can we learn anything from studying animals?
Persistent Questions in Psychology
How are the mind and body related? How many realities are there? One? Two?
Monists: Only one reality exists.
Materialists: The only reality is matter.
Idealists: The only reality is mental.
Dualists: Both a physical & mental realm exist, question is how they relate.
Interactionism - mind & body influence each other
Emergentism -mental states emerge from brain states
Persistent Questions in Psychology
What is the “self”?
Are we the same person from day to day and year to year? In what ways are you the same as you were 15 years ago? In what ways are you different?
Does the self have a separate existence? What do you mean when you say “I said to myself” or “I watched myself” or “I am critical of myself”? Who is the “I” and who is the “self”?
Persistent Questions in Psychology
Epistemology – How do we know?
Three major epistemologies that are important in the history of psychology:

Three Epistemologies: Authority
Authority – We know because someone in authority told us so.
This could be a respected person, religious book, etc.
A very powerful source of knowledge because of our emotional connection to the authority.

Three Epistemologies: Empiricism
Experience/Empiricism – We know through experience and observation of the world. The mind is a passive receptacle.
Personal experience
Scientific observation/measurement

Three Epistemologies - Rationalism
Rationalism – We know through using reason and logic. The mind actively organizes and evaluates what we observe.