What is Psychology?

Psychology & its Relatives

A Brief History of Psychology

Two Worlds of Psychology
 Basic vs. Applied
 Natural vs. Human

What is psychology?

Write a definition of it . . .

Did you include: biological processes? mental states? environment nutrients? spiritual? sociocultural?

Commonly found in definitions is: the study of behaviour, mind, thinking, feeling, and reactions to stress.

Psychology is related to almost everything that humans do, including these other disciplines:
Disciplines - related to psychology: by studying:
Sociology - Social Psychology roles and social forces institutions
Anthropology - Cultural psychology cultural and social traditions
Biology - Neuro / Evolutionary Psychology bio-chemical processes
Medicine - Health Psychology  behaviours and attitudes surrounding health
Psychiatry - Clinical Psychology psychological 'disorders' and everyday problems
Business - Industrial Organisational group harmony, morale, human factors
Computer Science - Artificial Intelligence information systems and modeling
Law - Forensic Psychology criminal insanity, competence jurisprudence 
Literature - Narrative Psychology personality and expression of human spirit

 Born out of the bridging of philosophy and physiology early "scientific" psychologists attempted to move from "arm-chair" speculation and common sense to systematic study.

A brief History of Psychology

Historically, psychology arose from Philosophy which became married to Physiology and gave birth to psychology as a modern scientific (& professional) discipline.

Plato (427-347 B.C.) - Theory of forms: Universal patterns of thought

and personal characteristics. Based upon mathematics and music (Pythagoras). -Hierarchy of forms where more real is more abstract - universal Good.

-These ideas provide a foundation to natural science where it searches the universal truths of nature.

Descartes ( 1596-1650)
Mind-Body Dualism-two worlds of existence:

Body Mind
Takes up space, is corruptable not locatable, lives after death
Is determined has intentionality & Free Will

John Locke (1643-1704)

Empiricism: a theory of knowledge that it is through the senses that knowledge is acquired and also its method of verification.

-Tabula Rasa: Theory of knowledge (part of empiricism) that we are born like blank slates or empty vessels to be written upon or filled by experience.

-Emphasis on Individualism and Democracy, Liberty

-Simple ideas are built into more Complex ideas.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Rationalism: a theory of knowledge that states that knowledge comes from the correct use of reason, reasoning is also the method of the verification of knowledge.

-He suggested the Categories of knowledge of experience exist a priori to enable us to have any experience. We have something like innate ideas, or rather processes and templates that enable use to know the world. E.g., one, many = totality / Dialectics

Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920)

Wundt followed Gustav Fechner  who proposed the scientific study of psychophysics,
the mind and the body.....however he extended this work on the mind and body and added the social (reflective of the bio-psycho-social approach today).


Two Kinds of Psychology

Experimental Psychology Volker (Social) Psychology

Experimental Psychology

1875-1879: First psychological laboratory in Leipzig

Goals are to establish the Laws of psychology through a careful study of consciousness or immediate experience

Experimentelle Selbstbeobachtung: Experimental self-observation. Observers "are exposed to standard repeatable situations and are asked to respond in simple quantifiable ways" such as: reaction times, judgments of size, intensity and duration

Range of topics for psychology using both historical and experimental methods

  • Sensation and perception

  •         Memory, attention, imagery
  • Thinking, affect, voluntary activity, social psychology
  • He felt a tension between subject matter and methods, he was not sure of exacted how all of psychology was best to be studied.

    Experimental natural science or historical human science?

    Völkerpsychologie (1912-21): Psychological anthropology

    Historical studies of outer phenomena which studies:
    Language, Religion (& Myth), and Custom: Expressions of the
    "common sense" or worldview of a social group .

    Volkgeist "Folk mind" or group mind that is a synthesis of minds that is of a magnitude greater than the sum of the numerous individual creative syntheses (minds). Has group Will !
     What brought the beginnings of "scientific psychology is the distinction between introspection and casual observation.   E.g.,

    Introspection Philosophy
    Systematic, 'objective'  Systematic, 'subjective'
    experimental speculative

    Once Psychology begun to become an experimental science a major debate emerged between those who wanted to study psychological processes purely as a scientific understanding, knowledge for knowledge's sake, and those who wanted to apply psychology to everyday psychological and social issues.

    This division remains central to the nature of psychology today.

    basic vs. applied
    scientist  vs. practitioner

    This reflects the division between:
    Natural Science   and   Human Science

    Natural Science seeks general laws that apply to all people and can be used to predict and control behaviour, thoughts, feelings, psyche.

    Typically natural science uses induction to try to keep from biases of expectation, but uses deduction to test the conclusions drawn from previous observations.

    Human Science seeks to understand the human condition through situated expressions of human experience.  These narratives of life stand as examples of what is or can be.

    Typically human science seeks to provide a meaningful case of biography of a life and the socio-historical context in which that life is lived.  Thus it deduces a meaningful account of the psychosocial essence of human life based upon inductive observation of lives lived.
    Wilhelm Dilthey  (father of hermeneutics)  suggested that both Human and
    Natural science are valuable where one is qualitative and the other is quantitative in orientation.

    Natural Science tends to be oriented towards the abstract and technical control of the world while Human Science tends towards ethical and humane treatment of people and communities.

    Research Methods in psychology