General Psychology Chapter 1 – Short Note


1.1 Definition of Psychology and Related Concepts

  • The word “psychology” is derived from two Greek words
    1. Psyche: refers mind, soul, or sprit
    2. Logos: refers study, knowledge, or discourse
      • Therefore “psychology” epistemologically refers to the study of the mind, soul, or sprit
  • scientific definition of psychology
    1. Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and the underlying mental.
    2. three aspects in this definition
      • science -> uses scientific methods to study behavior and mental processes in both humans and animals
      • behavior -> refers to all of our outward or overt actions and reactions
      • mental processes -> the internal, covert activities of our minds

1.2. Goals of Psychology

  • As a science, psychology has four goals
    1. Description 
      • observing the behavior and noticing everything about it
        • What is happening? Where does it happen? To whom does it happen?‘
    2. Explanation 
      • Why is it happening?
      • trying to find reasons for the observed behavior
      • helps in the process of forming theories of behavior
    3. Prediction 
      • determining what will happen in the future
      • predict (based on previous research into similar situations)
    4. Control 
      • How can it be changed?
      • Control or modify or change the behavior from undesirable one to a desirable one

1.3. Historical Background and Major Perspectives in Psychology

  • Psychology is a relatively new field in the realm of the sciences
  • began as a science of its own in 1879 in Leipzig, Germany, with the establishment of a psychology laboratory in the University of Leipzig by Wilhelm Wundt
    1. Wundt developed the technique of objective introspection to scientifically examine mental experiences/ study of human subjective experiences
    2. previously under the field of philosophy it begun as an independent field of study
    3. Wundt is founder or “father of modern psychology” 

1.3.1. Early schools of psychology

  • school of thought is a system of thinking about a certain issue
  • five early schools of psychology
    1. Structuralism
      • views psychology as a study of structure of mind
      • is expansion of Wundt‘s ideas by his student named Edward Titchener
        • Titchener is the founder of structuralism
      • goal of structuralists
        • to find out the units or elements, which make up the mind such as sensations, images, and feelings
      • best-known method used by them was introspection
        • looking inward into our consciousness
        • aimed at analyzing the mental experience into three basic mental elements: images, feelings, and sensations
    2. Functionalism
      • views psychology as a study of function of the mind
      • the founder is William James (author of the first psychology textbook) 
      • focused on how the mind allows people to function in the real world ( work, play, adapt … ) 
      • research methodsquestionnaires, mental tests and objective descriptions of behavior
      • according to functionalists, psychological processes are adaptive
        • allow humans to survive and to adapt successfully to their surroundings
    3. Gestalt psychology
      • views psychology as a study of the whole mind
      • gestalt” 
        • German word
        • refers to form, whole, configuration or pattern
      • argued that the mind is not made up of combinations of elements
        • mind: a result of the whole pattern of sensory activity and the relationships and organizations within their pattern
      • gestalt psychologists acknowledge consciousness
      • the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
        • mind is greater than its parts (images, sensations, and feelings




  • common to all the three schools of though is the fact that they all try to examine the human mind, which is an internal, no-visible, and hidden experience of human beings
  • for psychology to become scientific, it needs to get rid of dealing with subjectivity in all its forms and rather focus on studying behavior. 
    1. This has led to the birth of a new paradigm of thought about psychology called behaviorism


  1. Behaviorism
    • study of observable and measurable behaviors
    • John B. Watson is the founder 
    • For Watson, psychology was the study of observable and measurable behavior and nothing more about hidden mental processes
      • Consciousness: we cannot locate it or measure it and, therefore, it cannot be the object of scientific study
    • As to Watson, behaviorism had three other important characteristics
      • conditioned response as the elements or building blocks of behavior
      • learned rather than unlearned behaviors
      • focus on animal behavior
    • He believed that 
      • all behaviors are learned but not inherited
      • learners are passive and reactive
        1. they are not initiating their learning but they respond when the environment stimulates them
  2. Psychoanalysis
    • studies about the components of the unconscious part of the human mind
    • Sigmund is the founder
    • As a physician, Sigmund Freud became convinced that some of the physical illnesses of his patients didn‘t have medical or bodily causes, but non-physical or emotional causes
      • He called these kinds of illnesses as “hysteria” or conversion reaction
        1. indicate the conversion of emotional problems into bodily problems
    • underscored that that conflicts and emotional traumas that had occurred in early childhood can be too threatening to be remembered consciously and therefore they become hidden or unconscious and then will remain to affect later behavior
    • conscious awareness is the tip of the mental iceberg beneath the visible tip lays the unconscious part of the mind
      • unconscious contains hidden wishes, passions, guilty secrets, unspeakable yearnings, and conflict between desire and duty
      • We are not aware of our unconscious urges and thoughts
        1. they make themselves known in dreams, slip of the tongue, apparent accidents and even jokes
    • He used clinical case studies (hypnosis and Dream analysis) as a method

1.3.2. Modern schools of psychology

  • Psychodynamic perspective
    1. has its origins in Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis
    2. emphasizes the unconscious dynamics within the individual
      • influence of unconscious mental behavior on everyday behavior
      • role of childhood experiences in shaping adult personality
      • role of intrapersonal conflict in determining human behavior
    3. psychodynamists think of themselves as archaeologists of the mind
      • tries to dig below the surface of a person’s behavior to get into unconscious motives
  • Behavioral Perspective
    1. emphasizes the role learning experiences play in shaping the behavior of an organism
    2. concerned with how the environment affects the person‘s actions
      • environmental conditions (e.g. rewards, and punishments) that maintain or discourage specific behaviors
    3. sometimes called the “black box” approach 
      • it treats the mind as less useful in understanding human behavior and focus on what goes in to and out of the box, but not on the processes that take place inside
      • only interested in the effects of the environment (input) on behavior (output) but not in the process inside the box
  • Humanistic Perspective
    1. emphasizes the uniqueness of human beings and focuses on human values and subjective experiences
    2. places greater importance on the individual‘s free will
    3. goal of humanistic psychology was helping people to express themselves creatively and achieve their full potential or self-actualization 
  • Cognitive Perspective
    1. emphasizes what goes on in people’s heads; how people reason, remember, understand language, solve problems, explain experiences and form beliefs
    2. concerned about the mental processes
    3. show how people’s thoughts and explanations affect their actions, feelings, and choices
    4. Techniques used to explore behavior from a cognitive perspective include 
      • electrical recording of brain activity
      • electrical stimulation and radioactive tracing of metabolic activity in the nervous system
  • Biological Perspective
    1. focuses on studying how bodily events or functioning of the body affects behavior, feelings, and thoughts
    2. holds that the brain and the various brain chemicals affect psychological processes such as learning, performance, perception of reality, the experience of emotions, etc. 
    3. biology affecting behavior and behavior in turn affecting biology
      • emphasizes we are physical beings who evolved over a long time and that genetic heritage can predispose us to behaving in a certain way
  • Socio-cultural Perspective
    1. focuses on the social and cultural factors that affects human behavior
    2. holds that humans are both the products and the producers of culture, and our behavior always occurs in some cultural contexts

1.4. Branches/Sub Fields of Psychology

  • Developmental psychology
    1. studies the physical, cognitive and psychological changes across the life span
  • Personality Psychology
    1. focuses on the relatively enduring traits and characteristics of individuals
  • Social Psychology
    1. deals with people‘s social interactions, relationships, social perception, and attitudes
  • Cross-cultural Psychology
    1. examines the role of culture in understanding behavior, thought, and emotion
    2. compares the nature of psychological processes in different cultures with special interest in whether or not psychological phenomena are universal or culture-specific
  • Industrial psychology
    1. applies psychological principles in industries and organizations to increase the productivity of that organization
  • Forensic psychology
    1. applies psychological principles to improve the legal system (police, testimony, etc.
  • Educational Psychology
    1. application of psychological principles and theories in improving the educational process 
  • Health Psychology
    1. applies psychological principles to the prevention and treatment of physical illness and diseases
  • Clinical Psychology
    1. applies psychological principles to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders
  • Counseling Psychology
    1. same concern as clinical psychology but helps individuals with less severe problems than those treated by clinical psychologists

1.5. Research Methods in Psychology

  • terms 
    1. Scientific method
      • process of testing ideas through systematic observations, experimentations, and statistical analysis
    2. Theory
      • an integrated set of principles about observed facts that is intended to describe and explain some aspects of experience
    3. Hypotheses
      • tentative proposition about the relationship between two or more variables or phenomena
  • Major types of research methods
    1. Descriptive research
      • the researcher simply records what she/he has systematically observed
      • includes: 
        • Naturalistic observation
          1. subjects are observed in their natural environment to get a real (not artificial) picture of how behavior occurs
          2. Limitations
            • observer effect (animals or people who know they are being watched may behave artificially)
            • observer bias (the researcher observe behaviors he/she wants to observe and ignores others)
        • Case study
          1. individual is studied in great detail is advantage 
          2. disadvantage: the researchers can‘t apply the results to other similar people
        • Survey
          1. collect data from a very large group of people
          2. useful to get information on private (covert) behaviors
          3. disadvantageneeds a careful selection of a representative sample of the actual population
    2. Correlational research
      • measures the relationship between two or more variables
      • correlation tells researchers if there is a relationship between variables, how strong the relationship is, and in what direction the relationship goes
      • it doesn‘t prove causation (cause and effect relationship)
    3. Experimental Research
      • allows researchers to study the cause and effect relationship between variables
      • Experiments involve at least one independent variable and one dependent variable
        • independent variable: the manipulated, influential, experimental factor
        • dependent variable: the factor (behavior) that is measured in an experiment
      • Experiments also involve randomly assigned experimental groups and control groups
        • experimental group is a group whose experience is manipulated
        • control group serves as a baseline against which the effects of the manipulated condition can be compared
  • Steps of scientific research
    1. Step one – Defining the Problem
    2. Step two – Formulating the Hypothesis: form an educated guess
    3. Step three – Testing the Hypothesis
      • researcher employs appropriate research methods and collects ample data (information) to accept or reject the proposed statement
    4. Step four – Drawing Conclusions
      • researcher attempts to make generalizations or draw implications from tested relationship
    5. Step five – Reporting Results
      • researcher would want to write up exactly what she/he did, why she/he did, and what she/he found
      • allows others to predict and modify behavior based on the findings

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