Psych 101

Topics: Psychology, Evolutionary psychology, Scientific method Pages: 24 (4233 words) Published: July 7, 2014
PSS110 Introduction to Psychology 1

Reference: Chapters 1 & 2: Burton, Westen and Kowalski, 2011 Acknowledgements: Slide preparation by Dr Tania Signal of
CQUniversity for Wiley; Original note preparation by Dr Stephen Theiler & Dr Lorraine Fleckhammer for Swinburne University.


PSS110 Introduction to Psychology 1

By the end of this lesson you should have a good grasp of these learning objectives. These notes will form a valuable supplement to your own reading from the text. Read that part of the text which deals with the topic – this means that you will start to become familiar with the main ideas and new terms.

Your knowledge of these learning objectives will be tested during the course of this unit of study.


PSS110 Introduction to Psychology 1

Related Learning Objective 1.
Psychology is a discipline that stems from early philosophical thought. Plato and Aristotle (300BC) taught and wrote about subjects like attitudes, sensation, perception and memory. The shift from philosophical speculation to scientific investigation came from two early schools of thought: Structuralism (which sought to uncover the basic elements of consciousness through a process known as introspection) and Functionalism (which sought to explain psychological processes in terms of the role or function they serve). Psychology distinguishes itself from philosophy by the use of experimental methods, instruments and techniques.

The contemporary definition of psychology is: The scientific study of mental processes, that is, of thinking, remembering and feeling, of behaviour and the interaction between these processes. Therefore, understanding a person requires not only paying attention to the individual’s psychological experiences but to their biological and cultural context and how these phenomena interact.

Biology and culture provide the boundaries or borders within which psychological experiences may be studied. Biopsychology examines the physical basis of phenomena such as motivation, emotion and stress whereas, cross-cultural psychology tries to distinguish universal psychological processes from those specific to particular cultures.


PSS110 Introduction to Psychology 1

Related Learning Objective 2.
Recently, the Biological approach has gained prominence in the psychological literature because of technological advances. Biopsychology or Behavioural Neuroscience seeks to understand the mind through understanding the biological activity of the brain. It is now possible to venture right into the brain on a microlevel. The brain can be viewed in minute cross sections with brain scanning equipment. For example, the synaptic gap at the end of each neuron can now be photographed. The effect of an epileptic fit can be viewed and analysed while it is in progress and surgery can take place in the brain while the patient is still conscious. The effect of chemicals in the system can now be closely monitored for their responses to the system.

Greater understanding of the role of specific regions of the brain and various functions started to become more prominent in the 19th century. ‘Localisation of function’ has been and continues to be a major issue. (See Figure 1.1 on page 6 of your text).

However, contemporary neuroscientists have found that circuits for psychological events are distributed throughout the brain, with each part contributing to the total experience of thoughts or emotions.

Check out this video from the TED talks series on the latest way to map the brain: 4

PSS110 Introduction to Psychology 1

While we now know that psychological processes occur through the interaction of cells in the nervous system, we also know that human activity occurs in the context of cultural beliefs and values that render the behaviour meaningful.

Cultural beliefs or culture, refers to the influence of membership of a larger group such as a tribe or...
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