Chapter One: The Science of Psychology
Experiencing Psychology: The Mystery that Is You
King discusses how people view others and how everyone, including you, can be an everyday hero. Psychology is considered a science, but it is different from the other sciences with which students are familiar. Psychology, as a science, focuses on the many facets that make everyone who they are.
Psychology as a Science of All Human Behavior
Psychology is defined as the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. As a science, psychology uses the scientific method to observe, describe, and predict behavior. Behavior is everything that a person does that can be directly observed. Mental processes are the internal thoughts, feelings, and motives that cannot be directly observed.
A. The Psychological Frame of Mind
Scientists are critical thinkers: They question what others consider factual. They accept nothing at face value. Scientists practice curiosity. A scientist wants to know why things in the world are the way they are and how they became that way. Science is concerned with asking questions. Scientists practice skepticism. They ask questions about things that other people take for granted. Scientists apply objectivity in conducting research using empirical methods (through observation and logical reasoning) to gather data.
B. Psychology as a Science of All Human Behavior
The scope of psychology as a whole is much more than that of the clinical psychologists who treat and study psychological disorders.
Sigmund Freud studied the dark, unpleasant, and unconscious aspects of psychology. His view influenced the way psychology is generally perceived.
Psychology seeks to gain knowledge in all dimensions, both positive and negative, of human behavior.
Research on forgiveness (letting go of anger and resentment toward others who have harmed us) has shown that good can come out of negative events or situations. (For example, the Amish were able to forgive the person who killed their daughters in a school shooting.)
Psychology addresses all sides of being human and participates in healthy debate.
C. Psychology in Historical Perspective
For thousands of years, people have been trying to answer the basic questions of human behavior, such as (a) how do our senses perceive the world? (b) how do we learn? (c) what is memory? (d) and why does one person grow and flourish, whereas another struggles in life? Early philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, debated the nature of thought and behavior, including the possible link between the mind and the body. Psychology has its roots not only in philosophy but also in biology and physiology. Wilhelm Wundt, a German philosopher-physician, founded the academic discipline of psychology. Structuralism was first studied by Wundt and his collaborators. They focused on the basic elements or structures of mental processes. Introspection was the method used to study these mental structures. Individuals were asked to think about what was occurring mentally as events were taking place. These studies focused mainly on sensation and perception, because those were the aspects that could be broken down into component parts. Functionalism is concerned with the functions and purposes of the mind in individuals’ adaptation to the environment. Structuralists were looking inside the mind, while functionalists were focusing on how humans interacted with the outside world. Functionalism meshed well with another intellectual development, Charles Darwin’s principle of natural selection.
I. Contemporary Approaches to Psychology
The biological approach emphasizes the study of the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the structure, function, development, genetics, and biochemistry of the nervous system. It emphasizes that the brain and nervous system are central to...
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