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Introduction to Psychology. What is Psychology?. Who Am I?. My name is Chris Duke I am a PhD student I teach and do research at the University My research focus is conservation psychology. Who Are You?. Name? Something interesting about yourself?. Just What is Psychology?.

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introduction to psychology

Introduction to Psychology

What is Psychology?

who am i
Who Am I?
  • My name is Chris Duke
  • I am a PhD student
  • I teach and do research at the University
  • My research focus is conservation psychology
who are you
Who Are You?
  • Name?
  • Something interesting about yourself?
just what is psychology
Just What is Psychology?
  • So what is psychology?
  • It depends!
  • Psyche was the Greek goddess of the soul.
  • Literally, psychology means “knowledge of the soul.”
  • A more modern definition is “the study of human thought and behaviour.”

Psyche (ψυχή)

domains of psychology




Animal Behaviour












Domains of Psychology
what is not psychology
What is Not Psychology?
  • In this class we are interested in scientific psychology.
  • Most popular conceptions of psychology are very different from “real” (academic) psychology.
  • These are not scientific psychology:
scientific psychology
Scientific Psychology
  • What is the difference?
  • “Pop psychology” – the stuff found in self-help books, magazines, and movies – is typically based on personal opinions, anecdotal evidence, and the claims are not always testable.
  • Scientific Psychology – what we will be studying – uses a systematic scientific process to develop and test hypotheses through experiments and other research techniques.
  • It is guided by both theory and actual results.
  • Results should be replicable by anyone.
research methods
Research Methods
  • Psychologists draw their conclusions from carefully designed studies.
  • Experiments, surveys, archives (census data), and interviews are different research methods.
  • Results are then systematically analysed, often with statistics such as ANOVA or multiple regression.
  • This lets our theories reflect reality, rather than try to force reality to meet our theories.
  • It is not flawless, but it is the best system available.
scientific method
Scientific Method
  • “Real” psychological research follows the scientific method.
  • Research is peer-reviewed. That means many other researchers not directly involved get to review each piece of research before determining whether it should be published. This is a kind of self-policing to ensure research is sound.
  • But of course there are many different kinds of research!
archival studies
Archival Studies
  • Archival studies use records from the past as a source of data.
  • For example, Elizabeth Judge wrote in The Times that recent data showed that companies led by women do worse on average than those led by men – Judge concluded women were bad for business.
  • Doubting this, some psychologists did an archival study to find out what was going on.
  • They found that when companies were in rough times, they were more likely to appoint female leadership and in good times, more likely to appoint men – thus explaining the difference.
  • But this was just a correlation – not causation.
  • Now the psychologists wanted to know more aboutthis difference, so they conducted an experiment. An experiment is special because it allows us to show causation.
  • In an experiment, participants are placed in different conditions, and in each condition only one variable is different from the others. This allows psychologists to demonstrate that any change in the participants behaviour is the result of the change in the variable.
  • This is a very powerful tool!
  • In our example, the psychologists ran an experiment where participants were told a story about a company that was doing either well or poorly (two conditions)
  • Participants were then given three job candidates to lead the company: a man, a poorly-qualified man (for realism), and a woman. The first man and the woman were equally qualified.
  • They found that when the company was doing well, a man was chosen to be the leader. When it was doing poorly, the woman was chosen. The psychologists called this the Glass Cliff.
  • Using statistics, the psychologists could show this result was not because of chance.
  • This was stronger than just the archival data.
qualitative analysis
Qualitative Analysis
  • Now the psychologists wanted to find out why this was occurring. Was it dislike of women? Were women seen as better crisis managers? Or perhaps perceived to have a totally new style of management that would lift the company out of the rut?
  • So they asked lots of people, and then analyzed the text of their responses, noting the themes that repeated.
  • They found that different kinds of people (men and women, managers and workers) had very different perceptions of what was going on!
  • The area is still being researched. For more info see:
research methods15
Research Methods
  • As you can see there are many different scientific research methods, each best suited for particular uses.
  • Researchers usually use many different methods to better understand a phenomenon and to show that the finding is robust.
  • Although we will not dwell on research methods in this module, understanding them will be core to any future path you may pursue in psychology.
  • Research methods are what makes psychology a science, rather than just speculation or opinion.
freud not scientific
Freud: Not Scientific
  • Sigmund Freud is often portrayed as the father of psychology.
  • His way of thinking did inspire domains of psychology, particularly abnormal and personality.
  • However, his methods were not scientific at all!
  • His claims could not be tested and he made explanations post hoc.
  • His ideas are interesting from a historical perspective, but not very relevant to modern psychology.
pop psychology not scientific
Pop Psychology: Not Scientific
  • Very popular!
  • Unfortunately it is little more than opinion and speculation – there is not much supporting evidence.
  • Often there is an element of deceit – “Doctor” John Gray does not have an accredited (i.e. real) PhD. Whoops!
  • The claims usually are testable (unlike Freud’s), and are routinely found to be unsupported.
  • For example, scientific research has found men and women are much more similar than different.
  • Usually the more similar, the happier.
  • However, for many reasons, the scientific results do not get as much publicity as the popular claims.
now on to the good stuff
Now, On to the Good Stuff!
  • For this course we will have a brief overview of three broad domains of psychology:
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Remember most domains of psychology overlap with each other – divisions can be a little fuzzy.
  • Today, we will focus on some basics common to all of psychology.
using paradigms in psychology
Using Paradigms in Psychology
  • Although it may not be immediately apparent, psychologists (and all kinds of researchers) often use very different theories when trying to explain phenomena.
  • These different broad theories and ways of thinking are called paradigms.
  • For example, let’s take clinical depression, and look at how it is viewed through different paradigms.
example paradigms and depression
Example: Paradigms and Depression
  • For example, a biological paradigm would attempt to explain depression in terms of the human body (such as an inherited serotonin deficit.)
  • A cognitive paradigm would explain depression in terms of entrenched thought patterns (a bad habit of negative thoughts and self blame.)
  • A behaviouralist paradigm would explain depression in terms of how the depression can be rewarded (sick people do less work and get more sympathy)
using paradigms in psychology21
Using Paradigms in Psychology
  • Treatments are developed with a paradigm in mind (pills use a biological paradigm).
  • Although we will not focus on them greatly, they are fundamental to all research.
  • And not just in abnormal, but in all psychology, and in fact in all science.
  • Behind the scenes, science is often a clash of paradigms – scientists can become very attached and emotionally involved!
  • Paradigms are necessary to guide our way of thinking: they give structure to our thoughts, and allow us to create new theories.
  • But they can also introduce bias, and limit the ways in which we think!
  • Although paradigms can be seen as competitive, they are often just different perspectives on the same core phenomenon.
  • Most researchers adopt many paradigms, but focus on one in particular.
finally inkblot personality test
Finally: Inkblot Personality Test
  • Now we will be taking a personality test.
  • The test will be anonymous and your participation in the test is voluntary.
  • I will show you five inkblots. For each one, write down your impressions in detail. Use 3 or 4 sentences for each image.
  • Write your mother’s maiden name on the paper, give them to me, and I will bring back your personality results next week.