Overview and Historical Roots
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Overview and Historical Roots. I. What is Psychology?. A. In the past psychology was defined as the science of the mind. B. Today it is defined as the study of behavior and mental processes. II. Three Key Themes in Psychology. A. Free Will vs. Determinism.

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I. What is Psychology?

A. In the past psychology was defined as the science of the mind.

B. Today it is defined as the study of behavior and mental processes.

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II. Three Key Themes in Psychology

A.Free Will vs. Determinism

1) Determinism: the assumption that everything that

Happens has a cause or determinant in the observable


2) Free Will: the belief that behavior is caused by a

person’s independent decisions.

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B.Mind-Brain Problem

1) Dualism:this approach argues that the mind is

somehow separate from the brain and yet controls the

brain and body.

2) Monism:the idea that the conscious mind is inseparable

from the brain and body; that the mind is a series of

processes that can occur because of the complexity of the

human brain.

C.Nature vs. Nurture

How do differences in behavior relate to differences in

heredity (nature) and the environment (nurture)?

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III. Key Sub-Disciplines in Psychology

A. Biopsychology: explains behaviorbased on electrical and

chemical activities in the nervous system. Examines the

effects of genetics, drugs, and brain damage on behavior.

B. Evolutionary Psychology: explains behavior based on

genes that may have been reinforced over the course of

human evolution.

C. Sensation and Perception: the study of how we

experience the world through our 5 senses (vision, hearing,

smelling, tasting, touching).

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C. Learning and Motivation:how what we learn through

experience can affect our motivations in life such as goals

and ambitions.

D. Cognitive Psychology:the study of the processes

associated with how we think, remember, and acquire

knowledge; examination of different states of consciousness.

E. Developmental Psychology: the study of how people’s

behavior changes with age.

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F. Social Psychology: the study of how our thoughts, feelings,

and behaviors affect other people and how other people’s

thoughts, feelings, and behaviors affect us.

G. Personality Psychology: in the past, this was the study of the human mind and behavior as a whole (e.g. Freud’s work). In essence, why do people do what they do? Today,

personality psychologists are more interested in individual

differences. They want to know why some people act one

way in certain situations while other people behave

differently in those same situations.

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H. Abnormal Psychology: the study of people with

psychological disorders.

I. Clinical Psychology: the treatment of people with

psychological problems through the use of various therapies

such as cognitive or behavioral modification therapies.

1) Psychoanalysis:a form of clinical psychology that has

its roots in the Freudian approach to treating people with

psychological problems. Problems are typically understood

as they relate to dreams, abuse, past experiences, the

unconscious, etc.

J. Psychiatry: the medical science of treating the

psychologically disturbed with drug therapy.

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IV. Other Areas of Psychological Application

A. Health Psychology: the study of the relationship between

physical and psychological health.

B. Forensic Psychology: the study of criminal behavior.

C. Industrial/Organizational Psychology: the study of how to

match the right person to the right job or how to create an

optimally functioning work environment (light, design, etc.).

D. Ergonomics: the study of how to make machinery and

technology more easily understandable to common everyday


E. School Psychologists: work with students and their

problems both in and out of the school environment.

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V. The History of Psychology: Key Highlights

A. Wilhelm Wundt: he argued that experience is composed of

elements and compounds much like in chemistry.

B. Edward Titchener:

Structuralism: the study of how people understand the

components that make up the structure of something.

C. William James:

Functionalism: the study of how people produce useful behaviors.

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D. Charles Darwin:he argued that all species shared a remote

common ancestor and over time we broke off into separate

species. Different characteristics of a species may be more or

less adaptable in particular environments. Those that were

more adaptable continued into future generations while the

maladaptive ones died off.

1) Comparative Psychology:researchdone on animals,

such as rats, to better understand human physiology and


E. Alfred Binet: he devised the first useful test of human


F. John Watson:

1) Behaviorism: the study of observable and measurable

human behavior and NOT mental processes.

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G. Sigmund Freud: the father of psychoanalysis. He

attempted to help people through methods such as dream

analysis and the recovery of repressed memories surrounding

traumas, such as child abuse. He also thought of sex as one

of the most primary drives guiding human behavior.

H. Ernest Becker:one of the last great “big picture” thinkers.

He argued that the fact that we know we are going to die

Someday is the primary motivating force that guides our

everyday behavior.

1) Terror Management Theory:asserts that when a person

is primed to think about their death, he or she becomes

observably hostile to people with different beliefs and

observably morefond of people with similar beliefs.