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Introduction to Approaches in Psychology

Kevin Silber
University of Derby

Before Psychology
Philosophers asked questions about the mind:
Plato (427-347 BC): Does perception accurately reflect reality? Aristotle (384-322 BC): Logic forms the laws of thought Descartes (1596-1650): I think therefore I am

Problematic - No scientific way of studying problems

Scientific Method: Predict what will happen Systematically observe events Do events support predictions

The beginnings of Psychology.

This is Marko Marulic (1450-1524) Croatian humanist and poet, born in Split He probably studied in Padua First use thought to be around 1506 Title of work was Psichiologia de ratione animae humanae No actual manuscript exists but the work is listed in a list of his works (Life of Marko Marulic from Split) by his contemporary and friend, Franjo Bozicevic

The beginnings of Psychology.

First Experimental Psych Lab (1879)
Focuses on the scientific study of the mind. Wundt insists that Psychological methods be Wilhelm Wundt as rigorous as the methods of chemistry & (1832-1920) physics. Wundts students start labs across USA (1880-1900)

Founding Fathers of Psychology

Focus of Experiments:
Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) Physiologist & Perceptual Psychologist Founder of Psychology as a Science

Focus on Introspection:
Edward Titchener (1867-1927) Student of Wundt Developed Y at Cornell

Focus on understanding Mental Processes

William James (1842-1910) Philosopher & Psychologist Formed Y at Harvard

Structuralism vs Functionalism
Structuralism (Wundt)
Analyze consciousness into basic elements and study how they are related using Introspection (selfobservation of ones own conscious experiences)

Functionalism (James)
Investigate the function, or purpose of consciousness rather than its structure. Leaned toward applied work (natural surroundings)

Scientific Psychology should focus on observable behaviour.

Y = the study of observable behaviour

John Watson (1878-1958)

Mental Processes cannot be studied directly Black box theory

Ivan Pavlov

Stimulus Response Psychology


Psychology (1920s-1960s)
Science of Observable Behaviour
John B. Watson (1878-1958) Behaviour without Reference to Thought S-R Psychology Little Albert B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) Behaviour modification The Pigeon The Skinner Box

Psychology (1960s onwards) Gestalt Psychology

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Phi Phenomenon (Max Wertheimer (1880-1943)) Illusion of movement created by presenting visual stimuli in rapid succession.


A reaction against Structuralism.

An attempt to focus attention back onto conscious experience (the mind)

Phi Phenomenon

Do you see a ball moving back and forth at the top? Would it surprise you if I said that the moving ball is really one ball presented first on the left and then one on the right? This is true even though it appears like a ball moving across the screen.

Kaniza Triangles

The images physically consist of 3 circles with pie shaped wedges removed and 3 angles formed from straight lines. When you look at the images, you will probably see one triangle on top of another. The top triangle typically appears lighter, although the background is physically uniform. The triangular forms and the apparent lightness of the top triangle in comparison with the bottom one are subjective.

Freud & Psychoanalysis

The idea of the UNCONSCIOUS
Thoughts, memories & desires exist below conscious awareness and exert an influence on our behaviour Unconscious expressed in dreams & slips of the tongue Psychoanalytic Theory attempts to explain personality, mental disorders & motivation in terms of unconscious determinants of behaviour

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

(Some) CURRENT Approaches to Psychology

Psychobiology and Neuroscience Social Psychology Cognitive Psychology Developmental Psychology Health Psychology Learning and Conditioning

Psychobiology and Neuroscience

the study of the brain and how it causes or relates to behaviour (Wickens, 2000:3)
Brain and behaviour are linked
behaviour may shape brain activity brain activity may shape behaviour

Biological psychologists use a number of techniques to study this relationship:

healthy human participants brain damaged patients

Social Psychology
The scientific study of the effects of social and cognitive processes on the way individuals perceive, influence and relate to others (Smith & Mackie, 2000)
Social Psychologists seek to develop theories to explain social behaviour using the same principles, laws and conventions that bind other scientific disciplines. Emphasis on scientific theories to explain social behaviour Theories provide general explanations for social behaviour

Cognitive Psychology
How people perceive, learn, remember and think about information (Sternberg, 1996)
Cognitive psychologists are interested in structures and functions of mind Assumption - mind is a set of processes that rely on the brain Assumption - mental processes are linked with observable behaviour Takes a scientific perspective Perform controlled experiments testing theories about inner mental processes. Observe the effects of these processes on outward measurable behaviour Mind cannot be directly studied - but observable effects can be Cognitive Psychology = the study of mental processes via measurable behaviour

Developmental Psychology
Developmental psychologists study both the similarities and the differences among people as they develop and change over the course of their life (Carlson et al., 2004)
Many developmental theories involve characterisations of the stages of development that children and adults go through (e.g. Piaget, Erikson). Some theories concentrate on certain aspects of development (e.g. Kohlbergs theory of moral development)

Many theories have been influential in shaping the way learning is organised in schools (e.g. Piaget, Vygotsky)
Developmental psychology also takes account of adulthood, old age and even death (e.g. McCrae, Salthouse, Kbler-Ross)

Health Psychology
The aggregate of the specific educational, scientific and professional contributions of the discipline of psychology to the promotion and maintenance of health, the prevention of illness, and the identification of etiological and diagnostic correlates of health, illness and related dysfunction (Matarazzo, 1980). Biopsychosocial (mindbody) perspective The view that health is determined by the interaction of biological mechanisms, psychological processes, and social influences

Learning and Conditioning

Learning is an adaptive process in which the tendency to perform a particular behaviour is changed by experience. As conditions change, we learn new behaviours and eliminate old ones ( Carlson et al, 1997). Habituation: Simplest form of Learning
Learning not to respond to unimportant events that occur repeatedly

Classical Conditioning: learning about the conditions that predict a significant event
Pavlovs Dogs

In Summary.
Psychology is Empirical Knowledge acquired through observation Psychological conclusions based on research NOT tradition or common sense Psychology develops in both a social & historical context Behaviour is shaped by genes and environment (nature & nurture) Psychology is theoretically diverse (different approaches)