Psychology is defined as the scientific study of behavior and the application gained from that knowledge. Psychology is about YOU. It doesn’t matter whether or not you plan to enter the field of psychology as a career. You can benefit from what you learn in a psychology course because you find out why and how you and others do the things that you do. Like any science, psychology has goals. Psychologists are constantly asking questions and searching for answers about why and how people behave. Psychology seeks to describe, predict, and explain events. Unlike history, whose “events” pertain to specific times, places, and persons, psychology’s “events” deal with BEHAVIORS, both physical and mental. For that reason, psychology is a science of behavior. As you will see, psychology links science and application. Psychology is about you. You are the major topic discussed and what you find out applies directly to you.
Although the beginnings of psychology can be traced back through recorded time, psychology as a major area for scientific study was formally established in the 1950’s. It was at that time that psychologists began to realize that no one single approach could answer all the questions that were being asked about human behavior. The same can be said about the medical profession: as science made advances in medicine, more specialized fields began to emerge. The same is true of psychology.
The Father of Modern Psychology…can you research to discover who this is?
Sub-Headings of Psychology
Physiological psychology and experimental psychology are two of the most scientific approaches in psychology. Physiological psychology studies learning, memory, perception, and emotions by studying the biological reasons for them. Experimental psychology studies the behavior and thoughts related to learning, memory, perception, and emotions. Experimental psychologists study both humans and animals, which explains why the white rat is considered the “mascot” of psychology. Physiological and experimental psychologists work primarily in research facilities at universities. A new sub-field, cognitive psychology has recently split from experimental psychology and deals specifically with how and why we gain and use knowledge.
Developmental psychology, another major sub-field of psychology, examines how age affects behavior. Developmental psychology studies specific behaviors which occur as human beings develop from infancy through adulthood into old age. Developmental psychologists work in colleges, hospitals, schools, and day care centers.
Social psychology studies how people are affected by groups that surround them. Specific questions looked at by the social psychologist deal with how attitudes form, how and why people are attracted or repelled by others, and how beliefs and behaviors change as a result of contact with groups.
Clinical psychology is that part of psychology that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral problems. If you were to ask people on the street what a psychologist does, their understanding of the profession would probably sound like a definition of a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists should not be confused with psychiatrists who hold a medical degree for the treatment of behavioral problems. Clinical psychologists work in mental hospitals, mental health clinics, and have private practices.
Also interested in helping people with their problems are counseling psychologists and school psychologists. Counseling and school psychologists have similar backgrounds as do clinical psychologists, but have more training in the areas of career and educational decision making. They work with parents and teachers helping individuals solve problems, make decisions, and set goals. Engineering psychology works in business and industry in designing machinery, work places, and work conditions that make work more productive and comfortable. Industrial psychologists help to select, train, and manage people in the work setting.
Many college students major in psychology because they have not decided on another area of study. After receiving their bachelor’s degree in psychology (4 year program), many psychology majors enter law school, medical school, or business school. Others stay within the field of psychology and make it their career. Students who receive their graduate degrees in psychology have many job options. Many teach and do research at universities, while others enter one of the many exciting fields mentioned in the section dealing with “Sub-fields in Psychology”. Other areas where career opportunities exist for psychologists are as legal consultants, accident research, and artificial intelligence (computers).
People often describe Psychology as a “basic science”. Basic science is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake to satisfy curiosity about the nature of things. Applied science, on the other hand, involves using a basic science to accomplish practical goals. Biologists and physicists nearly always practice basic science; physicians and engineers practice applied science.
Psychologists may practice both. A developmental psychologist who is studying the ability of infants to perceive visual patterns is doing basic research. He is not concerned with the implications his findings may have on the design of a crib. A psychologist involved with applied science, perhaps a consultant to a toy manufacturer, would be. Similarly, a social psychologist who is studying friendship in an office – who likes whom, how much, and why – is doing basic science. If the psychologist discovers that one individual has no friends in the office and another has so many he hardly has time to work, the psychologist will try to understand and explain the situation. The psychologist will not try to correct the situation. This is a job for applied scientists, such as a clinical or industrial psychologist.
Why is the distinction so important? It is important because transferring findings from basic to applied science is a tricky business. For example, psychologists doing basic research have found that babies raised in sterile institutional environments are seriously retarded in their physical, intellectual, and emotional development. Wayne Dennis (1960), among others, traces this to babies having nothing to look at except white walls, crib cushions, and ceilings, and being handled only when they need to be fed or changed. However, we have to be careful not to apply this finding too broadly. Based on the information that children who lack stimulation tend to develop poorly, we can’t jump to the conclusion that by providing children with maximum stimulation – playing with them constantly, having music piped into their rooms, surrounding them with fancy toys – we can guarantee they will grow up emotionally sound and intellectually brilliant. On the contrary, most babies do better with a medium level of stimulation (White, 1969).
In short, in basic science we are provided with specific findings: what happened in one study conducted at one time and in one place. To generalize these specific findings into a list of general rules is dangerous. Like almost every other introductory psychology course, we will focus on basic psychology since these findings provide the foundations on which applications are built.
From: Understanding Psvchology. Third Edition. Random House. New York.
Lesson 1 Review
Directions: Follow the instructions in each section below.
Part A: Write an “A” if the statement is psychology as an applied science and a “B” if the statement is psychology as a basic science.
1. Soothing music as heard in a dentist’s office.
2. Research done on drives and motives of college students.
3. Behaviorally designed architecture incorporating form, function, and color.
4. The clinical study of people with emotional problems.
5. Development of improved methods for diagnosing and treating emotional disorders.
6. A seminar with community leaders to resolve conflicts between two social groups
7. Research, using rats, to see how rewards affect learning.
8. Learning various theories of psychology as part of an introductory psychology course.
9. Acting as a consultant with law enforcement officials to develop a personality profile of a serial killer.
10. Placing certain products in a specific location in a supermarket to induce people to purchase that product.
Part B: Define the following terms:
12. Physiological psychology
13. Experimental psychology
14. Developmental psychology
15, Social psychology
16. Clinical psychology
17. Engineering psychology
Part C: Discuss the following questions:
18. What are the basic goals of psychology?
19. Most people’s definition of psychology would probably sound like a definition for “clinical psychology”. Why is this?
20. What is the advantage to studying psychology in college?
Part D: Read each question and provide an answer which BEST completes the statement or question.
21. The scientific study of behavior and the application gained from that knowledge is known as:
22. When one uses knowledge gained in Psychology to achieve practical goals, this is known as:
23. Psychologists concerned with improving the workplace through design are called:
24. The field of psychology interested in the study of group behavior is called:
25. Pursuit of knowledge of psychology for its own sake is:
26. A medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of mental disorders is called:
27. Persons suffering from emotional disorder would probably see a(n)
28. Psychologists who specialize in selecting, training, and managing people in the work place are called:
29. Psychologists primarily interested in how human beings progress from infancy through old age are called:
30. Refer to the photo of the “Father of Modern Psychology” and identify the scientist. Provide a short biosketch of this person. Don’t forget to cite your resources. Use at least one resource other than Wikipedia.Submit your answers in the text box below.
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