Re: What Is Psychology?

Date: Thu Nov 06 1997 - 09:45:00 GMT

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes.
It asks and tries to answer questions about every aspect of life. Laws
and public policy are influenced by psychologists theories and
research. There are five main perspectives in the study of psychology:
biological, behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytical and

In the 4th and 5th centuries B.C Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were
Greek philosophers who posed fundamental questions about mental life.
e.g What is consciousness? Are people capable of free choice? These
questions are considered the roots of a cognitive perspective of

At the same time Hippocrates' observations of the brain controlling the
rest of the body led to biological explainations. It wasn't until the
late 19th century that psychology was introduced as scientific, with
people believing that people's minds and behaviours could be observed
and analysed through systematically and scientificly varying the
situation presented to them.

The biological perspective believes that all psychological events are
as asreult of the activity of the brain and nervous system. It
attributes overt behaviour to electrical and chemical events taking
place in the body. Researchers study the brain activity of animals to
in turn understand the human brain. It can give them an idea of how
inborn biological mechanisms are responsible for human motives and

Instead of studying the brain and nervous system, behavioural
psychologists study the behaviour of individuals. John Watson, a
psychologist in the early 1900's was the first behavioural
psychologist. He stated that behaviour can be observed by other people.
This brought psychology into the field of science, whereas before the
dominant non-biological approach emphasised introspection (individuals
observations of their own perceptions).

One critisicm of the strict behavioural approach is that it does not
take into account the individuals mental processes and conscious
experiences.e.g deciding, reasoning, problem solving.

The cognitive perspective is based on mental processes but not on
introspection as th 19th century version of cognitivism was. They
believe that we must study mental processes to understand the actions
we take and this can be done by looking at specific behaviours and
relating them to underlying mental processes. The analogy is made that
information is taken in and dealt with by the mind much the same as a
computer would do.

Freud developed the psychanalytical perspective by combiningideas of
perception and memory with notions of biologically based instincts. He
believed that behaviour is influenced by unconscious processes such as
fears and desires. They are forced into the unconscious because they
are forbidden or punished by society and parents during childhood. Once
in the unconscious they manifest as emotional problems, or on the
positive side as artistic ability which is approved of socially. He
believed ther is a cause for evry action but they are often an
unconscious motive.

a non scientific approach is the phemenological perspective which is
interested in te viewpoints and personal experiences of events of the
individual. It's concerned entirely with subjective experience. The
other perspectives try to describe the inner life and experiences of
individuals whilst the phenomenological perspective is concerned with
predicting behaviour. This thoery recognises the qualities that
highlight the differences between people and animals therefore is
called humanistic. It believes we have a natural need to progress and
develop our potential.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:24:19 GMT