Re: What Is Psychology?

From: danielle still (
Date: Thu Nov 06 1997 - 11:49:45 GMT

What it Means to Study the Mind

When trying to answer the question 'what it means to study the mind' it
is important initially to understand why psychologists and scientists
study the mind.

Psychology and Science are separate disaplines that are intrigued by
the mind. At the begining they travelled separate paths,however over
time these paths have become interrelated inspite of this they are both
important and neccessary in researching the mind as they aim to achieve
different goals.

In order to fully comprehend what studying the mind means it would be
sensible to explain both the disaplines and their relationships.
Atkinson and Atkinson defined psychology as:

"the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes" Psychology
became a disapline in its own rigth in 1879 due to Wilholw Wundt,who
was the first to become fascinated by the mystery of the mind. Wundt
used a theory called introspection to study the mind,however as the
disapline advanced this theory was considered subjective and its
validity was called in to question. Behaviourism over took
introspectionism and was thought to emulate the natural sciences by
adopting its own objective methodology which spurred on the studying.
This was thought to be over simplified and that it neglected certain
complex behaviours.

As we now know the mind is the complex organ of the brain. The brain
contains 10,000 million nerve cells making it an intricate network that
transports electrical impulses from the brain and transforms them into
a variety of human behaviours.

In the 1970's psychologists attentions were turned to cognitive science
as the mind embodies both mental and intellectual qualities. Its
functions include remembering,problem solving,directing thoughts and
desires, thinking and feeling.

Cognitive psychology was widely accepted as it was examined by
experimenting,for example,problem solving and using memory
tasks,enabling people to show their thoughts and behaviours
externally,giving psychologists evidence from which they could back
their theory. Cognitive science was thought to be on a parallel plane
with artifical intellicence and information processing,but as usual not
all psychologists agreed. Jay Garfield stated:

"Some psychologists say that cognitive science is the
study of the mind,while others argue that there is no mind"

Psychologists like Watson who rejected the theory of the mind declined
because surely if this was true then people would not be capable of
their own specific and individual thoughts,feelings and behaviours.

Science is a disapline that as R. Gross states:

"attempts to discover general laws or principles that govern human
behaviour and mental processes,that are intended to be universal".

For science to be scientific,scientists have to be able to study a
definate subject matter which has enabled them to construct a theory.
This theory must test the hypothesis using empirical methods ,for
example,observation and data collection.

Psychology and science became interrelated in the reductionist approach
which states that:

"the idea that psychological explanations can be replaced by
explanations in terms of brain functioning or even in terms of physics
and chemistry. "

However this does not seem acceptable as certain behaviours have social
meanings which can only be explained by psychological insight in to
thoughts and behaviours.

In the mind and body debate,Descartes thought that the mind drove the
body,this was called dualism. He also claimed that animals were not in
possesion of a mind unlike humans. If this is the case why has so much
research been done on animals concerning the brain.
Leibniz,however,claimed that the mind and body worked simultaneously
together,this was called monism.

In the past the mind has been studied by using patients who have
suffered from strokes,tumours and trama which have affected parts of
the brain. The mind has also been studied by lesioning. This is done by
isolating part of the brain to find out which parts of the brain
influence which parts of the body. It has also been studied using
invasive techniques which invade parts of the brain. Both techniques
are considered unethical and with this particular approach it can not
be sure that the right part of the brain is being invaded.

The mind will always be studied as it has such relevance in the world
and it will always intrigue people to try and find out why people do
certain things and behave in certain ways. This is why Jackson Beatty
stated: "the human brain is the most complex organ in all of biology. "

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