Lecture 1: Introduction to Psychology

Welcome to Introduction to Psychology! This course is a comprehensive and in depth introduction to the study of the human psyche.

Lecture 1:

What is Psychology? Psychology is defined as “the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context.”

Psychologists study: overt (observable) behavior, as well as, covert behavior (the private mental processes that cannot be directly observed or measured and must be observed from overt behavior.

The main goals of psychology is to:

  • Describe behavior
  • Understand and explain behavior
  • Predict behavior- can we predict when and under which circumstances this behavior will occur?
  • Control behavior- what factors influence this behavior?

There are several different types of psychologists:

  1. Cognitive psychologists: study the way humans perceive and understand the world around them.
  2. Physiological psychologists: study the role of the brain functions in behavior.
  3. Developmental psychologists: study how individuals grow and change throughout their lives.
  4. Social psychologists: study how people influence or are influenced by others.
  5. School psychologists: test and evaluate students, analyze learning problems and counsel teachers and parents.
  6. Industrial/Organizational Psychologists: work on a wide variety of issues in work settings.
  7. Forensic psychologists: work on behavioral issues in the legal, judicial and correctional systems.
  8. Health psychologists: focus on ways to improve health by altering behavior.
  9. Sports psychologists: study how psychological factors influence performance in sports, physical activity and exercise.

MOST psychologists are in the areas of clinical and counseling psychology.

  • Clinical psychologists: diagnose and treat mental and behavioral disorders.
  • Counseling psychologists

There are different fields of psychology:

  • Structuralism
  • Functionalism
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Behaviorism
  • Gestalt psychology
  • Humanistic psychology
  • Positive psychology
  1. Structuralism

In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt opened the first psychological lab in Germany. He is widely regarded as the founder of psychology.

He attempted to uncover the structure of consciousness by breaking down mental processes into their most basic components- this was done through a process called introspection.

Wundt’s approach become known as structuralism.


2. Functionalism

  • William James- did not believe in structuralism- he argued that consciousness cannot be broken down into different elements.
  • James’ main focus was with the ongoing conscious experience and the functions of mental processes.
  • He gave rise to functionalism.


3. Behaviorism

  • Behaviorism is defined as the view that only overt behavior can be studied scientifically.
  • Behaviorists advocated for the strict experimental procedures in psychology.
  • Some behaviorists are: B.F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov (pictured on the left) and John B. Watson.
  • Strict behaviorists believed that all behaviors are shaped by the environment.


4. Psychoanalysis

  • Sigmund Freud is known as the father of psychoanalysis.
  • He argued for the role of the unconscious and other internal processes in human behavior and mental disorders.
  • His work formed the foundation of psychoanalytic theory.


5. Gestalt Psychology

  • Gestalt psychology was founded by Max Wertheimer.
  • This field focused on studying mental processes and behaviors as wholes rather than trying to separate them into discrete functions or parts.
  • “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


6. Humanistic Psychology

  • Humanistic psychology argues that humans are not helplessly controlled by unconscious or environmental forces- we have free will, goals, aspirations and other positive motives.
  • Influenced by Carl Rogers.


7. Positive Psychology

  • Founded by Martin Seligman.
  • Arose from the observation that psychologists generally focus on the negative side of human behavior while largely neglecting the more positive aspects of human experience.
  • Focused on discovering and promoting factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.

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