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Sunday, January 24, 2010

What is Psychology? Part1

  • the term psychology is derived from two Greek words psyche meaning soul and logos meaning science or study of a subject
  • Psychology is defined formally as a science which studies mental processes, experiences and behaviour in different contexts.
  • the three terms used in the definition, namely, mental processes experience, and behaviour
  • When we say experiences are internal to the experiencing person, we refer to states of consciousness or awareness or mental processes. One level at which these mental processes are reflected is the brain activity. Our brain activities can be observed using different techniques of brain imaging However; we cannot say that brain activities and mental processes are the same, although they are interdependent. Mental activities and neural activities are mutually overlapping processes but, they are not identical.
  • Brain activities provide important clues to how our mind functions
  • Consciousness of our own experiences and mental processes are much more than the neural or brain activities.
  • Psychologists also study experiences of people. Experiences are subjective in nature. We cannot directly observe or know someone else's experience.
  • Experiences are embedded in our awareness or consciousness.. Experiences are influenced by internal and the external conditions of the experiencer. experience can only be understood by analysing a complex set of internal and external conditions..
  • Behaviours are responses or reactions we make or activities we engage in.
  • All behaviours, covert or overt, are associated with or triggered by some stimulus in the environment or changes that happen internally
  • Psychologists study behaviour as an association between stimulus (S) and response (R). Both stimulus and response can be internal or external

Psychology as a Discipline:

  • Psychology, though it is a very old knowledge discipline
  • Psychology as a discipline today has two parallel streams One which makes use of the method in physical and biological sciences
    the other which makes use of the method of social and cultural sciences in studying various psychological and social phenomena.

  • In the first case, psychology considers itself as a discipline, which focuses largely on biological principles to explain human behaviour assumes that all behavioral phenomena have causes which can be discovered if we can collect data systematically under controlled conditions.

Psychology as a social science focuses on how behavioral phenomena can be explained in terms of the interaction that takes place between the person and the socio-cultural context of which s/he is a part

  • . Each behavioral phenomenon is assumed to have multiple causes.

Psychology as a Natural Science:

  • psychology has its roots in philosophy
  • modern psychology has developed because of the application of the scientific method to study psychological phenomenon
  • Psychology influenced by Descartes later on by the developments in physics has grown by following what is called a hypothetic-deductive model.
  • Hypothetico-deductive model suggests that scientific advancement can take place if you have a theory to explain a phenomenon.


  • Theory is nothing else but a set of statements about how a certain complex phenomenon can be explained with the help of propositions which are interrelated


  • Based on a theory
    or propose a hypothesis that offers a tentative explanation of how a certain phenomenon takes place.
    The hypothesis then is tested and proved true or false based on empirical data that one has gathered
    The theory is revised if data gathered point in a different direction than the one suggested by the hypothesis.
    Using the above approach psychologists have developed theories of learning, memory, attention, perception motivation and emotion, etc. and have made significant progress.
    psychologists have also been considerably influenced by the evolutionary approach which is dominant in biological sciences. This approach has also been used to explain diverse kinds of psychological phenomenon such as attachment and aggression to mention just a few

    Psychology as a Social Science



  • psychology is recognised more as a social science because it studies the behaviour of human beings in their socio-cultural contexts.
  • Humans are not only influenced by their socio-cultural contexts, they also create them. Psychology as a social science discipline focuses on humans as social beings.
  • Psychology is a social science with focus on the individuals and communities in relation to their socio cultural and physical environment
  • . UNDERSTANDING MIND AND BEHAVIOUR recall that psychology was once defined as a science of the mind It is true that mind cannot exist without brain but mind is a separate entity
    A new discipline called Psychoneuroimmunology has emerged which emphasizes the role played by the mind in strengthening the immune system,


  • Human behaviour based on common sense may or may not be true if investigated scientifically.
    common sensical explanations of human behaviour are based on hindsight and explain very little

  • Psychology as a science looks for patterns of behaviour which can be predicted and not explained after the behaviour occurs.
  • Scientific knowledge generated by psychology often runs against common sense. One such example is a study performed by Dweck's (1975). She was concerned with children who gave up too easily when faced with a difficult problem or failure
  • Read Dweck's study in book. Or here

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