Introduction - Introduction to psychology

Psychology: an introduction (Oxford Southern Africa) - Leslie Swartz 2011

Introduction to psychology

Viv O’Neill

In starting your study of psychology, you are embarking on what we hope will be a fascinating journey of discovery. In studying psychology, you will be learning about the many aspects that underlie human behaviour — our neural structures, how we develop, what influences our personalities, our social behaviour, psychopathology, and many more aspects of what makes us human.

This first part of the book comprises two chapters and sets the scene for your study in psychology. Chapter 1 introduces the idea that psychology is a system of beliefs like many other such systems. It explains how you can train to be a psychologist and how important it is to approach your studies from a reflective and critical perspective. You will need to read and study widely to get to grips with this subject. The chapter also describes the historical development of the discipline of psychology and notes the importance of ethical practice.

Chapter 2 covers the very important and fundamental area of research. For psychology to be a science, it needs to base its statements and conclusions on careful observation and recording of events. Research involves investigating and examining all aspects of human and social behaviour. In the past, most psychological research was quantitative in nature, relying only on observable phenomena. More recently, there has been an upsurge in qualitative research. Both of these approaches have strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 2 also describes the steps a researcher would follow to initiate, conduct and complete a research project.