Introduction to Psychological Science: Integrating Behavioral, Neuroscience and Evolutionary Perspectives - William J. Ray 2021
Psychology: Historical Roots and Modern Approaches
✵ 1.1 Define psychology and how the processes of behavior and experience influence how we interact with one another.
✵ 1.2 Review the historical concepts that have influenced psychology.
✵ 1.3 Summarize the major approaches to psychology in the 20th century.
✵ 1.4 Describe the three themes used in this book.
✵ 1.5 Describe the different levels of analysis used by psychologists.
On what began as a normal day, Tom was driving home from soccer practice. An oncoming car crossed over into his lane and hit him. The car went out of control and Tom was thrown out of the car. Tom lost his left arm in the accident. However, afterward, he could still feel his arm as if it were there. He even had the sense of moving each finger and being able to grab an object (Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998). Strange as it might seem, Tom is not alone in experiencing the sensation of having a limb that is not there. This phenomenon has been reported since antiquity and following the US Civil War, it came to be known as phantom limb. Phantom limb is experienced today in those who have fought in a war or have had industrial or other accidents that resulted in loss of limbs. Not only do individuals with a lost limb experience its presence, more than 70% of them also experience pain in the limb, which can last for years after its loss.
Can you remember where you were on your 15th birthday? How about what you had for lunch two weeks after that? Although most of us can remember what we wore for a special occasion, what we wore or had for lunch three weeks later is next to impossible. However, there is a small number of people who can remember every day of their life after about age 10. This ability is referred to as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (LePort et al., 2012).
If you are walking to class and almost get hit by a car, what do you say? If you are like most people, you say the driver is “stupid” or even a more colorful remark. However, if you are driving and almost hit someone, what do you say then? Typically, most people say something like the sun was in my eyes or he ran in front of me or another situational explanation. As you will see in the chapter on social processing, we tend to attribute trait characteristics such as being stupid to others, while using situational explanations such as having the sun in our eyes for ourselves.
As you read about these three experiences described (phantom limb, superior memory, and attribution), a number of questions may come to mind. You might wonder how it happens that some can experience a hand that is not there. This takes us to a larger question of how we come to have the experience of having our own body and knowing where it is in space. In later chapters you will learn about how our brain receives information from our body and creates our experiences of moving through space or picking up an object such as your coffee cup.
You may also wonder if you experience the world the same as others, especially if you see words in colors or can remember every day of your life in detail. One thing you will learn in the memory chapter is that being able to recall every event that happened to you every day in your life will not make it easier to learn academic material for a test. There are, however, things you can do to help you learn new information.
The last example of almost being hit by a car helps us to understand that how we see the world and the importance of the situation influence attributions. As you will see, our social perceptions and social relationships are a critical aspect of our human history. We have always lived with others in groups and this shapes how we treat social relationships. In fact, many of us use much of our day engaging in social relationships in person or through social media. This also brings up the question of how you feel about yourself if you see yourself different from how others see you. These are some of the questions we will be asking in this book.
Psychology Is About Behavior and Experience
This book is a journey to explore who we are as humans, how we think, feel, and do, as well as how we interact with others and ourselves. We will look at ourselves through the lens of psychology. Psychology is the study of behavior and experience. Behavior is what we do. Experiences are related to our internal thoughts and feelings. Some of our experiences are similar to those of others. Other experiences are rare but still can be understood through the scientific methods available to psychologists. Let’s begin with a description of behavior and experience.
Behavior is simply the way we act. Behavior includes our actions and those of others in a variety of situations. We see behavior all around us and make inferences about its meaning. Watching others from a distance, we can quickly determine if they are friends, lovers, or even angry at each other without even hearing a word of what they are saying. Quite amazing, isn’t it?
How do we do that? We just watch their behavior, which includes facial expressions, gestures, and touching. Humans have had thousands of years of learning to infer the behavior of others. Otherwise, we would not have survived. The fact that we are always making inferences about ourselves and others and the manner that we are able to do this is one important aspect of psychology. Ask yourself, for example, how do the people in the picture below feel about each other?
Another aspect of psychology that will be important in this book is that of experience. Unlike actions that we can observe, experiences are internal and take many forms. We have internal feelings as we interact with others. We dream at night. We remember an event we have experienced or a person we have known. We feel moved by music or stories. We may feel excited when we go to a new country. We enjoy gossip. We let our mind wander as we wait for someone or even spontaneously daydream in the middle of an event. We feel hungry or tired. We see and hear a world full of colors and sounds. We also talk to ourselves, which at times is helpful as we plan for what we need to do. Other times what we say to ourselves is not very helpful, as we become negative about ourselves, which separates us from others and our world. The manner in which scientists have sought to study internal processes is another important aspect of psychology.
Behavior and experience always take place within a context. Sometimes the context is the present, including the people we are with and the particular tasks we are doing. Sometimes, we remember something that happened to us in the past and this has a profound influence on what we experience in the present. We might remember when a friend left and we feel sad. We can even imagine what might happen in the future and this leads us to see the world differently. That is, we have emotional reactions at this moment based on what might happen in the future. We know, for example, that those individuals with depression can imagine that a future meeting will not work out well. This leads them to withdrawing and not trying.
Figure 1-1 Couple sitting on park bench—how do they feel about each other?
Although you have no problem knowing how the couple in the picture feel about each other, this is only the beginning in psychology. You could be wrong. Psychological considerations are always tested through science. You will learn some of the exact techniques of science in later chapters. For now, it is important to realize that psychology is a science that covers all aspects of human behavior and experience.
Sometimes our research in psychology emphasizes how we interact with other people. In the real world salespeople often shake our hands or touch us lightly on the shoulder as they tell us how wonderful we will look in that new car. Other salespeople may turn us off if they don’t listen to what we say. Psychological scientists can test which factors determine whether we like or dislike another person. Another example is what factors determine whether we obey another person or not. Most of us imagine that we are in charge of our own actions and able to predict our own behavior. However, as you will see later in this book, experiments suggest this is not always the case. Sometimes each of us reacts differently to a new situation than we image we would.
Not only can we consider how people are influenced in the present by their thoughts, feelings, and actions, but we can also consider how our ancestors may have lived life and interacted with others in the past. What would your life have been like if you had lived 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 years ago? This takes us to a larger context that includes the vast scale of human history. If you think about it for a minute, you may realize there has never been a time in our human history that humans have lived alone. We have always lived in groups, whether it is our present-day communities and cities or our previous existence in hunter-gatherer groups.
Given this type of historical cultural perspective you might guess that humans would have developed a variety of ways of interacting with others and even ourselves. You would be correct. It is not surprising that humans today love to be with others, to gossip, to talk on the phone, to send text messages, and to update their social media pages. Scientific psychology is interested in learning more about how our past ways of interacting with others and ourselves play a role in our current life.
Behavior and experience also take place in different types of situations. For example, we often feel different when we work than when we play. With others, we are generally aware of our interactions. At some times these interactions are easy and fun and at other times difficult and tiring. This has led psychologists to ask: what are the characteristics involved when everything seems to be going your way? You can’t miss the tennis shot or basketball hoops or play an instrument perfectly. Psychologists are also interested in when we don’t reach our potential. Sometimes we are just tired. Other times this results from some type of psychological problem such as anxiety or depression. Much of what you will read in this book discusses how we normally behave and experience the world.
How to Understand Ourselves and Others
As a science, psychology is just over 130 years old, although humans have been thinking about other humans and suggesting reasons for their actions for thousands of years. Psychology is one of the most popular courses in universities in the United States. However, many individuals come into the course expecting something other than a science course (Toomey, Richardson, & Hammock, 2017). It is to be hoped that those individuals will have a new perspective after reading about psychology. This book is about how scientists have come to view human behavior and experience. As humans we create reasons for why a person does a particular behavior. Sometimes we are correct and sometimes not. Thus, we need ways to check out our ideas. Psychologists check their ideas by designing experiments and using other scientific methods.
Those engaged in the science of psychology seek to develop theories that give us insight into human behavior. Having a theory is not enough; we also need to determine if our theories are accurate or not. To do this, psychologists developed specific research methods. These methods help us to understand what factors influence our behavior and experience. Scientific methods also help us to know if our theories are wrong.
In psychology, we ask critical questions as to what makes us human and how are we like other species. Aspects of our genes and physiology are shared by a variety of species. Thus, how are we unique as a species? Are there processes that humans do that other species cannot? One answer to this question is that we produce and understand language in a manner that other species do not. Another answer is that we create institutions such as schools and universities to formally teach others. Part of being human is to actively seek and pass on knowledge.
As humans we also create culture in which we build cities and develop technology. More than 35,000 years ago, humans began to draw pictures of animals on the walls of caves (Aubert et al., 2019). As humans we seek to represent and share the experiences that we encounter. This has a long history, but modern technology has changed and sped up how we communicate with one another. In less than 40 years, computers, cell phones, and how they connect with each other has greatly changed our society and our world. However, we continue to use technology within the context of a culture. For example, some cultures see it as OK to use a cell phone in a restaurant or theater or train or bus, whereas others do not. How our culture influences us as well as which characteristics are common across cultures is another topic important to psychology.
Figures 1-2a and 1-2b Cave art from Lascaux, France, dated more than 17,000 years ago. This art shows humans hunting animals with a bow and arrow. The picture on the right shows realistic depictions of animals.
This text will cover a wide array of psychological approaches and examine human behavior and experience through several different lenses. In order to give you a more complete understanding of psychological science, three major themes will be emphasized in this book: (1) behavior and experience; (2) neuroscience; and (3) human origins and a historical cultural perspective. These three major themes will be described at greater length later in the chapter. Let us now begin with a historical overview of how human behavior has been of great interest to thinkers for more than 2,000 years, and how, much more recently, psychology developed as a science.
✵ What does it mean to say that psychology is the study of behavior and experience? What are some examples of behavior and experience that you would like to learn about from this course?
✵ What does it mean to say that psychology is a science? What advantages does science bring to the study of psychology?
✵ Identify the three major themes this book takes in regard to psychology.
Historical Considerations in Understanding Behavior and Experience
Psychology seeks to describe and understand human behavior and experience. In fact, as humans, we have a long history of trying to understand ourselves. In this section, you will be introduced to some of the historical conceptions that have influenced psychology in the United States (see Finger, 2000 or the classic Boring, 1950 for more information). A more complete history would include historical developments in China, India, Africa, and the Middle East. For example, an Egyptian text referred to as the Edwin Smith Papyrus dates from approximately 1600 BC. This was one of the earliest documents that suggested different brain areas are involved in different processes. Overall, it is a medical text describing some 48 case studies and can be seen at the US National Institutes of Health website (https://wayback.archive-it.org/7867/20190220142516/https://ceb.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/books.htm).
You should consider this section as more than just a discussion of history. You will also learn about how you think, feel, and move. This includes the role of the body and its involvement in our mental processes. You will also read about how you create the world around you. Some of these ideas date back thousands of years, yet still influence our views today. Some other ideas we may have rejected, but they still show their influence in our language. For example, no one today would think of the heart being involved in memory as did Aristotle in the 4th century BC, yet we still say that we “learn things by heart.”
From Ancients to Sir Isaac Newton
Beginning more than 2,500 years ago—in the 6th century BC—there was an emphasis by Pythagoras (who we know primarily for his theorem concerning the sides of a right triangle), on identifying the underlying scientific principles that may account for all forms of behavior. Pythagoras coined the term philosophy, which can be translated as love of meaning or wisdom.
Moving beyond philosophy, he also set the stage for understanding human behavior and experience as related to internal processes and natural causes. As such, Pythagoras was one of the first to see the brain as the structure involved in human intellect and mental disorders. This was in contrast to a common view that human behavior and related disorders reflect the actions of the gods, including the belief that mental illness was a divine punishment. At that time, and even in some places today, magic was viewed as the primary way to understand the world.
Hippocrates: Behavior and Experience Come from the Brain
In the next century, Hippocrates moved the science of psychology to the next level with his emphasis on careful observation and a continued articulation of the idea that all disorders—both mental and physical—should be sought within the patient and not supernatural forces. He saw the brain as the source of our internal processes, such as dreams, fears, and irrational concerns. Mental illness and a person’s inability to connect appropriately with the environment were also seen as brain processes. Hippocrates is often seen as the father of Western medicine.
Plato: Do We Really See Reality?
Whereas Hippocrates located the brain as an important structure for intellect and reasoning, it was Plato in the next century who was to describe the nature of the human condition. His allegory of the cave describes human beings who live in an underground cave. They have been there since childhood and are only able to see the wall in front of them. Behind them is a fire that reflects shadows on the wall in front. As humans they try to make sense of the shadows they see on the wall and give them names and descriptions. Plato then asks, what would happen if after a long time the people were able to turn around and see what was behind them? What would they believe to be real, the images they had seen on the wall all their life or the newly seen environment behind?
Some of the types of questions this allegory raises for those interested in behavior and experience is the degree to which we are limited in our ability to see and interpret the world and our experience of it. The story suggests a variety of ways in which our perceptions of what we believe to be reality may be distorted. Whatever our experiences growing up, our brain creates a world based on the information it has available. Plato’s allegory is actually a rich and deep story that continues to have meaning for those who ponder the ideas suggested by it.
Aristotle (384—322 BC) also considered the human condition. He suggested that humans are not totally rational, only potentially so. In fact, Aristotle suggested that humans are “the very worst of animals” when they are separated from reason. For this reason, Aristotle saw studying ethics as critical for human society to function well. He also understood that people are social animals. Overall, Aristotle played a historical role in the debate concerning the nature of human nature and how we differ from other animals.
The Romans through the Renaissance
The Romans built on many of the ideas established by the Greeks. Galen (AD 130—200) was a physician who influenced Western and Islamic thought until the Renaissance. During his lifetime, Galen wrote a large number of treatises on science, medicine, and philosophy—estimated by some to number between 500 and 600. He was largely a champion of empiricism. Empiricism is the idea that knowledge should be derived through our sensory processes. That is, it is better to learn from observation than to just believe what one has been told.
Between the time of Galen and the Renaissance, Western science and medicine remained fairly stagnant with little new knowledge being added. Beginning in the 14th century, a new spirit began to emerge in Europe with profound influences on art, literature, politics, and science. In art, there was a desire for a sense of realism, which led artists such as Leonardo da Vinci to carefully study the human body. He performed dissections on animals and human cadavers to carefully reveal the structure of human organs. Figure 1-3 shows one of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings.
Figure 1-3 One of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings. These were important in helping scholars learn about the organs of the human body.
Descartes: Bodies of Animals and Humans Are Mechanical, but Humans Have a Mind
Another influential thinker who utilized mechanical models along with physics and mathematics was the philosopher René Descartes (1596—1650). Descartes was intrigued by mechanical machines. Some of these machines looked like humans that moved their hands and performed actions. Throughout Europe there were large clocks with moving figures or water displays in large fountains. By analogy, he assumed that human and animal reflexes or involuntary actions of organisms were based on similar principles. Thus, moving your hand from a hot stove or even digesting food was seen as a mechanical operation. For Descartes, all animal behavior could be explained by mechanical principles as could human involuntary actions.
In Figure 1-4, from Descartes’s work, you can see the mechanical means by which a hot fire would cause an involuntary or reflexive movement. The important distinction, which continues until today, is that behavior can be categorized as either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary actions such as thinking or consciously performing an act were different in that they required a mind, and humans are the only organism to have a mind, according to Descartes. By thinking, humans can know with certainty that they exist. Thus, the famous philosophical statement of Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.”
Figure 1-4 Descartes’ drawing showing context for involuntary or reflexive movement. The person touching the fire with his foot results in an impulse being sent to the brain.
Given the situation that the bodies of animals are totally mechanical and that humans have both a body and a mind, Descartes created a mind/body distinction that science has continued to face in its explanations. The problem is how can a material body including the brain be influenced by an immaterial process such as the mind? How can a thought influence a cell in the brain? Although today we generally talk about the mind/body problem, the metaphysics of Descartes’ era would often make the distinction between body and soul.
The Beginning of Western Science
In the 1600s, science as a way of understanding the world began to emerge. Galileo successfully replaced authority as the main source of knowledge with that of experimentation and science. This movement toward experimentation was greatly aided by Galileo’s own inventions, such as the telescope, the thermometer, an improved microscope, and a pendulum-type timing device.
Isaac Newton’s classic work Principia was published in the 1860s (Newton, 1729—1969 reprint). In this work, Newton describes his theories of time, space, and motion. As you will see in the chapter on sensation and perception, Newton helped us to understand the nature of light. Specifically, he suggested that white light is made up of different colors. Newton also set out the basic ideas for performing science.
✵ What important contributions did the Ancient Greeks and Romans—including Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Galen—make to our current view of psychology?
✵ Describe the shift from authority to science as a way of knowing that happened during the Renaissance. Specifically, what did da Vinci, Descartes, Galileo, and Newton contribute during this period that led to this shift?
✵ What contributions to the beginning of Western science did scientists such as Galileo and Isaac Newton provide?
1700s to the 1900s
From the 1700s to the 1900s, there was a period of scientific exploration in which one discovery led to another. The 1700s focused on the electrical activity produced by our nervous system. The 1800s helped to establish how different cognitive functions such as language and spatial abilities are influenced by different parts of the brain. Near the end of the 1800s, the manner in which organisms change in relation to their environment became the focus of evolution. Also, the later 1800s helped to establish the manner in which expectations and psychological processes could influence basic human processes such as what we see and experience.
The Brain and Body Use Electrical Impulses
At the beginning of the 1700s, there was a basic understanding of the structure of the nervous system. The 1700s began a quest to understand how it worked. One of the contributions of this endeavor was the realization that the body created and used electrical activity in its basic processes. By the middle of the 1700s, individuals such as Benjamin Franklin, who experimented with lightning rods and kites, published works on the nature of electrical activity in general. Later in the century such scientists as Luigi Galvani and Emil du Bois-Reymond were able to show that electrical stimulation would cause a frog’s leg to twitch. With this demonstration, nerves were beginning to be thought of as wires through which electricity would pass. Further, it was determined that the brain could itself produce electrical activity.
Human Functions Can Be Localized in the Brain
One important realization of the 1700s was that particular functions can be localized to different parts of the brain. One person often cited today is Franz Josef Gall who studied neuroanatomy and physiology. His idea was that brain areas associated with different tasks were reflected on the skull. If one were good at a particular ability, Gall assumed that their skull would look different from someone who was not as talented. To support this idea, he examined the skulls of people at the extremes, such as great writers, statesmen, and mathematicians as well as criminals, the mentally ill, and individuals with particular pathologies. Overall, he defined 19 processes that he thought humans and animals both performed and another 8 that were unique to humans (see Figure 1-5). These included such abilities as art, humor, hope, fairness, and curiosity, as well as the ability to murder.
Figure 1-5 Gall’s depiction of functional localization in the brain. Each area of the brain was thought to be related to a particular ability, such as art, humor, curiosity, and even the ability to murder another person.
Although Gall and his followers never scientifically tested their ideas, others found that research did not support Gall’s ideas about the structure of the head. What Gall did that was supported in later research was to suggest that the brain is capable of performing a variety of functions and that these functions could be localized in different parts of the brain. For example, he was correct in suggesting that the frontal lobes of the brain were related to social and cognitive functioning. He also emphasized that all mental functions come from the brain.
Language Is Composed of Two Processes and These Can Be Located in the Brain
In 1861, Paul Broca, a French physician, examined a patient who could understand language but could not speak. The patient died shortly thereafter. This allowed Broca the opportunity to perform an autopsy and report an abnormality in an area on the left side of the frontal lobe. Based on a variety of cases, Broca was able to show that language is a left-hemispheric process and that damage to the frontal areas of the left hemisphere also resulted in problems in higher executive functions such as judgment, the ability to reflect on a situation, and the ability to understand things in an abstract manner. The area related to language production in the left hemisphere today is called Broca’s area and is shown in Figure 1-6.
Figure 1-6 Broca’s area is a part of the temporal lobe that is involved in speaking a language. Wernicke’s area is involved in understanding language.
Some 15 years after Broca made his discovery related to language production, Carl Wernicke published a paper in 1874 that suggested that language understanding was related to the left temporal lobe. He studied patients who were unable to comprehend what they heard. However, they were able to produce fluent speech, that is, a continuous string of words, although it was incomprehensible and included nonexistent words. The specific area identified by Wernicke is now called Wernicke’s area and is located in the left temporal lobe. The discoveries of Broca and Wernicke helped the scientific community understand that language consists of different processes. These include the ability to understand language and the ability to produce language.
In 1868 Broca went to the UK for a scientific meeting where he met Hughlings Jackson, a known British neurologist. Having learned of Broca’s work in Paris some four years earlier, Jackson examined some cases of individuals who showed problems with speech. In almost all of these cases, Jackson found that the person had a paralysis on the right side of their body that would suggest that the damage to the brain was in the left hemisphere. This results from the fact that the right side of the body below the neck is controlled by the left hemisphere and left side of the body by the right hemisphere.
Jackson also noted that patients with left hemisphere damage did not show problems in performing perceptual tasks, whereas those with right hemisphere damage did. He reported on one particular patient with right hemisphere damage who could not recognize people—including his wife—and another who had difficulty with finding his way through a town he knew. In doing this, Jackson became the first scientist to realize that language is processed by the left hemisphere and spatial abilities by the right hemisphere. You will learn about these differences in later chapters.
Charles Darwin: All Life on Earth Is Evolving
Another big idea that came forth in the 1800s was the idea that all of nature is in constant flow. Charles Darwin (1809—1882) showed how organisms change. His ideas focused on the evolution of the species, including both plants and animals. Variation was to become one of the major components of Darwin’s thinking concerning evolution. Darwin’s research is not discussed in detail in many psychology books, yet his work was extremely influential to the beginning of a scientific psychology. His work emphasized the brain as the center for behavior. His work also began a tradition of using the behavior of animals as a way to understand human behavior.
Darwin suggested two mechanisms that influence which physical characteristics are passed on to the next generation. The first mechanism is natural selection. Basically, natural selection focuses on characteristics that vary in a given species such as the physical size of the finch’s beak or the color of the moth. If these characteristics help an organism survive within a particular environment, they will be passed on to the next generation.
Figure 1-7 Peahen and peacock. The peahen chooses which male to mate with by the color and shape of the peacock’s tail. We now know that these characteristics are related to the health of the male.
The second mechanism is sexual selection. Sexual selection takes place on two levels. The first level involves both genders. Characteristics that make an individual more attractive to a mate will be passed on to future generations. For example, if female peahens prefer male peacocks with larger and more colorful tails, then they will choose them as mates. We now know that the vibrancy of the color also reflects the health of the peacock as well as the underlying genetics. Through mating, these characteristics will be passed on to future generations. That is, by choosing who to mate with, she is also choosing which characteristics will be passed on.
The second level involves characteristics within a single gender. Within the same sex, characteristics such as strength or cunning that allow one to compete and control reproduction will also have a greater chance of being passed on to future generations. This is because those individuals without these characteristics will have less opportunity to mate. In many species such as the northern elephant seal off the coast of California, the colossal males (the largest weighing in at more than 5,000 pounds) battle with one another for the ability to mate with the females.
Overall, Darwin helped us understand the close connection between the environment and genetic processes, although Darwin did not know about genes at that time. Today, we know that this close connection makes such questions as what is responsible for our behavior, nature in terms of genes or nurture in terms of experiences meaningless. As you will see later, genes influence our environment and our environment influences which genes are activated or not.
Hermann von Helmholtz: Perception Is a Constructive Process
During the middle part of the 1800s, the rigid view of the body as a machine was beginning to change. For example, Hermann von Helmholtz (1821—1894), who had measured the speed of the nerve impulse, also began to note that perception is more than just taking in information as a camera would do. In today’s language we would discuss perception as a constructive process that takes place outside of our awareness. It is constructive in the sense that we create it. We may even see something that does not exist as in the “white triangle” presented here (Figure 1-8). We make a distinction between the white of the triangle and the white that surrounds it. However, the distinction is in our experience and not on the physical reality of the printed page.
Figure 1-8 White triangle.
Other times, when we look at a scene, what we see may be based on our previous experiences. We may actually add information to the scene. Helmholtz called this unconscious inference. Given that Helmholtz studied basic sensory processes such as vision and hearing and noted the manner in which humans add a personal element to the creation of their perception, he is often seen as an important founder of what was to become experimental psychology and the study of sensation and perception. Helmholtz added further to the realization that physical reality and psychological reality are not the same.
The Beginning of a Scientific Psychology
The stage was being set for the formal appearance of a scientific psychology. Two men are credited with establishing the first psychological laboratories in the world. The first is Wilhelm Wundt (1832—1920) in Germany. Wundt was initially trained as a physician and physiologist. Working as a physiology professor, Wundt published a number of books on sensory and physiological processes. In 1862 he offered a course at Heidelberg University on “psychology from the standpoint of natural science.” This material was published the next year as a book entitled Lectures on the Minds of Men and Animals. Wundt later published a book on psychology called Outline of Psychology.
In 1875, Wundt moved to Leipzig where he set up a psychological laboratory and created a journal that was later to be renamed Psychological Studies. In his lab Wundt used a variety of techniques to study such human processes as consciousness, awareness, and perception. One of these techniques was the use of reaction time as a means of denoting speed of mental processes. For example, you could ask a person to press a key when a light came on and measure the time it took to perform this task. You could then ask the person to press the key only if the light was blue. It would then be possible to subtract the light-alone reaction time from the blue-light reaction time to obtain a measure of how long it took the person to process light color.
Another technique was introspection. Introspection is the examination of one’s own mental state, which Wundt referred to as internal perception. Introspection involved training a person to observe his internal state. The person also needed the ability to focus attention on his internal processes. Wundt required that an individual complete 10,000 individual introspective observations before his data could be used for Wundt’s research (Schultz & Schultz, 2011). However, even with this training, introspection was not always reliable.
Wundt’s laboratory examined feelings and asked how it could be understood. Wundt’s answer was to suggest that a feeling can be divided into three separate dimensions. Thus, if I ask you to describe how you feel about a painting or piece of music, your experience could be seen as reflecting these dimensions. The first dimension is pleasantness to unpleasantness. The second dimension ranges from excitement to calmness. The third dimension varies from tension to relaxation. The basic idea was that it was possible to take a complex process such as cognitive processing or feeling and then break it down into its component parts. A variety of scientists from around the world came to work with Wundt and returned to their own countries including the United States to set up psychological laboratories.
One of these individuals was Edward Titchener (1867—1927) who had studied with Wundt in Germany and became a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His work was known as structuralism, which is the idea that human processes can be broken down into their component parts. Overall, Titchener suggested the first task for psychology was to ask what the basic elements of experience are. The second task is to determine how these elements combine. And, third, the task is to understand the causal relationships. Titchener also used introspection as a way to understand internal processes. It can be noted that Titchener’s first graduate student was Margaret Floy Washburn. In 1894, she was the first woman to receive a PhD in psychology in the United States.
The second person credited with establishing the first psychological laboratory is William James (1842—1910). James became a medical student at Harvard in the 1860s. However, he interrupted his studies to read Darwin and go to Europe to visit scientific laboratories including those of Helmholtz and Wundt. In 1869 James received his MD degree and in 1872 was appointed as a physiology faculty member at Harvard and created a laboratory that included psychological studies. Although he was initially appointed in physiology, his title was changed to professor of psychology in 1889. The next year his classic book Principles of Psychology was published. For many years, this book served as a psychology text in both America and Europe and is still read today.
Figure 1-9 Wilhelm Wundt (seated) with colleagues in his psychological laboratory. Wundt is credited with establishing one of the first psychology laboratories in the world. He is identified with structuralism.
In his work, James was particularly interested in the functional aspects of psychological processes, asking the question what purposes specific psychological processes serve. You could ask, for example, what function consciousness serves. This came to be known as functional-ism. In his major works, he distinguished between the more long-term cause or function of a behavior and an immediate cause of the behavior.
Functional approaches are also distinguished from structural approaches as a way of describing behaviors. In a structural approach, an experience is divided into its parts. However, James saw human processes such as consciousness as something that was forever changing and are thus impossible to divide into components. James saw our consciousness as a stream that flows and changes. From this James studied the stream of consciousness. This includes the ideas and feelings that continually pass through our brains. He was also interested in the manner in which our consciousness or attention is selective and appears to choose what it attends to. For example, at a party you may only notice what those immediately around you are saying. However, if someone across the room says your name, you instantly notice it.
Figure 1-10 William James set up one of the first experimental psychology laboratories in the world. His laboratory was at Harvard University. His approach is associated with functionalism.
James saw humans as beginning life with a large number of reflexive actions from sneezing, hiccupping, and startling to moving limbs when touched or stimulated. Later, emotional and sexual impulses as described by Darwin come forth and, with experience, humans begin to modify and even create situations for bringing forth instinctual experiences. In the final analysis, these impulses are used in the service of human purposes and goals. Thus, you yell at a football game to bring forth impulses in your team to make them play better and to confuse their opponents. Overall, James’s functional psychology had a large influence on the development of psychology in America.
✵ Three early discoveries in the period covered by the 1700s to the 1900s were cited as being important in paving the way for the new science of psychology. Who were the primary scientists working in each area and what were their major contributions?
o The brain and body use electrical impulses.
o Language is composed of two processes and they can be located in the brain.
o Perception is a constructive process.
✵ What are the primary aspects of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution? How were the concepts of variation, natural selection, and sexual selection critical to Darwin’s theory? How does the idea of human evolution fit into Darwin’s thinking?
✵ Which two scientists are considered to be pioneers in the beginnings of a scientific psychology? What were their seminal contributions to the science of psychology?
20th-century Trends in Psychology
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were a number of approaches used to understand human behavior and experience. You will come to learn in more depth about many of these approaches in the specific chapters of this book. The experimental approaches began with an emphasis on how external stimuli became internal sensations. This was followed by an emphasis on mechanisms. That is, how is information learned and how is it forgotten? Further questions looked to how behavior is generated. A somewhat separate focus was on mental disorders and their treatment. Let us now turn to some of these trends in the 20th century.
Behaviorism and the Empirical Study of Observable Behavior
At the beginning of the 1900s, behaviorism adopted a strict form of empiricism, the idea that knowledge should be derived through our sensory processes. The idea was that psychology could become a science like physics, but all that should be studied is observable behavior. This was in direct opposition to the use of introspection. This meant that internal processes such as thoughts, images, emotions, and consciousness would not be a part of psychology. It also meant that brain processes were not a focus. Thus, such concepts as motivation, consciousness, or awareness could not be studied since these processes cannot be directly observed. Behaviorism also carried with it a philosophical position that all behavior is learned. Thus, learning became an important focus of behaviorism.
One of the individuals who is often seen as a forerunner of behaviorism is Ivan Pavlov (1849—1936). Pavlov was a Russian physiologist and medical doctor who won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his research on digestion. Pavlov is best known in the United States for his demonstration that dogs could be conditioned to salivate by pairing food with a sound such as a bell. After a number of these pairings, the bell alone would produce salivation in the dog. This came to be called classical conditioning, which you will learn about in the chapter on learning.
Another person you will read about in the chapter on learning is Edward Thorndike (1874—1949). At about the same time as Pavlov, Thorndike was researching how animals escape from a puzzle box to obtain food. Thorndike would deprive the animals of food so that they were hungry when placed in the puzzle box. He noticed that the animals would make a number of movements until they pushed a lever on the floor or pulled a cord that released the door and allowed the animal to eat. This came to be known as trial and error learning. Both Pavlov and Thorndike carefully examined the behaviors and their timing that led to new behaviors.
In 1913, John Watson (1878—1958) published a paper in Psychological Review with the title “Psychology as the behaviorist views it.” In this paper, Watson emphasized that psychology should only concern itself with observable behavior and give up all attempts to describe consciousness or any internal process. In this paper Watson also emphasized that psychology should focus on the prediction and control of behavior. This led to an overemphasis on the environmental stimuli that were capable of producing behavior and learning. In particular, Watson suggested that psychological processes should be studied in terms of a stimulus and a response. As you will see in later chapters, behaviorists said that all human behavior, including mental disorders, were learned. Watson’s career changed drastically in 1920 when Johns Hopkins University asked him to resign for having an affair with a graduate student. Following this scandal, he became an advertising executive.
Following Watson, B. F. Skinner (1904—1990) became the voice of behaviorism for a large part of the 20th century. His research involved the nature of the learning process in a variety of different animals. One common apparatus, which has come to be known as the Skinner box, allowed an animal, often a rat or pigeon, to press a lever to receive food. Skinner would reduce the animal’s food intake so that they would be hungry before they were placed in the Skinner box. Skinner then carefully measured the manner in which the animal would learn to press a lever in the box and receive food. One important idea is that behaviors that are followed by rewards (reinforcement) will be increased. This came to be called operant conditioning and will be discussed in the chapter on learning. Skinner saw almost all human behavior, including the learning of language and the development of mental disorders, as controlled by the laws of learning.
In Germany a movement developed that sought to offer an alternative to the structuralism based on Wundt’s approach and the strong form of behaviorism seen in the United States. This alternative was called Gestalt psychology. The German word Gestalt refers to such English terms as pattern, form, structure, and a sense of the whole perception. Whereas structuralism suggests that a process can be understood as an addition of its parts, Gestalt psychology suggested that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Three important developers of this approach were Max Wertheimer (1880—1943), Kurt Koffka (1886—1941), and Wolfgang Köhler (1887—1967).
As you will see in the chapter on sensation and perception, one important area of Gestalt research was perception. When we look at an object, we tend to see it in certain ways. For example, when you look at Figure 1-11, you will either see two faces or one vase. You cannot see both at the same time. What you are focusing on is referred to as the figure and the other as the ground. One clear message of Gestalt psychology is that perception as well as other cognitive processes rely on more than just what is in the environment. Each person brings a perspective to what they see. There is a dynamic rather than fixed response to our ability to create experiences. One such dynamic process is the phi phenomenon. This is the situation in which two fixed lights, such as those seen on railroad crossing signs, can appear to move in between one and the other as they blink. Clearly, in this situation the person is seeing more than what is there in the environment. Other Gestalt perspectives will be discussed in the chapter on sensation and perception.
Figure 1-11 Figure-ground illustration in which either two faces or a vase can be seen. As you view the image, the figure and ground can change depending on what is seen.
By the 1960s, a number of psychologists saw behaviorism as too limiting in the topics that psychology studied. These psychologists sought to understand how thinking, attention, perception, problem solving, and other such internal processes influence both human reasoning and action. This approach came to be called cognitive psychology. An important book, Cognitive Psychology, was published in 1967 by Ulric Neisser that helped to establish the field.
The cognitive perspective offered a broader approach to understanding human behavior and experience. With behaviorism, the emphasis was on behavior, whereas cognitive psychology also included knowing and reasoning. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) linguist Noam Chomsky pointed out that children can understand sentences as well as produce sentences they have never heard before. This would be impossible if you learned language through just learning one word at a time. Infants also show predictable patterns of language learning and other forms of development that cannot be explained by behaviorism. Others have pointed out that animals and humans have spatial maps in their mind that they can use to navigate in their world. Birds and butterflies are known to be able to migrate long distances over areas that they have never seen before. All of these examples show that humans and other animals are able to use mental resources beyond those learned through operant or classical conditioning.
At the same time that psychologists were designing experiments to understand how humans perceive, reason, and make actions, computers were being developed. This led a number of researchers to ask if our cognitive abilities could be understood in terms of computer processing. For some, they looked at the input components, the memory components, and the processing components that led to an output. This came to be called the information processing approach. Researchers also went in the other direction and asked whether computers could simulate the way in which the human mind processes information. This developed into the field of artificial intelligence.
Near the end of the 20th century, technological developments began to allow scientists to see what was actually happening in the brain during cognitive processing. Such brain imaging techniques allowed researchers to ask totally different types of questions. For example, it was possible to study what happens in the brain when a person hears a noun as opposed to a verb. Areas such as emotionality could also be studied by examining cortical reactions to emotional facial expressions in others. Brain imaging techniques allowed psychology to have a more precise alternative to self-report or introspection techniques. The addition of cognitive psychology with brain imaging and other physiological techniques came to be called cognitive neuroscience that is an important aspect of this book.
Development of a Clinical Psychology
Although humans have created theories of mental disorders for centuries, it was Sigmund Freud (1856—1939) who influenced early thinking in clinical psychology. His work and that of others became known as the psychodynamic perspective. This perspective is based on the idea that psychological problems are manifestations of internal mental conflicts and that conscious awareness of those conflicts is a key to recovery. The psychodynamic approach emphasized clinical observation rather than experimental procedures.
By the beginning of the 20th century, there was an understanding that psychological processes were an important source of information concerning mental illness. The Paris physician Jean-Martin Charcot (1825—1893) studied individuals who would show problems hearing, seeing, or feeling pain without any underlying physical problems. Sigmund Freud had worked with Charcot in Paris and observed individuals with hysteria. In this disorder, the experience, such as not feeling pain in a limb or having difficulty hearing, did not match the underlying physiology. For example, with glove amnesia the person would not feel pain in the area of the fingers that would be covered by a glove even when pricked with a pin. What makes this a psychological process is that the lack of sensation does not correspond to the location of nerves in the human hand. This meant that the pain experience could not have a totally physiological cause. These types of experiences led Freud to seek psychological explanations for the cause and treatment of mental disorders.
Freud was an enthusiastic reader of Darwin and credited his interest in science to an early reading of Darwin. A number of Freud’s ideas can be seen as coming from Darwin (Ellenberger, 1970; Sulloway, 1979). Although Freud incorporated Darwin’s emphasis on instinct into his work, he emphasized sexuality over natural selection. For Freud, the sexual instinct became the major driving force for human life and interaction. Freud was also influenced by the suggestion of the neurologist Hughlings Jackson that in our brains we find more primitive brain areas underlying more advanced ones. The more primitive areas are related to breathing, sleeping as well as primary emotional reactions. We all experience this when we make a plan to diet but feel the pangs of hunger. Thus, it is quite possible for the psyche to be in conflict with itself or at least to have different layers of the brain representing different processes.
To understand the nature of these more primitive processes, Freud looked to the description of dreams and wish fulfillment. One of his works, The Project for a Scientific Psychology, utilized these ideas and sought to place psychology on a firm scientific basis (see Pribram & Merton, 1976). The Project was based on three separate ideas. The first was reflex processes. For example, organisms withdraw when confronted with unpleasant stimuli. Freud extended this idea to cognitive and emotional processes to suggest that, mentally, humans avoid ideas or feelings that are unpleasant to them. The second idea Freud used was associationism. That is to say, experiences that are presented together in time will be mentally called forth together. Freud suggested that if as a child you experience a fearful situation such as falling out of a car, then riding in a car could make you feel fearful or anxious. The third idea is that the nervous system is capable of retaining and discharging energy. Freud later identified this energy as libido or sexual energy.
Freud’s approach to treatment was based on the search for ideas and emotions that are in conflict and the manner in which the person has relationships with other people. His specific treatment came to be called psychoanalysis. One basic procedure was free association in which an individual lay on a couch with the therapist behind him and said whatever came to mind. It was the therapist’s job to help the client connect ideas and feelings that he was not aware of. One thing Freud was searching for was connections within the person’s psyche when external stimulation was reduced. To reduce stimulation he had individuals lie on a couch with no one to look at. Dreams were also analyzed in this way since they are produced outside of daily life and external stimulation. Consistent with others in this time period, Freud often described his ideas in terms of case studies.
In the 1950s, Carl Rogers brought the humanistic perspective to the forefront by creating client-centered therapy or person-centered therapy. He was also one of the first psychologists to record therapy sessions so that they could be used for research. Rogers emphasized the theme of human potential by saying that psychotherapy is a releasing of an already existing capacity in a potentially competent individual. In fact, it was the interaction with the therapist that allowed for the person to experience himself or herself and come to understand his or her potential. In this way, Rogers emphasized the relationship between the therapist and client as a critical key to effective therapy.
Overall, there are three key characteristics of the client-centered approach. The first is empathic understanding. As the therapist reflects back what the client says, the client begins to experience their innermost thoughts and feelings. The second is what Rogers referred to as unconditional positive regard. That is, the therapist accepts what the client says without trying to change the client. For some individuals who had experienced significant others in their lives as critical of them, to be accepted by the therapist is a new experience. The third characteristic is for the therapist to show genuineness and congruence. In this way, the therapist models what interactions between two real people could be like. Other individuals such as Abraham Maslow who helped to develop the humanistic movement will be discussed in later chapters of this book. More recently, the humanistic approach can be seen in the field of positive psychology that focuses on the strengths of individuals.
In the 1970s, there was a combining of the behavioral approach and its emphasis on careful research with the cognitive approach with its emphasis on reasoning. The result was cognitive behavioral psychology. The cognitive behavioral perspective suggests that dysfunctional thinking is common to all psychological disturbances. By learning in therapy how to understand one’s thinking, it is possible to change the way one thinks as well as one’s emotional state and behaviors. One basic feature of our thinking is that it is automatic. Ideas just pop into our mind such as, “I can’t solve this” or “It is all my fault.” A number of therapies based on cognitive principles along with behavioral interventions have been shown to be effective (Beck, 2019; Beck & Bredemeier, 2016).
In summary, every person with a mental disorder can be considered from two perspectives—the person responding to his or her own symptoms and mental health professionals treating the disorder. There is now evidence that both aspects are important and that a crucial aspect of treatment is the willingness of the person to be actively involved in his or her own treatment. There are currently three broad approaches for the psychological treatment of mental disorders: the psychodynamic perspective, the humanistic perspective, and the cognitive behavioral perspective. They were developed somewhat independently and often in opposition to one another. Today, each of these three approaches have integrated techniques developed by the other approaches. With this integration, there is also an emphasis on research to show that the treatment is effective.
Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a movement to determine the effectiveness of both medical and psychological treatments in a scientific manner. Researchers and clinicians began to focus more on approaches and principles for which there was scientific evidence. This approach is referred to as empirically supported therapies. This led to developing effective treatments for particular disorders as well as greater integration of techniques from the three different approaches as well as from other perspectives. Today, there is a strong emphasis on using treatment for which there is strong scientific evidence.
There has also been a movement to integrate various approaches in psychology with information from other disciplines. In a paper published in 1977 in the scientific journal Science, George Engel introduced the term biopsychosocial (Engel, 1977). Biopsychosocial refers to biological, psychological, and social variables. An integrative perspective that includes all three of these domains can offer a fuller picture of human behavior and experience.
In terms of clinical treatment, Engel suggested that those with a medical disorder or mental illness should not be understood from only a single perspective. For Engel, the treatment of a disorder required more than just a biological explanation and treatment. Diabetes is a medical disorder but it is also related to how the person eats and exercises. Likewise, depression and anxiety can be influenced by social and emotional factors. Thus, it is necessary to see the signs and symptoms of the disorder in a larger context. Otherwise, one has a limited perspective that ignores the social, psychological, and behavior dimensions of any disorder.
The biopsychosocial perspective has been an important impetus in psychology. More current perspectives have also emphasized the important role of culture in a person’s life (Leong, 2014). As a health care psychologist, for example, you would want to know more about an individual than just the symptoms that the person describes. This could include his or her family life, work conditions, and cultural practices as well as eating habits and exercise. Initially, this led researchers and health professionals to ask questions on three levels: the biological, the psychological, and the social. Since the 1970s researchers have come a long way in understanding how various levels ranging from genetics to culture interact with one another in a complex manner. The box The World Is Your Laboratory—Psychology Takes Place Within a Culture describes the way American culture has influenced our understanding of mental disorders and their treatment.
The World Is Your Laboratory—Psychology Takes Place Within a Culture
Psychology and other sciences are influenced by the culture in which they exist. In fact, many individuals adopt the values of their society without realizing the alternatives. During the Middle Ages, the authority of the church determined what type of questions could be asked and what type of answers could be given. As psychology became a laboratory science at the beginning of the 20th century, psychology sought to answer questions critical to American society. Some of these included the types of schooling needed for specific children in terms of ability and intelligence. With the beginning of World War I, selection procedures were developed to match a person’s skills with the jobs the military required. One critical question for society has been how to understand and treat individuals with a mental disorder.
American culture has continued a dynamic tension that has strongly influenced the application of psychology to those with mental illness. On the one hand, we seek to take care of those who are not able to take care of themselves, for example helping the homeless and those with mental disorders. On the other hand, there is also a tradition in America related to our settlement of the frontier—the vast lands that our pioneer forefathers and mothers found before them. This is represented by the pioneer or cowboy spirit in which we support the individual’s right to do what he or she wants and to live the type of life desired. One area in which this dynamic tension plays out is our level of willingness to support local and national government programs designed to help others.
During the first half of the 20th century, state mental hospitals were the main source of treatment and care for those with mental disorders in the United States (see Fisher, Geller, & Pandiani, 2009; Torrey, 1997 for overviews). By the 1950s, there were more than a half million individuals in these hospitals. However, during the 1950s and 1960s a number of events occurred that changed the way individuals with mental disorders were treated in the United States.
One significant event was the introduction of antipsychotic medication. Prior to this time, individuals with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia needed a high level of care and protection. With the introduction of medications that would help treat the disorder, it was possible for some of these individuals to live outside the hospital.
Another significant event was the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy suggested to Congress that all but a small portion of those in mental hospitals could be treated in the community. The basic idea was that community mental health centers would offer a variety of programs to those with mental illness. However, the community facilities for those with mental illness were never fully funded or were not even built.
Although the population of the United States increased by 100 million between 1955 and 1994, the number of individuals in mental hospitals decreased from 550,239 to 71,619. During this time the United States went from a country who used institutions for the treatment of mental illness to one who emphasized deinstitutionalization as its policy.
For some of the individuals today who would have been placed in a hospital in the 1950s, their quality of life in the community is much better than it would have been. However, for many individuals, the ideals of the community mental health movement were never fulfilled. This left many individuals not receiving the type of treatment they needed. Some of these individuals have found themselves homeless and on the streets. Others, who were disruptive or led to concerns in the community, found themselves in jails and prisons with little mental health treatment and care. In the United States, there are now three times more seriously mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons than there are in hospitals (Torrey et al., 2010).
The dynamic tension between taking care of others and being independent becomes clear when we see homeless individuals in our community who have a mental illness. This raises a number of questions. Can we take these individuals off the street if they don’t want to be taken to a shelter? Can we force them to take their medication if this would help them function better in our community, but they do not want the medication? Should it be the police or health care workers who work with these individuals?
Thought Question: What is the dynamic tension in American culture concerning understanding and treating individuals with mental illness? What do you think is the best approach?
Women at the Beginning of Scientific Psychology
At the beginning of the 1900s, American society, like other societies, had specific views on the roles of women and men in society. For many in society, the role of women was in the home as mother and wife. In spite of this, in 1903 Mary Calkins, Christine Ladd-Franklin, and Margaret Washburn were identified as among the 50 most important American psychologists (Fancher, 1996).
Mary Calkins (1863—1930) wrote an introductory psychology textbook in 1901. She set up one of the earliest research laboratories in America at Wellesley College in 1891. She became a professor and published more than 100 scientific articles. Mary Calkins was also the first female president of the American Psychological Association. However, the path to her success was not easy. With some difficulty, as a student she went to William James’s lectures at Harvard. When she submitted her PhD dissertation, the psychology faculty approved it, but the administration of Harvard refused to give a PhD degree to a woman.
Christine Ladd-Franklin (1847—1930) became an expert on color vision. She published a critical evolutionary theory that suggested that sensitivity to blue light came before that to red and green. Today, we know that the genes associated with red—green sensitivity are located on a different chromosome than those associated with blue. Like the other pioneering women, she completed her PhD in logic and mathematics at Johns Hopkins University in 1882 before psychology was available. However, since women were not awarded formal degrees at that time, her degree was not formally awarded until 1926 when she was 78 years old.
As noted, Margaret Washburn (1871—1939) was the first woman to be awarded a PhD in psychology in America. She initially went to Columbia University in New York City, but after the first year it became clear that she might not be allowed to receive a PhD there. In 1892, she moved to Cornell and became the first woman to receive a PhD in psychology. After this, she taught at Vassar College and studied animal behavior. She was also interested in movement and mental imagery. She was the second woman to be president of the American Psychological Association.
The role of women in psychology has changed drastically in the last 100 years. In 2018, the number of women who received PhDs in psychology represented 71.4% of all psychology PhDs (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates/#tabs-2). This is a change from only a few women at the beginning of the 1900s to about 10% before 1960. Beginning in 1960, there was an increase in women receiving PhDs in psychology every decade until the current rate of about 70%. As you will see throughout this book, today there is a large number of women performing significant psychological research and contributing to psychology as health care professionals.
African American Psychologists Who Shaped our Perspectives
During the first part of the last century, there were many obstacles that made the availability of a college education to non-white populations extremely difficult. Between 1876 and 1920, only 12 African Americans earned a PhD in any field, whereas some 10,000 Caucasian individuals did. In spite of this, Francis Cecil Sumner (1895—1954) became the first African American to be granted a PhD in psychology in the United States. He graduated in 1920 from Clark University and conducted research on race relations, equality, and the psychology of religion (Holliday, 2009). Sumner went on to chair the newly established psychology department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1928. He remained as department chair until 1954.
The first African American woman to receive a doctorate in psychology was Inez Prosser who received an Ed.D. in educational psychology from the University of Cincinnati in 1933 (Benjamin, Henry, & McMahon, 2005). Prior to this, she had been involved in teaching at a number of levels. Her dissertation included issues that would be critical to the later Supreme Court decision on integration in the school, Brown v. Board of Education. Unfortunately, she died in a car accident one year after finishing her dissertation at the age of 38.
The next year in 1934 Ruth Winifred Howard (Beckman) (1900—1997) received a PhD in psychology from the University of Minnesota. She wrote her dissertation of the development of triplets and continued doing work in clinical psychology throughout her life. In 1937 Alberta Banner Turner received her PhD in psychology from Ohio State University. Turner worked for the Ohio Bureau of Juvenile Affairs/Ohio Youth Commission for more than 27 years. She began as a clinician and retired as the director of research. During her years with the commission, Turner specialized in research on and treatments for juvenile delinquents, including the operation of a mobile clinic.
Kenneth Clark (1914—2005) was the first African American to become the president of the American Psychological Association in 1970. Before this in 1942, he was the first African American psychologist to be hired by City College of New York. He worked as a team with his spouse, Mamie Phipps Clark (1917—1983) who was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in psychology from Columbia University in New York. You can read more and see photos of Kenneth and Mamie Clark at http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/psychologists/clark.aspx.
They performed a series of studies that examined self-esteem in children, which showed that segregation had a profound effect on Black children’s self-esteem. These studies were used in the Supreme Court case, Brown v Board of Education, to show that segregated schools were problematic and did not benefit the students involved. This was an important use of psychological research to help inform decisions in terms of social policy.
✵ What is the focus of Gestalt psychology? What is its specific contribution to research in perception?
✵ For the behaviorists, what were the critical areas of focus in psychology? On the other hand, what areas were considered out of bounds?
✵ What are the primary areas of interest in cognitive psychology? What contributions did this approach make to research in psychology in terms of the scope of inquiry, experimental design, and technological innovation?
✵ Sigmund Freud was instrumental in the beginning of clinical psychology. What are the primary ideas and techniques of his psychodynamic perspective?
✵ What are the three key characteristics of Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy?
✵ In what ways does the cognitive behavioral perspective combine the traditions of the separate behavioral and cognitive approaches?
✵ What are “empirically supported therapies,” and what is their contribution to the field of psychology?
✵ What is the biopsychosocial perspective, and what is its contribution to the field of psychology?
✵ What were some early contributions by women in psychology? How does the changing role of women in psychology reflect broader changes in US society?
✵ Who were some early African American psychologists who shaped our perspectives?
The Three Major Themes of This Book
Psychology’s maturing as a discipline over the past 130 years has led to many useful ways to understand and study how we humans think, act, and engage with others. These different approaches will be described, and emphasis will be placed on three major themes in this text: (1) behavior and experience, (2) neuroscience, and (3) human origins and a historical cultural perspective. Let us now look at these three themes.
What We Do and What We Experience Is Critical to Psychology
The first theme takes a behavioral and experiential perspective and relates to behaviors and experiences observed across a variety of situations. For the most part, we will consider normal situations that you experience in your everyday life. You sleep, you eat, you talk with your friends, you play, and you work. Some of you are also raising children, or serving as a caregiver to a family member. In looking at these various aspects of daily living, we will examine current ways of classifying and describing our behavior and experiences. In fact, this book is organized around these processes including memory, perception, sensation, cognition, social behavior, and so forth.
One way we interact with the world is to expect certain things to happen. If I were to ask you to read the following (in Figure 1-12), you would have no trouble reading “The Cat.” Although the second letter in each word is exactly the same, you see it as an “H” in the first word and an “A” in the second. We make sense out of our world based on what we know and what we expect.
Figure 1-12 “The Cat.”
Making sense of the world is what we normally do. A large part of what our brain does is to process the present and make a guess about what will happen next. If you are playing tennis or baseball, your body moves to where it expects the ball to be. We love mystery stories, especially when what we predicted would happen did not. Our brain shows a change in electrical responding when we hear “Mary had a little pizza” rather than “Mary had a little lamb.”
In psychology we also consider the non-normal. One aspect of this is diminished capacity. You see this both in terms of brain damage and in mental illness. Later in the book, you will read some first-person reports from individuals with particular disorders. You will learn that not everyone who experiences a mental disorder will behave in the same way. You will also see how some of these individuals have restructured their world to let them live productive lives. Another important aspect of this perspective will be the manner in which particular disorders are seen throughout the world and the role culture plays in their manifestations. You will also see how the brain is involved in these disorders.
The opposite of a decreased capacity is an increased capacity. Some waiters in restaurants, for example, can remember orders from 10 or 20 people without writing them down. Memory loss is often thought to be a problem of aging, however, some individuals in their 80s and 90s score better on memory tests than those 30 or 40 years younger. These individuals are referred to as SuperAgers (Harrison, Weintraub, Mesulam, & Rogalski, 2012).
Another increased capacity is effortless functioning. Many of us have had the experience of playing a sport such as basketball or tennis, and everything seems to work perfectly and to require little effort. Some researchers have called the experience of effortless success as being in the flow or flow states (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). One critical question is how to change a normal state into an extraordinary one.
In answering questions related to behavior and experience, you will be asked to consider how you are like others and how you are unique. Humans around the world seek to interact with others, seek others to mate with, and solve basic questions of adaptation. Social media also allows us to have connections that were not previously possible. However, studies from around the world show that adolescents and young adults may also feel a fear of missing out (FOMO) when they are away from their social media devices (Alt, 2015; Buglass, Binder, Betts, & Underwood, 2017; Roberts & David, 2020).
Our culture influences the pattern of interactions that we use as well as the language we speak. Although the specifics may vary by culture, there is a universal experience in terms of speaking a language, expressing emotions, and being with others. We also have similar systems that allow us to see the world and hear what is around us. Many of these systems we share with other animals. Most mammal adolescents, no matter what the species, engage in play. Both our uniqueness and our universality are important parts of psychology.
Our Brain and Body Determine What We Do and Experience
The second theme examines what we know about particular psychological experiences from the standpoint of a neuroscience perspective. In particular, emphasis will be placed on the structure and function of the brain as it relates to psychology. With the development of brain-imaging techniques in the last few decades, observing greater precision of brain activity is now possible.
Structure refers to which brain areas or networks are involved in a given task such as feeling afraid. We know, for example, that when you process information that is emotionally important to you, a specific brain structure called the amygdala becomes active. We also know that particular networks of the brain are involved in processing faces and still others in understanding and producing speech. We can also ask how changes in processes such as learning change structure. For example, you may be surprised to know that learning a new skill can actually change the manner in which neurons in your brain are connected.
Figure 1-13 The amygdala is involved in our processing of emotional material.
Function refers to what role in your life a particular process plays. We can study the function of memory, for example, without asking which brain structures are involved. That is, we can examine how a memory influences our lives. Thus, psychology often asks questions of function. Sleep, for example, not only functions to help you feel refreshed but also to stabilize information you have learned during the day. Sleeping the night before a test after studying actually improves your memory of the information. Staying up all night to study actually may hurt your performance.
The neuroscience perspective will also help us to consider how certain human processes share similar connections or networks in the brain. For example, knowing that the brain networks involved in social relationships are also involved in particular types of anxiety would help us to better characterize these processes. It may also help us scientifically to understand why most of the anxiety people experience is of a social nature. Knowing that different brain areas are involved when you pay attention from when you daydream may help us to better understand underlying mechanisms for our everyday behavior and experience.
The brain occupies a special position in human functioning. Although it weighs only a few pounds, it uses more than 20% of all the energy our body produces. As you will see later in this book, our brain devotes more of its areas to some body parts than others. How do you think your brain sees your body? That is, what would we look like if our body parts matched the size of the brain areas that control them? The answer is a small person with big hands and a large face. We have a lot of brain devoted to our hands and face but less to our legs and back. The fact that we have a thumb that can work with our fingers allows us to do fine motor tasks such as painting, sewing, or keyboarding that no other animal can do. The brain’s control of our hands allows us to perform fine motor movements that you do every day with your cell phone or computer.
Not only does our brain control our movement, but also what we see. As you looked at the white triangle in the section on Perception Is a Constructive Process, you saw a white triangle. However, what you saw was literally not there—the white square in the middle. Part of what you will learn in this book is how our brain creates the world that we experience. This will also help us to understand why you hear some sounds as wonderful music and other sounds as noise. The neuroscience perspective also aids us in understanding how our sensory systems work and how they create meaning. Take a moment and look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k8fHR9jKVM). Clearly what you see in terms of the person moving his lips determines what you hear. This is referred to as the McGurk effect.
It is through the work of brain imaging that the experiences (phantom limb, synesthesia, superior autobiographical memory, and attribution) described at the beginning of this chapter have been understood in a much richer manner. Although our brain is critical for human functioning, we also have some strange ideas about how it works, as you will see in the box: Myths and Misconceptions—You Use Only 10% of Your Brain.
Myths and Misconceptions—You Use Only 10% of Your Brain
Unlike some earlier times in history, most people now believe that their brain is involved in their ability to think and act. Children are told to use their brain when they do something foolish. There are various techniques online for “brain training.” The popular media rushes to publish articles on how to improve our abilities.
However, one of the most often repeated claims, that we use only 10% of our brain, is a myth. Movies and TV shows have used the 10% idea as a premise, treating this claim as “fact.” Self-help books repeat this idea. The implication is that if we tap into those parts of our brain that are unused, we could be more creative, think better, and accomplish more.
As wonderful as the idea that we could use 90% more of our brain is, there is no research to support it. Our brains are complex. Our brains do use more of our energy than other organs. Different networks of the brain are used for doing different types of tasks. Yet, 90% of the brain is not available to make us superhuman. In fact, during your day, you probably use close to all of your brain.
If the 90% idea is wrong, where did the idea come from? Barry Beyerstein of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, has sought to find the source of the idea (Beyerstein, 1999). He points initially to a statement by William James. James suggested that we don’t achieve all of our potential or use all of our resources. This is not a statement that most people would disagree with. However, in the 1930s, there was an individual named Dale Carnegie who wrote self-help books. One of his best sellers was How to Win Friends and Influence People. The writer, broadcaster, and adventurer Lowell Thomas, who made Lawrence of Arabia famous, wrote the foreword to Dale Carnegie’s book. In the foreword to this book, James was misquoted to suggest we use only 10% of our brain and the myth became part of the American landscape. Dale Carnegie repeats the 10% idea in some of his later books. Others also attribute the 10% idea to Albert Einstein, although no one at the Einstein archives can find it in his papers.
What is interesting from a psychological point of view is that once a myth is out there and continues to be repeated, it takes on a life of its own. As with the claim that we only use 10% of our brain, it does not matter whether it is true or not, people continue to repeat it.
Thought Question: Why do you think it is so difficult for us as humans to give up an incorrect idea?
Human Behavior and Experience Developed Over a Long Period of Time
The third theme asks a much broader scientific question and examines psychological processes from a human origins and historical cultural perspective. In adopting this perspective, we can think about how certain ways of behaving and seeing the world might be adaptive. We can also think about how the experiences of those who came before us might have influenced how our nervous system functions. It is not often that we think about how our ancestors behaved and reacted to situations. Yet, our ability to form social relationships, to help others, to have children, to survive in different environments as well as consider ourselves, others, and our place in the world can be seen from a human origins and historical cultural perspective. These and many other abilities are directly related to our history as human beings. For example, look at the pictures below.
If I were to ask you what you see, you would probably say two pictures of a woman. At first glance most people see the pictures of the former 1980s British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as being the same. However, if you turn them upside down, you see something very different. What this suggests is that from a human origins and historical cultural perspective, our perceptual system evolved to recognize human faces including emotional expressions in one orientation, the way in which we normally see another’s face—right side up.
Additionally, if you consider that over evolutionary time light came from one major source, the sun, we might assume that our sensory system evolved to reflect this fact. If we see an object with light on top and a shadow on the bottom, we would interpret the image to reflect a ball-like structure (Figure 1-15). What if we viewed the same object upside down? Turn Figure 1-15 upside down and see. What do we now see?
Figure 1-15 Multiple balls with shadow on top or bottom.
In terms of our evolutionary history with the sun above us, shadows would only occur in one way. For example, if we were looking into a hole in the side of a rock or hill, where would the shadow be? Looking at the figure again, this is indeed what we see. We see a ball or convex surface if the light is on the top and a hole or concave surface if the light is on the bottom. Somewhat amazing since both objects are exactly the same except for rotation! Turn the page upside down and watch your perception change. However, it becomes less amazing when we realize that our sensory systems evolved in relation to the environment in which we lived.
Figure 1-14 Pictures of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Turn them upside down and notice what you see.
The human origins and historical cultural perspective also gives us a way to think about cultural factors. Our culture has a strong influence on us. Sometimes humans all over the world do things in very similar ways and other times specific cultures develop a different way of doing things. We all wear clothes, for example. Yet, the clothes in each culture are often different. Humans in almost every culture dance. However, the nature of dancing is very different. What you will see is that both the similarities and differences in cultures can be related to human origins. Understanding cultural and universal factors is an important part of this perspective. The answer we will discover is that our genes and our environment including our culture function together in a close-knit manner.
We can also think about how humans are both similar and different to other animals with whom we share a variety of genetic and physiological mechanisms. For example, are we the only species to laugh, use tools, use a napkin, feel depressed, or experience anxiety? The answer appears to be no. Research suggests that humans are not the only species to use tools. For example, a number of primates use sticks to pull termites from their nests. They then eat the termites. How about using napkins when eating? Surprisingly, orangutans use leaves as napkins. Thus, many of the characteristics we see in humans are also found in other species.
The human origins and historical cultural perspective leads to some interesting questions related to psychology. For example, given the evolutionary process of survival of the fittest, we ask why particular mental disorders continue to exist. Individuals with schizophrenia, for example, generally have fewer children than those without the disorder. Over long periods of time with fewer children, we would expect to see fewer people with schizophrenia. That is, if schizophrenia is related to genetic processes, we might expect that schizophrenia would have gradually disappeared over our evolutionary history. However, this is not the case.
We can also consider if schizophrenia is related to the environment in which one lives. In fact, schizophrenia occurs at approximately the same percentage (approximately 1% of the population) throughout the world in both developed and developing countries. Thus, such factors as pollution or foods eaten would probably not be related to schizophrenia. As we will see later, this suggests that schizophrenia is an old disorder that has existed since humans migrated out of Africa some 80,000 to 100,000 years ago. That is, if a disorder is found everywhere in the world in equal proportions, then one alternative is that it is a disorder that humans shared some 100,000 years ago in Africa. It also raises the possibility that the genes related to schizophrenia may be associated with more positive, survival-enhancing human traits. Some researchers have suggested, for example, that there exists a relation between families who have a member with schizophrenia and creativity.
These three themes—behavior and experience, neuroscience, and the human origins and historical cultural perspective—give us important perspectives for thinking about psychology. Behavior and experience are the basic data of psychology. The neurosciences help us to understand the mechanisms underlying our experiences and actions. The human origins and historical cultural perspective on the other hand gives us a more functional answer to questions concerning our behavior and experience. That is to say, this perspective helps us to consider “why” we act or feel certain ways and the advantage of doing so. Overall, we begin with the basic data of behavior and experience and ask what the mechanisms that produce these are and what function do they serve.
Levels of Analysis
As we explore together the themes of behavior and experience, neuroscience contributions, and the human origins and historical cultural perspective as related to psychology, you will see that we will move across a variety of levels of analysis. In specific, you will be introduced to the level of the individual, the level above that which will include our social groups, society, and culture, and the levels that make up our biological processes. These levels or units of analysis should be seen as ways of understanding human behavior and experience. This book will consider an integrative approach that draws on a number of these levels and asks how they interact with one another. No one level should be seen as more important than another. Which level is emphasized depends on the specific psychological process that we wish to describe and research. These levels are shown in Table 1-1.
Table 1-1 Level of analysis 1.
Level of Culture and Social Groups
Level of the Individual
Individual as person
Cognitive, emotional, motor, and instinctual processes
Level of Biological Processes
Physiological processes of the central and peripheral
Neurons and cortical networks
Although it is useful to think in terms of biology, psychology, and social aspects, there are number of other factors that influence us. These range from a cultural understanding to a genetic level. Higher level understandings will include culture and society as well as our social relationships. Some psychologists emphasize cultural psychology in their research and seek to understand how culture is related to psychological processes. One such topic would be the manner in which mental disorders are understood in different cultures.
Other psychologists emphasize our social relationships with one another. This is the field of social psychology, which includes topics such as how we perceive others including stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Historically, social psychologists have also studied what would make us conform to or follow the orders of others. As you will see in the chapter on social processes, how we think we will act in a social situation is not always how we actually do act.
From there we can look at what makes up the social level, which is the individual level. This level includes our actions as well as our experiences. We can then ask what makes up the individual in terms of sensory, motor, emotional, and cognitive systems. The field of cognitive psychology focuses on what factors influence what we pay attention to as well as how we learn and remember information. In this book, we will examine each of these topics as they influence our behavior and experience. We will also consider what happens when cognitive, emotional, or motor processes do not function in an optimal manner. This is the field of clinical psychology. An important part of clinical psychology examines how humans may misperceive their world as well as how they internally talk with themselves. Treatment approaches or therapies that seek to correct these misinterpretations is another part of clinical psychology.
From there we can ask how each of these systems works and look at the physiological processes that make up our central and peripheral nervous systems. This will take us to the cellular level, and you will see how the neuron forms the basis of information transfer. In psychology, the study of these levels is referred to as biopsychology, physiological psychology, and behavioral neuroscience.
Figure 1-16 Physiological processes of the central and peripheral nervous systems—how does our body work?
The most basic level you will be introduced to in this book is the genetic level, which in turn will require us to understand how environmental conditions influence genetic processes. You will also learn about a related process, epigenetics, in which genes can be turned on or off by the environment and passed on to future generations without actually changing the basic genetic structure. Historically, this level has been the domain of behavioral genetics. Studies of twins who share similar genetic information has been an important part of this area.
In order to help focus their work, scientists often focus primarily on one of these levels of analysis. However, more recent research has shown the value of drawing from more than one level. For example, both cultural and social psychology researchers have begun to show the value of using brain imaging or genetics in their research. This book will consider an integrative approach that draws on a number of these units or levels and asks how they interact with one another. Sometimes we just focus on a few of these levels as illustrated in the box: Applying Psychological Science—The Use of Psychological Principles to Improve Learning.
Figure 1-17 Neurons and cortical networks—how does our brain process information?
Figure 1-18 Genetic—what are the possibilities of our structure and experience?
Applying Psychological Science—The Use of Psychological Principles to Improve Learning
We all have ideas about what to do if we want to improve our ability to learn new information. As you will learn in this book, we don’t always pay attention when we do common tasks such as driving a car, reading a newspaper, or reading a book. Perhaps you can think of times when you space out when you are doing a task. Ask your friends what they read on Facebook or in a newspaper earlier in the day. You may be surprised how many people can’t answer with certainty.
Thus, reading a textbook as well as doing any task successfully requires some strategies. These include paying attention and testing yourself. Some people think that if they learn it in small bits, they can remember it better. That may be true if you do not try to learn lots of isolated facts. As you see in the chapter on memory and learning, it is easier to remember information that has meaning to you rather than just isolated facts. It is also true that if you are able to connect different ideas you read into a larger system, you will remember it better. Writing down what you have just read will help you to organize the material.
As you will also see in the chapter on memory, just reading a page of this book does not mean that you have learned it. You need to rehearse it and ask yourself what you just read. Some people find that telling another person the important points of a section helps them to know what they have retained. You can also do this with yourself. To help, you will find concept checks at the end of sections and review questions at the end of the chapter. In this way you can check whether you need to reread certain sections.
What if you have an exam? Some people think that if they stay up all night and read the material, they will know it best. But, is this true?
The answer to what works best is somewhat surprising. The best thing to do is to go to bed. In a number of studies, psychologists have shown that sleep is one important way to enhance learning and memory (Chambers & Payne, 2015). This is true for a number of types of learning including the cognitive material you would learn for a test as well as learning motor skills such as playing video games.
One study that was conducted in the evening had individuals learn word pairs that have no meaning in themselves (Plihal & Born, 1997). For example, if you were in the experiment, you might have learned tree—table, book—bicycle, and video—clouds. To test your ability to remember these at a later time, you would be given the first word of the pair and asked to report the second. After the person was able to remember 60% of the word pairs, half of the participants were allowed to sleep and half stayed awake. After three hours, both groups were tested again. Those individuals that were allowed to sleep were better able to remember the word pairs than those that stayed awake. Further, the greatest benefit of sleep is seen if the words learned are related to one another (Payne, Chambers, & Kensinger, 2012). These and other studies using different types of cognitive material suggest that studying for a test and then going to sleep will benefit your learning.
Not everything you learn is made up of words. Learning images of natural landscapes also improved with a period of sleep (Takashima et al., 2006). Even more interesting, better learning with sleep was still seen after a 30-day lapse from the previous learning. Another study asked people to imagine they were standing on a balcony of an art museum and to imagine ten objects placed in various locations around them (Plihal & Born, 1999). Again, those who were allowed to sleep performed better.
If you have an emotional reaction to what you read or see, you remember that information better than if you have a neutral reaction. However, if you sleep after seeing or reading the emotional information, your learning is improved even more.
As you will see throughout this book, psychologists have performed extensive research related to how individuals learn new information that you can apply to your own life. Some of these studies have been summarized on the Learning Scientists website (https://www.learningscientists.org/).
Thought Question: How can you use the information presented to improve your performance on exams?
Different Psychologists Focus on Different Levels of Analysis
Psychologists are diverse in their areas of interest. They are also diverse in the methods they use. An important part of this book is to introduce you to this diversity in terms of topics of study and levels of analysis. Even if you do not plan to become a psychologist, psychological principles can be useful for understanding your work. This includes making software that is user friendly, improving safety on the part of drivers and pilots, working with social media, improving public policy to involve more community involvement, working with individuals in the health care system to improve their own health, and working with data presentations. Occupations ranging from athletics, to business, to education, to acting, to farming, to literature and art can all utilize psychological principles.
In each chapter of this book, you will learn from psychologists who have focused on different aspects of behavior and experience. As you will see, psychology is a tremendously varied field. Psychologists conduct both applied and basic research. They teach in colleges and universities. Other psychologists serve as mental health professionals. They may be involved in the assessment and treatment of human functioning including mental disorders. These psychologists seek to help individuals lead a productive life whether it is to perform better in sports or to change problems such as anxious or depressive feelings. Psychologists may also work for large corporations. A psychologist was probably involved in determining how easy it is for you to use your cell phone or to find your way around a website. Other psychologists help the courts determine how to interview children and adolescents.
Figure 1-19 shows where psychologists who have a doctoral degree work. As you can see about 25% work in a university or college setting and an equal number work in health services. About 16% work for the government or the Veterans Administration. A little over 10% work in business or the nonprofit sector. About 8% work in schools and non-college educational institutions. Approximately 6% work in medical schools, and another 6% work as independent professionals such as those who offer assessment and treatment of mental disorders.
Figure 1-19 The American Psychological Association has surveyed the careers available in psychology and described these on their website (http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.pdf).
Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They may focus on a particular disorder such as anxiety or schizophrenia. They may also focus on particular groups such as adolescents who consider suicide, or older individuals who are seeking new experiences, or groups that feel left out by society. Counseling psychologists overlap with clinical psychologists and will often be found working in such locations as university mental health centers.
School psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools where they assess student abilities and make recommendations for improving the learning environment. Developmental psychologists focus on how individuals develop and the manner in which they see the world. Although initially this area of psychology focused on children, there is currently a lifespan approach that follows individuals from conception to old age.
Industrial/Organizational (I/O) psychologists apply psychological principles to the work-place. Their focus may be helping to choose the leadership of the organization, improve productivity and creativity, reduce workplace accidents, and improve health in the workers, as well as prepare workers for organization change. Whereas I/O psychologists focus on the workplace, community psychologists focus on the community. They seek to influence changes in the community that will improve the well-being of those who live in the community. They examine the manner in which political, cultural, and environmental factors influence the life of the community. They may work with local governments to improve the day-to-day lives of those who live and work there.
Sport psychologists help athletes improve their abilities by helping them to reduce anxiety and focus on their skills. They may also be involved in assessing sports injuries such as concussion. Other psychologists help individuals reduce their anxiety and improve their abilities in a number of different areas where performance is also important including music and the theater.
All psychologists use psychological research to inform their decisions. In the chapter on social processes, you will see how social psychologists study our relationships with others including how we think and feel about people who are different from us. Health psychologists focus on how psychological factors interact with our behaviors and emotions to influence our health status. You will find out that having friends helps your health and that exercise can keep both your body and your brain healthy throughout your lifetime (Fernandes, Arida, & Gomez-Pinilla, 2017). Personality psychologists seek to understand those aspects of our individuality that are enduring and those that change over our lifetime. You may have read in the popular press that college students today feel more entitled and are more narcissistic. To test this idea, personality psychologists examined personality scales from 1992 to 2015 (Wetzel, Brown, Hill, Chung, Robins, & Roberts, 2017). What they found was that narcissism is actually lower in college students today than in the 1990s or 2000s.
In other chapters, you will see how cognitive psychologists study such areas as decision making, learning, memory, producing actions, and perceiving the world. By the way, research shows that texting in class disrupts your ability to comprehend new information (Gingerich & Lineweaver, 2014). Actually, leaving your cell phone at home will improve your grade point average (Katz & Lambert, 2016). However, playing video games at home may actually help you to think better (Stanmore, Stubbs, Vancapfort, de Bruin, & Firth, 2017).
✵ Three major themes—behavior and experience, neuroscience, and the human origins and historical cultural perspective—are presented as giving us important perspectives for thinking about psychology. What are some of the ideas that each of these perspectives offers? What are some of the questions each of these perspectives asks?
✵ l What levels of analysis are important to consider in understanding psychology? What are the advantages of focusing on one level of analysis? What are the advantages of considering multiple levels and taking an integrated approach?
Learning Objective 1: Define psychology and how the processes of behavior and experience influence how we interact with one another.
Psychology is the study of behavior and experience. Behavior is simply the way we act and what we do. Behavior includes our actions and those of others in a variety of situations. We see behavior all around us and make inferences about its meaning. Watching others from a distance, we can quickly determine if they are friends, lovers, or even angry at each other without even hearing a word of what they are saying. Experiences are related to our internal thoughts and feelings. Unlike actions, which we can observe, experiences are internal and take many forms. We have internal feelings as we interact with others. We remember an event we have experienced or a person we have known. We feel moved by music or stories. We may feel excited when we go to a new country.
Behavior and experience always take place within a context. Sometimes the context is the present, including the people we are with and the particular tasks we are doing. Sometimes, we remember something that happened to us in the past and this has a profound influence on what we experience in the present. We might remember when a friend left and we feel sad. We can even imagine what might happen in the future and this leads us to see the world differently. That is, we have emotional reactions at this moment based on what might happen in the future. Sometimes our research in psychology emphasizes how we interact with other people. What factors determine whether we like or dislike another person is one example of this type of research.
Learning Objective 2: Review the historical concepts that have influenced psychology.
There is a long timeline of historical conceptions and discoveries that have influenced psychology and brought it to its current state. Important periods along that timeline, as well as the individuals and their contributions, inform our understanding of psychology today. Ancient Greek influences gave psychology both philosophy and scientific exploration. Beginning in the 14th century, a new spirit began to emerge in Europe that influenced art, literature, politics, and science. In the 1600s, science as a way of understanding the world began to emerge. Galileo and Isaac Newton proposed methods for performing scientific inquiry that have directed the physical sciences for the past 300 years. In the 1800s, Charles Darwin’s ideas focused on the evolution of the species including both plants and animals. Two men are credited with establishing the first psychological laboratories in the world: Wilhelm Wundt in Germany and William James in the United States at Harvard University. Wundt’s work was known as structuralism. William James was particularly interested in the functional aspects of psychological processes, asking the question what purposes specific psychological processes serve. This came to be known as functionalism.
Learning Objective 3: Summarize the major approaches to psychology in the 20th century.
Psychology was influenced by the early philosophies, but became an influential science during the 20th century. Several schools of thought emerged including behaviorism, Gestalt, psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive behavioral. Structuralism suggests that a process can be understood as an addition of its parts. Gestalt psychology suggests that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. One important area of Gestalt research was perception. Three important developers of this approach were Max Wertheimer (1880—1943), Kurt Koffka (1886—1941), and Wolfgang Köhler (1887—1967). Behaviorism adopted a strict form of empiricism, the idea that knowledge should be derived through our sensory processes, and that all that should be studied is observable behavior. Behaviorism also carried with it a philosophical position that all behavior is learned. Thus, learning became an important focus of behaviorism. Important researchers in behaviorism include Ivan Pavlov (1849—1936), Edward Thorndike (1874—1949), John Watson (1878—1958), and B. F. Skinner (1904—1990). The cognitive approach offered a broader approach to understanding human behavior and experience. With behaviorism, the emphasis was on behavior, whereas cognitive psychology also included knowing and reasoning. The addition of cognitive psychology with brain imaging and other physiological techniques came to be called cognitive neuroscience. Sigmund Freud (1856—1939) influenced the beginning of a clinical psychology. By the beginning of the 20th century, there was an understanding that psychological processes were an important source of information concerning mental illness. Freud’s work and that of others became known as the psychodynamic perspective. In the 1950s, Carl Rogers brought the humanistic perspective to the forefront by creating client-centered therapy or person-centered therapy. Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a movement to determine the effectiveness of both medical and psychological treatments in a scientific manner. This approach is referred to as empirically supported therapies.
At the beginning of the 1900s, American society, like other societies, had specific views on the roles of women and men in society. In spite of this, in 1903 Mary Calkins, Christine Ladd-Franklin, and Margaret Washburn were identified as among the 50 most important American psychologists. The role of women in psychology has changed drastically in the last 100 years. Today there is a large number of women performing significant psychological research and contributing to psychology as health care professionals.
Francis Cecil Sumner (1895—1954) became the first African American to be granted a PhD in psychology in the United States. The first African American woman to receive a doctorate in psychology was Inez Prosser in 1933. The next year in 1934 Ruth Winifred Howard (Beckman) (1900—1997) received a PhD in psychology. Kenneth Clark (1914—2005) was the first African American to become the president of the American Psychological Association in 1970. He worked as a team with his spouse, Mamie Phipps Clark (1917—1983), who was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in psychology from Columbia University in New York.
Learning Objective 4: Describe the three themes used in this book.
The first theme takes a behavioral and experiential perspective and relates to behaviors and experiences observed across a variety of situations. In looking at various aspects of daily living, we examine current ways of classifying and describing our behavior and experiences. In fact, this book is organized around these processes, including memory, perception, sensation, cognition, social behavior, and so forth.
The second theme examines what we know about particular psychological experiences from the standpoint of a neuroscience perspective. With the development of brain-imaging techniques in the last few decades, observing greater precision of brain activity is now possible. The structure and function of the brain as it relates to psychology is described.
The third theme asks a much broader scientific question and examines psychological processes from a human origins and historical cultural perspective. In adopting this perspective, we can think about how certain ways of behaving and seeing the world might be adaptive. We can also think about how the experiences of those who came before us might have influenced how our nervous system functions.
Learning Objective 5: Describe the different levels of analysis used by psychologists.
Psychology is a diverse profession that explores behavior and experience from a number of levels using a variety of methods. These range from basic research on genetics to cultural factors that play an important role. Besides research and teaching, a number of professional psychologists seek to apply psychological principles in a number of settings, including the clinic, schools, businesses, and other applied settings.
1. Think of yourself as a scientist during each of the following historical periods. How would you know about yourself and the world? What tools would you have? Who were the individuals, and what were the ideas, critical to each period?
a. Ancient Greece
b. Roman Empire
c. Renaissance to the 1700s
d. 1700s to 1900s
e. 1900s to the present
2. Descartes created a mind—body distinction that science since that time has had to address. How can a material body including the brain be influenced by an immaterial process such as the mind? How can a thought influence a cell in the brain? Why is this a core question for psychology? How would you answer the mind—body question?
3. Scientific psychology started in the laboratory. What advantages does laboratory research offer? On the other hand, what kinds of questions might be better studied in other types of environments?
4. The role of women in psychology has changed drastically in the last 100 years—not to mention the last 2,000. What advantages does diversity of researchers and theorists bring to the field of psychology? In what other ways could that diversity be expanded?
5. There are currently three broad perspectives for the psychological treatment of mental disorders that were developed somewhat independently and often in opposition to one another.
a. What are those perspectives and their core areas of interest?
b. When were they introduced and what was their impact on the field of psychology?
c. How are these perspectives in opposition to one another? Are there ways they can be integrated?
6. The title of this chapter is “Psychology: Historical Roots and Modern Approaches.” In words or images, depict your view of the developmental timeline of psychology from its historical roots to its modern approaches.
7. Three major themes—behavior and experience, neuroscience, and the human origins and historical cultural perspective—are presented as giving us important perspectives for thinking about psychology. As you approach your own study of psychology, what questions does each of these perspectives raise in your mind? What excites you?
8. Describe the three major levels that will be used in this book and give examples of types of measures used.
For Further Reading
✵ DeWaal, F. (2005). Our Inner Ape. New York: Riverhead Books.
✵ Jablonka, E., & Lamb, M. (2014). Evolution in Four Dimensions, Revised Edition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
✵ Mook, D. (2004). Classic Experiments in Psychology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
✵ Pinker, S. (1997). How the Mind Works. New York: Norton.
✵ Women in psychology—http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates/#tabs-2
✵ McGurk effect—https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k8fHR9jKVM
✵ Learning scientist—https://www.learningscientists.org/
✵ Careers in psychology—https://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.pdf
Key Terms and Concepts
behavioral and experiential perspective
client-centered therapy or person-centered therapy
cognitive behavioral perspective
human origins and historical cultural perspective
levels of analysis