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Default Psychology Q. No. 1


Psychology, the science of behavior and mental processes, has its roots in many disciplines and countries. Psychology's important issues include the relative contributions of biology and experience. Although the different perspectives on human nature have their own purposes and questions, they are complementary and together provide a fuller understanding of mind and behavior. Some psychologists conduct basic or applied research; others provide professional services, including assessing and treating troubled people. With its perspectives ranging from the biological to the social, and settings from the clinic to the laboratory, psychology has become a meeting place for many disciplines.
The scientific attitude reflects an eagerness to skeptically scrutinize competing ideas with an open-minded humility before nature. This attitude, coupled with scientific principles for sifting reality from illusion, prepares us to think critically. Two reliable phenomena-hindsight bias and judgmental overconfidence-illustrate the limits of everyday intuition and our need for scientific inquiry and critical thinking.
Psychologists construct theories that organize observations and imply testable hypotheses. Their research methods include case studies, surveys, and naturalistic observation to describe behavior; correlation to assess the relationship between variables; and experimentation to uncover cause-effect relationships


Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Such study can involve both animal and human behaviors. When applied to humans, psychology covers everything that people think, feel, and do.
Psychologists differ in how much importance they place on specific types of behavior. For example, some psychologists believe that you should study only behavior that you can see, observe, or measure directly. Steve’s behavior of logging on and remaining on the Internet for hours at a time is an observable behavior. Some psychologists believe that our thoughts, feelings, and fantasies are also important, even though these processes are not directly observable. Steve may log on because he feels intimidated by others or by schoolwork, but psychologists cannot directly observe that these are the reasons that Steve is engaging in this behavior.
While psychologists may differ on which types of behavior are important, they do agree that the study of behavior must be systematic. The use of a systematic method of asking and answering questions about why people think, act, and feel as they do reduces the chances of coming to false conclusions. Consider the story of the blind men and the elephant. A long time ago, three very wise, but blind, men were out on a journey when they came across a sleeping elephant. Because they could not see the elephant, they did not know what was blocking their way, so they set about to discover what they could about the obstacle. As it happened, each man put his hands on a different section of the elephant, examining it in great detail and with much thought. The first man, having felt the elephant’s trunk, described a creature that was long, wormlike, and quite flexible. “No, no! You must be mistaken,” said the second man, who was seated astride the elephant. “This creature is wide, very round, and does not move very much.” The man who was holding one of the elephant’s tusks added his description of a small, hard, pointed creature.
Each of these men was correct in his description of what he felt, but in order to understand the elephant fully, they needed to combine their accumulated knowledge. The study of human behavior is similar. We cannot rely on simplistic explanations. In order to understand our observations, we usually have to combine all of our thoughts.
We each like to think we understand people. We spend time observing others (and ourselves) and form conclusions about people from our daily interactions. Sometimes the conclusions we draw, however, are not accurate because we are not systematic in our efforts.

The Origins of Psychology

While the psychology of today reflects the discipline’s rich and varied history, the origins of psychology differ significantly from contemporary conceptions of the field. In order to gain a full understanding of psychology, you need to spend some time exploring its history and origins. How did psychology originate? When did it begin? Who were the people responsible for establishing psychology as a separate science?

Questions in Psychology

From its earliest beginnings, psychology has been faced with a number of different questions. The initial question of how to define psychology helped establish it as a science separate from physiology and philosophy. Additional questions that psychologists have faced throughout history include:

1. What topics and issues should psychology is concerned with?
2. What research methods should be used to study psychology?
3. Should psychologists use research to influence public policy, education, and other aspects of human behavior?
4. Is psychology really a science?
5. Should psychology focus on observable behaviors, or on internal mental processes?

The Beginnings of Psychology: Philosophy and Physiology
While psychology did not emerge as a separate discipline until the late 1800s, its earliest history can be traced back to the time of the early Greeks. During the 17th-century, the French philosopher Rene Descartes introduced the idea of dualism, which asserted that the mind and body were two separate entities that interact to form the human experience. Many other issues still debated by psychologists today, such as the relative contributions of nature vs. nurture, are rooted in these early philosophical traditions.
So what makes psychology different from philosophy? While early philosophers relied on methods such as observation and logic, today’s psychologists utilize scientific methodologies to study and draw conclusions about human thought and behavior. Physiology also contributed to psychology’s eventual emergence as a scientific discipline. Early physiology research on the brain and behavior had a dramatic impact on psychology, ultimately contributing to the application of scientific methodologies to the study of human thought and behavior.

Psychology Emerges as a Separate Discipline

During the mid-1800s, a German physiologist named Wilhelm Wundt was using scientific research methods to investigate reaction times. His book published in 1874, Principles of Physiological Psychology, outlined many of the major connections between the science of physiology and the study of human thought and behavior. He later opened the world’s first psychology lab in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. This event is generally considered the official start of psychology as a separate and distinct scientific discipline. How did Wundt view psychology? He perceived the subject as the study of human consciousness and sought to apply experimental methods to studying internal mental processes. While his use of a process known as introspection is seen as unreliable and unscientific today, his early work in psychology helped set the stage for future experimental methods. An estimated 17,000 students attended Wundt’s psychology lectures, and hundreds more pursued degrees in psychology and studied in his psychology lab. While his influence dwindled in the years to come, his impact on psychology is unquestionable.

Structuralism Becomes Psychology’s First School of Thought
Edward B. Titchener, one of Wundt’s most famous students, would go on to found psychology’s first major school of thought. According to the structuralists, human consciousness could be broken down into much smaller parts. Using a process known as introspection, trained subjects would attempt to break down their responses and reactions to the most basic sensation and perceptions.
While structuralism is notable for its emphasis on scientific research, its methods were unreliable, limiting, and subjective. When Titchener died in 1927, structuralism essentially died with him.

The Functionalism of William James

Psychology flourished in American during the mid- to late-1800s. William James emerged as one of the major American psychologists during this period and the publication of his classic textbook, The Principles of Psychology, established him as the father of American psychology. His book soon became the standard text in psychology and his ideas eventually served as the basis for a new school of thought known as functionalism.
The focus of functionalism was on how behavior actually works to help people live in their environment. Functionalists utilized methods such as direct observation. While both of these early schools of thought emphasized human consciousness, their conceptions of it were significantly different. While the structuralists sought to break down mental processes into their smallest parts, the functionalists believed that consciousness existed as a more continuous and changing process. While functionalism is no longer a separate school of thought, it would go on to influence later psychologists and theories of human thought and behavior.

Psychoanalysis: The Psychology of Sigmund Freud

Up to this point, early psychology stressed conscious human experience. An Austrian physician named Sigmund Freud changed the face of psychology in a dramatic way, proposing a theory of personality that emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind. Freud’s clinical work with patients suffering from hysteria and other ailments led him to believe that early childhood experiences and unconscious impulses contributed to the development of adult personality and behavior.
In his book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud detailed how these unconscious thoughts and impulses are expressed, often through slips of the tongue (known as "Freudian slips") and dreams. According to Freud, psychological disorders are the result of these unconscious conflicts becoming extreme or unbalanced. The psychoanalytic theory proposed by Sigmund Freud had a tremendous impact on 20th-century thought, influencing the mental health field as well as other areas including art, literature and popular culture. While many of his ideas are viewed with skepticism today, his influence on psychology is undeniable.

The Rise of Behaviorism: The Psychology of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner

Psychology changed dramatically during the early 20th-century as another school of thought known as behaviorism rose to dominance. Behaviorism was a major change from previous theoretical perspectives, rejecting the emphasis on both the conscious and unconscious mind. Instead, behaviorism strove to make psychology a more scientific discipline by focusing purely on observable behavior.
Behaviorism had its earliest start with the work of a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov's research on the digestive systems of dogs led to his discovery of the classical conditioning process, which demonstrated that behaviors could be learned via conditioned associations. Pavlov demonstrated that this learning process could be used to make an association between and environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus.
An American psychologist named John B. Watson soon became one of the strongest advocates of behaviorism. Initially outlining the basics principles of this new school of thought in his 1913 paper Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It, Watson later went on to offer a definition in his classic book Behaviorism (1924), writing:
"Behaviorism...holds that the subject matter of human psychology is the behavior of the human being. Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviorist, who has been trained always as an experimentalist, holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic."
The impact of behaviorism was enormous, and this school of thought continued to dominate for the next 50 years. Psychologist B.F. Skinner furthered the behaviorist perspective with his concept of operant conditioning, which demonstrated the effect of punishment and reinforcement on behavior.
While behaviorism eventually lost its hold on psychology, the basic principles of behavioral psychology are still widely in use today. Therapeutic techniques such as behavior analysis, behavioral modification and token economies are often utilized to help children learn new skills and overcome maladaptive behaviors, while conditioning is used in many situations ranging from parenting to education.

Humanistic Psychology: Psychology's "Third Force"

While the first half of the twentieth-century was dominated by psychoanalysis and behaviorism, a new school of thought known as humanistic psychology emerged during the second half of the century. Often referred to as the "third force" in psychology, this theoretical perspective emphasized conscious experiences.
American psychologist Carl Rogers is often considered to be one of the founders of this school of thought. While psychoanalysts looked at unconscious impulses and behaviorists focused purely on environmental causes, Rogers believed strongly in the power of free will and self-determination. Psychologist Abraham Maslow also contributed to humanistic psychology with his famous hierarchy of needs theory of human motivation.

Contemporary Psychology: The Psychology of Today

As you have seen in this brief overview of psychology’s history, this discipline has seen dramatic growth and change since its official beginnings in Wundt’s lab. The story certainly does not end here. Psychology has continued to evolve since 1960 and new ideas and perspectives have been introduced. Recent research in psychology looks at many aspects of the human experience, from the biological influences on behavior to the impact of social and cultural factors.
Today, the majority of psychologists do not identify themselves with a single school of thought. Instead, they often focus on a particular specialty area or perspective, often drawing on ideas from a range of theoretical backgrounds. This eclectic approach has contributed new ideas and theories that will continue to shape psychology for years to come.


As psychologists go about their systematic and scientific study of humans and animals, they have several goals. Overall, psychologists seek to do four things—describe, explain, predict, and influence behavior.


The first goal for any scientist or psychologist is to describe or gather information about the behavior being studied and to present what is known. For example, we described Steve’s behavior at college.


Psychologists are not content simply to state the facts.
Rather, they also seek to explain why people (or animals) behave as they do. Such explanations can be called psychological principles—generally valid ideas about behavior. Psychologists propose these explanations as hypotheses.


A hypothesis is an educated guess about some phenomenon. It is a researcher’s prediction about what the results of a study are expected to be.
As research studies designed to test each hypothesis are completed, more complex explanations called theories are constructed. A theory is usually a complex explanation based on findings from a large number of experimental studies. Theories change as new data improves our understanding, and a good theory becomes the source of additional ideas for experiments.
A number of theories taken together may validate or cause us to alter the principles that help explain and predict observed behavior.


The third goal of psychologists is to predict, as a result of accumulated knowledge, what organisms will do and, in the case of humans, what they will think or feel in various situations. By studying descriptive and theoretical accounts of past behaviors, psychologists can predict future behaviors.


Finally, some psychologists seek to influence behavior in helpful ways.
These psychologists are conducting studies with a long-term goal of finding out more about human or animal behavior. They are doing basic science, or research. Other psychologists are more interested in discovering ways to use what we already know about people to benefit others. They view psychology as an applied science and are using psychological principles to solve more immediate problems.
Psychologists who study the ability of infants to perceive visual patterns are doing basic research. They may not be concerned with the implication their findings might have on the design of a crib. Psychologists studying rapid eye movement in sleep research are also involved in basic science.
If they discover that one individual has a sleep disturbance, they will try to understand and explain the situation, but they may not try to correct it. That is a job for applied scientists, such as clinical psychologists, industrial/organizational psychologists, counseling psychologists, or engineering psychologists.
An example of a psychologist involved in applying psychological principles rather than discovering them is a consultant to a toy manufacturer. A toy manufacturer tries to develop toys that appeal to children. The manufacturer may apply, or use, psychological principles when designing those toys. Since the transfer of findings from basic to applied science can be tricky, the distinction between basic and applied science is important. The following example illustrates this.
Psychologists doing basic research have found that babies raised in institutions such as orphanages become seriously delayed in their physical, intellectual, and emotional development. Wayne Dennis (1960), among others, traces this to the fact that these babies have nothing to look at but a blank, white ceiling and white crib cushions, and are handled only when they need to be fed or changed. However, we have to be very careful not to apply this finding too broadly. Even though children who lack stimulation tend to develop poorly, it does not follow that providing infants with maximum stimulation will cause them to grow up emotionally sound and intellectually superior. Quite the contrary, most babies do best with a medium level of stimulation (White, 1969). Even more significantly, social interaction seems much more important than visual stimulation. Normal development is more likely to result from long-term interactions with a responsive caregiver (Rice, Cunningham, & Young, 1997). Basic science provides specific findings—what happens in one study conducted at one time and in one place.


To ensure that data are collected accurately, psychologists rely on the scientific method. In psychology, facts are based on data. The data are obtained from methods such as experiments, surveys, and case studies. This means that psychologists reach their conclusions by identifying a specific problem or question, formulating a hypothesis, collecting data through observation and experimentation, and analyzing the data. The scientific basis of psychology goes back many years. Today people are very sophisticated about scientific procedures, but that has not always been true. Wilhelm Wundt is credited with setting up the first psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany, in 1879. He proposed that psychological experience is composed of compounds, much like the compounds found in chemistry. Psychology, he claimed, has two kinds of elements—sensations and feelings.
Wundt tried to test his statements by collecting scientific data. Although Wundt’s methods proved cumbersome and unreliable, the importance of Wundt’s work is the procedure he followed, not the results he obtained. He called the procedure “introspection,” and in psychology it led to what we now call the scientific method. Whereas in Wundt’s introspection an individual observes, analyzes, and reports his or her own mental experiences, the scientific method developed as an objective method of observation and analysis.
Although psychologists use the scientific method to demonstrate and support many theories, many questions about behavior remain unanswered.
Psychological theories are continually reviewed and revised. New theories and technological developments are constantly generating new questions and new psychological studies.

Basic Facts about Psychology

study of psychology seem like a vast and daunting topic at first, but understanding a few basic facts can make it easier to get started. The following are just a few of the important things you need to know about this fascinating topic. Once you have a strong understanding of the basics, you will be better prepared to explore psychology in greater depth.

1. Psychology Is the Study of the Mind and Behavior
Psychology is the study of the mental processes and behavior. The term psychology comes from the Greek word psyche meaning "breath, spirit, soul" and the logia meaning "study of." Psychology emerged from biology and philosophy and is closely linked to other disciplines including sociology, medicine, linguistics and anthropology.

2. Psychology Uses Scientific Methods
One of the most common myths about psychology is that it is just "common sense." Unlike common sense, psychology relies on scientific methods to investigate questions and arrive at conclusions. Psychologists use a range of techniques to study the human mind and behavior, including naturalistic observation, experiments, case studies and questionnaires.

3. Psychologists Take Many Different Perspectives
Topics and questions in psychology can be looked at in a number of different ways. Let's take the topic of violence as an example. Some psychologists may look at how biological influences contribute to violence, while other psychologists might look at factors like culture, family relationships, social pressure and situational variables influence violence. Some of the major perspectives in psychology include the:
1. Biological perspective
2. Cognitive perspective
3. Behavioral perspective
4. Evolutionary perspective
5. Humanistic perspective

4. Psychology Has a Many Subfields
There are many different branches of psychology. Introductory students often explore the basics of these various specialty areas, but further exploration of each individual field may depend on what course of study you select. Some of the biggest subfields within psychology are clinical psychology, personality psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and social psychology.

5. Psychology Is Not Just About Therapy
When you think of psychology, do you envision a therapist with a notepad jotting down ideas as a client recounts childhood experiences? While therapy is certainly a big part of psychology, it is not the only thing that psychologists do. In fact, many psychologists don't work in the field of mental health at all. Psychology encompasses other areas including teaching, research and consulting. Psychologists work in a wide variety of settings, including:
• Colleges and universities
• Private corporations
• Schools
• Hospitals
• Government offices

6. Psychology Is All Around You
Psychology is not just an academic subject that exists only in classrooms, research labs and mental health offices. The principles of psychology can be seen all around you in everyday situations. The television commercials and print ads you see everyday rely on psychology to develop marketing messages that influence and persuade people to purchase the advertised products. The websites you visit on a regular basis utilize psychology to understand how people read, use and interpret online information.

7. Psychology Explores Both Real-World and Theoretical Issues
As you begin your study of psychology, it might seem like some of the theories and research you learn about do not really apply to real-life problems. It is important to remember, however, that psychology is both and applied and theoretical subject. Some researchers focus on adding information to our overall body of knowledge about the human mind and behavior (known as basic research), while other concentrate directly on solving problems and applying psychological problems to real-world situations (known as applied research).

8. Psychology Offers a Wide Range of Career Options
If you are thinking about majoring in psychology, then you should be pleased to discover that there are many different career paths to choose from. Different career options depend largely on your educational level and work experience, so it is important to research the required training and licensing requirements of your chosen specialty area. Just a few of the possible career options include clinical psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology and industrial-organizational psychology.

9. Psychology Studies both Normal and Abnormal Behavior
When many people think about psychology, they immediately think about the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior. However, it is important to remember that psychology studies normal behavior as well.

10. Psychology Seeks to Describe, Explain, Predict, Modify and Improve Behaviors
There are four major goals of psychology:
To describe human thought and behavior
To explain why these behaviors occur
To predict how, why and when these behaviors will occur again in the future
To modify and improve behaviors to better the lives of individuals and society as a whole

The Origins of Psychology

Psychology has come a long way since the days of studying bumps on skulls. In the fifth and sixth centuries B.C., the Greeks began to study human behavior and decided that people’s lives were dominated not so much by the gods as by their own minds: people were rational.
These early philosophers attempted to interpret the world they observed around them in terms of human perceptions—objects were hot or cold, wet or dry, hard or soft—and these qualities influenced people’s experience of them. Although the Greek philosophers did not rely on systematic study, they did set the stage for the development of the sciences, including psychology, through their reliance on observation as a means of knowing their world.
In the mid-1500s, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) published the idea that Earth was not the center of the universe, as was previously thought, but revolved around the sun. Later, Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) used a telescope to confirm predictions about star position and movement based on Copernicus’s work. The individuals of the Renaissance were beginning to refine the modern concept of experimentation through observation.
Seventeenth-century philosophers popularized the idea of dualism, the concept that the mind and body are separate and distinct. The French philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) disagreed, however, proposing that a link existed between mind and body. He reasoned that the mind controlled the body’s movements, sensations, and perceptions. His approach to understanding human behavior was based on the assumption that the mind and body influence each other to create a person’s experiences. Exactly how this interaction takes place is still being studied today.
As one psychologist has expressed it, “Modern science began to emerge by combining philosophers’ reflections, logic, and mathematics with the observations and inventiveness of practical people” (Hilgard, 1987). By the nineteenth century, biologists had announced the discovery of cells as the building blocks of life. Later, chemists developed the periodic table of elements, and physicists made great progress in furthering our understanding of atomic forces. Many natural scientists were studying complex phenomena by reducing them to simpler parts. It was in this environment that the science of psychology was formed.


The history of psychology is a history of alternative perspectives. As the field of psychology evolved, various schools of thought arose to compete and offer new approaches to the science of behavior.
An approach is a perspective (i.e. view) that involves certain assumptions (i.e. beliefs) about human behavior: the way they function, which aspects of them are worthy of study and what research methods are appropriate for undertaking this study. There may be several different theories within an approach, but they all share these common assumptions.
You may wonder why there are so many different psychology perspectives and whether one approach is correct and others wrong. Most psychologists would agree that no one perspective is correct, although in the past, in the early days of psychology, the behaviorist would have said their perspective was the only truly scientific one.
Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses, and brings something different to our understanding of human behavior. For this reasons, it is important that psychology does have different perspectives to the understanding and study of human and animal behavior.


Structuralism was the first school of psychology and focused on breaking down mental processes into the most basic components. Researchers tried to understand the basic elements of consciousness using a method known as introspection.
In 1879 in Leipzig, Germany, Wilhelm Wundt started his Laboratory of Psychology. Because of his efforts to pursue the study of human behavior in a systematic and scientific manner, Wundt is generally acknowledged as establishing modern psychology as a separate, formal field of study. Although he was trained in physiology—the study of how the body works—Wundt’s real interest was in the study of the human mind. Wundt was a structuralist, which means that he was interested in the basic elements of human experience. In his laboratory,
Wundt modeled his research on the mind after research in other natural sciences he had studied. He developed a method of self-observation called introspection to collect information about the mind. In carefully controlled situations, trained participants reported their thoughts, and
Wundt tried to map out the basic structure of thought processes. Wundt’s experiments were very important historically because he used a systematic procedure to study human behavior. This approach attracted many students who carried on the tradition of systematic research.
Wilhelm Wundt, founder of the first psychology lab, was an advocate of this position and is often considered the founder of structuralism, despite the fact that it was his student, Edward B. Titchener who first coined the term to describe this school of thought. While Wundt's work helped to establish psychology as a separate science and contributed methods to experimental psychology and Titchener's development of structuralism helped establish the very first "school" of psychology, the structuralism did not last long beyond Titchener's death.

Criticisms of Structuralism

By today’s scientific standards, the experimental methods used to study the structures of the mind were too subjective—the use of introspection led to a lack of reliability in results.
Other critics argue that structuralism was too concerned with internal behavior, which is not directly observable and cannot be accurately measured.

Strengths of Structuralism

Structuralism is important because it is the first major school of thought in psychology.
Structuralism also influenced experimental psychology.


Functionalism formed as a reaction to the structuralism and was heavily influenced by the work of William James and the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Functionalists sought to explain the mental processes in a more systematic and accurate manner. Rather than focusing on the elements of consciousness, functionalists focused on the purpose of consciousness and behavior. Functionalism also emphasized individual differences, which had a profound impact on education.
Functionalists focused on the process of conscious activity (perceiving and learning), functionalism grew from the new perspective on nature supplied by Charles Darwin and his followers. Proponents of functionalism stressed the biological significances (the purpose, or function) of natural processes, including behaviors. The emphasis was on overt, observable behavior, not on private mental events.
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) proposed the theory of evolution in his book “on the origin of species by means of natural selection”, published in 1859. His work is more than that of any other person, revolutionized biology. The concept of natural selection showed how the consequences of an animal’s characteristics after its ability to survive. Instead of simply identifying, describing, and naming species, biologist now began to look at the adaptive significances of the ways in which species differed.
Darwin theory suggests that behaviors, like other biological characteristics, could best be explained by understanding their role in the adaptation of an organism (a human or other animal) to its environment. Thus, behavior has a biological context. Darwin assembled evidence that behaviors, like body parts, could be inherited. In his book “the expression of the emotions in man and animals”, published in 1972, he purposed that the facial gestures that animals make in expressing emotions were descended from movements that previously had other functions. New areas of explorations were opened for psychologists by the ideas that an evolutionary continuity existed among the various species of animals and that behaviors, like parts of the body, had evolutionary histories.
The most important psychologist to embrace functionalism was William James (1842-1910). As James said, “my thinking is first, last, and always for the sake of my doing.’’
That is, thinking was not an end in itself; its function was to produce useful behaviors. Although James was a champion of experimental psychology, he did not appear to enjoy doing research, instead spending most of his time reading, thinking, teaching, and writing during his tenure as professor of philosophy (later professor of psychology) at Harvard University. His course entitled” the relations between physiology and psychology” was the first course in experimental psychology to be offered in the United States.
James was a brilliant writer and thinker. Although he did not produce any important experimental research, his teaching and writing influenced those who followed him. His theory of emotions is one of the most famous and durable psychological theories. Psychologists still find it worthwhile to read James’s writings; he supplied ideas for experiments that still sound fresh and new today.
Unlike structuralism, functionalism was not supplanted; instead, its major tenets were absorbed by its successor, behaviorism. One of the last of the functionalists, James Angell (1869-1949), described its basic principles:
1. Functional psychology is the study of mental operations and not mental structures (for example, the minds are remembers. It does not contain a memory). It is not enough to compile a catalog of what the mind does. One must try to understand what the mind accomplishes by this doing.
2. Mental processes are not studied as isolated and independent events but as part of the biological activity of the organism. These processes are aspect of the organism’s adaptation to the environment and are a product of its evolutionary history. For example; the fact that we are conscious implies that consciousness has adaptive value for our species.
3. Functional psychology studies the relation between the environment and the response of the organism to the environment. There is no meaningful distinction between mind and body; they are part of the same entity.


Behaviorism is a worldview that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli. The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa) and behavior is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the probability that the antecedent behavior will happen again. In contrast, punishment (both positive and negative) decreases the likelihood that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the application of a stimulus; Negative indicates the withholding of a stimulus. Learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior in the learner. Lots of (early) behaviorist work was done with animals (e.g. Pavlov’s dogs) and generalized to humans. Behaviorism precedes the Cognitivists worldview. It rejects structuralism and is an extension of Logical Positivism.
The term behaviorism refers to the school of psychology founded by John B. Watson based on the belief that behaviors can be measured, trained, and changed. Behaviorism was established with the publication of Watson's classic paper Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It. Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our behaviors.
According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. This school of thought suggests that only observable behaviors should be studied, since internal states such as cognitions, emotions and moods are too subjective.
Behaviorism is different from most other approaches because they view people (and animals) as controlled by their environment and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors (called stimuli) affect observable behavior (called the response).
The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment: namely classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior.
Behaviorism also believes in scientific methodology (e.g. controlled experiments), and that only observable behavior should be studies because this can be objectively measured. Behaviorism rejects the idea that people have free will, and believes that the environment determines all behavior. Behaviorism is the scientific study of observable behavior working on the basis that behavior can be reduced to learn S-R (Stimulus-Response) units.
Classical Conditioning (CC) was studied by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Though looking into natural reflexes and neutral stimuli he managed to condition dogs to salivate to the sound of a bell through repeated associated of the sound of the bell and food. The principles of CC have been applied in many therapies. These include systematic desensitization for phobias (step-by-step exposed to feared stimulus at once) and aversion therapy.
B.F. Skinner investigated Operant Conditioning of voluntary and involuntary behavior. Skinner felt that some behavior could be explained by the person's motive. Therefore behavior occurs for a reason, and the three main behavior shaping techniques are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and punishment.

Criticisms of Behaviorism

Behaviorism has been criticized in the way it under-estimates the complexity of human behavior. Many studies used animals which are hard to generalize to humans and it cannot explain for example the speed in which we pick up language. There must be biological factors involved.
Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior and that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts and feelings.
Behaviorism does not account for other types of learning, especially learning that occurs without the use of reinforcement and punishment.
People and animals are able to adapt their behavior when new information is introduced, even if a previous behavior pattern has been established through reinforcement.

Strengths of Behaviorism

Behaviorism is based upon observable behaviors, so it is easier to quantify and collect data and information when conducting research.
Effective therapeutic techniques such as intensive behavioral intervention, behavior analysis, token economies and discrete trial training are all rooted in behaviorism. These approaches are often very useful in changing maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults.

Final Thoughts

While behaviorism is not as dominant today as it was during the middle of the 20th-century, it still remains an influential force in psychology. Outside of psychology, animal trainers, parents, teachers and many others make use of basic behavioral principles to help teach new behaviors and discourage unwanted ones.

Radical behaviorism

Developed by BF Skinner, Radical Behaviorism describes a particular school that emerged during the reign of behaviorism. It is distinct from other schools of behaviorism, with major differences in the acceptance of mediating structures, the role of emotions, etc

Inheritable Traits

Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), a nineteenth century English mathematician and scientist, wanted to understand how heredity influences a person’s abilities, character, and behavior. (Heredity includes all the traits and properties that are passed along biologically from parent to child.) Galton traced the ancestry of various eminent people and found that greatness runs in families. He therefore concluded that genius or eminence is a hereditary trait. This conclusion was like the blind men’s ideas about the elephant. Galton did not consider the possibility that the tendency of genius to run in distinguished families might be a result of the exceptional environments and socioeconomic advantages that also tend to surround such families. He also raised the question: Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could get rid of the less desirable people? Galton encouraged “good” marriages to supply the world with talented offspring. Later, scientists all over the world recognized the flaws in Galton’s theory. A person’s heredity and environment interact to influence intelligence.
The data Galton used were based on his study of biographies. Not content to limit his inquiry to indirect accounts, however, he went on to invent procedures for directly testing the abilities and characteristics of a wide range of people. These tests were the primitive ancestors of the modern personality tests and intelligence tests. Although Galton began his work shortly before psychology emerged as an independent discipline, his theories and techniques quickly became central aspects of the new science. In 1883 he published a book, Inquiries into Human Faculty that is regarded as the first study of individual differences.
Galton’s writings raised the issue of whether behavior is determined by heredity or environment—a subject that remains a focus of controversy today.

Gestalt Perspective

A group of German psychologists, including Max Wertheimer (1880–1943), Wolfgang Kohler (1887–1967), and Kurt Koffka (1886–1941), disagreed with the principles of structuralism and behaviorism. They argued that perception is more than the sum of its parts—it involves a “whole pattern” or, in German, a Gestalt. For example, when people look at a chair, they recognize the chair as a whole rather than noticing its legs, its seat, and its other components. Another example includes the perception of apparent motion. When you see fixed lights flashing in sequence as on traffic lights and neon signs, you perceive motion rather than individual lights flashing on and off. Gestalt psychologists studied how sensations are assembled into perceptual experiences.
This approach became the forerunner for cognitive approaches to the study of psychology. Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that looks at the human mind and behavior as a whole. Originating in the work of Max Wertheimer, Gestalt psychology formed partially as a response to the structuralism of Wilhelm Wundt. The development of this area of psychology was influenced by a number of thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, Ernst Mach and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
"The fundamental "formula" of Gestalt theory might be expressed in this way,” Max Wertheimer wrote. "There are whole, the behaviour of which is not determined by that of their individual elements, but where the part-processes are themselves determined by the intrinsic nature of the whole. It is the hope of Gestalt’s theory to determine the nature of such whole" (1924)

Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization

Have you ever noticed how a series of flashing lights often appears to be moving, such as neon signs or strands of Christmas lights? According to Gestalt psychology, this apparent movement happens because our minds fill in missing information. This belief that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts led to the discovery of several different phenomena that occur during perception.

Psychodynamic Perspective

Who hasn't heard of Sigmund Freud? So many expressions from our daily life come from Freud's theories of psychoanalysis - subconscious, denial, repression and anal personality to name only a few.
Freud believes that events in our childhood can have a significant impact on our behavior as adults. He also believed that people have little free will to make choices in life. Instead our behavior is determined by the unconscious mind and childhood experiences.
Freud’s psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy. It is the original psychodynamic theory and inspired psychologists such as Jung and Erikson to develop their own psychodynamic theories. Freud’s work is vast and he has contributed greatly to psychology as a discipline.
Freud, the founder of Psychoanalysis, explained the human mind as like an iceberg, with only a small amount of it being visible, that is our observable behavior, but it is the unconscious, submerged mind that has the most, underlying influence on our behavior. Freud used three main methods of accessing the unconscious mind: free association, dream analysis and slips of the tongue.
He believed that the unconscious mind consisted of three components: the 'id' the 'ego' and the 'superego'. The 'id' contains two main instincts: 'Eros', which is the life instinct, which involves self-preservation and sex which is fuelled by the 'libido' energy force. 'Thanatos' is the death instinct, whose energies, because they are less powerful than those of 'Eros' are channeled away from us and into aggression towards others.
The 'id' and the 'superego' are constantly in conflict with each other and the 'ego' tries to resolve the discord. If this conflict is not resolved, we tend to use defense mechanisms to reduce our anxieties. Psychoanalysis attempts to help patients resolve their inner conflicts.
An aspect of psychoanalysis is Freud's theory of psychosexual development. It shows how early experiences affect adult personality. Stimulation of different areas of the body is important as the child progresses through the important developmental stages. The most important stage is the phallic stage where the focus of the libido is on the genitals. During this stage little boys experience the 'Oedipus complex', and little girls experience the 'Electra complex'. These complexes result in children identifying with their same-sex parent, which enables them to learn sex-appropriate behavior and a morale code of conduct.
However it has been criticized in the way that it over emphasizes of importance of sexuality and under emphasizes of role of social relationships. The theory is not scientific, and can't be proved as it is circular. The sample was biased, consisting of middle-class, middle-aged neurotic women. Never the less psychoanalysis has been greatly contributory to psychology in that it has encouraged many modern theorists to modify it for the better, using its basic principles, but eliminating its major flaws.

Humanistic Perspective

Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective that emphasizes the study of the whole person (know as holism). Humanistic psychologists look at human behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person doing the behaving. Humanistic psychologists believe that an individual's behavior is connected to his inner feelings and self-image. The humanistic perspective centers on the view that each person is unique and individual and has the free will to change at any time in his or her lives.
The humanistic perspective suggests that we are each responsible for our own happiness and well-being as humans. We have the innate (i.e. inborn) capacity for self-actualization which is our unique desire to achieve our highest potential as people. Because of this focus on the person and his or her personal experiences and subjective perception of the world the humanists regarded scientific methods as inappropriate for studying behavior.
Two of the most influential and enduring theories in humanistic psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s are those of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Cognitive Perspective

Psychology was institutionalized as a science in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt who found the first psychological laboratory.
His initiative was soon followed by other European and American Universities. These early laboratories, through experiments, explored areas such as memory and sensory perception, both of which Wundt believed to be closely related to physiological processes in the brain. The whole movement had evolved from the early philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato. Today this approach is known as Cognitive Psychology.
Cognitive Psychology revolves around the notion that if we want to know what makes people tick then the way to do it is to figure out what processes are actually going on in their minds. In other words, psychologists from this perspective study cognition which is ‘the mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired.’
The cognitive perspective is concerned with “mental” functions such as memory, perception, attention etc. It views people as being similar to computers in the way we process information (e.g. input-process-output). For example, both human brains and computers process information, store data and have input an output procedures. This had led cognitive psychologists to explain that memory comprises of three stages: encoding (where information is received and attended to), storage (where the information is retained) and retrieval (where the information is recalled).
It is an extremely scientific approach and typically uses lab experiments to study human behavior. The cognitive approach has many applications including cognitive therapy and eyewitness testimony.

Biological Perspective

The biological school of thought places emphasis on the role of biological processes and structures, including heredity, in explaining human behavior. This type of behavior is influenced by our bodies.
The study of physiology played a major role in the development of psychology as a separate science. Today, this perspective is known as biological psychology. Sometimes referred to as biopsychology or physiological psychology, this point of view emphasizes the physical and biological bases of behavior.
This perspective has grown significantly over the last few decades, especially with advances in our ability to explore and understand the human brain and nervous system. Tools such as MRI scans and PET scans allow researchers to look at the brain under a variety of conditions. Scientists can now look at the effects of brain damage, drugs, and disease in ways that were simply not possible in the past.
The biological perspective is one of the major approaches to doing psychological research, which is focused on the idea that behaviors have biological causes. Also known as physiological psychology or biopsychology, it has strong links with many different sciences, particularly neurology and genetics. Common types of biological studies on behavior include things like the effects of physical child abuse on future adult actions, how injuries such as head trauma affect behavior, or whether or not criminal behavior can be explained by genetics. We can thank Charles Darwin (1859) for demonstrating in the idea that genetics and evolution play a role in influencing human behavior through natural selection.
Theorists in the biological perspective who study behavioral genomics consider how genes affect behavior. Now that the human genome is mapped, perhaps, we will someday understand more precisely how behavior is affected by the DNA we inherit. Biological factors such as chromosomes, hormones and the brains all have a significant influence on human behavior, for example gender.
The biological approach believes that most behavior is inherited and has an adaptive (or evolutionary) function. For example, in the weeks immediately after the birth of a child, levels of testosterone in fathers drop by more than 30 per cent. This has an evolutionary function. Testosterone-deprived men are less likely to wander off in search of new mates to inseminate. They are also less aggressive, which is useful when there is a baby around.
Biological psychologists explain behaviors in neurological terms, i.e. the physiology and structure of the brain and how this influences behavior. Many biological psychologists have concentrated on abnormal behavior and have tried to explain it. For example biological psychologists believe that schizophrenia is affected by levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter).
These findings have helped psychiatry take off and help relieve he symptoms of the mental illness through drugs. However Freud and other disciplines would argue that this just treats the symptoms and not the cause. This is where health psychologists take the finding that biological psychologists produce and look at the environmental factors that are involved to get a better picture.

Perspectives Conclusion

Therefore, in conclusion, there are so many different perspectives to psychology to explain the different types of behavior and give different angles. No one perspective has explanatory powers over the rest.
Only with all the different types of psychology which sometimes contradict one another (nature-nurture debate), overlap with each other (e.g. psychoanalysis and child psychology) or build upon one another (biological and health psychologist) can we understand and create effective solutions when problems arise so we have a healthy body and healthy mind.
The fact that there are different perspectives represents the complexity and richness of human (and animal) behavior. A scientific approach, such as behaviorism or cognitive psychology, tends to ignore the subjective (i.e. personal) experiences that people have. The humanistic perspective does recognize human experience, but largely at the expense of being non-scientific in its methods and ability to provide evidence. The psychodynamic perspective concentrates too much on the unconscious mind and childhood. As such it tends to lose sight of the role of socialization (which is different in each country) and the possibility of free will. The biological perspective reduces humans to a set of mechanisms and physical structures that are clearly essential and important (e.g. genes). However, it fails to account for consciousness and the influence of the environment on behavior.

Contemporary Approaches

Many ideas taken from the historical Approaches to psychology are reflected in contemporary approaches to the study of psychology. The most important approaches to the study of psychology today are the psychoanalytic, behavioral, humanistic, cognitive, biological, and sociocultural approaches.

Psychoanalytic Psychology

While the first psychologists were interested in understanding the conscious mind, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), a physician who practiced in Vienna until 1938, was more interested in the unconscious mind. He believed that our conscious experiences are only the tip of the iceberg, that beneath the surface are primitive biological urges that are in conflict with the requirements of society and morality. According to Freud, these unconscious motivations and conflicts are responsible for most human behavior. He thought that they were responsible for many medically unexplainable physical symptoms that troubled his patients.
Freud used a new method for indirectly studying unconscious processes. In this technique, known as free association, a patient said everything that came to mind—no matter how absurd or irrelevant it seemed—without attempting to produce logical or meaningful statements.
The person was instructed not to edit or censor the thoughts. Freud’s role, that of psychoanalyst, was to be objective; he merely sat and listened and then interpreted the associations. Free association, Freud believed, revealed the operation of unconscious processes. Freud also believed that dreams are expressions of the most primitive unconscious urges. To learn more about these urges, he used dream analysis— basically an extension of free association—in which he applied the same technique to a patient’s dreams. While working out his ideas, Freud took careful, extensive notes on all his patients and treatment sessions. He used these records, or case studies, to develop and illustrate a comprehensive theory of personality.
In many areas of psychology today, Freud’s view of unconscious motivation remains a powerful and controversial influence. Modern psychologists may support, alter, or attempt to disprove it, but most have a strong opinion about it.
The technique of free association is still used by psychoanalysts, and the method of intensive case study is still a major tool for investigating behavior. A case study is an analysis of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, experiences, behaviors, or problems of an individual.

Behavioral Psychology

The pioneering work of Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) charted another new course for psychological investigation. In a now famous experiment, Pavlov rang a tuning fork each time he gave a dog some meat powder. The dog would normally salivate when the powder reached its mouth. After Pavlov repeated the procedure several times; the dog would salivate when it heard the ring of the tuning fork, even if no food appeared. It had been conditioned to associate the sound with the food. The conditioned reflex was a response (salivation) provoked by a stimulus (the tuning fork) other than the one that first produced it (food). The concept was used by psychologists as a new tool, as a means of exploring the development of behavior. Using this tool, they could begin to account for behavior as the product of prior experience. This enabled them to explain how certain acts and certain differences among individuals were the result of learning. Psychologists who stressed investigating observable behavior became known as behaviorists.
Their position, as formulated by psychologist John B. Watson (1878–1958), was that psychology should concern itself only with the observable facts of behavior. Watson further maintained that all behavior, even apparently instinctive behavior, is the result of conditioning and occurs because the appropriate stimulus is present in the environment. Although it was Watson who defined and solidified the behaviorist position, it was B.F. Skinner (1904–1990) who introduced the concept of reinforcement. (Reinforcement is a response to a behavior that increases the likelihood the behavior will be repeated.) Skinner attempted to show how his laboratory techniques might be applied to society as a whole. In his classic novel Walden Two (1948), he portrayed his idea of Utopia—a small town in which conditioning, through rewarding those who display behavior that is considered desirable, rules every conceivable facet of life.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology developed as a reaction to behavioral psychology.
In the 1960s, humanists such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Rollo May described human nature as evolving and self-directed. It differs from behaviorism and psychoanalysis in that it does not view humans as being controlled by events in the environment or by unconscious forces. Instead, the environment and other outside forces simply serve as a background to our own internal growth. The humanistic approach emphasizes how each person is unique and has a self-concept and potential to develop fully. This potential for personal growth and development can lead to a more satisfying life.

Cognitive Psychology

Since 1950, cognitive psychology has benefited from the contributions of people such as Jean Piaget, Noam Chomsky, and Leon Festinger. Cognitivists focus on how we process, store, and use information and how this information influences our thinking, language, problem solving, and creativity. They believe that behavior is more than a simple response to a stimulus. Behavior is influenced by a variety of mental processes, including perceptions, memories, and expectations.

Biological Psychology

This viewpoint emphasizes the impact of biology on our behavior. Psychobiologists study how the brain, the nervous system, hormones, and genetics influence our behavior. PET scans and CAT are the newest tools used by Psychobiologists. Psychobiologists have found that genetic factors influence a wide range of human behaviors.
Psychobiologists have discovered that 98 percent of the twins of an identical twin who develops childhood autism will also develop it. Yet fraternal twins share autism no more frequently than any siblings, suggesting that autism is heritable and is likely caused by several genes. In many ways, our behavior is the result of our physiological makeup.

Sociocultural Psychology

The newest approach to psychology involves studying the influence of cultural and ethnic similarities and differences on behavior and social functioning. For example, a sociocultural psychologist considers how our knowledge and ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving are dependent on the culture to which we belong. Think about all the perspectives and behaviors you share with other people of your culture. Psychologist Leonard Doob (1990) illustrated the cultural implications of a simple, reflexive behavior—a sneeze. Doob asks, “Will [the person who senses the urge to sneeze] try to inhibit this reflex action? What will he say, what will bystanders say, when he does sneeze? What will they think of him if he fails to turn away and sneezes in their faces? Do they and he consider sneezing an omen and, if so, is it a good or bad omen? To answer such questions, we would have to understand the cultural context in which the sneeze occurred, as well as the cultural beliefs associated with the sneeze. Sociocultural psychologists also study the impact and integration of the millions of immigrants who come to the United States each year. The character of the U.S. population is rapidly changing. By the year 2010, Americans of Hispanic origin will make up almost 15 percent of the population, while those of African American and Asian or Pacific Islander descent will make up over 18 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 1998). Psychologists study the attitudes, values, beliefs, and social norms and roles of these different ethnic groups. They also study methods to reduce intolerance and discrimination. The sociocultural approach is also concerned with issues such as gender and socioeconomic status and is based on the idea that these factors impact human behavior and mental processes. For instance, how might you be different if you had been born female instead of male, or male instead of female? Would you be different if you had been born in poverty, or into an extremely wealthy family?


Psychologists are people who have been trained to observe, analyze and evaluate behavior. They usually have a doctorate degree in psychology.
There are many different fields of psychology. The principal ones are described in this section. People often confuse the terms psychologist and psychiatrist. These are different professions. Psychiatry is a specialty of medicine. After a student completes medical school, he or she continues training in psychiatric medicine and learns to treat people with disturbed behavior.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication or operate on patients. Sometimes a psychiatrist works with a psychologist in testing, evaluating, and treating patients. As the field of psychology expanded, it divided into a number of subfields. Clinical and counseling psychologies are the most popular.

Clinical psychologists help people deal with their personal problems.
They work mainly in private offices, mental hospitals, prisons, and clinics. Some specialize in giving and interpreting personality tests designed to determine whether a person needs treatment and, if so, what kind. (About one-half of all psychologists specialize in clinical psychology.)

Counseling psychologists usually work in schools or industrial firms, advising and assisting people with the problems of everyday life. They help people adjust to the challenges of life. In most states a doctorate is required to be a clinical or counseling psychologist.

School psychologists, educated in principles of human development, clinical psychology, and education, help young people with emotional or learning problems. A large number of specialists study personality, social psychology, or developmental psychology. These psychologists are usually involved in basic rather than applied science. Psychologists who study personality investigate its development, study personality traits, or may create personality tests. Social psychologists study groups and how they influence individual behavior. Some are particularly interested in public opinion and devote much of their time to conducting polls and surveys.

Developmental psychologists study physical, emotional, cognitive, and social changes that occur throughout life. Specialists in this field study children, the elderly, and even the process of dying.

Educational psychologists deal with topics related to teaching children and young adults, such as intelligence, memory, problem solving, and motivation. Specialists in this field evaluate teaching methods, devise tests, and develop new instructional devices.

Community psychologist may work in a mental health or social welfare agency operated by the state or local government or by a private organization. A community psychologist may help design, run, or evaluate a mental health clinic.

Industrial/organizational psychologists are employed by business firms and government agencies. Industrial psychologists study and develop methods to boost production, improve working conditions, place applicants in jobs for which they are best suited, train people, and reduce accidents. Organizational psychologists study the behavior of people in organizations such as business firms.

Environmental psychologists work in business settings or within the government to study the effects of the environment on people. They may look at the effects of natural disasters, overcrowding, and pollution on the population in general as well as individuals and families. Psychobiologists study the effect of drugs or try to explain behavior in terms of biological factors, such as electrical and chemical activities in the nervous system.

Forensic psychologists work in legal, court, and correctional systems. They assist police by developing personality profiles of criminal offenders or help law enforcement officers understand problems like abuse. Health psychologists study the interaction between physical and psychological health factors. They may investigate how stress or depression leads to physical ailments.

Experimental psychologists perform research to understand how humans (and animals) operate physically and psychologically. Experimental psychologists do everything from testing how electrical stimulation of a certain area of a rat’s brain affects its behavior, through studying how disturbed people think, to observing how different socioeconomic groups vote in elections. Experimental psychologists supply information and research used in psychology.

Psychology’s Role in Mental Health

Of all of psychology’s contributions, perhaps its most significant is the development of forms of professional helping, including psychotherapy. An early step forward came in the 1790s through the pioneering efforts of Philippe Pinel, a French physician and a founder of psychiatry. Pinel unchained patients who were held in mental wards, some of whom had been restrained for more than 20 years. Pinel argued against the prevailing belief that the mentally ill were possessed by demons. Moreover, he thought mental illness could be treated. Mainly due to his efforts, France became a leader in improving conditions for the mentally ill.
Despite the progress in France, more than half a century passed before similar efforts was exerted in the United States. After discovering that the mentally ill were being jailed along with criminals, teacher and social reformer Dorothea Dix (1802–1887) became the chief spokesperson for reform. Her personal crusade in the 1840s aroused interest in the problems of mental illness and led to more enlightened treatment of the mentally ill in Canada and Great Britain, as well as in the United States.
A former mental patient, Clifford Beers (1876–1943) became the guiding force in the early growth of the modern mental health movement. Beers’s own account of his illness and recovery, A Mind That Found Itself, first published nearly 90 years ago, has motivated many concerned individuals to promote better psychological care in communities, in schools, and in hospitals. The book set into motion Beers’s plan to improve conditions in mental hospitals. In 1908 Beers founded the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene, the first organization of its type. In its charter, the Connecticut Society pledged to eliminate restraints on patients, improve standards of care for the mentally retarded, prevent mental disorders, preserve mental health, and provide information on mental illness to the public.

Psychology’s Role in Testing

You probably had your first encounter with a psychologist while in elementary school. Most students are given IQ tests or other tests at an early age. Psychologists have played a leading role in devising and updating these tests, as well as other tests in higher education that assess personal skills. Many of you have taken or will take one or both of the two major standardized college entrance exams: the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and the American College Testing Proficiency Examination Program (ACT). Developed in 1959, the current ACT places greater emphasis on scientific concepts and abstract reading skills and less emphasis on factual material than the earlier version. Nearly 1 million high school seniors take the ACT each year. The SAT, taken by about 1.2 million high school seniors annually, was redesigned in 1994 to give more weight to abstract thinking skills.

Psychology’s Role in Everyday Living

With more than half of all mothers and an even higher percentage of fathers working outside the home, day-care and out-of-home nurturing and learning are significant developmental issues. Researchers note that day care appears to have few negative effects on children and actually promotes development of social skills. Children with experience in day care tend to be more assertive and aggressive. Alison Clarke-Stewart (1989) has suggested that this may result from the fact that day-care children tend to think at a more advanced level but have not yet developed the social skills to smoothly implement their plans for action. Much remains to be learned about how children grow and learn.
Harry Harlow’s work led to the idea that the attachment of children to their caregivers is made stronger by physical contact. That, in turn, led to the demonstration that breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding makes little difference in the parent-child attachment. It is the holding, not the feeding, that is most important.
Psychologists play a role in designing and assessing tools for learning in a variety of media; for example, their understanding of the principles of learning contributed to the development of the PBS series Sesame Street. Studies show that almost 60 percent of the preschool children who watch that program at least five times a week can recite the entire alphabet correctly. Originally designed to provide creative ways to educate children with skills required in school—such as spelling, counting, and new words—this program, as the data indicate, has met its goal.
Some of B.F. Skinner’s ideas on learning have been implemented into computer software designs. The ideas of feedback, prior knowledge and knowledge of results, and reinforcement play important roles in games as well as educational programs.
The work of many psychologists led to a clearer understanding about challenges facing men and women as they age. As the American population ages, increased understanding of the abilities of the aged is an area in which psychology must make continued contributions.

American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association (APA), founded in 1892, is a scientific and professional society of psychologists and educators. It is the major psychological association in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. The APA is made of 53 divisions, each representing a specific area, type of work or research setting, or activity. Some divisions are research-oriented, while others are advocacy groups. Together they are a cross section of the diverse nature of psychology. The APA works to advance the science and profession of psychology and to promote human welfare.
What psychologists think about, what experiments they have done, and what this knowledge means form the subject of Understanding Psychology.
Psychology is dedicated to answering some of the most interesting questions of everyday life: What happens during sleep? How can bad habits be broken? Is there a way to measure intelligence? Why do crowds sometimes turn into mobs? Do dreams mean anything? How does punishment affect a child? Can memory be improved? What causes psychological breakdowns?
In trying to answer such questions, psychologists tie together what they have discovered about human behavior, thoughts, and feelings in order to look at the total human being.

Most Influential Psychologists

The breadth and diversity of psychology can be seen by looking as some of its best known thinkers. While each theorist may have been part of an overriding school of thought, each brought a unique and individual voice and perspective to the field of psychology. A study that appeared in the July 2002 issue of the Review of General Psychology created a ranking of the 99 most influential psychologists. The rankings were mostly based on three factors: the frequency of journal citations, introductory textbook citations, and the survey responses of 1,725 members of the American Psychological Association.
The following list provides an overview of 09 psychologists from this ranking survey. These individuals are not only some of the best-known thinkers in psychology; they also played an important role in psychology's history and made important contributions to our understanding of human behavior. This list is not an attempt to identify who was the most influential or which school of thought was best. Instead, this list offers a glimpse of some of the theoretical outlooks that have influenced not only psychology, but also the larger culture in which we live.

1. B. F. Skinner

In the 2002 study ranking the 99 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, B.F. Skinner topped the list. Skinner's staunch behaviorism made him a dominating force in psychology and therapy techniques based on his theories are still used extensively today, including behavior modification and token economies.

2. Sigmund Freud

When people think of psychology, many tend to think of Freud. His work supported the belief that not all mental illnesses have physiological causes and he also offered evidence that cultural differences have an impact on psychology and behavior. His work and writings contributed to our understanding of personality, clinical psychology, human development, and abnormal psychology.

3. Albert Bandura

Bandura's work is considered part of the cognitive revolution in psychology that began in the late 1960s. His social learning theory stressed the importance of observational learning, imitation, and modeling. "Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do," Bandura explained in his 1977 book Social Learning Theory.

4. Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget's work had a profound influence on psychology, especially our understanding children's intellectual development. His research contributed to the growth of developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, genetic epistemology, and education reform. Albert Einstein once described Piaget's observations on children's intellectual growth and thought processes as a discovery "so simple that only a genius could have thought of it."

5. Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers placed emphasis on human potential, which had an enormous influence on both psychology and education. He became one of the major humanist thinkers and an eponymous influence in therapy with his "Rogerian therapy." As described by his daughter Natalie Rogers, he was "a model for compassion and democratic ideals in his own life, and in his work as an educator, writer, and therapist."

6. William James

Psychologist and philosopher William James is often referred to as the father of American psychology. His 1200-page text, The Principles of Psychology, became a classic on the subject and his teachings and writings helped establish psychology as a science. In addition, James contributed to functionalism, pragmatism, and influenced many students of psychology during his 35-year teaching career.

7. Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson's stage theory of psychosocial development helped create interest and research on human development through the lifespan. An ego psychologist who studied with Anna Freud, Erikson expanded psychoanalytic theory by exploring development throughout the life, including events of childhood, adulthood, and old age.

8. Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist whose research on conditioned reflexes influenced the rise of behaviorism in psychology. Pavlov's experimental methods helped move psychology away from introspection and subjective assessments to objective measurement of behavior.

9. Kurt Lewin

Lewin is known as the father of modern social psychology because of his pioneering work that utilized scientific methods and experimentation to look as social behavior. Lewin was a seminal theorist whose enduring impact on psychology makes him one of the preeminent psychologists of the 20th-century.

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