Welcome to Week 1!
Psy111 - General Psychology - Laura Gilbert, PH.D.
"From the standpoint of observation, then, we must regard it as a highly probable hypothesis that the beginnings of the mental life date from as far back as the beginnings of life at large." Wilhelm Wundt (todayinsci.com)
Freud and Surrealism
Why open with the painting, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe") by 19th century surrealist artist René Magritte? "Heavily influenced by Freudian psychology, Surrealism... attempted to join the realm of dreams and fantasy to the everyday world." The movement in art "represented a reaction against the "Rationalism" that some believed led Europe into the horrors of World War I." (retrieved from http://collections.lacma.org/node/239578).
Like psychoanalysis, Surrealism attached a particular importance to the exploration of unconscious life. Surrealists believed that art sprung from the hidden depths of the mind is powerful. Freud's theories deeply influenced art, poetry, and literature (to only name these).
The history and scope of psychology
What is Psychology? Why is psychology scientific?
First and foremost, psychology is an evolving science. We are constantly gaining a better understanding of human behavior and thought.
As the scientific study of mind and behavior, psychology is based on empiricism (from the ancient Greek word empeiria, “experience”). In other words, there are no innate ideas, all knowledge comes through the senses (sight, hearing, etc.).
The study of mind focuses on subjective experience, sensations, thoughts, and emotions
The study of behavior centers on observable actions, as well as thought and feelings.
The roots of modern psychology
In the late 1800's both physiologists and philosophers were investigating the mind. Philosophy concerned itself with the acquisition of knowledge, while physiology endeavored to understand the nervous system and our senses.
Both methods of enquiry came together to develop the notion of applying the methods of science to the study of human behavior.
The first schools
In the late 1800's in Germany, psychology emerged as an independent science with Wilhelm Wundt.
Defining psychology as the study of conscious experience, Wundt examined the relationship between sensations and mental awareness of the outside world, as well as the basic elements of thought.
- Structuralism ("What") versus Functionalism ("Why")
While Wundt's students, Edward Titchner's structuralist view analyzes consciousness (experience), its basic elements, and how they combine (structuralism), William James (1842 - 1910) investigated the purpose of consciousness (functionalism), rather than its structure.
An example of this distinction would be: the usefulness of a house (functionalism) versus what is it made of (structuralism).
- Gestalt Psychology (Max Wertheimer, 1880 - 1943)
The study of human perception, emerged in sympathy with James's functionalism, and as a reaction against structuralism.
For Gestalt theorists, we always strive to perceive reality as a meaningful whole, not as the sum of distinct parts)--a profound desire to keep chaos at bay.
For example, a set of dots outlining the shape of a tree is likely to be perceived as a tree, not as as a set of dots. We strive to complete what we see.
The picture below is an example of our strong desire to complete what we see, and to see it as we believe it should be.
(Image above: Magritte, theguardian.com; image below: Simone's Graphic Design Work)
This school, led by John Watson (1878 - 1958), lodged an attack on introspection by declaring that mental processes cannot be examined directly.
Behaviorists believed that, as a science, psychology should focus on observable behavior
From the 1920's to the 1960's, behaviorism defined psychology as the science of observable behavior.
Freud and the Humanists
- Freud and Psychoanalysis
The belief in the Unconscious: the idea that our thoughts, memories, and desires exist below conscious awareness and exert an influence on our behavior.
- Psychoanalytic theory
Personality, mental disorders and motivation are explained in terms of unconscious determinants of behavior;
Unconscious contents find expression in dreams and "slips of the tongue";
Much of our childhood experiences shape adult behavior.
- The Humanistic response
Essentially rejects Freud's pessimistic outlook in favor of man's potential for self-awareness, responsibility and growth.
The cognitive revolution (1960's)
Studies on the nature of language, as well as the advent of computers (late 1950's) provided a new model for thinking about the mind. Hence the return to the study of learning, memory, perception, language, and development.
- Developments in biology
The creation of physiological recording devices (EEG, CT, PET, MRI); a deeper understanding of brain functions.
- Cultural awareness
Cross-cultural factors take the place of a belief in universal principles.
(References: psych.wisc.edu; webspace.ship.edu)