Lecture 1 psychology as a science


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Basic introduction to counselling and psychology as a science.
Introduction to Counselling Newham University Centre Newham College

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  • Quick history of his life: a Frenchman, brilliant (top of his class), after graduation he gambled a lot and engaged in debauchery. He then joined the army but preferred isolation to hanging out with others – he didn’t trust them. He believed that ‘my truth is better than their truth.’ He left the army, got interested in geometry and wanted to apply the rules of geometry to aspects of life with regards to axioms (those self-evident truths) and theorems (logical connections between two axioms). From his work, developed a doubting perspective – we are to doubt everything. How do I know this is blue? Can I trust my perception?
    I think, therefore I am. He was left with only a doubting mind.
  • In his work, ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ he put forth the belief that the mind is receptive and passive. It’s main goals are to sense and perceive the external world. He believed that we develop all knowledge from the observation of things in the external world. Thus, we are born in a state of ‘tabula rasa’, with a brain that is a blank slate and has no prior knowledge. This is in direct contrast to the Rationalists (and Descartes). Locke saw morons and smart people and wondered what made the dumb people. If we have all this innate knowledge and reasoning skills, how are people dumb? Children aren’t born with innate reasoning, it is something they learn.
  • Hermann contributed the first major attempt to bring psychology into the laboratory – in the past, psychology had been a domain where really smart people sit around and think and talk and think and talk…not a lot of science going on.
    Johannes Muller was Hermann’s teacher. Muller believed in ‘vitalism’ – that every living organism has a life force that cannot be measured. Muller thought that nerve impulses traveled at a ‘near infinite’ speed, propelled by the ‘life force’. Hermann respectfully disagreed.
    Helmholtz was a mechanist – he believed that everything could be understood with basic physical and chemical principles. There is no mystical life force – everything is measurable. For example, the amount of muscular energy and heat generated by a frog is a function of the amount of oxidation of food the frog has consumed.
    So you can see that the movement to measure things is coming into view. Helmholtz is arguing that we can’t say there is this infinite energy out there, we need to test and demonstrate things. Muller was a ‘mystical forces’ guy and Helmholtz said no, we need to measure everything.
  • Fechner was a founder of the psychophysics movement – he thought we should investigate the relationship between the physical world and our conscious psychological world. I highlight the word ‘conscious’ here because we’ll get to the ‘unconcscious’ later…these theorists so far in history haven’t even conceived of the ‘unconscious’.
    For example: a candle in a lit room is perceived differently than a candle in a dark room (ask students what is perceived differently). Or a pin dropped in a quiet room is perceived differently than a pin dropped in a loud room.
    Fechner thought that it was possible to measure the perceived as well as the physical intensities of sensory stimuli and to determine a mathematical relationship between them. This is what we do now only now we call it construct validity.
    Fechner realized that we couldn’t put a yardstick inside someone’ head so instead of worrying about measuring absolute differences, he focused on measuring relative differences. To do this, he developed the ‘just noticeable difference’ approach. So you place two stimuli next to each other and ask – Which is brighter? Which weighs more? We’ll see later in class that the difference of low intensity stimuli is much smaller than the change in large intensity stimuli (Weber). So if I piled three textbooks in (get volunteer)’s arms and then added one more, would (name) notice? YEP! But if I piled twenty textbooks in (name)’s arms and then added one more, would (name) notice? NOPE!
    What you should notice from all this is a strong movement from the field into the lab.
  • And now we come to what most historians consider the founding of psychology! Wilhelm Wundt and the magical year of 1879. Prior to this, though, Wundt had had a varied career in medicine (working with Robert Bunsen of Bunsen burner fame), physiology (working with Hermann Helmholtz and Johannes Muller) and got interested in vision and perceptions of space.
    Several of his discoveries are important to his psychological emphasis: auditory and visual stimuli are not experience simultaneously (separate acts of attention are required) and that there is a central attentional process that others had ignored (they had focused on the motor nerves that carry messages to the brain rather than the brain itself).
    His work focused on consciousness. Thus, he determined that it takes about 1/10 of a second to shift one’s attention from the sound of a bell (auditory stimuli) to the position of a pendulum (visual stimuli). This led Wundt to believe that we had a voluntary control process for mental events (I.e., selective attention).
  • So now that we have psychology officially ‘founded’, we have ‘schools’ of psychology – because as is the case with most everything in the world, there were different opinions regarding what psychology was and how it should be studied.
    Structuralism involves defining the ‘structure’ of the objects of study BEFORE we study it’s function. To do this, self-reflective introspection was utilized. Thus, people were to examine conscious experience in terms of its elements of sensation and feeling. Tichner had highly trained individuals reduce all of the mental contents into its most basic elements, while being totally devoid of imposing meaning of those views. He had participants define something (for example, an image). The experimenter would then work to break these images down into the most minute details…describing different patches of light, color, shape, intensities, duration, etc. From this, they understood that there are processes associated with intensities, lights, color, etc.
  • William James is considered the ‘Father of American Psychology’. He was from an intellectual and wealthy family (his brother is Henry James – a very famous American author). He studied at Harvard in chemistry, then studied with Agassiz, who totally disagreed with Darwin. He later split with Agassiz and sided with Darwin. He is known as a great teacher and wrote an extremely influential volume ‘The Principles of Psychology’ that, while it is somewhat difficult to read, is still very useful.
    James focused on Functionalism – he studied how the conscious mind helps us to adapt to the changing environment. He was a proponent of the ‘Stream of Consciousness’ method and felt that you couldn’t look at it in discrete chunks as Titchner had done. Like the ancient Greeks, he thought that one could never experience the same thing twice – every new experience is colored by the old and framed by past experiences (think about hearing the same song multiple times). He also studied habit and talked about how after enough repetitions, behaviors become hard-wired and difficult to change.
  • From the ‘stream of consciousness’ perspective, psychology then took a completely different turn in the form of behaviorism. The most influential psychologists in this are include Watson and Skinner. Watson especially is considered one of the most influential people in the history of psychology – because of this guy, thousands of studies were done using his methods for over 30 years (between the 1930s and 1960s). Watson disagreed with structuralism and functionalism and didn’t feel that the mind was the most appropriate object of study. He felt that behavior wasa the ‘correct’ thing to study.
    Growing up, Watson was a trouble-maker, did poorly in school, and arrested at one point for firing his gun within city limits. He went to school and in grad school he studied under John Dewey, who was a functionalist…but he thought that introspection was a waste of time. Other faculty at the University of Chicago did research on animals, which he liked. His dissertation was on the complexity of rats’ behavior and the amount of myelin sheaths around their necral fibers (that will make more sense when we start talking about the brain later on in the semester). Here you started to see his interest in behavior begin.
    What finally developed was a theory that the main goal of psychology should be the prediction and control of behavior – he preferred the concrete versus the theoretical. He felt that introspection had no intrinsic value. He also denied the traditional view of distinction between humans and animals. Therefore, all of his studies on rats can generalize to humans….which for what he is studying was a valid conclusion. We’ll see throughout the semester that there are some areas of psychology that are specific to humans.
    Watson focused exclusively on the rewards and punishments we have experienced in the past. He bragged about the power of rewards and punishments in the following statement: “give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, chief and yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents...abilities...and race of his ancestors.” Optimistic, but surely overstated, because our genetic background is important too.
    By the way, Watson took this objective approach even into his personal life. His advice for childrearing: “Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning....In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kindly...” No wonder many have hated the behaviorist tradition. Two of his four kids tried to kill themselves as adults!
  • So far we’ve seen schools really have a period of dominance all to themselves. Now we’ll start seeing that schools of thought start developing simultaneously – some of which are still around, and some of which have faded through the years. The Gestalt perspective is really best phrased as ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’. The main philosophy is that you shouldn’t dissect an experience into separate elements to discover the truth but instead, look at the whole of the experience. They felt that dividing mental experiences up into elements isn’t meaningful: we do not see patches of color but instead, we see people, cars, trees, etc.
    The focus here is really perception. For example, Max Wertheimer’s Phi phenomenon: you can create an illusion that a light is moving from one location to another by flashing lights on and off at a certain rate.
  • We then move into one of the most controversial domains of psychology – Freud’s psychodynamic theory. I should point out that while Freud was the originator of this domain, he was by no means the only psychologist who held to these beliefs. A number of people worked with him throughout the years and who then started their own psychodynamic departments.
    Freud was born in the now Czech Republic and moved to Vienna when was 4. He stayed there until the Nazis forced him to move to London in 1938, just before his death. He was one of 8 children (his mom was 20 years younger than his dad), and had several half-brothers as well. He was a good student and studied medicine, specifically localizing brain injuries. He set up private practice and realized that he couldn’t make a living studying ‘normal’ neurological cases so he expanded his practice to treat ‘hysterical’ patients. No one else would treat these patients, but he took it very seriously.
    From his work with these hysterical patients, his psychodynamic approach began to take shape. His basic model involves the conflict between one’s conscious and unconscious in terms of which one is controlling thought and behavior. He focused a lot on motivations – mostly those involving sex and aggression. He felt that most mental illness evolved because the conscious part wanted to address the problem the patient was having while the unconscious feared the pain and didn’t want to do it.
    Later theories involved free association – where everything the patient says has meaning and dream analysis. Both of these haven’t necessarily stood the test of time but the conscious/unconscious framework is still utilized in some aspects of psychology today.
  • Lecture 1 psychology as a science

    1. 1. Psychology is a Science Or is it? Kevin Standish
    2. 2. Objectives Be familiar with the definition of Psychology / Counselling To understand the “Scientific Method” Understand why Psychology is a science and evidence based practice for counselling Be familiar with the historical roots of Psychology & Counselling Understand the different research methods used by psychologists
    3. 3. What is Psychology? Psychology comes from the root words psyche, or mind, and logos, or study Psychology is defined as the ‘scientific study of behavior and mental processes’.
    4. 4. What is Counselling? McLeod (2003, p6)defines it as “Counselling is a purposeful private conversation arising from the intention of one person to reflect on and resolve a problem in living, and the willingness of another person to assist in that endeavour.”
    5. 5. Why is Psychology a Science? Psychology is an objective and systematic study of how people behave and think. Its goals are to describe, explain, predict, and control behavior and mental processes.
    6. 6. Historical Origins of ψ from Philosophy Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650)
    7. 7. Historical Origins of ψ from Philosophy Rene Descartes Beliefs Rationalist: True knowledge comes through reasoning  Nativist: Heredity provides individuals with inborn knowledge and abilities and we use this to reason  We are to doubt everything – that’s the only way we can be certain about anything I think, therefore I am.
    8. 8. Historical Origins of ψ from Philosophy John Locke (1632 – 1704)
    9. 9. Historical Origins of ψ from Philosophy John Locke Saw the mind as receptive and passive, with its main goal as sensing and perceiving Tabula rasa – we are born as a blank slate, everything we know is learned This is in direct contrast to the rationalist Descartes
    10. 10. Psychology Becomes More Scientific Hermann Helmholtz (1821 – 1894)
    11. 11. Psychology Becomes More Scientific Hermann Helmholtz He was a mechanist – he believed that everything can be understood with basic physical and chemical principles He pushed for the need to test and demonstrate things.
    12. 12. Psychology Becomes More Scientific Gustav Fechner (1801 – 1887)
    13. 13. Psychology Becomes More Scientific Gustav Fechner Psychophysics – he pushed to investigate the relationship between the physical world and our conscious psychological world He thought it possible to measure the perceived as well as the physical intensities of sensory stimuli and to determine a mathematical relationship Just noticeable difference (JND) approach
    14. 14. The Father of Psychology Wilhelm Wundt
    15. 15. The Father of Psychology Wilhelm Wundt 1st ψ lab (1879)  University of Leipzig, Germany Focus on consciousness Find basic elements of conscious processes  Discover how elements (sensations and feelings) are connected  Specify laws of connection  Introspection  Self-observation: ‘seeing’ mental processes in immediate experience
    16. 16. The First Schools of ψ Structuralism Lots of work on sensation & perception and breaking those down into minute detail Three basic mental elements  Images, feelings & sensations Titchner Found 43,000 elements associated with sensory experiences  30,000 associated with visual  11,000 associated with auditory  4 associated with taste (was correct with this one) 
    17. 17. The First Schools of ψ Functionalism Focus on adaptation  Applying Darwin’s theory of natural selection to mental processes William James Stream of consciousness  Consciousness is personal/selective, continuous (can’t be ‘cut up’ for analysis), and constantly changing   Structuralism was foolish to search for common elements to all minds
    18. 18. The First Schools of ψ Behaviorism Focus on observable behavior J. B. Watson  Felt that the main goal of psychology should be the prediction and control of behavior Stimulus-response theory We respond to stimuli with our behavior, not thoughts  Pavlov’s dog studies  Reinforcement for behavior  If our behavior produces rewarding consequences, then we will do it again
    19. 19. Subsequent Schools of ψ Gestalt psychology Wholes vs. multiple individual elements  You shouldn’t dissect an experience into separate elements to discover truths – instead, look at the ‘whole’
    20. 20. Subsequent Schools of ψ Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory Conscious vs. unconscious conflicts Unconscious: motivations and memories of which we are not aware  Mental illness arises from being overwhelmed by which of these is ‘in control’  Psychoanalysis as therapy: tell me about your childhood….
    21. 21. Western History of Psychology Early dates Greek philosophers: Studied the nature of the mind, the (Socrates, Plato, soul, the body, and human Aristotle) experience 17th Century Rene Descartes Nativist View: some ideas are innate John Locke Empiricist View: Knowledge is acquired through experiences & interactions with the world 1869 Sir Francis Galton of England Studied individual differences> dev’t of intelligence tests 1879 Wilhelm Wundt Father of Psychology Established the first psychological laboratory (Germany @ Leipzig Univ. ) Research: senses (vision), attention, emotion and memory
    22. 22. History continues… 1883 Granville Stanley First American to finish doctoral studies Hall in psychology Established the 1st psychological laboratory (US @ John Hopkins Univ) Founded the 1st American Journal of psychology 1888 James McKeen Cattell 1st psychology professor in the US 19th Century Titchener Structuralism: Specified mental structures & analyzed the basic elements of mental life. Introspection: the examination of one’s own emotional states & mental processes. William James Functionalism: Functions of the mind & behavior to adapt to the environment
    23. 23. 1920’s John B. Watson Ivan Pavlov B.F. Skinner Behaviorism: Only observable behavior should be studied Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning 1912 Max Wertheimer Gestalt Psychology: “Gestalt” means form or configuration “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” 20th Century Sigmund Freud Psychoanalysis: Human behavior is deeply influenced by unconscious thoughts, impulses, & desires (sex & aggression) Recent dev’ts Herbert Simon Views humans as information processing systems Modern Linguistics: study of how mental structures are required to comprehend & speak a language Neuropsychology: studies the relationship between neurobiological events & mental processes Noam Chomsky
    24. 24. Perspectives in Psychology and counselling Psychodynamic Approach Behavioral Approach Cognitive Approach Biological or Behavioral Neuroscience Approach The Phenomenological or Humanistic Approach The Sociocultural Approach The Evolutionary Psychology Approach Systemic approach
    25. 25. Psychodynamic Approach Developed by Sigmund Freud States that “much of our behavior stems from unconscious processes, conflict between biological instincts & society’s demands, and early family experiences. Basis for the therapeutic approach called psychoanalysis
    26. 26. Behavioral Approach John B. Watson: father of Behaviorism Behaviors are activities of people or other organisms that can be observed by others. States that “when we attempt to understand an event, we need to look at the observable behaviors & their environmental determinants”. Little Albert experiment.
    27. 27. Cognitive Approach Concerned with mental processes, such as perceiving, remembering, reasoning, deciding, and problem solving. States that “Only by studying mental processes can we fully understand what people do.”
    28. 28. Biological Approach Concerned with how the brain and nervous system underlie behavior & mental processes. Attempts to relate behavior to electrical and chemical events taking place inside the body The Nervous System (brain) and the Endocrine System are studied to determine the biological causes of behavior.
    29. 29. Phenomenological or Humanistic Approach Focuses on the subjective and personal experience of events (Individual Phenomenology) , and on the need for personal growth. Concerned with describing the inner life and experiences of individuals, rather than developing theories or predicting behaviors.
    30. 30. Sociocultural Approach Studies the ways by which social and cultural environments influence behavior A person’s cultural context should be considered in order to understand behavior. Focuses on comparing behaviors across countries as well as across cultures within a country.
    31. 31. The Evolutionary Psychology Emphasizes the importance of adaptation, reproduction, and survival of the fittest in explaining behavior. Focuses on the conditions that allow people to fail or survive.
    32. 32. Systemic approaches These focus on the feedback loops within the family system that cause “double bind” or “catch 22” situations that cause the presenting problems. The solution is the problem focus The Structures (Munichian) or feedback loops (Milan) cause the issues.
    33. 33. Research Methods of Psychology Experimental Method Quasi-experimental Method Correlational Method The Naturalistic Observation Method The Survey Method Standardized Tests Case Studies Archival Research
    34. 34. Experimental Method The main objective of an experiment is to discover the effect of an independent variable (IV) on a dependent variable (DV). IV: variable to be manipulated; independent of what the participant does DV: variable being measured; depends on the IV Ex. Effect of Music on Memory
    35. 35. Quasi-Experimental Method Similar to the experimental method except that random assignment of participants is not possible.
    36. 36. Correlational Method The objective of this method is to determine whether two or more variables are associated or related to each other. The variables are first measured, after which a correlational analysis or technique (e.g. Pearson r) is conducted to determine the relationship.
    37. 37. The Naturalistic Observation Method Involves observing the phenomenon of interest as it occurs naturally. Ex. Observing primates in their natural environment, systematically observing the behavior of newborn babies, and observing couple’s public display of affection (PDA) in the school campus.
    38. 38. The Survey Method Employs either a written questionnaire or an interview schedule. Ex. Political opinions, sexual attitudes, or product preferences Allows us to gather data about experiences, feelings, thoughts, and motives that are hard to observe directly.
    39. 39. Standardized Tests Respondents are required to answer a series of questions and their responses scored to reflect something about their persons. A respondent’s score is compared with those of the others who took the same test. Ex. Otis Test, Stanford-Binet Test (IQ)  Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Indigenous Tests: Panukat ng Pagkataong Pilipino (PPP), Panukat ng Ugali at Pagkatao (PUP)
    40. 40. Case Studies Descriptive record of an individual’s experiences or behavior, or both, as kept by an observer. The main objective is to obtain a case history of the person being studied.
    41. 41. Archival Research Written records (i.e. public and private documents), statistical archives, and physical traces of human beings are systematically studied in lieu of actual behaviors. Exs. Diaries, letters, paintings, books, poems, newspaper or magazine articles, movies, and speeches.
    42. 42. Conclusion: Is psychology Scientific?  A range of objective approaches are used Variables are controlled Observation leads induction and deduction Theories are tested against real world Practice is evidence based on observation “Common factors” evidence base to counselling.
    43. 43. Readings For Seminar 1. Glassman, W & Hadad, M.(2009) Approaches to psychology (5th edition). Chap 1 2. McLeod J. (2009) An Introduction to Counselling. Chap 1& 2 3. Dryden et al (2000) Counselling in the United Kingdom past, present and future
    44. 44. Advanced reading 1. Feltham, C (2010) Critical Thinking in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Chap 54 2. Map of the history of psychology: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/1900s.ht ml 3. Feltham (2010) chap 54 Is counselling scientific?