This interdisciplinary field asks questions about topics traditionally of interest to social psychologists, such as person perception, attitude change, and emotion regulation. It does so by using methods traditionally employed by cognitive neuroscientists, such as functional brain imaging and neuropsychological patient analysis. By integrating the theories and methods of its parent disciplines , SCN tries to understand the interactions between social behaviour, cognition, and brain mechanisms.
The term epigenetic is used to describe the dynamic interplay between genes and the environment during the course of development. In contemporary use, the term refers to efforts to explain individual differences in physical as well as behavioral traits e. Thus, while the genome provides the possibilities, the environment determines which genes become activated. In the early 21st century there emerged evidence for the important role of the environment e.
Epigenetic factors may serve as a critical biological link between the experiences of an individual and subsequent individual differences in brain and behaviour, both within and across generations. Epigenetic research points to the pathways through which environmental influence and psychological experiences may be transformed and transmitted at the biological level. It thus provides another route for the increasingly deep analysis of mind-brain-behaviour links at multiple levels of analysis, from the psychological to the biological.
The discoveries and advances of psychological science keep expanding its scope and tools and changing its structure and organization. For most of the 20th century, psychological science consisted of a variety of specialized subfields with little interconnection. They ranged from clinical psychology to the study of individual differences and personality, to social psychology, to industrial-organizational psychology , to community psychology , to the experimental study of such basic processes as memory, thinking, perception and sensation, to animal behaviour , and to physiological psychology.
In larger academic psychology departments, the list got longer. The various subfields, each with its own distinct history and specialized mission, usually were bundled together within academic departments, essentially a loose federation of unrelated disciplines, each with its own training program and research agenda. Late in the 20th century this situation began to change, fueled in part by the rapid growth of developments in cognitive science and social cognitive neuroscience, including the discovery of new methods for studying cognition, emotion, the brain, and genetic influences on mind and behaviour.
In the early years of the 21st century, psychology became an increasingly integrative science at the intersection or hub of diverse other disciplines, from biology , neurology , and economics to sociology and anthropology. Likewise, advances in cognitive neuroscience led to the subfield of neuroeconomics. In another direction, links deepened between psychology and law. This connection reflected new findings in psychology about the nature of human social behaviour, as well as the fallibility of eyewitness testimony in legal trials and the distortions in retrospective memory.
Likewise, with recognition of the role of mental processes and self-care behaviour in the maintenance of health, the fields of behavioral medicine and health psychology emerged. These subfields study links between psychological processes, social behaviour, and health. At the same time, within psychology, old sub-disciplinary boundaries were crossed more freely. Interdisciplinary teams often work on a common problem using different methods and tools that draw on multiple levels of analysis, from the social to the cognitive and to the biological.
An extremely wide range of diverse research methods are used by psychological scientists to pursue their particular goals. To study verbal and nonverbal behaviour and mental processes in humans, these include questionnaires, ratings, self-reports, and case studies; tests of personality, attitudes, and intelligence ; structured interviews; daily diary records; and direct observation and behaviour sampling outside the laboratory.
Diverse laboratory measures are used to study perception, attention , memory, decision making, self-control, delay of gratification , and many other visual, cognitive, and emotional processes, at levels of both conscious and automatic or unconscious information processing.
The astonishing growth in computational power that began in the final decades of the 20th century transformed research on methods of data analysis in psychology. More-flexible and more-powerful general linear models and mixed models became available. Similarly, for nonexperimental data, multiple regression analysis began to be augmented by structural equation models that allow for chains and webs of interrelationships and for analysis of extremely complex data.
The availability of free, fast, and flexible software also began to change teaching in the measurement area. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article.
Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Read More on This Topic. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: Finally, psychological factors are the ways in which human thinking and thought patterns influence buying decisions.
Consumers are influenced, for example, by their motivation to fulfill a need. In addition, the ways in which an individual acquires and retains information will affect the…. The most important aspect of colour in daily life is probably the one that is least defined and most variable. It involves aesthetic and psychological responses to colour and influences art, fashion, commerce, and even physical and emotional sensations. Such psychological approaches range from very general, often merely intuitive assertions regarding human nature to complex analyses utilizing the concepts and techniques of modern psychology.
Probably the best known recent example of such theorizing is the large-scale attempt made in the midth century…. More About Psychology 41 references found in Britannica articles Assorted References homosexuality theories In homosexuality: Retrieved 3 November The Nature of Melancholy: From Aristotle to Kristeva. Retrieved 2 November Retrieved 27 April Cognitive Therapy of Depression. Jundi-Shapur, bimaristans, and the rise of academic medical centres. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 99 12 , — The International Medical Journal.
Journal of Religion and Health. Retrieved 28 April Archived from the original on 10 May Retrieved 17 October An Introduction to the History of Psychology. Retrieved 15 March A History of Modern Psychology 10th ed. Archived from the original on 6 September Notable Black American Scientistis.
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Journal of Consulting Psychology. The Positive Affects Vol. In Brazelton T, Youngman M. Instead, the notion that they need stimulation has become part of ordinary knowledge about child rearing and generated a multimillion dollar industry in the production of infant educational toys.
Sometimes technological developments can lead to entirely new research directions. These new directions might not have been envisaged through the application of common sense or using older evidence-based methods. One example of such a technology-driven new direction is neuropsychology and the increasing application of brain-imaging techniques as a way of furthering understanding of behaviour and mental processes.
Other examples are advances in genetics and the decoding of the human genome, as well as computer-aided analysis of videotaped observations. What do we mean when we say that psychology is an evidence-based discipline? The basic principle is that it is necessary to have some means of evaluating the answers to psychological research questions. Sherratt and her colleagues Sherratt et al. We have used a version of this that we call the cycle of enquiry see Figure 1. The answers to these questions are claims. These claims have to be clearly identified so that they can be thoroughly assessed.
Assessing claims requires the amassing of information called data. The evidence then has to be interpreted and evaluated. The process of evaluation often generates new questions to be addressed as well as providing support for, or disconfirmation of, the original claims. Since psychology is concerned with the full range of what makes us human, it is not surprising that the scope of the discipline is extensive.
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Psychology has always been a diverse, multi-perspective discipline. This partly results from its origins. Psychological questions were asked first by philosophers, then increasingly by biologists, physiologists and medical scientists. In , Charles Darwin, the biologist who later put forward the theory of evolution, was doing the first scientific infant-observation study, observing and writing about his son's behaviours and emotions in descriptive psychological terms.
Darwin went on to become a renowned biological scientist whose methods were essentially the painstaking collection, description, categorisation and cataloguing of biological diversity. These were the data that later provided the evidence for his theory of evolution. Wilhelm Wundt is considered by many to have started psychology as a formal discipline when he opened the first psychological laboratory in in Leipzig, Germany.
He was interested both in philosophical and physiological questions and, as a result, advocated a range of methodological approaches to collecting evidence. His own methods included use of the scientific experimental method, introspection asking people to think about and report on their inner feelings and experiences , and ethnography observations of human culture. William James, an American professor trained in philosophy, medicine and physiology, who published the influential Principles of Psychology in , also advocated a multi-method approach that included introspection and observation.
Sigmund Freud, the first psychoanalyst, was a medical doctor and research physiologist who opened his psychology consulting room in Vienna in Freud, working at the same time as Wundt and James, pioneered a method that involved listening closely to people's personal accounts of their symptoms, emotions, and their lives more generally, asking insightful questions and attending to the particulars of language use and unconscious phenomena. The methods established by Darwin, Wundt, James and Freud — observation and description, experimentation, introspection and a focus on language — provided psychology with the beginnings of its diverse traditions.
Some of these continue to be influential, whilst others have lost favour or been substantially developed. Although psychology has diverse roots, psychologists with different approaches and methods have not always happily coexisted. There have been many heated debates about the scope of the subject matter and methods that can be claimed to be psychological. But it has not just been individuals with their own inspirations and beliefs who have introduced particular ways of doing psychology. Different historical periods, cultures and countries generate their own assumptions about what to study and how knowledge, including psychological knowledge is, therefore, situated in time and place.
A graphic example of this concerns the impact of the Second World War on the development of Western psychology. These eminent psychologists brought their substantial influence — their ideas and European way of thinking about psychology — to universities in the USA where psychology was expanding. And then the horror at what had happened in Nazi Germany led some psychologists to direct their research to issues like authoritarianism, conformity, prejudice, leadership, small-group dynamics and attitudes.
It is not only cataclysmic events that have led to change and development in psychology. There have also been gradual cultural shifts in ways of thinking about how knowledge should be gained and evaluated. It is perhaps not surprising that different historical periods can produce dominant trends in psychology that occur almost simultaneously in different countries — no doubt influenced by international contacts between psychologists. It is striking, for example, how laboratories devoted to systematic psychological research were initially founded in several Western countries within about 10 years of each other see Table 1.
But the climate of thought can also be very different in different countries and the topics and methods of psychological research, at a given time, may be very different across different countries. In psychology, different historical times have also been characterised by the dominance of different methods and theories. For example, dissatisfaction with the limitations of introspection as a method of enquiry — resulting from the difficulty of reporting on conscious experience — gradually developed in the early twentieth century.
This difficulty with the method of looking inward into the conscious mind and with the kinds of data that can be collected by this means led to the rise of behaviourism , which became dominant in the s and s. Behaviourism insists that psychologists should study only behaviours that are observable from the outside and should make no inferences at all about mental states and what might be going on inside the head. Many although not all researchers in psychology began to take a greater interest in what goes on in the mind.
This change of perspective led to what is known as cognitive psychology. The shift began with the study of learning, but became established as the study of information processing associated with mental activities such as attention, perception and memory. Researchers in cognitive psychology did not return to introspective methods but devised other ways of testing their ideas about mental processes.
They have, for the most part, continued the tradition of using experimental methods but have adapted them to investigate what goes on in the mind; for example, by finding out how well people remember words presented in lists of related words e. A clear behavioural measure the numbers of words remembered can be used to make inferences about how the lists have been processed and how memory works.
This scientific experimental method continues to be dominant within psychology. More recently, there has been a second cognitive revolution; this time the shift being a broadening of focus from mental processes to studying how meaning is understood through cultural practices and language. As a result there are a variety of methods available to psychologists who want to study language and culture.
All areas of psychology are increasingly concerned with investigating issues relevant to people's everyday functioning and their social and cultural contexts. The practical and professional application of psychology is important in many areas of life. Psychologists work as professional advisors, consultants or therapists in a range of settings such as education, the workplace, sport and mental health; and they increasingly research areas of immediate practical concern such as dyslexia, stress, police interviewing of eye-witnesses, and autism.
So, whilst earlier traditions like psychoanalysis or behaviourism still contribute and produce important innovations, the discipline of psychology has continued to develop in ways which have fostered an ever broader range of perspectives. As a result, psychology is now seen as legitimately multifaceted, with many traditions working in parallel, and also drawing on other disciplines and their methods for inspiration.
This course aims to increase your knowledge of psychology and provide you with the tools to think about psychological issues. Psychological research and knowledge may sometimes be developed from common sense, but, as a discipline, psychology is different from common sense in that it is evidence-based and the result of systematic research. Psychological knowledge, like all knowledge, is a product of different cultures, historical periods, ways of thinking, developing technologies and the acceptability of different methods and kinds of evidence.
We have seen that psychology is an evidence-based enterprise and we have also seen that disputes about what should count as evidence have had an important impact on the development of psychology as a discipline. For example, the rise of behaviourism was driven by the idea that only observable behaviour is legitimate data for psychology because only data that can be observed by others, and agreed upon, can be objective.
Many other disciplines have had less trouble with this issue, partly because they have fewer choices about which methods to use, what kinds of data to collect and what kinds of evidence to accept. Think, for example, of mechanical engineering, chemistry or geology and compare these with psychology. The range of choices open to psychologists arises from the complexity of their subject matter — understanding and explaining humans and, to a lesser extent, other species.
Psychology is unusual because its subject matter ourselves is not only extremely complex but also reactive, and because we are inevitably involved in it, personally, socially and politically. This involvement is part of what fuels debates about how to do psychology and what counts as legitimate data. This section will give some examples of how the unusual nature of psychology as a subject influences the practice of research.
Psychology aims to provide understandings of us, as humans. At a personal level this closeness to our private concerns draws us in and excites us. However, since psychologists are humans, and hence are researching issues just as relevant to themselves as to their research participants, they can be attracted towards researching certain topics and maybe away from others. This is perhaps more evident for psychological research that is most clearly of social relevance. At a societal level all kinds of social, cultural and political pressures, explicit or subtle, can influence or dictate what kinds of psychology, which topics and which theories, are given priority and funding.
Until relatively recently, for example, it was difficult to obtain funding for research that was based on qualitative methods. This was because there was an erroneous belief in psychology, and in the culture more generally, that qualitative research could only help in gaining very specific and idiosyncratic understandings of particular individuals and could not make any useful contribution to broader understandings of people and psychological processes.
At a more personal level, what might psychologists bring to their theorising and research? Many writers have speculated on what might have influenced Freud's work. One of his basic propositions was that all small boys, at approximately 5 years of age, are in love with and possessive about their mothers, seeing their fathers as frightening rivals. We don't have to think too hard to realise that there could be a link between Freud's idea that the Oedipus complex is universal applies to all male children in all cultures and Freud's own childhood.
He was the eldest son of a young and reputedly beautiful second wife to his elderly father. Another example, where the early personal life of the influential psychologist, Erik Erikson, may have affected his later theorising about the difficulty of finding an identity during adolescence.
It is possible also that our desires, beliefs and ideologies define not only what we want to study but also how we interpret our findings. Bradley alerts us to this possibility in relation to the study of children when he argues that different theorists have found support for their own theories from their observations of children. This indicates that personal values and beliefs are important in influencing the ways in which we view the world.
Suppose you were engaged in an observational study of the effect on children's aggressive behaviour of viewing aggression on television. If you felt strongly about this issue, your observations of the way that children play after watching aggressive programmes might be biased by what you believe. It would be difficult to be objective because your own feelings, beliefs and values your subjectivity would have affected the evidence.
We shall see later in this course how the experimental method has endeavoured to minimise this kind of subjectivity, whilst other approaches — those concerned essentially with meanings and with people's inner worlds — have used subjectivity people's reflections on themselves itself as a form of data. We have already seen that, from the very beginnings of psychology as a formal discipline, psychologists have used experimental methods, observations and introspection. In one form or another these methods continue to be central to psychology. However, as the research questions asked by psychologists have changed over time, research methods have broadened to include a range of different methods that produce different kinds of data.
Outsider viewpoints gained from experiments and observations and insider viewpoints from introspection, interviews and analyses of what people say and how they say it all flourish as part of psychology in the twenty-first century. What are the legitimate data of a multi-perspective psychology? What can different kinds of data usefully bring to psychology? Behaviour can cover a very wide range of activities. Think about examples such as a rat finding its way through a maze to a pellet of food, a participant in a memory experiment writing down words five minutes after having done a memorising task, a small group of children who are observed whilst they, jointly, use a computer to solve a problem, a teenager admitting to frequent truancy on a questionnaire.
Some of these examples are behaviours that are very precisely defined and involve measurements — how fast the rat runs, how many words are remembered. This would be classed as quantitative research i. Other behaviours, such as the children learning to solve a problem using a computer, are less well defined but can be observed and described in detail, qualitatively i. The truancy example involves a self-report about behaviour that is not actually seen by the researcher. These particular examples of behaviours as data come from quite different psychological research traditions which you will learn about in the chapters that follow.
The important point here is that behaviour is, in principle, observable — and often measurable in relatively objective ways — from the outside. A second kind of data is people's inner experiences, including their feelings, beliefs and motives. These cannot be directly seen from the outside; they remain private unless freely spoken about or expressed in some other way. Examples of these inner experiences include feelings, thoughts, images, representations, dreams, fantasies, beliefs and motivations or reasons.
These are only accessible to others via verbal or written reports or as inferred from behaviours such as non-verbal communications. Access to this insider viewpoint relies on people's ability and willingness to convey what they are experiencing, and it is always problematic to study. And parts of our inner worlds may be unavailable to consciousness. The psychoanalytic approach suggests, for example, that much of what we do is driven by unconscious motives, making it difficult or impossible to give accounts of our motivations.
Notice, however, that there is a paradox here. Although the data are essentially from the inside, the very process of collecting and interpreting the data inevitably introduces an outsider viewpoint. This is what happens most of the time in psychoanalytic sessions. This comes from biological psychology and includes biochemical analyses of hormones, cellular analyses, decoding of the human genome and neuropsychological technologies such as brain-imaging techniques.
The data that can be collected from the various forms of brain imaging provide direct evidence about structures in the brain and brain functioning, enabling direct links to be made with behaviours and mental processes. For example, you may read about different kinds of failure of remembering, each of which can be shown to be associated with injury to particular locations in the brain. A familiar example of material evidence is the lie-detector technique where the amount of sweat that is excreted under stress changes the electrical conductivity of the skin.
Retrieved 17 October This could constitute an ethical dilemma. Researchers then work out a score for each participant that gives information about their intelligence or personality. It would be difficult to be objective because your own feelings, beliefs and values your subjectivity would have affected the evidence. Consumers are influenced, for example, by their motivation to fulfill a need.
The actual raw data are the measures of the amount of current that passes through the skin, but these data are a direct indication of the amount of sweat produced, which in turn is an indicator of stress and so assumed to be evidence of lying. The fourth kind of data is essentially symbolic — symbolic creations of minds, such as the texts people have written, their art, what they have said recorded and transcribed , the exact ways they use language and the meanings they have communicated. These symbolic data are the products of minds, but once created they can exist and be studied and analysed quite separately from the particular minds that created them.
These kinds of data are used to provide evidence of meanings, and the processes that construct and communicate meanings. You may meet an example of this kind of data, and how it is used, where the language — the actual form of words — used to describe an identity is shown to give a specific meaning to that identity.
And the aim of the research is to understand the process of meaning-making rather than understand the inner world of the particular person who spoke the words. The point about these approaches is that they see language as constructive — the speakers or writers , those with the inside viewpoint, are not always aware of what they are constructing. In general we could say that this fourth kind of data is analysed from an outsider viewpoint that attempts to take the insider viewpoint seriously, but does not privilege it.
We have looked briefly at the kinds of data that psychologists use as the basis for their evidence and we now offer an overview of the methods used to collect these data. Learning about methods is a skill necessary to building up psychological knowledge and moving beyond the base of common-sense knowledge about people that we all use. This section will outline the fundamentals of research procedures and provide you with a terminology — the beginnings of a research language that will help you to understand psychology as well as to evaluate research findings presented in the media.
What distinguishes psychological research from common sense is that psychologists approach information and knowledge in a systematic and consciously articulated way.
They use rules and procedures about how to build and apply theories, how to design studies to test hypotheses, how to collect data and use them as evidence, and how to evaluate all forms of knowledge. The start of the research process requires a gradual narrowing of the field. A topic has to be chosen, concepts have to be defined and the aims of the research have to be clearly specified. The process of choosing a topic or area to research will be influenced by one of several factors that usually interrelate.
In practice, researchers come to a field of study already constrained by many factors. They bring with them their personal concerns. They may be part of a research group where the topic is already defined and the project is under way. They are likely to be working with a particular set of theoretical assumptions by virtue of their location — in time and in a culture, a society, a particular university, and a particular interest group. Certain types of research question are fashionable; some attract funding, some don't.
What all this means is that research is done within a context that is made up of assumptions about the subject matter and the ways in which it should be studied. This kind of context is called a paradigm.
Researchers have to ensure that research is relevant and establish what research has already been done on the topic by examining the existing literature. This helps to ensure that they do not unintentionally repeat what has previously been done or found to be a dead end. The research question itself has to be answerable; many questions about human psychology that might seem to make good sense could not usefully be researched.
It does not, for example, distinguish whether we should look for parts of the brain that are associated with memory, or consider the mental strategies that facilitate memory, or investigate the social and emotional motivations that make it more likely that we will remember some things rather than others. It is then possible to formulate a hypothesis a testable claim about the relationship between brain functioning and memory for faces.
We may, for example, hypothesise that more areas of the brain will be involved in remembering familiar compared with unfamiliar faces. Then we have to work out exactly what is going to count as a familiar, as opposed to an unfamiliar, face; for example, close family members in an ongoing relationship as opposed to people never before encountered. We also have to work out how the raw data of the brain images will be interpreted and how they will be used — will it be a comparison of locations of activity or a measurement of the extent of brain activity?
This process of defining concepts and making them useable in practice is called operationalising the research problem. Many areas of psychology require that researchers generate hypotheses before they start the process of research investigation. These are usually the areas of psychology and the traditions where research is already well-established.
But in a new area or in a tradition where exploration and detailed description is itself the research goal, research begins without specific hypotheses. Darwin's work of describing, cataloguing and categorising species is an example of research in what was then a new area, before any theory was devised and therefore without hypotheses.