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WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY?

To be human is to be curious about ourselves and the world around

us. Psychology.s ancestors therefore date to the world.s early writings.

Before 300 B.C., the Greek naturalist and philosopher Aristotle

theorized about learning and memory, motivation and emotion,

perception and personality. Today we chuckle at some of his guesses,

like a meal making us sleepy by causing gas and heat to collect around

the source of our personality, the heart. But credit Aristotle with asking

the right questions.

At the dawn of modern science in the 1600s, British philosophers

adopted a down-to-earth approach to knowledge, rooted in observation.

Thinking about thinking continued to evolve until the birth of

psychology as we know it, on a December day in 1879. In a small room

on the third floor of a shabby building at Germany.s University of Leipzig, two young men were helping a long-faced, austere, middleaged

professor, Wilhelm Wundt, create an experimental apparatus.

Wundt was seeking to measure the .atoms of the mind. . the fastest and simplest

mental processes. Thus began what many consider psychology.s first

experiment, launching the first psychological institute, staffed by Wundt

and psychology.s first graduate students.

The young science of psychology thus evolved from the more

established fields of biology and philosophy. Wundt was both a

physiologist and a philosopher. Darwin was an English naturalist. Ivan

Pavlov, who pioneered the study of learning, was a Russian physiologist.

Sigmund Freud, renowned personality theorist, was an American

physician.

So what is psychology? With activities ranging from recording

nerve-cell activity to psychotherapy, psychology is not easily defined.

Psychology began as the science of mental life. Wundt.s basic research

tool became introspection . self-examination of one.s own emotional

states, feelings, and thoughts. Thus, until the 1920s, psychology was

defined as .the science of mental life. Let.s unpack this definition. Behavior is anything an organism

does . any action we can observe and record. Yelling, smiling, blinking,

sweating, talking, and questionnaire-making are all observable

behaviors. Mental processes are the internal subjective experiences we

infer from behavior . sensations, perceptions, dreams, thoughts,

beliefs, and feelings.

For many psychologists, the key word in psychology.s definition is

science. Psychology is less a set of findings than a way of asking and

answering questions. As a science psychology aims to sift opinions and

evaluate ideas with careful observation and rigorous analysis. In its quest

to describe and explain nature (human nature included), psychological

science welcomes hunches and plausible-sounding theories. And it puts

them to the test.


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 136


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