Unit 1 Study Guide and Review: The History and Methods of Psychology

Identify the role of major researchers and theorists in the development of the field of psychology, including William James, Wilhelm Wundt, Sigmund Freud, Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Köhler, Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, B.F. Skinner, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Noam Chomsky, and Erik Erickson
  • What is the importance of Wilhelm Wundt and William James in the development of psychology?
  • What were Sigmund Freud's influences on psychology?
  • How did research by Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and B.F. Skinner differ from previous work in psychology? What influences does behaviorism have to this day?

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. The origin of the field can be traced back to Wilhelm Wundt and his laboratory in Germany. William James was the first American psychologist. The field evolved from Wundt's focus on introspection (understanding internal processes to stimuli) to Freud, Erikson, Piaget's exploration of broader concepts like child development, to Pavlov, Skinner, Maslow, Roger's study of human behavior and motivation and Chomsky's exploration of language acquisition.

In Europe, Sigmund Freud developed his theory of psychosexual development, highlighting the important role of childhood experiences in human personality development. His theory remains influential to this day, although many oppose his view that childhood experiences and behaviors determine a person's personality during adulthood.

Behaviorism was developed in the United States by Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and B.F. Skinner. It became a major emphasis in psychology, and contributed to our current understanding of why we repeat certain behaviors as opposed to others. Principles of behaviorism such as reinforcement and shaping are still used today, especially in educational and clinical settings.

To review, see section 1.2 of the textbook and "History of Psychology".

Characterize the following schools of thought: Structuralism, Functionalism, Behaviorism, Psychoanalysis, Humanism, and Gestalt Psychology
  • What is the difference between structuralism and functionalism?
  • What are the basic tenets of Gestalt psychology?
  • Why is behaviorism so influential in psychology's history?
  • What are the basic tenets of humanism?

William Wundt, the founder of the field of psychology, was a structuralist; he assumed we can only understand human behavior if we break it into parts. His method of "introspection" helped him study the experience of perception. William James, the first American psychologist, was a functionalist; he emphasized humans' adaptive responses to the environment.

Sigmund Freud developed a theory of psychosexual development and was the founder of psychoanalysis. He viewed that early childhood experiences significantly impact future personality development. Subsequently, patients undergoing psychoanalytic therapy will be asked to think about their childhood experiences. Another major focus in this approach is uncovering unconscious and subconscious memories and experiences.

Humanism emerged largely in response to the deterministic schools of behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers focused on the innate potential for good within humans, and were influential in developing this school of thought.

Gestalt psychology, as founded by Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Köhler, was very popular in Europe. Gestalt psychologists focused on human perception and concluded that we tend to perceive the "sum of all parts" rather than individual differences.

American psychologists focused more on behaviorism, the study of the mechanisms that shape and reinforce behavior. Ivan Pavlov studied behaviorism with dogs, and introduced the concept of "classical conditioning", a learning process of two (or more) associated stimuli. John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner explored "operant conditioning", learning through punishments and rewards, and focused on the influence of reinforcements and punishments on human and animal behavior. During the 1950's and 60's, behaviorism was one of the most popular schools of psychology.

To review, see section 1.2 of the textbook.

Describe the scientific method, research methods in psychology, and the principles of scientific experiment planning and design
  • What is the scientific method? What is its role in psychology?
  • What research methods are popular in the field of psychology?
  • What is the difference between cross-sectional and longitudinal research?

Social science researchers use the scientific method to explore phenomena in a systematic and objective way. The steps of the scientific method (hypothesis, research, observation, theory) influence and build on one another in a continuous cycle. Using the scientific method ensures that research is done systematically and can be replicated by others.

There are a number of popular research methods in psychology in which researchers systematically observe phenomena, such as naturalistic observation. This method is particularly popular in animal research, or when an individual might not want to disclose their motivations. Psychologists also make use of surveys in research, such as by asking participants to fill out forms to rate their experiences. Interviews are used to gather in-depth information from participants about particular experiences.

Most psychological research tends to be cross-sectional, meaning that a phenomenon is studied at one point in time. This is primarily due to the large costs associated with longitudinal research, research that spans over a longer period of time. Longitudinal research, while more costly and associated with more research difficulties, allows researchers to draw firmer conclusions.

To review, see sections 2.1 and 2.2 of the textbook.

Understand data analysis techniques and experimental methods commonly used in psychology research
  • What is a correlation? Why does a correlation not imply causation?
  • What are the components of an experimental research design?

A correlation is a statistic that measures the degree of association between two variables. A correlation merely tells research if and how two variables are related, such as exercise and happiness. Correlation does NOT imply that one variable causes another. For example, if there is a positive correlation between happiness and exercise, one cannot therefore conclude that happiness is derived from exercise. This is because other variables that are not measured may also have an impact. Cross-sectional research traditionally uncovers correlations, while longitudinal research can provide more insight on causation.

Psychologists undertaking an experimental research design make use of separate control and experimental groups, randomly assigning participants to each. Psychologists manipulate the independent variable so that one group is exposed to it but not the other. For example, in pharmaceutical research, the experimental group might receive a new drug while the control group receives a placebo. Researchers then measure the dependent variable (the outcome) to explore what effect, if any, the independent variable had.

To review, see section 2.3 of the textbook.

Unit 1 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Structuralism
  • Functionalism
  • Behaviorism
  • Gestalt psychology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Humanism
  • Cross-sectional research
  • Longitudinal research
  • Correlation
  • Experimental design
  • Correlation
  • Validity
  • Reliability
  • Hypothesis
  • Independent variable
  • Dependent variable
  • Random assignment
  • Research ethics
  • Survey
  • Observation
  • Participants
  • Bias
  • Experimental group
  • Control group
Last modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 4:10 PM