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Introduction to Psychology
I. What is Psychology?
I. 1. Definition
The term “psychology” was used for the first time in the fifteenth century at the time
when modern ways of thinking first began to change the mediaeval traditions. “Psychology”
is made of “psyche that refers to all the qualities of a man that are not physical. Psychology is
both an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes of
behavior. It is also the study of cognitions, emotions, and behavior.
Psychology covers a wide range of information so selected as to give a picture of the
total behavior of human beings and less developed organisms. Behavior involves all that can
be observed including: acts, responses, activities, reactions, movements, processes,
operations … or any measurable response of an organism.
Psychologists use careful observation and rigorous experiments to find the causes of
various behaviors of human beings and other animal species. Using methods of scientific
research and inquiry, they seek to better understand how people behave in specific situations,
how and why we think the way we do, and how emotions develop and what impact they have
on our interactions with others. Doing so, they often give precise and valid answers to the
questions about the underlying processes that determine the complexity of our behaviors.
Psychologists study, for instance, such phenomenon as perception, cognition, emotion,
personality, behavior and interpersonal relationship. This is usually the main concern of the
research psychologists who often work in research organizations or universities.

I. 2. Importance of psychology
Psychology is very important because it involves questioning reality; asking such
questions as “How come?”, “Why is it so?”, “What would happen if…?” etc. It is also a way
of thinking about how living creatures cope with their environment and interact with each
other. For this, it is related to other disciplines such as philosophy, biology, sociology,
physiology, and anthropology.
But most important is the fact that psychology is practical; it can be used to improve
the quality of human life. Psychology is more than a mere description of how the mind
functions, of what causes a certain action, or the effects of a given event on a person’s
behavior. It includes prescriptions for change. Therefore, psychology is pragmatic because
psychologists are concerned about how to apply their scientifically gathered wisdom to
improve the human condition.
In other words, psychology is both an approach to gathering information about behavior
and a sort of source of knowledge obtained through research. Therefore it tries to apply such
knowledge to the different spheres of human activity, including issues related to daily life
such as family, education, and work. For instance, industrial-organizational psychologists
work with businesses and organizations to help them become more productive, effective, and
efficient, and to assist them in working with their employees and their customers.
Practitioners, on the other hand, or counseling and clinical psychologists, work with
individuals, couples, families, and small groups to help them feel less depressed, less anxious,
become more productive or motivated, and overcome issues which prevent them from living
up to their potential.

II-Why study psychology?

Students are usually attracted to the study of psychology because they hope to gain a
better understanding of people. They also hope to discover new ways of looking at oneself
and of interpreting the behavior of other people. In general, the study of psychology has five
basic goals:

II.1 Describing what really happens

The first goal is to observe behavior and describe what was observed as objectively as
possible. Indeed, conclusions must be based on objective observation. And observation must
be reported in such a way that others’ knowledge of what you are describing is as identical to
yours as possible. In other words, if they were able to observe the same events, their
descriptions would correspond to yours.

II.2 Explain what happens

Description is not enough; we need to know not merely what happens but how two or
more events are related. While descriptions come from observable data, psychologists must
go beyond what is obvious and explain their observations. In other words, why did the
subject do what he or she did? The quest of science is a search for patterns of regularity, for
consistent relationships. In other words, “To what extent is this particular behavior different?
The process of explanation involves finding a context in which the phenomena that have been
observed make sense.

III. 3 Predicting what will happen

In addition to their desire to understand nature, human beings throughout history
sought to know the future – to predict and prepare for events before they happen. Today, we
rely mainly on science for our predictions of the future. So, once we know what happens, and
why it happens, we can begin to speculate what will happen in the future. There’s an old
saying, which very often holds true:
"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior." Accurate prediction helps us
guide our present behavior so as to avoid danger, pain and disappointment and gain security,
pleasure, and satisfaction. Successful prediction reduces uncertainty and gives us a sense of
understanding what is going around and within us.

II. 4 Controlling what happens

Once one behavior has been objectively described and adequately explained, and
accurate predictions have been made of conditions that will result in another fall, a critical
issue remains, that of control. This is a central issue to many psychologists because of the
very “usefulness” characteristic of psychology. The latter, as already seen, is a practical
discipline often concerned with “problems behaviors” or “problem situations” and how to
change or improve them. Fear, anxiety, suicide, mental illness, racism, and violence are
topics or problems psychologists study with an eye toward change.
As such, once we know what happens, why it happens and what is likely to happen in
the future, we can excerpt control over it. In other words, if we know you choose abusive
partners because your father was abusive, we can assume you will choose another abusive
partner, and can therefore intervene to change this negative behavior.

II. 5 Improving the quality of life

Not only do psychologists attempt to control behavior, they want to do so in a positive
manner, they want to improve a person’s life, not make it worse. This is not always the case,
but it should always be the intention.
To this end, psychologists have begun to work with architects and urban planners to
design housing projects for people to use not, instead of as physical spaces to put people in.
other psychologists consult with educators on ways of making the new child care program
more effective. Some others are collaborating with medical researchers to develop more
effective ways for harried men and women to cope with their life stresses. In addition,
psychology and law has become a field in which the human element is being taken seriously
along with the traditional legal issues.

III. Methods of psychology

Psychology is not an absolute science and is often referred to as a 'Social Science'. This
is because it deals with human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and as we are all aware,
humans are not always predictable and reliable. Instead, we interact with our environment in
ways that alter how we behave, how we think, and how we feel. If we change one thing,
everything else will change.
Research plays an extremely important role in psychology. Research helps us
understand what makes people think, feel, and act in certain ways; allows us to categorize
psychological disorders in order to understand the symptoms and impact on the individual
and society; helps us to understand how intimate relationships, development, schools, family,
peers, and religion affect us as individuals and as a society; and helps us to develop effective
treatments to improve the quality of life of individuals and groups.
To obtain valid and reliable results, psychologists must follow systematic scientific
techniques. The scientific method is an approach to gathering information that limits errors in the
conclusions made about natural events and human nature. In other words, it involves the process
of appropriately framing and properly answering questions used by practioners of psychology
and those engaged in other scientific fields to come to an understanding about the world.
The scientific method usually follows three main steps: 1) identifying certain
question(s) of interest, 2) formulating an explanation, 3) testing it or carrying out research
designed to lend support to or refute the explanation (hypothesis) and drawing conclusions. A
possible fourth step is reporting what has been found in such a way that another investigator
could repeat the study to verify or challenge the conclusions.
III. 1 The Experimental Method
There are several techniques used in scientific inquiries. But the only or probably most
appropriate way that psychologists can establish cause-an-effect relationship through research
is by carrying out an experiemt.
An experiment is a study carried out to investigate the relationship between two or
more factors by deliberately producing a change in one factor and observing the effect that
change ahs over other factors. Moreover, the experimental method involves a set of
procedures that help justify accepting or rejecting conclusions based on observation.

III. 1. 1. Identifying a Question(s) of Interest:

When using the scientific mehtod, psychologists start with the kinds of observations we
are all familiar with. Then they ask questions about the nature and causes of behaviour.
Examples of questions can be: What causes people to smoke cigarettes?; Does consumption
of alcohol affect people’s memories?…
III. 1. 2. Formulate an Explantion
Once a question has been formulated, the next step in the scientfic method involves
developing theories to explain the phenomenon thet has been observed.
 Develop a Theory is a broad explanation and prediction concerning a
phenomenon of interest. It can also be defined as a general principle put forward to
explain how certain separate facts are related. In other words, a theory is an "idea
about a relationship."
 Define Variables: In order to test whether a theory is correct or not, we need
to do research. Theories are stated in general terms, so we need to define more
accurately what we will be doing in our experiment. To do this, we need to define the
variables in our theory so that they are testable. Anything that can vary can be
considered a variable. For instance, age can be considered a variable because age can
take different values for different people or for the same person at different times.
Similarly, country can be considered a variable because a person's country can be
assigned a value. Every experiment has two types of variables:
 Independent Variable (IV)– the variable that is manipulated by the experimenter
(input variable)
 Dependent Variable (DV)– the outcome variable (results of the experiment)
 Develop a Hypothesis: By defining our variables that we will use to test our
theory we derive at our hypothesis which is a testable form of a theory. So, a
hypothesis is a prediction stated in a way that allows it to be tested. It stems from the
theory, helping to test the underlying validity of a theory. In other words, a hypothesis
describes in concrete (rather than theoretical) terms what you expect will happen in
your study.
To illustrate this, let's say that we have a theory that people who drive sports cars are
more aggressive in theory interactions with others. Our independent variable would be the
type of car you drive. Our dependent variables, the outcome of our research, would be
aggression. We would need to further define aggression so that it is something we can test
such as speeding or cutting other people off in traffic. We now have the basics of our very
simple experiment and can write our Hypothesis: People who drive sports cars drive over the
speed limit more frequently than people who drive other types of cars.
III. 1. 3. Control Vs Experimental Group
In the next step, the researcher is required to select two groups for his experiment. The
experimental group will receive some special treatment – the manipulation of implemented
by the experimenter while the control group will receive either no treatment or a different
one. Using two groups helps researchers not only compare the responses but also rule out the
possibility that something other than the experimenter manipulation produced the results seen
in the experiment.

III. 1. 4. Random Assignment of Subjects

Subjects- as participants in research are known- in each of the experimental and control
group ought to be comparable and as much similar as possible in terms of gender, age, level,
and so forth depending on the specific nature of the experiments itself and the outcomes
expected. Very often assigning subjects to each group is based on chance rather than human
decision, and quite too those subjects are not informed about the purpose of the research to
avoid any sort of bias.
In addition to experiments, psychologists and researchers in psychology can use a
variety of research methods and tools though the former methods.

III. 2. The Case Study

This method involves following a single case, typically over an extended period of
time. It can involve naturalistic observations, and include psychological testing, interviews,
interviews with others, and the application of a treatment or observation. The case study can
be beneficial in several ways for it can gather extensive information, both qualitative and
quantitative. Moreover, it can be helpful in better understanding rare cases or very specific
However, this method presents also some drawbacks. Indeed, only one case is involved
which severely limits the generalization to the rest of the population. In addition, can be very
time consuming and can involve other problems specific to the techniques used.

III. 3. Survey
Survey is very common tools of research and data collection not only in psychology.
They are often used in the news, especially to gather viewer opinions such as during a race
for president. A survey can gather large amounts of information in a relatively short time,
especially now with many surveys being conducted on the internet.
Still survey data is based solely on subjects’ responses which can be inaccurate due to
outright lying, misunderstanding of the question, and even the manner in which the question
is asked
III. 4. Correlational Studies
Correlation means relationship. So, the purpose of a correlational study is to determine
if a relationship exists, what direction the relationship is, and how strong it is. This form of
research can assess the strength of a relationship. It is popular with lay population because it
is relatively easy to explain and understand.
Yet, it cannot make any assumptions of cause and effect (explain how third a variable
can be involved, or how the variables can influence each other).

Domains of Psychology
Psychology includes many sub-fields of study and application concerned with such
areas as human development, sports, health, industry and spirituality.
II. 2. 1. Biopsychology is concerned with the biological basis of behavior.
II. 2. 2. Experimental psychology studies the processes of sensing, perceiving,
learning and thinking about the world.
II. 2. 3. Cognitive psychology deals with the higher mental processes like thinking,
language, memory, problem solving, knowing, reasoning, judging and decision making.
II. 2. 4. Developmental and personality psychology consider the change and
individual differences. While Developmental psychologists study how people grow and
change throughout their life span, personality psychologists considers the consistency and
change in an individual’s behavior as he or she moves through different situations. It also
deals with the differences that distinguish one person’s behavior from another’s when each is
placed in the same situation.
II. 2. 5. Health, clinical and counseling branches of psychology aim at promoting
physical and mental health. In health psychology, the focus is on the psychological factors
that affect the physical disease while the focus in clinical psychology is on the diagnosis and
treatment of abnormal behavior. Counseling psychology, on the other hand, treat the
educational, social and career adjustment problems.
II. 2. 6. Educational psychology explores how the educational process affects
students. In addition, school psychologists seek for assessing and treating the academic and
emotional problems of children in elementary and secondary schools.
II. 2. 7. Social psychology studies how people’s thoughts, feelings and actions are
affected by other people.