Basics of Psychology[edit | edit source]

Psychology describes the study of behavior and mental process. Behavior is related to outward or overt actions and reactions and the mental process as an internal, covert activity of our minds. Psychology can be divided in the following elements :

  • Motivation
  • Perception
  • Attitudes
  • Personality
  • Learning

Furthermore, psychology has also three subdivisions. The Social Psychology deals with how individuals operate in groups. The Industrial Psychology deals with how the individual operates in the workplace and the Organizational Psychology deals with how the individual operates in the organization.

Fundamentally, psychology can be divided in two different psychologies. The Scientific Psychology is a process based approach, which is not concerned with individuals but group norms. On the other hand, Humanistic Psychology predicts behavior based on common culture, values, language, development and attitudes.

The Science of Psychology[edit | edit source]

Fundamentally, psychology has four goals: Description, Explanation, Prediction, Control . During the years, diverse methodologies has been developed, such as Structuralism , which focuses on the structure or basic elements of the mind, Functionalism , which deals with how the mind allows people to adapt, live, work and play, the Gestalt Psychology which represents the "good figure" psychology and Behaviorism , which is the science of behavior that focuses only on observable behavior (must be seen and measured).

Another important methodology is Psychoanalysis which is the theory and therapy based on the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud states that there is an unconscious mind into which we push (repress) all of our threatening urges and desires and these repressed urges created nervous disorders.

Perspectives of Psychology[edit | edit source]

There are seven modern perspectives of psychology.

  1. The Psychodynamic perspective , which is the modern version of 'Psychoanalysis', focuses on the development of sense of self and the discovery of other motivations behind a person’s behavior than sexual motivations.
  2. The Humanistic perspective helds the view, that people have a free will, the freedom to choose their own destiny. It emphasizes the human potential, the ability of each person to become the best person he or she could be.
  3. The Biopsychological perspective , attributes human and animal behavior to biological events occurring in the body.
  4. The Cognitive perspective focuses on memory, intelligence, perception, problem solving and learning.
  5. The Sociocultural perspective focuses on the relationship between social behavior and culture.
  6. The Evolutionary perspective focuses on the biological bases of universal mental characteristics that all humans share.
  7. The last of the seven perspectives is the Behavioral perspective.

Furthermore, there are also different types of psychological professionals, which work with the various perspectives of psychology. The Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. A Psychoanalyst is a psychiatrist who has special training in the theories of Sigmund Freud. A social worker with some training in therapy methods is called a Psychiatric social worker. Last but not least, the Psychologist is a professional with an academic degree and specialized training in one or more areas of psychology.

The Scientific Method[edit | edit source]

The scientific method is a system of gathering data so that bias and error on measurement are reduced. A scientific method has the following five steps:

  1. Perceive the question
  2. Form a hypothesis
  3. Test the hypothesis
  4. Draw a conclusion
  5. Report your results so that others can try to replicate

Descriptive Methods[edit | edit source]

Descriptive Methods are three basic methods which help to describe situations.

The first method are surveys , where researchers will ask a series of questions. The advantage of conducting a survey is, that data from a large number of people can be collected. Unfortunately, people are not always accurate and honest in participating. A further disadvantage is, that a representative sample has to be ensured.

The second method is to execute a case study . It is a study in great detail about only one individual. On the one hand, it is possible to collect a tremendous amount of details. On the other hand, it is not applicable to other individuals.

The last method are observations, which can be divided in naturalistic observations and laboratory observations. Watching animals or humans behave in their normal environment is referred to as a naturalistic observation. The researcher can get a realistic picture of behavior. Throwbacks of this kind of observations are the observer effect (tendency of people/animals to behave differently from normal when they know they are being observed) and the observer bias (tendency of observers to see what they expect to see). Laboratory observations on the contrary watch animals or humans behave in a laboratory setting. Positive aspects of this observation are that the researcher has control over the environment and that he can use specialized equipment. A main disadvantage occurring from this is, that the artificial situation may result also in artificial behavior.

The Experiment[edit | edit source]

An experiment is a deliberate manipulation of a variable to see if corresponding changes in behavior result, allowing the determination of cause-and-effect relationships. The Operational definition is an experiment is the definition of a variable of interest that allows it to be directly measured. Two variables are used in an experiment. The independent variable (IV) is the variable which is manipulated by the experimenter. The dependent variable (DV) is the variable which represents the measurable response or behavior of the subject in the experiment. Furthermore, the experiment needs a experimental group which are subjects who are subjected to the independent variable and a control group which are subjects who are not subjected to the independent variable, but instead may receive a placebo treatment. The process of assigning subjects to the experimental or control groups randomly, so that each subject has an equal chance of being in either group, is called the random assignment .

Ethics in the psychological research[edit | edit source]

Not to forget in a psychological research are also ethics . Common ethical guidelines may for example include:

  • Rights and well-being of participants must be weighed against the study’s value to science
  • Participants must be allowed to make an informed decision about participation
  • Deception must be justified
  • Participants may withdraw from the study at any time
  • Participants must be protected from risks or told explicitly of risks
  • Investigator must be debrief participants, telling the true nature of the study and expectations of results
  • Data must remain confidential