Monday, December 16, 2013


• The scientific study of human and animal behaviour (text)
• Science or study of the thought processes and behavior of humans and other animals in their interaction with the environment

What is psychology?
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience – from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services, “the understanding of behavior” is the enterprise of psychologists.
  • Modern psychology emerged from philosophy in the last quarter of the nineteenth century
  • Strong links to other social sciences especially sociology, anthropology, education, business
  • More than any other social science has strong links to biology (especially physiology and comparative) and medicine
  • Not only a discipline but also a profession
  • American Psychological Association (APA) , the largest >150,000 members worldwide, and oldest founded 1892
  • American Psychological Society (APS) c. 12,000 members worldwide, split from APA in 1988 to meet the perceived needs and interests of the scientific, applied, and academic psychologists as opposed to psychologists whose sole or primary interest is in clinical practice
  • Psychologists constitute over half of all social scientists in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: 1996-97
  • Major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar illness, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses frequently impair normal daily activities such as working, sleeping and caring for oneself and others
  • In Canada, mental disorders accounted for the second most hospital days in 1995-96
  • 1996-97 National Population Health Survey results indicate that 2% of Canadians consulted a psychologist during the preceding year
Notable schools of psychology
  • Structuralism: interested in structure or elements of the mind or consciousness
  • Gestalt psychology: the whole (gestalt) is seen as more than the sum of its parts
  • Functionalism: studies the function of the mind and consciousness as they help the organism to adapt to the environment
  • Behaviourism: focuses on the observable, measurable behaviour of organisms
  • Psychometric research: design of tests, really began with Binet
Major divisions of psychology
  • Experimental
  • Physiological/biological
  • Developmental
  • Social
  • Clinical: largest and most popular
  • Educational/instructional
  • Industrial/organizational
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychiatry: closely related to psychology but is a medical speciality and requires an MD
For information on areas of specialization see:
Lloyd, M. A. and Dewey, R. A. (1997, August 28). Areas of specialization in psychology. [Online]. Available:
  • World Wars created an enormous demand for psychology, especially during and after World War II
  • Greatest growth in subfields of
    • Clinical
    • Counseling
    • Educational
    • School
Empirical Research Methods
  • Direct observation
  • Experimentation
  • Case studies
  • Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Standardized tests
Ethical problems
  • Use of humans
  • Use of animals
  • Use by advertisers
Literature use
  • Journal articles predominate
  • Collaborative research, multiple authorship common
  • Articles seen as primary sources (report research results)
  • In U.S. overwhelming reliance on recent articles by students in the field
  • Books often in form of collection of readings aimed at undergrads
  • Trend in late 1980s towards more publishing as chapters in books
  • In general psychologists rarely use the literature of other social sciences with the following exceptions:
    • Educational and school psychologists use ERIC
    • Social psychologists use sociological literature
  • Psychologists do use medical literature via MEDLINE
  • Psychologists frequently create and use a variety of tests
Reference needs
  • Practitioners: current awareness materials; state of the art summaries, hot topics, mental health problems associated with work, school, home
  • Teachers: popular summaries of common problems, material on tests and measurements
  • Students: materials for class assignments, periodical articles (Psychology Today)
  • Vertical file material popular
  • Lay persons: overwhelming amount of material in print and on the web a problem (problem of identifying authoritative sources)
    • Popular topics: recovery, self-help, depression
  • Children/teens
    • Fastest growing segment of the depressed population
    • Popular age appropriate, authoritative material on topics as for lay persons
    • Material to help understand selves and relationships with family members
    • Sexuality, addiction, suicide current issues
    • Censorship a concern
    • Realistic fiction often useful

No comments: