Chapter 1: Section 1: Introduction to Psychology and Research Methods
We all use the principles of psychology everyday and probably don’t even realize it. When we spank our child for doing something wrong, we are utilizing the learning principle of punishment. When we get nervous right before we have to give that big speech, we are activating our autonomic nervous system. When we talk to ourselves in our heads, telling ourselves to “calm down,” “work harder,” or “give up,” we are utilizing cognitive approaches to change our behaviors and emotions.
This text is designed to give you a general idea of what psychology is, how information is developed, what we have learned about ourselves, and how psychology is applied to help improve people’s lives. The chapters are organized so that you can get a better idea of how psychology works; from basic theories and principles, through research, understanding and explaining results, to the actual application of psychological techniques.
This text is not designed to make you a psychologist. It is written in a general format so that you can gain a better idea of all of the major concepts in psychology. If you were to major in psychology as an undergraduate, each chapter would be a separate course. And, to get your doctorate, which is required to be called a psychologist in most states, you would take an additional five to seven years further studying the concepts in this text.
You will learn a lot, however, and hopefully you will increase not only your knowledge base, but also your interest in the principles of psychology. This website provides a great deal of information about the applications of psychology in a self-help format, as do many other very helpful and professional sites. Read on…learn…and improve your understanding of your greatest asset…the human mind.
What is Psychology
Psychology is the study of cognitions, emotions, and behavior. Psychologists are involved in a variety of tasks. Many spend their careers designing and performing research 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. These are the research psychologists who often work in research organizations or universities. 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, typically 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.
The study of psychology has five basic goals:
1. Describe –
The first goal is to observe behavior and describe, often in minute detail, what was observed as objectively as possible
2. Explain –
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?
3. Predict –
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.”
4. Control –
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.
5. Improve –
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.