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            Homepage]  PSY 101 Psychology in General

At the end of this class, you should....
  • Have a better sense of how many misconceptions there are about psychological "facts"
  • Have a general sense of the multiple schools of thought that are part of psychology's history
  • Be able to define what "psychology" is
  • Have more knowledge about the multiple kinds of work that psychology degee-holders do
  • Better understand the major themes that our textbook uses to make sense of psychology, both as a field of study and the major ways that psychologists now understand how we behave.

How well do you know psychology already?
Take 10-item True/False "Conceptions of Psychology" quiz which has questions taken from many different areas of psychology.

Score Quiz (Fr. Hevern will provide the right answers)

Discuss results and implications of quiz

Psychology's History (pp. 3-15)

Read this on your own

But note a couple of important movements in psychology's history
  • Modern psychology was born in the second half of the 19th century
  • For the first half of the 20th century, there were a set of major competing "schools of thought"
  • Between 1900 and 1939, Sigmund Freud argued that our unconscious is primarily responsible for what we do. And, so, he questioned whether we even have "free will".
  • But, J. B. Watson, B. F. Skinner, and other "behaviorists" denied Freud's claim and said we should only look at external behaviors (not at the mind)
  • After the 2nd World War, beginning in the 1950, the "Humanists" emerged to champion free will and the unique qualities of each human person
  • As we moved to the last part of the 20th century, psychologists became more interested in biological influences on behavior and on "evolutionary" forces that emerge from our genetic make-up as we interact with the environment.

So, what does our textbook author propose is the current meaning or definition of psychology?

Psychology is

the science that studies behavior and
the physical and cognitive processes that underlie behavior

it is the profession that applies the accumulated knowledge of this science to practical problems.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook: Psychologists

What do psychologists do?
"Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments."

Types of Psychologists
  • Clinical Psychologists "assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders"
    • Health Psychologists
    • Neuropsychologists
  • Counseling Psychologists  "help patients deal with and understand problems, including issues at home, at the workplace, or in their community."
  • Developmental Psychologists "study the psychological progress and development that take place throughout life"
  • Forensic Psychologists "use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case."
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologists [Organizational Behavior Psychologists] "apply psychology to the workplace by using psychological principles and research methods to solve problems and improve the quality of work life. They study issues such as workplace productivity, management or employee working styles, and employee morale"
  • School Psychologists "apply psychological principles and techniques to education and developmental disorders"
  • Social Psychologists "study how people’s mindsets and behavior are shaped by social interactions."
  • Psychologists also become university, college, and high school teachers
Median Pay (2020) median = half higher, half lower
  • $82,180 per year (in 2019 = $80,370 per year)
  • $39.51 per hour (in 2019 - $38.64 per hour)

Number of Jobs in U.S. 2019 = 192,300 (in 2018 = 181,700)

Job Outlook for 2019 to 20289 = 3% growth (about average) = 5,700 jobs

Work Environments

Some psychologists work independently, conducting research, consulting with clients, or working with patients. Others work as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians and social workers or in school settings, working with students, teachers, parents, and other educators. Those in private practice often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients.

What primary types of jobs do people hold with different degrees in psychology?

Types of Jobs by Degree Levels
  • There are significant differences across job areas depending upon whether you have a bachelor's or higher level of degree.
  • Almost half of Master's and doctoral level psychologists are involved in providing clinical, counseling, health, and other services to clients and patients.
  • Many doctoral-level psychologists, such as me, are involved in teaching at the college/university level (18%) and an almost identical percent are mostly involved in doing research as their primary work (15^).

How to Become A Psychologist

Although psychologists typically need a doctoral degree in psychology, a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions, particularly when working in schools, hospitals, or similarly licensed facilities. Psychologists in independent practice almost always need to be licensed by the state in which they live.


Seven Unifying Themes in our Psychology Textbook (pp. 18-22)

Psychology as a Field of Study

One: Psychology is empirical  ("empirical" = knowledge gained from observation of the real world)
  • Is there such a thing as Extrasensory Perception (ESP)?
  • Why don't psychologists believe that ESP exists?
  • Psychologists are skeptical and want to see evidence
  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
  • If you were to believe in alien abduction by UFOs or our lives are controlled by the position of the planets and stars (astrology), you should be able to provide overwhelming evidence to prove it.
Two: Psychology is theoretically diverse
  • Color vision: Trichromatic vs. Opponent-Process theories are BOTH correct
  • Multiple theories in psychology ("theory" = system of interrelated ideas to explain a set of observations)
  • The need for multiple theories probably rests on the extraordinary complexity of what psychology seeks to explain
  • VoxelsBiology, chemistry, and physics generally deal with either non-life forms or life forms which have far less complex nervous systems than humans.
  • Human beings as the single most complex reality in the universe other than the universe itself
    • Brain contains almost 1010 neurons (ca. 86,000,000,000, i.e., 86 billion) and 1014 (100 trillion) connections.
    • 55 cubic millimeters (3.8 mm on a side) of brain tissue contains about 5.5 million neurons, 22 to 55 billion synapses, 22 kilometers of dendrites and 220 kilometers of axons (Logothetis, 2008, p. 875)
Three: Psychology evolves in a social-historical context
  • Are women inferior to men in their thinking?
  • Are Europeans more intelligent than Africans?
  • Are Asians more intelligent than Europeans?
  • Psychology both reflects its own cultural background and shapes that background
    • Reflects: Freud's ideas on sexuality stemming from sexual repression of Victorian Era
    • Shapes: Scientific testing of intelligence, abilities, achievement & personality fill schools, businesses, & health care
    • Our own desire to improve educational progress of children will prompt us to seek ways of helping them.
The Subject Matter of Psychology

Four: Behavior is determined by multiple causes
  • Why did you get the score you got on the SAT?
  • For most human behaviors, there are multiple causes that together contribute to a person acting (= multifactorial causation)
    • Consider how well a student may do because of (1) the quality of the school, (2) his/her level of nutrition, (3) psychological factors such as anxiety or confidence, (4) support from parents, (5) overall ability level, etc.
Five: Behavior is shaped by cultural heritage
  • What is the best way to raise your kids?
  • What does it mean to be a success in life?
  • Culture = widely shared customs, beliefs, values, norms, institutions, and other elements that a community transmits across generations
    • What is believed and done...
    • In a certain group or community....
    • Over a period of time...
Six: Heredity and environment jointly influence behavior
  • Why is the average Japanese man taller today than his great-great-grandfather was?
    • Note: there is extremely limited genetic exchange between people of Japanese ancestry and others, i.e., very few Japanese in Japan historically marry non-Japanese partners
    • Mid 19th Century = 155 cm (5' 1") vs. early 21st century = 171 cm (5' 7.3") = that is 6 inches taller
  • Why is the average Southwestern American Indian child today significantly heavier than his great grandparents were at the same age?
  • Why do infant boys and girls tend to behave in different ways in the months immediately after birth?
  • While genetics & culture may individually affect a behavior, more usually it is an inseparable combination of both that causes humans to do what they do.
Seven: Our experience of the world is highly subjective
  • We are always looking at a situation from where we are, in our own setting, with our own histories
  • We often focus on one aspect of a situation while ignoring other aspects.
  • Psychology functions to help correct this subjectivity and supply accurate and valid knowledge
Visual illusions (Michael Bach, Universitäts-Augenklinik Freiburg)