Introduction to Psychology

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Introduction to Psychology

1. Define psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of animal’s mental processes or thoughts and behavior. It involves the study of how animals think, feel, and act. In addition, it includes how people apply the information and knowledge gained from the understanding of psychology, to different areas of animal activity.

2. Explain the five major approaches to the study of psychology making sure to emphasize the proponents

The main proponent of structuralism is Edward B. Titchener, although he based his ideas on the work of Wilhelm Wundt. This approach proposes the idea of breaking down the mental processes, which led to the concept of introspection. It involves an understanding of different elements of an individual’s consciousness, and how they organize into different experiences. This enabled psychologists to explore matters of human experiences further. This was made possible by reducing the human mind to images, feelings and sensations, which Titchener proposed as the elements of consciousness.

William James proposed the functionalist approach to psychology, which was mostly a reaction to structuralism. He noted that the environment affected people’s behavior in different ways. Another proponent for functionalism was Charles Darwin James Angell and John Dewey. This approach recognizes the differences among different individuals. Natural selection and individual behavior enabled organisms to adapt to their environment. James developed the idea of stream of consciousness, which includes five characteristics of consciousness. These are that consciousness is personal, ever changing, continuous, selective, and deals with other objects. This was contrary to views expressed under structuralism that holds the fact that consciousness is static.

Sigmund Freud is the main proponent of psychoanalysis, which advances the thought that people’s unconsciousness influences their behavior. The unconsciousness refers to people’s unknown desires and impulses. Freud posited that people are similar to animals in that their instincts are sexual and aggressive and they can determine behavior. However, they are capable or reasoning and thinking, unlike animals.

Max Wertheimer developed Gestalt psychology, and he advocated the idea of viewing psychological events as a whole rather than as different elements. Thus, psychologists view some elements such as perception and learning as a whole, and not as a sum of different parts. It represents a realistic way of looking at things since people see things in their entirety and not as different components.

John B. Watson and BF Skinner were leading advocates of behaviorism. Behaviorism was different from approaches in the sense that it did not focus on the mind, but on observable behavior. Watson showed that people respond differently to stimuli, and this determines their behavior. Skinner developed on Watson’s ideas, and he advanced these ideas to include the consequences of behavior. Positive consequences or reinforcements lead people to engage in the same behavior. Negative consequences or punishments lead to people avoiding any instance of engaging in the behavior.

3. Describe the major idea/theory associated with Piaget

Piaget was a leading advocate of the cognitive theory. He posited that people’s ability to think changed in stages as a person matures. People form thoughts or mental concepts based on the experiences they have had and their perceptions of the world. Mental equilibrium happens when a person’s cognition fits in with the environment. People change their level of thinking as they mature and gain new experiences. Piaget developed different stages of cognition, including sensorimotor, preoperational cognition, concrete operational cognition, and formal operations cognition. Sensorimotor happens from the time a child is born to when he is two years old. Children at these ages acquire their motor abilities, as well as knowledge on how to smell, taste, and touch. They learn by doing, but they have not yet developed the mental abilities needed to represent an object in its absence before they are six months old.

The preoperational stage happens from when a child is 2 years, to when she is about six or seven years old. At this stage, children do not have much experience of the world, and they will tend to focus on one feature of an object. However, they will have gathered a lot of information, which enables them to use different symbols to represent their world. The concrete operations stage happens when children are 7 years to when they are 11 years old. Children at this stage will normally have developed their reasoning ability. They will apply logic, based on what they have experienced. The formal operations stage happens when children are 12 years old. At this stage, the children are able to reason in a more logical manner. Children at this stage are at their adolescence, and they have the ability to think about abstract ideas and expand their mental abilities (Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2011).

4. Explain what is meant by the following terms as each pertains to psychological research: ethics, confidentiality, anonymity

Ethics refer to a set of established principles and rules that guide the conduct of the psychologists, especially as they research on different issues. The study of ethics enables the psychologists to know and differentiate between unacceptable and acceptable conduct. Confidentiality refers to a principle that researchers have to uphold to ensure that they will not release the information they have to third parties, or which limits how and when the researchers can reveal that information. Anonymity refers to the state of being unknown. Once a researcher assures participants that they can participate on condition of anonymity, the researcher has to ensure that no one can identify the participants in any way, either in name or in the descriptions given.

5. A researcher wishes to investigate the attitudes of schoolchildren towards premarital sex/ discuss the ethical principles that must be considered before the researcher contemplates the research

The researcher must obtain informed consent from the children. This will involve informing the children on the purpose of the study and informing them on any implications. Since the researcher is dealing with schoolchildren, he has to ensure that he gets informed consent from the parents or legal guardians of the children. The researcher has to ensure that he protects the children from harm. This includes both physical and emotional harm. The researcher is dealing with a sensitive topic, which many children would find uncomfortable discussing. Some of the children may consider the matter personal, and they might think that the researcher wants to know about their personal experience. The researcher has to assure the children of the confidential nature of the research by protecting their identity.

6. Identify the research methodology you would consider ideal for the investigation mentioned above and justify your choice of this method

I think that a survey would be ideal for the investigation. This involves asking the participants questions that the researcher has prepared in advance, concerning the research question. The survey enables the researchers to develop a questionnaire in time, meaning that they have time to look at different perspectives of issues. By using a set of prepared questionnaires, the researchers are able to collect a lot of data within a short time.


Pastorino, E. E., & Doyle-Portillo, M. S. (2011). What is psychology? New York, NY: Cengage Learning


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