Chapter 01: Psychology’s Roots, Big Ideas, and Critical Thinking Tools

Psychology’s Roots

Four Big Ideas in Psychology
 Big Idea 1: Critical Thinking is Smart Thinking
 Big Idea 2: Behavior is a Biopsychosocial Event
 Big Idea 3: We Operate With a Two-Track Mind
 Big Idea 4: Psychology Explores Human Strengths as Well as Challenges

Why Do Psychology?
 The Limits of Intuition and Common Sense
 The Scientific Attitude

How Do Psychologists Ask and Answer Questions?
 The Scientific Method
 Description
 Correlation
 Experimentation

Psychology’s Roots

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)- Psychological Science is Born


Shaping Explained- Part 1 of Training Your Dog to Turn on a Light Switch with Clicker

Humanistic Psychology

Psychology Today

We define psychology today as the scientific study of behavior (what we do) and mental processes (inner thoughts and feelings).

Psychological Associations & Societies

The American Psychological Association is the largest organization of psychology with 160,000 members world-wide, followed by the British Psychological Society with 34,000 members.

A clinical psychologist (Ph.D.) studies, assesses, and treats troubled people with psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists on the other hand are medical professionals (M.D.) who use treatments like drugs and psychotherapy to treat psychologically diseased patients.
Four Big Ideas in Psychology

1) Critical Thinking is Smart Thinking

2) Behavior is a Biopsychosocial Event

3) We Operate with a Two-Track Mind (Dual Processing)

4) Psychology Explores Human Strengths as Well as Challenges

Why Do Psychology?
 What About Intuition and Common Sense?
 The Scientific Method
Why Do Psychology?

How can we differentiate between uniformed opinions and examined conclusions?

The science of psychology helps make these examined conclusions, which leads to our understanding of how people feel, think, and act as they do!
What About Intuition & Common Sense?
Limits of Intuition

Personal interviewers may rely too much on their “gut feelings” when meeting with job applicants.

Hindsight Bias is the “I-knew-it-all-along” phenomenon.

After learning the outcome of an event, many people believe they could have predicted that very outcome. We only knew the stocks would plummet after they actually did plummet.
Sometimes we think we know more than we actually know.

The Scientific Attitude

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking does not accept arguments and conclusions blindly.

It examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence and assesses conclusions.

How Do Psychologists Ask & Answer Questions?
Psychologists, like all scientists, use the scientific method to construct theories that organize, summarize and simplify observations.

A theory is an explanation that integrates principles and organizes and predicts behavior or events.

For example, low self-esteem contributes to depression.
A hypothesis is a testable prediction, often prompted by a theory, to enable us to accept, reject or revise the theory.

People with low self-esteem are apt to feel more depressed.

Research Observations

Research would require us to administer tests of self-esteem and depression. Individuals who score low on a self-esteem test and high on a depression test would confirm our hypothesis.
Research Process
Case Study

A technique for ascertaining the self-reported attitudes, opinions or behaviors of people usually done by questioning a representative, random sample of people.


Wording can change the results of a survey.

Q: Should cigarette ads and pornography be allowed on television? (not allowed vs. forbid)
If each member of a population has an equal chance of inclusion into a sample, it is called a random sample (unbiased). If the survey sample is biased, its results are not valid.

Naturalistic Observation

Observing and recording the behavior of animals in the wild and recording self-seating patterns in a multiracial school lunch room constitute naturalistic observation.

Descriptive Methods


Correlation Coefficient is a statistical measure of the relationship between two variables.

Correlation and Causation

Illusory Correlation

The perception of a relationship where no relationship actually exists. Parents conceive children after adoption.

Given random data, we look for order and meaningful patterns.

Given large numbers of random outcomes, a few are likely to express order.


Like other sciences, experimentation is the backbone of psychological research. Experiments isolate causes and their effects.

Exploring Cause & Effect

Many factors influence our behavior. Experiments (1) manipulate factors that interest us, while other factors are kept under (2) control.

Effects generated by manipulated factors isolate cause and effect relationships.

Evaluating Therapies

In evaluating drug therapies, patients and experimenter’s assistants should remain unaware of which patients had the real treatment and which patients had the placebo treatment.

Evaluating Therapies

Assigning participants to experimental (breast-fed) and control (formula-fed) conditions by random assignment minimizes pre-existing differences between the two groups.

Independent Variable

An independent variable is a factor manipulated by the experimenter. The effect of the independent variable is the focus of the study.

For example, when examining the effects of breast feeding upon intelligence, breast feeding is the independent variable.

Dependent Variable

A dependent variable is a factor that may change in response to an independent variable. In psychology, it is usually a behavior or a mental process.

For example, in our study on the effect of breast feeding upon intelligence, intelligence is the dependent variable.


Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology

Q1. Can laboratory experiments illuminate everyday life?

Ans: Artificial laboratory conditions are created to study behavior in simplistic terms. The goal is to find underlying principles that govern behavior.

Q2. Does behavior depend on one’s culture and gender?

Ans: Even when specific attitudes and behaviors vary across cultures, as they often do, the underlying processes are much the same. Biology determines our sex, and culture further bends the genders. However, in many ways woman and man are similarly human.

Q3. Why do psychologists study animals, and is it ethical to experiment on animals?

Ans: Studying animals gives us the understanding of many behaviors that may have common biology across animals and humans. From animal studies, we have gained insights to devastating and fatal diseases. All researchers who deal with animal research are required to follow ethical guidelines in caring for these animals.

Q4. Is it ethical to experiment on people?

Ans: Yes. Experiments that do not involve any kind of physical or psychological harm beyond normal levels encountered in daily life may be carried out.

Q5. Is psychology free of value judgments?

Ans: No. Psychology emerges from people who subscribe to a set of values and judgments.

Q6. Is psychology potentially dangerous?

Ans: It can be, but is not when practiced responsibly. The purpose of psychology is to help humanity with problems.

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2 responses to “Chapter 01: Psychology’s Roots, Big Ideas, and Critical Thinking Tools

  1. Hey I am a student wanting to get ahead in the world of psychology.Ive studied lots of different stuff I know the basics.Where should I go next??

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