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Sunday, April 10, 2011



ü Modern psychology has a long past but a short history (Bruno, 1980).

ü As a formal, independent discipline, modern psychology has been existed for only a century.

ü But one should aware to the fact that psychology was born as a scientific discipline only when Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879.

ü But still, philosophy plays the influential role in modern psychology and serves as the foundation of this particular discipline, no matter how scientific it is or it tries to be.

ü Humankind had given thought about psychological questions ever since they began to wonder about themselves.

ü The attempt to answer such questions had been reflected in many works done by the ancient philosophers and thinkers.

ü In this sense, psychology has what may be termed as a philosophical heritage. This is due to the fact that it was within the Western philosophy that the long history of theories and models of psychology evolved (Brennan, 1994).
ü And not until in the 19th century when the methodological spirit of science was applied to the study that it turned into a formal discipline.

ü The foundations of psychology can be traced from the classical Greek philosophy, continued from the period of the Graeco-Roman period to the Middle Ages, and from the Age of Renaissance to the 19th century.


ü The word “psychology” which was invented three centuries ago is the best example of the visible evidence of Greek influence on modern social science.

ü “Psychology” comes from two words: “psyche” and “logos”.

ü The word psyche (pronounced “sigh-key”) is from the Greek word Yuch which means “breadth of life”, i.e. “soul or spirit”, loosely translated as MIND (Benson, 1998).

ü And logos means “knowledge”, “study”, like all “ologies”.

ü In Greek mythology, psyche was represented by a butterfly. She became the wife of Eros, the god of love (renamed Cupid by the Romans).

ü The Greek letter Y (spelled “psi”, and pronounced “sigh”) is now used as the international symbol for Psychology.

ü Hence, Psychology was originally defined as: The study of the mind. But this isn’t how most Psychologists define Psychology today.

ü In practice, most Psychologists concentrate on what is observable and measurable in a person’s behavior, including the biological processes in the body. At the same time, the “mind” is still generally considered to be central to the subject.

ü Thus, commonly accepted “working definition” is: Psychology is the scientific and systematically study of human behavior and mental processes in context (Simons, Kalichman, & Santrock; 1994).

ü Behavior and mental processes define the subject matter of psychology.

ü There are 4 main parts to this definition – science, behavior, mental processes and contexts.

1.                 Behavior is everything we do that can be directly observed, e.g. students studying, or children running.
2.                 Mental processes are trickier to measure than behaviors since they are the thoughts, feelings, and motives that each of us experiences privately, but cannot be observed directly. (e.g. thinking about something, feelings about someone, or memory on an important event).
3.                 As a science, psychology uses systematic methods to observe, describe, explain and predict behavior and mental processes.
4.                 Contexts refer to the historical, economic, social, and cultural factors that influence mental processes and behavior. (e.g. settings such as homes, schools, neighborhood, communities etc.)

ü Unlike the Natural Sciences, Psychology doesn’t have one unifying theory or particular approach.

ü But Psychology has several approaches or perspectives to study human behavior.

ü The 6 main approaches are:

1.                 Psychodynamic approach
This approach focuses on the nature of psyche in human beings.  One of the famous theorists in this field is Sigmund Freud.

2.                 Behaviorism
This approach emphasizes the process of learning and measurement of overt behavior.  Some of the famous theorists are John B. Watson, and B. F. Skinner. 

3.                 Cognitive approach
This approach emphasizes the importance of cognitive processes such as perception, memory and thinking.

4.                 Humanistic approach
The approach proposes that human beings possess an innate tendency to improve and determine their lives by the decisions they make.  Some of the famous theorists are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.

5.                 Bio-psychological approach
It is also known as neuro-science approach, which focuses on the nervous system in explaining behavior and mental processes.

6.                 Socio-cultural approach
It states that it is necessary to understand one’s culture, ethnic identity and other socio-cultural factors to fully understand a person.

ü In addition to the different perspectives, the subject can be divided into various areas of study in university departments, or specialization. They are: a) Basic areas of psychology and b) Applied areas of psychology.

ü Basic areas:

1.                 Developmental Psychology
Studies how people change physically, cognitively, and socially over the entire lifespan. For e.g., developmental psychologists have recently found the tendencies toward shyness may occur very early in life and are, at least in part inherited characteristic (Kagan, 1988; Kagan & Snidman, 1991).

2.                 Cognitive Psychology
Investigates all aspects of cognition – memory, thinking, reasoning, language, decision making, and so on. For e.g., cognitive psychologists have recently established that animals –even rats – are capable of complex forms of counting (Capaldi, 1990).

3.                 Experimental Psychology
Studies all aspects of basic psychological processes such as perception, learning and motivation. For e.g., research by experimental psychologists has recently added much to our understanding of attention – the process of directing portions of our information-processing capacity to specific stimuli or events. This understanding, in turn, is nor being applied to the design of more effective warnings for various hazards (Wogalter & Silver, 1990).

4.                 Psychobiology (Physiological Psychology)
Investigates the biological bases of behavior – the role of complex biochemical events in our nervous systems and bodies in everything we do, sense, feel, or think. For e.g., psychobiologists are now attempting to identify the neural and physiological mechanisms that play a role in various types of addiction (Reid, 1990).

5.                 Sociocultural Psychology
Focuses on ethnic and cultural factors, gender identity, sexual orientation and related issues.  Active areas: Feminist psychology, Asian psychology and African American Psychology and such.

6.                 Personality
Focuses on the more or less consistent ways of behaving that characterize our personalities.

ü Applied areas:

1.                 Clinical Psychology
Studies the diagnosis, causes, and treatment of mental disorders. For e.g., clinical psychologists have recently devised several effective forms of treatment for reducing serious depression (Robinson, Berman, & Neimyer, 1990).

2.                 Counseling Psychology
Assists individuals in dealing with many personal problems that do not involve mental disorders. For e.g., counseling psychologists assist individuals in career planning and in developing more effective interpersonal skills.

3.                 Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Studies all aspects of behavior in work setting – selection of employees, evaluation of performance, work motivation, leadership. For e.g., I/O psychologists have found that individuals work harder when they have concrete goals that they accept than when they do not have specific goals (Latham & Locke, 1990)

4.                 Health Psychology
Focuses on the ways in which pressures, conflicts, hardships, and other factors contribute to poor health.  Health Psychologists seek to prevent health problems such as heart disease by teaching people to relax, exercise, control their diets, and stop high-risk behavior such as smoking.

5.                 Social Psychology
Studies all aspects of social behavior and social thought – how we think about and interact with others. For e.g., social psychologists have recently found that female leaders receive more negative and fewer positive non-verbal reactions from followers than do male leaders (Butler & Geis, 1990).

6.                 Educational Psychology
Studies all aspects of the educational process from techniques of instruction to learning disabilities. For e.g., educational psychologists are working to develop classroom procedures designed to help minority in the US overcome some of the environmental disadvantages they face.

                                             i.             It is a discipline concerned with teaching and learning processes
                                          ii.             It applies the methods and theories of psychology and has its own as well e.g. learning theories

ü To qualify as a Psychologist requires a recognized qualification at degree (e.g. BSc Hons) and membership of a relevant Professional Association for examples:

1.                 The BPS –British Psychological Society (founded 1901)
2.                 The APA – American Psychological Association (founded 1893)
3.                 The APS – American Psychological Society (founded 1988)

The objectives of studying educational psychology

1.                 To understand the teaching and learning processes

2.                 To get familiar with theories and research findings related to teaching and learning which offer a number of possible explanations and solutions to specific problems that may arise

3.                 To develop knowledge and methods of psychology and other related disciplines for everyday teaching and learning situations

4.                 To predict future behavior.  For example, by using certain psychological assessments such as IQ test and personality test enable educators, school administrators, and educational specialists to improve classroom instructions for students whop experiencing learning or behavioral problems.


Baron, R.A. (1992). Psychology. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Benson, N.C. (1998). Introducing Psychology. Cambridge: Icon Books Ltd.
Brennan, J.F. (1994). History and Systems of Psychology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Bruno, F.J. (1980). Behavior and Life. Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lahey, B. B. (2003). Psychology: An Introduction. NY: McGraw-Hill
Simons, J., Kalichman, S.,& Santrock, J.W. (1994). Human Adjustment. Dubuque, IA: Brown & Benchmark.
Slavin, R. E. (2003). Educational Psychology (7th Ed.) Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon
Woolfolk, A.E. (2004). Educational Psychology. Boston: Pearson & A.B.

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