Hi guys, welcome to this post where I introduce the science of psychology. It is a very fascinating field of inquiry and it is so very, very broad! It encompasses many related subfields, things like mathematical psychology or social psychology. In the video below we teach you all the things you need to know to become knowledgeable on what this amazing science is all about. As always, the summary is below the video if you don’t feel like watching a video at the moment. Enjoy!
You probably already know quite a bit about psychology. That it is a science and it mostly studies the mind. For some reason, psychology is something that is easily grasped by most people.
Psychology tries to study the mind, and everything that is associated with it in a systematic way. There are many things that are related to it. One obvious thing that is fundamental to the thoughts we can have is our brain. Some people in the past have argued that we are our brain and that’s it. An example of this is Dick Swaab who actually wrote a book called We are our brains. This has received quite some criticism recently, and most experts in this field think that matters are a bit more complicated than this.
However, it is very important to keep the tension between the physical and mental processes in mind when studying psychology. What all humans share is that we are physical biological beings with brains. Our brain mechanisms are just physical processes, with electric signals traveling around to exchange information between brain cells, also known as neurons.
Determinism vs. Subjective Experience
So on the one hand, who we are and what we think seems to be determined biologically by these complex machine that we have inside our heads. We can measure its activity and find out what sort of patterns are related to complex personal things. For example, if you feel in love, this can be explained by chemical activity in your brain; namely that it releases chemicals like hormones, dopamines, serotonin, and so on. But this explanation somehow doesn’t sound satisfying enough. If someone asks: what is love? And you say, ah it’s just the release of certain combinations of chemicals in your brain, then this feels really incomplete. What about all the subjective experience of feeling love?
This leads us to a whole another level of psychology. It doesn’t just study the biological substrates of our minds. It also studies it on a higher level where we have emergent phenomena like consciousness or personality. We also need explanations in terms of emergent phenomena, like motivations, emotions, thoughts, consciousness, and so on. Even though these two levels seem to be completely separate, neurons firing and our subjective conscious experience, psychology studies them both.
Method of Psychology
Finally, I want to talk a bit about the method of psychology. A very important method is to do experiments. This method started out with Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) who is considered as the founder of psychology as we know it today. He was the first person to do experiments in his lab, in a similar way to modern times.
Experiments are usually done in controlled environments, that is to say, places where there is not a lot of interference by the surroundings. This is usually done in a lab.
When we collect the numbers on such experiments it is also usual to do statistics and figure out what kind of inferences we can make. Statistics is a great way to draw conclusions from big sets of data like these. How this often works is that you formulate a hypothesis, and then test how well this holds up after doing experiments.
You also have measuring brain activity with special techniques called the EEG or the fMRI. Find out more about how this works in the video! Spoiler: it is really cool!
Right, so in a nutshell I have explained what psychology is all about. I have to say, that this is still the tip of the iceberg, psychology is a very vast and beautiful science. It uses practical knowledge from many distinct subfields, like neurospsychology, to understand these mysterious mental processes. Let’s discover all the cool theories and innovations it has produces in the past centuries.