The origins of psychology (The scientific method in psychology (Objective:…
The origins of psychology
Wilhem Wundt (1982-1920) and introspection
Wundt believed that the human mind could be studied scientifically. He established psychology as a science and experimentation as the method of choice. He thought the human mind was constructed of basic elements of sensation and perception; an approach known as 'structuralism'. He used introspection to access mental processes.
The emergence of psychology as a science
Wundt's approach was based on empiricism. This is a hallmark of the scientific method, and thus helped to establish scientific psychology as a discipline. Wundt also adopted two further scientific assumptions: that behaviour is caused (the assumption of determinism) and thus predictable.
The scientific method in psychology
Preconceptions or biases do not influence data collection
Measurement and recording of empirical data are carried out with precision and control
They can be repeated by other researchers to determine whether the same results are obtained. Non-replicable (unreliable) results cannot be accepted as trustworthy
Wundt's methods are unreliable
Introspection involves 'non-observable' process which are not easily reproducible. In contrast, behaviourists such as Pavlov, could achieve reproducible results, based on publicly observable behaviour, leading to explanatory principles that could be generalised to all human beings.
Introspection is not particulary accurate
Introspection is not always possible; we may have little knowledge of the processes underlying our behaviour. Studies of implicit attitudes corroborate this. A person may be implicity sexist, and react to the opposite sex accordingly, but introspection would not reveal this because they are not consciously aware of it.
Limitations of a scientific approach to psychology
High levels of objectivity and control may tell us little about how people act in more natural environments.
Much psychological subject matter is not directly unobservable. Psychology is open to interpretation.
Critics such as humanistic psychologists say that applying the assumpptions of scientific method is largely inappropriate because it is reductionist whereas human behaviour is more than the sum of its parts
Csikszentmihalyi and Hunter (2003) recently used introspection to measure 'hapiness'. Teenage participants were given beepers signalling them at random times during the day to write down their thoughts and feelings preceding the beep. teens were generally more unhappy than happy, but tended to be happier when they were focusing on a challenging task.
Strengths of a scientific approach to psychology
Relies on empirical, objective, systematic methods so is less biased.
Is based on determinism, and is thus able to establish causes of behaviour.
Is self-correcting: explanations that are unreliable, or no longer fit the evidence, can be refined or abandoned.
The belief that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience. Generally characterised by the use of the experimental method in psychology.
The process by which a person gains knowledge about their own mental and emotional states as a result of the examination or observation of their concious thoughts and feelings.
The use of investigative methods that are objective, systematic annd replicable, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses based on these methods.