Origins of Psychology: Wundt and introspection A01

Wundt opened the first psychology lab in 1879, in leipzig

He aimed to study human consciousness through introspection in a controlled environment (a lab)

Introspection: recording your own conscious thoughts and breaking them down into thoughts, images and sensations- isolating consciousness is structuralism


The same instructions were given to all participants: this made it easier to replicate e.g all given a metronome

Wundt's work moved psychology away from philosophy and into a status as a modern science

1 of 25

Evaluation of Wundt's methods: A03

Aspects classed as scientific:

All introspection took place in a controlled environment

All procedures standardised so participants recieved same information and were tested in the same way

Aspects not classed as scientific:

Relied on participants self reporting thoughts, they could've not revealed all their thoughts

Impossible to establish general principles as participants would not have had exactly the same thoughts every time- this makes it more difficult to predict future behaviour.

Wundt's resarch today would not have met the criteria for scientific enquiry

2 of 25

Psychology emerging as a science: A01

  •  1900s: Introspection rejected by behaviourists such as John Watson, who called it subjective and declared only phenomena that could be observed and measured should be studied
  •  1930s: Rise of behaviourism and Skinner starts to bring natural sciences into psychology. Behaviourism focuses on learning and controlled lab studies.
  • 1950s: Rise of the cognitive approach and inferences on how mental processes work through controlled lab experiments.
  • 1990s: Rise of biopsychology due to advances in technology e.g MRIs, EEGs and genetic research
3 of 25

Evaluation of psychology as a modern science: A03

Same aims as natural sciences: describe, understand, predict, control behaviour

Learning, cognitive and biological approach all rrely on scientific methods

Established as a scientfic discipline

Humanistic approach is anti-scientific, no general laws of behaviour

Psychodynamic approach uses case study method- based on interview techniques open to bias

Some see scientific approach to human thought as impossible due to differences between pyschology and natural sciences

4 of 25

The behaviourist approach: (Assumptions) A01

  •  Focuses only on observable behaviour only that can be measured
  •  Behaviourists rejected introspection as its concepts were too vague
  •  Relies on controlled lab studies to maintain control
  •  Behaviourists believe the processes that govern learning are the same in all species so animals can replace humans as subjects   Image result for behaviourist approach
5 of 25

Classical conditioning

Learning by association:

Researched by Ivan Pavlov

Conditioned a dog to salivate when a bell rang:

Rang the bell every time food was presented, dogs learned to associate sound of the bell with the food Showed that a neutral stimulus can elicit a new learned response through association                                         Image result for dog

6 of 25

Classical conditioning 2

Before conditioning:

UCS (Unconditioned stimulus) = food                     UCS -> UCR

UCR(Unconditioned response)=salivation              NS -> no response      

NS(Neutral stimulus)= bell

During conditioning:

Bell and food presented at same time                     NS + UCS

After conditioning:

CS(Conditioned response)= bell

CR(Conditioned response)= salivation                     CS -> CR

7 of 25

Operant Conditioning

Learning through association:                                                                                                         Learning is an active process of humans and animals operating on their environment                 Behaviour shaped and maintained by consequences                                                                     

Researched by skinner:

  •  Rats/pigeons in skinner boxes
  •  Rat activates lever/pigeon pecks disc, gets rewarded
  •  If this means avoiding a shock, the behaviour is repeated
  • If not, a shock

Positive reinforcement: Rewarded for behaviour perfomed Negative reinforcement: When an animal/human produces behaviour to avoid something unpleasant Punishment: Unpleasant consequence of behaviour

8 of 25

Evaluation of behaviourist approach


✔️ Brought language and methods of natural sciences by focusing on measurable behaviour, influential in developing psychology as a scientific discipline: credibility and status                            ✔️ Real life applications in treating phobias and token economy systems: using this as treatment requires less effort from the patient as they dont have to think about their problem


❌ Sees animals/humans as machine-like, little conscious insight into behaviour                              ❌ Other approaches e.g social learning theory place more emphasis on mental events in learning ❌ Ignores possible influences of free will and sees behaviour as determined by past conditioning- skinner said any sense of free will is an illusion                                                                                   ❌Ethical issues: researchers had a high degree of control but the animals were exposed to stressful and harmful conditions- this could affect how they react to the experiment                       ❌Animal/human biology is different, results can't properly be generalised

9 of 25

Social learning theory

Assumptions                                                                                                               Bandura agreed with behaviourists that behaviour is learned from experience (e.g conditioning)- directly                                                                                                 although SLT proposes people learn through observation and imitation- indirectly

The learner observes the behaviour, and generally only imitates the behaviour if it is seen to be rewared/reinforced than punished (vicarious reinforcement)

The learner observes both the behaviour and the consequences of the behaviour

10 of 25

Mediational processes

Focuses on how cognitive factors are involved in learning

Four mediational processes in learning determine whether a new resonse is acquired :

1. Attention: whether behaviours are noticed

2. Retention: How well behaviour is remembered

3. Motor reproduction: The ability to reproduce the behaviour

4. Motivation: the will to perform the behaviour, often influeced by whether what they observed was punsihed or rewarded 

Learning and performance do NOT have to happen at the same time, the behaviour can be observed, stored, and reproduced later.

People are more likely to imitate the behaviour of people they identify with (role models). Role models have similar characteristics/are attractive/high status. They do not ahve to be physically present.

11 of 25

Bobo Doll experiment

Experiment 1:

Children watched adults behaving aggresively or non aggresively towards bobo dolls.

When given own doll, children who had seen agression more likely to behave aggresively towards doll- illustrates modelling

Experiment 2:

Children saw adult punished, rewarded or have no consequence (control group) for behaving aggresively towards the bobo doll                                                                                                    Levels of agression in the children:

1. Those who saw praising

2. Those who saw no consequence

3. Those who saw punishment                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 illustrates vicarious reinforcement

12 of 25

Evaluation of social learning theory


✔️ Importance of cognitive factors in learning: classical/operant conditioning doesnt offer good enough accounts of learning on its own, and SLT does this through mediational processes

✔️ Explains cultural differences in behaviour e.g gender roles

✔️ Less determinist than the behaviourist approach: emphasised reciprocal derterminism- we are influenced by our environment, but also influence it, suggesting a degree of free will


❌Relies too much on lab studies, could create demand characteristics, less validity

❌Few references to biological factors affecting behaviour e.g hormones could influence levels of agression in boys

13 of 25

The Cognitive Approach Assumptions

Argues internal mental processes should be studied scientifically, through inferences based on behaviour

Focuses on areas neglected by behaviourists: memory, perception, thinking- private processes

See the source image

14 of 25

Theoretical+Computer Models

Overlap, but theoretical is abstract, computer model is concrete

Information processing approach (theoretical): information flows through cognitive system in a sequence of stages, input, storage, retrieval. Based on how computers function. Computer models involve actually programming a computer to see if the output is similar to humans- useful in developing AI

15 of 25


Packages of information developed by experience

Menatl framework to interpret information eg a chair is four legs and you can sit on it

Schema develops from simple to complicated as we get older

Image result for chair

16 of 25

Cognitive Neuroscience

Scientific  study of influence of brain structures on mental processes

Developed as technology has improved, brain scanners such as fMRI and PET scans

Allowed for descriptions of neurological basis of mental processes and links between brain structure and mental disorders e.g OCD/Parahippocampal gyrus

E.g Tulving's research into episodic/semantic memory and how these different types of long term memory may be located on opposite sides of the pre-frontal cortex

                                                Image result for brain ( result for brainImage result for brainImage result for brain

17 of 25

Evaulation of the cognitive approach

✔️Established credible scientif basis of study of the mind: highly controlled methods allowing inference due to lab experiments that produce reliable data. 

✔️Cognitive neuroscience brought biology/cognitive psychology together



❌Machine reductionism: computer analogy ignores influence of human emotion/motivation and efffects on processing

❌Occasionally too abstract due to inference. Artificial stimuli used may not represent real expoerience, causing a lack of ecological validity

18 of 25

The Biological Approach Assumptions

Using biological structures/processes to understand behaviour

Behaviour is inherited like physical characteristics eg 5HT1-D beta gene in OCD

Neurochemistry also affects behaviour e.g low serotonin levels causing depression

Mind and body are the same, all thoughts/behaviour have physical basis- contrast to cognituve approach, where mind is separate from brain

Twin studies:

Concordance rates higher in monozygotic (identical twins) than in dizygotic (non-identical), evidence of genetic basis to behaviour

19 of 25


Genotype: genetic makeup

Phenotype: The way genes are expresssed through physical/behavioural characteristics                                     Phenotype also affected by environmental factors

Human behaviour depends on the interaction of nature/nurture

Image result for gene

20 of 25

Evolution and behaviour

Theory of evolution proposed by Darwin

Genetic behaviours that enhance survival/reproduction passed onto future generations

These are adaptive genes- give advantages to future descendants

e.g attachment behaviours in newborns

Image result for evolution

21 of 25

Evaluation of the biological approach

✔️Scientific methods of investigation, e.g scanning and drug trials, measure bio/neural     processes without bias   produces reliable data

✔️Real life applications: chemical processes in the brain are understood better, psychoactive drugs developed to treat mental disorders, for example imbalanced serotonin levels cause depression, which can now be regulated and help sufferers to live ordinary lives outside of hospital

❌Neurotransmitters: assumed that imbalances in these are the cause of a mental disorder due to changing their levels reducing symptoms. This may be effective but it cannot be assumed that the cause of the mental illness is the lack of the drug that regulates the levels- the approach claims to have discovered causes when there is only an association

❌Determinist: sees behavior as goverened by internal and biological causes we cannot control- this could affect the legal system as the principle of offenders being responsible for their actions would be complicated.

❌Cannot separate nature/nurture: Twins may have genetic similarities but are exposed to the same evironmental factors so this could support nature rather than nurture

22 of 25

The nervous system

Collection of nerves/specialised cells and the primary internal communication system

Two main functions: collect/process/respond to information and co-ordinate the working of organs/cells

Divided into central and peripheral nervous systems

Central nervous system: brain/spinal cord, passes messages to and from brain, connecting nerves to PNS                                                                                                                                                  Brain is centre of all conscious awareness,divided into two hemispheres. Outer layer, cerebral cortex, is highly developed in humans and is what distinguishes our higher mental functions from animals.                                                                                                                                            Spinal cord responsible for reflex actions.

Peripheral nervous system: transmits messages via neurons to and from CNS. Divided into: Autonomic nervous system, governs vital functions in body e.g breathing                                         Somatic nervous system, controls muscle movement, recieves information from sensory receptors

23 of 25

Glands and hormones

Endocrine system: works with nervous system using hormones to control vital functions in the body

Slower than the nervous system, but more widespread effects

Glands: produce hormones (secreted into bloodstream and affect cells in the body that have receptors for them). Major endocrine gland is pituitary gland, located in the brain, controls release of all other hormones from endocrine glands.

                                      Image result for pituitary gland

24 of 25

Fight or flight

Endocrine/autonomic nervous system work in parallel in stressful situations. When stress happens, hypothalamus triggers parasympathetic branch of the ANS from normal resting state (parasympathetic) to physiologically aroused state (sympathetic state).

Adrenaline released from adrenal medulla into bloodstream, triggers physiological changes to create arousal necessary for fight/flight.

Happens instantly when threat is detected, acute response.

parasympathetic nervous system returns body to resting state

parasympathetic nervous system works in opposition to sympathetic nervous system, antagonistic, works as a brake to activities caused by the body.

25 of 25


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Approaches resources »