Brief Overview

Three ways to look at psychology:

#1 As a field that uses the scientific approach

#2 As a useful field with several important practical goals

#3 As a broad field

What is psychology?

Definition: The scientific study of behavior and mental processes.

#1 What do we mean when we say psychology is a science?

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Scientific Approach

Advantages Disadvantages
Facts may replace opinions  1. The scientific approach can't answer some very important questions.
2. Finding simple rules to explain behavior may be depressingly demystifying 
3. Finding simple rules to explain behavior may be impossible. 

Conclusions about the Value of the Scientific Approach

  1. Science is better than quackery (Explore this Science vs. Quackery link)

  3. Using the scientific approach can tell us things about human behavior that we didn't already know.

#2 What are psychology's four goals?

1. Describe behavior

2. Predict behavior

3. Explain (understand) behavior

4. Control behavior



Practice on distinguishing between psychology's goals.

#3 Why do we say that psychology is a broad field ?

a. There are many kinds of behavior we could examine


1. Physiological reactions


2. Overt behavior and actions


3. Thoughts


4. Feelings

b. Individuals are affected by many factors

 (from biological factors to physical factors to sociological factors)

       Hear how evolution may be affecting your mating and other behavior

 c. Topics covered in class and in text


d. Types of psychologists


e. Problems attacked by psychologists

II. Conclusions: Why study psychology?


1. Advantages of studying the "central major science of our time."





2. Your goals are psychology's goals (see whether your nonpsychological goals are good for you)


3. Psychology is probably relevant to your major


4. Psychology is relevant to your career


a. As a non-psychology major


b. As a psychology major


Hot Careers for the 2016 and beyond


By now, you should be able to do the following from memory. If you can't, you can get a hint by clicking on the link.


  1. Define psychology.
  2. Explain how psychology differs from philosophy.
  3. State the defining characteristic of the scientific approach.
  4. List at least one advantage and one disadvantage of using the scientific approach to studying human behavior.
  5. Explain why psychology uses the scientific approach.
  6. Identify the four major goals of psychology.
  7. Give examples to illustrate the point that psychology is a broad field.
  8. State at least two reasons why knowing about psychology will help you.
  9. Describe common career options for psychology majors.
  10. Understand this concept map about objectivity.
  11. Review this concept map about the breadth of psychology.
  12. Try this interactive quiz.

In addition, you might review the following concept map,
and think a little more about your own career by consulting this link.


Back to General Psychology Notes Menu


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