Essentials of Psychology

ESSENTIALS of PSYCHOLOGY by Douglas A. Bernstein and Peggy W. Nash – FOURTH EDITION pdf

 ESSENTIALS of PSYCHOLOGY 4th edWhat is psychology, and how did it grow?

Psychology is the science that seeks to understand behavior and mental processes and to apply that understanding in the service of human welfare. So, although the ten people we have just described are engaged in many different kinds of work, they are all psychologists because they are all involved in studying, predicting, improving, or explaining some aspect of behavior and mental processes.

But even this wide variety of jobs fails to capture the full scope of psychologists’ interests. As a group, the world’s half-million psychologists are interested in all the behaviors and mental processes that make you who you are and make other people who they are in every culture around the world.

Subfields of Psychology

To appreciate how many things come under the umbrella of behavior and mental processes, think for a moment about how you would answer the question, Who are you? Would you describe your personality, the sharpness of your vision or hearing, your interests and goals, your job skills and accomplishments, your IQ, your cultural background, your social skills, or perhaps a physical or psychological problem that bothers you? You could list these and dozens of other things about yourself, and every one of them would reflect some aspect of what psychologists mean by behavior and mental processes.

When psychologists focus their work on particular aspects of behavior and mental processes, they enter one of psychology’s many subfields. Let’s take a quick look at the typical interests and activities of psychologists in these subfields now; we will focus on many of them in more detail in later chapters.

Cognitive psychologists study basic mental processes such as sensation and perception, learning and memory (including the question of whether people can forget, and then suddenly recover, traumatic memories), and judgment, decision making, and problem solving.

Biological psychologists, also called physiological psychologists or neuroscientists, study topics such as how genes and brain chemistry are related to the appearance of mental disorders, how brain cells communicate with each other in forming memories, whether certain patterns of brain activity can reveal that a person is lying, and how stress hormones weaken the body’s immune system. Have you ever experienced deja vu, the feeling that a new experience, such as entering an unfamiliar house, has actually happened to you before? Biological psychologists studying this illusion suggest that it may be due to a temporary malfunction in the brain’s ability to combine incoming information from the senses, creating the impression of two “copies” of a single event.

■ Personality psychologists study individuality—the unique features of each person. Your personality traits, like your fingerprints, are different from those of all other people. Some personality psychologists use tests to describe how one individual compares with others in terms of openness to experience, emotionality, reliability, agreeableness, and sociability. Others study particular combinations of personality traits that may predict particular patterns of behavior. For instance, personality psychologists interested in positive psychology are identifying the characteristics of people who can remain optimistic even in the face of stress or tragedy and find happiness in life.

Developmental psychologists study and describe changes in behavior and mental processes over the life span, trying to understand their causes and effects. They explore areas such as the development of thought, friendship patterns, and parenting styles and whether everyone must face a midlife crisis. Some of their research has been used by judges and attorneys in deciding how old a child has to be in order to serve as a reliable witness in court or to responsibly choose which divorcing parent to live with.

Quantitative psychologists develop and use statistical tools to analyze vast amounts of information generated by research results from all of psychology’s subfields. Later in this chapter we show how quantitative psychologists use correlation coefficients and other statistical tools to evaluate psychological tests and to estimate the relative contributions of heredity and environment in determining our intelligence. To what extent are people born smart—or not so smart—and to what extent are their mental abilities affected by their environments? This is one of the hottest topics in psychology today, and quantitative psychologists are right in the middle of it.

Clinical, counseling, and community psychologists study the causes of behavior disorders and offer services to help troubled people overcome these disorders. Generally, clinical psychologists have Ph.D. degrees in psychology; most provide therapy services, and many conduct research as well. A counseling psychologist might work as a mental health counselor, for example, and have either a Ph.D. or a master’s degree in psychology. Community psychologists offer psychological sendees to the homeless and others who need help but tend not to seek it. By working for changes in schools and other social systems, they also try to prevent poverty and other stressful conditions that so often lead to disorder. All of these psychologists differ from psychiatrists, who are medical doctors with a specialty in abnormal behavior (psychiatry).

Educational psychologists conduct research and develop theories about teaching and learning. The results of their work are applied in programs designed to improve teacher training, refine school curricula, reduce dropout rates, and help students learn more efficiently. For example, they have supported the use of the “jigsaw” technique, a type of classroom activity in which children from various ethnic groups must work together to complete a task or solve a problem. These cooperative experiences appear to promote learning, generate mutual respect, and reduce intergroup prejudice .

School psychologists have traditionally specialized in intelligence testing, diagnosing learning disabilities and other academic problems, and setting up programs to improve students’ achievement and satisfaction in school. Today, however, they are also involved in early detection of students’ mental health problems and in crisis intervention following school violence.

Social psychologists study the ways that people influence one another. For example, they conduct research on social-influence strategies. They also explore how peer pressure affects us, what determines whom we like (or even love), and why and how prejudice forms. They have found, for example, that although we may pride ourselves on not being prejudiced, we may actually hold unconscious beliefs about certain ethnic groups that negatively affect the way we relate to people from those groups .

Industrial/organizational psychologists study leadership, stress, competition, pay, and other factors that affect the efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction of workers and the organizations that employ them. They conduct research on topics such as increasing the motivation of current employees and helping companies select the best new workers. They also explore the ways in which businesses and industrial organizations work—or fail to work—and they make recommendations to help these organizations to work better. Companies all over the world are applying research by industrial/organizational psychologists in the development of employee training programs, effective goal-setting procedures, fair and reasonable evaluation methods, and systems for motivating and rewarding outstanding employee performance.

Our list of psychology’s subfields is still not complete. For example, health psychologists study the effects of behavior on health and the impact of illness on behavior and emotion; sport psychologists search for the keys to maximum athletic performance; and forensic psychologists assist in jury selection, evaluate defendants’ sanity and mental competence to stand trial, and deal with other issues involving psychology and the law. Engineering psychologists, also known as human factors psychologists, study the relationships of human beings to the computers and other machines they use. Their research has been applied in the design of computer keyboards; Internet web sites; aircraft instrument panels; controls for hospital beds and nuclear power plants; and even on-screen programming systems for TV sets that make them more logical, easier to use, and less likely to cause errors. Finally, environmental psychologists study the effects of the environment on people’s behavior and mental processes. The results of their research are applied by architects and interior designers as they plan or remodel residence halls, shopping malls, auditoriums, hospitals, prisons, offices, and other spaces to make them more comfortable and functional for the people who will occupy them.


1 Introduction to the Science of Psychology
2 Biology and Behavior
3 Sensation and Perception
4 Consciousness
5 Learning
6 Memory
7 Thought, Language, and Intelligence
8 Motivation and Emotion
9 Human Development
10 Health, Stress, and Coping
11 Personality
12 Psychological Disorders
13 Treatment of Psychological Disorders
14 Social Psychology

Appendix: Statistics in Psychological Research
Answer Key to Multiple-Choice Self-Test Questions
Answer Key to In Review Chart Questions

Language: English
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