Welcome to Psychology, 2019

Dear Psychology Students,

Welcome to psychology, a study which is rich in intriguing human stories and challenging questions about who we are and how we became that way.

As you know, psychology can be defined as the scientific study of behaviour, thoughts and feelings. On this blog page, you can read an explanation of this definition.

Scientists know much more about the brain than 30 years ago, yet this organ is yet to reveal all its secrets.

The study of psychology is constantly evolving as a result of advances in biological knowledge and new techniques in scanning technology. For instance, our understanding of the human genome continues to grow. As scientists work towards creating a computer model of the human brain’s “genetic landscape”, we are learning more and more about the factors that influence human behaviour.

With each scientific discovery and technological advance, paradoxically, the study becomes more complex. For instance, scientists have so far identified 360 genes that appear to contribute to the development of schizophrenia, yet how these genes work and how they may lead to actual symptoms is still unclear. The more we learn about our genome and our brains, the more we need to learn.

New technologies have changed not just the methodology of biological sciences, but also the way in which humans interact, view themselves and engage with the social world.

There are also changes in psychology as a result of social and cultural developments. For instance, how we define “normal” and “abnormal” — and therefore what we classify as a “mental disorder” — has shifted dramatically in the past five decades. Another change is the digitalisation of human communication ( including even this modest blog), which has led to a transformation in how we interact with one another, how we work and how we learn. For reasons such as these, psychology is a continuously developing discipline.

I hope that you will learn something about yourselves as well as about psychology.

I hope that you will enjoy studying this vast and absorbing subject in 2019 and that you will gain new insights into yourselves and others.

Kind regards,

Ms Green

Extra Reading and Materials

Online Activities

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Stories, theorists and definitions – getting started in Psychology…

Psychology has many hats. There are many fields of knowledge that it touches on and connects with: for instance, philosophy, biology, neurology, education, health, business, sport and criminology. I hope you find the diversity of the subject stimulating and thought-provoking.
Psychology has many hats. There are several fields of knowledge that it touches on and connects with: for instance, philosophy, biology, neurology, education, health, business, sport and criminology. I hope you find the diversity of the subject stimulating and thought-provoking.

The quiz below will help you get a feel for the variety, the words and the human stories in psychology. Every now and then I hope to nip back to Learningapps.org, where I concocted the quiz, and add a question, another story or an extra comment. In this way the quiz will continue to develop, just like your knowledge and understanding of psychology.

There are a few simple questions in the quiz about research methods, as well as on topics such as memory, visual perception and the pioneers of psychology. You’ll learn just or much (indeed, perhaps more) by getting the questions wrong, because there are many explanations of both right and wrong answers.

I actually like the idea of learning by getting answers wrong. When Piaget talked with children, he  focused on  the reasoning behind their wrong answers; that’s how he came by many of his deepest insights.

There’s something to be said for getting something wrong and having to think it through. We really should allow ourselves to get things wrong more often. Except in exams, of course.

Kind regards,

Ms Green

PS Sophia and Mikaela designed the visual stimulus below, which illustrates the ideas of the Gestalt psychologists. It can be perceived in various ways, depending on which part of the stimulus you focus on; if you focus on the star, that becomes the figure; if you focus on the storm, the star becomes the ground.

Perhaps your dominant perception could even show whether you’re naturally optimistic or naturally pessimistic – but to ascertain that would of course require systematic empirical research.

In any case, the Gestaltists are famous for having identified the principles by which we organize the visual world. The figure-ground principle was a central idea of theirs. Thank you, Mikaela and Sophia!

A stimulus illustrating the principle of figure-ground, created by Mikaela and Sophia
A stimulus illustrating the principle of figure-ground, created by Mikaela and Sophia
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Human frailties and human strengths…

Welcome to our psychology blog…from Ms Bottrell, Ms Ind and Ms Green

The story of a psychology teacher who unwittingly caused one of her students considerable distress...
The story of a psychology teacher who unwittingly caused one of her students considerable psychological distress...

A traumatic but illustrative story:

A couple of years ago I took over a Year 11 class from Ms Ind. Naturally I was nervous, because I felt so uncertain that I would be able to maintain her high standard of teaching. It turned out that I was right to doubt myself. In my very first class, as I tried to interest my students in information about the nervous system, there was a crisis. One of my students suddenly became very pale and looked as though he was about to faint.

I knew my teaching was bad, but where had I gone wrong?

This simple story illustrates many of the topics of psychology.

The experience is deeply etched in my episodic memory. I shall never forget it, possibly because it caused me so much anxiety at the time.

My nervousness was probably associated with physiological arousal. In other words, several physiological measures would have indicated that I was in a state of high alertness; I was probably sweating and my heart was racing. Such symptoms can be useful in a crisis, but can also be counterproductive in everyday life.

The student nearly sank into an altered state of consciousness. Hmm, I daresay I provoke such a state in my students quite often, but usually it’s brought on by boredom rather than stories about brain surgery.

As you can see from the account above, the study of psychology is filled with human stories and with the precise psychological terms that can be used to describe them. The more you connect the experiences of everyday life with the language of psychology, the better you will cope with this subject and the more you will enjoy it.

We hope you will enjoy looking at the resources on this blog. We will be adding to them as often as possible. If you find resources on the web that are useful, let us know, so that we can add a link to those too. If you would like to ask a question or answer another student’s question, or simply make a comment, go ahead. Over time, this blog could become like an online bulletin board. There will also be opportunities to download handouts that you have missed.

By the way, the student who became so pale in my story above thankfully regained normal waking consciousness. My new class forgave me for my clumsy teaching and I gained new self-esteem from the experience.

Phew.rat pic 3

Kind regards and best wishes for your psychology studies,

Ms Green

Print Friendly, PDF & Email