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CORNELL / Psychology / PSYCH 1101 / What does scientific explanation mean?

What does scientific explanation mean?

What does scientific explanation mean?


School: Cornell University
Department: Psychology
Course: Introduction to Psychology
Professor: D pizarro
Term: Fall 2016
Cost: 50
Name: psych 101 first exam study guide
Description: Everything on first exam
Uploaded: 07/07/2016
16 Pages 55 Views 2 Unlocks


What does scientific explanation mean?

Science: method for arriving at knowledge about natural world, with the goal of explaining why  things are the way they are

*Psychology lagged behind b/c people neglected that it was a natural phenomenon  ­study human mind in different capacities to determine what causes ‘

thoughts, feelings, behavior

Scientific explanation 

­satisfying explanation ­> “invokes principles that are fewer in number, more general, earlier in  the causal chain, and closer to irreducible physical and mathematical laws than the ones that  immediately fit the data in question” –Steven Pinker

recipe for science

1)take best guess 

2)specific predictions that arise from guess

3)compare prediction to what you see in nature 

What is the recipe for science?

We also discuss several other topics like What does endocrine, exocrine, and paracrine mean?

4)does it match w/ prediction? If no reject theory 

5)repeat, share, refine 

problematic in practice

­dumb guess

­imprecise theories 

­sloppy method 

­wrong data analysis 

­unjustified conclusion 

­stubborn scientists 


How to do scientific psychology? 

1)take best guess about general principle 

**get data  support claims

How do psychologists get their data

­likely as many methods as there are topics 

­most methods can be grouped into one of 3 categories 

­unobtrusive observation 



What is the problem in practice in science?

self report 


­often easy to collect, quick 


Methods pt. 2

­ Correlation is not causation

o Observational and self report measure can yield good data, but cannot  determine causality

­ Experimentation

o Experimentation can determine causality

o Control group vs. experimental group

o Random assignment ­ each person has an equal likelihood of being  We also discuss several other topics like Who were the mestizos in the americas?
If you want to learn more check out Why did many people move to urban areas in the 1800s?

assigned to either group

o Independent variable ­ manipulated

o Dependent variable ­ measure the outcome

§ Ex. scoring on exam (dependent variable is the score on the 

exam based on people who drink coffee before and who do not)

o General Principle: the mere presence of others causes physiological 


o Specific prediction: social stressors are known to inhibit relaxation of  the muscles involved in urination – presence of others delays the onset of  urination

o Experiment: participants visiting three­urinal bathroom randomly 

assigned to one of 3 conditions

§ Confederate stood immediately adjacent to participant (8.4 


§ Alone (4.8 seconds)

§ One urinal away (6.2 seconds)

­ Limits to Experimentation

o Not everything can be manipulated through random assignment

§ Convenience, ethical decision

o Experiments can contain confounds

o Experimentation relies on constrained, controlled environment We also discuss several other topics like What is a marginal product of labor?
Don't forget about the age old question of What is truth according to the politics of america?

§ Limits the breadth of conclusions that can be made, because 

the real world is much more complex

­ Does watching violent media make kids violent?

o General principle: human beings learn behavior through observation  and mimicry

o Specific prediction: watching violent television will make people more  violent

o Observes, measure, manipulate the world and see if there is evidence for  this claim

­ “Operational Definition” of violence

o Really specifically saying what you mean by violence Don't forget about the age old question of What does chromatin mean?

§ Ex. “Intelligence” is often operationally defined as “score on a

standard IQ test”

­ How do psychologists select a method?

o What psychological phenomenon are they interested in studying?

§ How much is innate vs. learned?

§ Does emotional arousal improve memory?

o What level of analysis is being used to explain the phenomenon

§ Evolution, biology, culture, individual development, individual differences/ personality,  situation/ social content


Which level of analysis to explain the phenomenon? 

Levels of analysis example  why are humans violent?


­did violent behavior provide selective advantage


­what are the hormonal/neural mechanisms that are associated with violent  behavior 


­do certain cultures/subcultures encourage/discourage violence?


­at what age does violence emerge? Are there early influences that predict   who becomes violent?

Individual differences/personality 

­are certain traits associated with violence? 

Situation/social context

How do psychologists select their method? 

­do they have a particular theoretical view? 

­methods often determined by what you already believe about the nature of a  phenomenon 

Discrete Vs. Dimensional theories of emotion 

Face coding system 

­activation of facial muscles


levels of analysis 

Do they have a particular theory they are looking to defend? 

  ­methods often determined by what you already believe about the nature of a phenomenon  ­are emotions best described as many discrete categories as a set

methods involving animals 

ex: sea slug  basic things ex: does it retract when spooked

experimental method: fear conditioning 

­consistent pairing of an auditory tone w/ delivery of a shock

­tone by itself causes fear response 

­easily measured in mice (freezing behavior)

­role of amygdala  implicated in certain kinds of emotional response

methods involving (human) brains 

­measuring brain activity associated w/ thoughts/behaviors (correlation)

­naturally occurring lesions from accidents or disease (quasi­experiement) ­direct brain stimulation (experimental manipulation)

example: Electroencephalography (EEG)

­measures electrical activity in brain 

­good temporal resolution (milliseconds)

­poor spatial resolution 

­(fairly) non­intrusive 

example: functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

­measure of blood flow to areas of brain (oxygenation)

­correlational, but often paired w/ experimental task

­decent spatial resolution 

­poor temporal resolution (signal lags)

­expensive, can be uncomfortable

example: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

­electromagnetic induction over scalp 

­disrupts neuronal activity in targeted region 

­penetration is limited to 5­6mm deep

Developmental Methods 

­cross sectional (ex: compare 3 year olds to 5 year olds)

­longitudinal (look at kids at age 3, then again at age 5)

­twin studies (identical vs. fraternal, reared together V. reared apart)

­experimental methods

Reaction Time Measures

Ex: implicit associations tests 

­simple computer­based categorization task 

­measures association between concepts 

­ex: race age, gender and good V. bad 

triangulating scientific truth: multiple methods yield reliable conclusions  ­reliance on a single method yields limited ability to draw conclusions 

­progress comes from “triangulating”—looking across multiple levels of analysis, using various  methods 

­we learn through poking, prodding, measuring, and repeating over and over again… A science is only as good as its methods

­psych is the application of scientific method to the understanding of the human mind ­breadth in the levels of analysis with which we can explain the mind

­variety in the methods that are used 

Some basic assumptions 

­the brain is a natural phenomenon and is therefore open to scientific investigation  ­the brain is the immediate cause of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors –things psychologists  study 


­psychology is open to scientific investigation 

­to understand psychology we ought to understand the brain 


­bodies are physical, minds are immaterial 

difficult to shake dualism 

­naturally use dualistic language 

­“my arm” ”my hair” “my brain”

­intuitions about personal identity 

­body­swapping is not hard to understand

­nor are multiple identities in one body 

dualism gets in way of our scientific understanding

­problematic view to defend even philosophically 

­we are aware of what physical things are capable of doing

­most importantly, it is more obvious than ever than our minds are linked to our brain in a  necessary way 

How does the brain work 


­about 86,000,000,000

­sensory (afferent) neurons, motor (efferent) neurons, interneurons 


­intensity: expressed through number of neurons firing and frequency of firing 

communication over synapses; azons release neurotransmitters 



drugs; agonists V. antagonists 






How does the brain work?

Brains grew more complex so we could begin to ask questions about the brain 


•The entire brain works through neurons sending messages and firing in patterns  •Brain is activated through neurons 

•Works through neurotransmitters 

•What makes a mental state is the pattern of activation in amygdala through neurotransmitters •How can neurons firing make someone themselves?

•Cells on their own want to survive and fire together to make you you 

•Cells work in concert to produce something larger than just a physical being  •Something new comes from cooperation of cells

•We are built of complex construction of neurons that build something new 


•Chemical messengers that send signals across neurons

•Chemicals made in cell body, and when transmitted to a second neuron it makes it more likely  for next neuron to fire (excitatory) or less likely (inhibitory) 


•Increasing serotonin by blocking reuptake 

•Acetylcholine: exerts excitatory effects on the skeletal muscle fibers, causing them to contract so that the body can move and has an inhibitory effect on the muscle fibers in the heart, which keeps the heart from beating too rapidly 

•Dopamine­ one of four neurotransmitters called monoamines, produces both excitatory and  inhibitory effects and is involved in several functions, including learning, attention, and  movement. Important for reinforcement learning—gives you the feeling of reward. Implicated in  pleasure and addiction.


­possible to activate reward system by cutting out middleman – directly stimulate reward center ­some drugs cut out the middle man

­drugs can explain how neurotransmitters are working 


serotonin = play important role in regulating mood, sleep, impulsivity, aggression, appetite  ecstasy  releases serotonin 

­action potential, releases serotonin 

­squeezes all of serotonin out of vesicles, free floating 

­b/c depleted serotonin next few days = big drop in serotonin levels 

norepinephrine = affects eating habits (stimulates intake carbs) 

­plays major role in alertness and wakefulness 


­sometimes targeted by newer antidepressants 

GABA = main inhibitory neurotransmitter in brain

­w/o enough = seizures

­ alcohol and benzodiazepines work in part by acting on this chemical 

Endorphins =relief from pain or the stress of vigorous exercise 

­produce feelings of pleasure and well­being

How drugs affect neurotransmitters 

­many drugs act by influencing the action of neurotransmitters in a number of ways  ­influence the chemical precursors of a transmitter substance 

­prevent the storage of the transmitter substance in vesicles 

­inhibit or stimulate the release of the transmitter substance 

­block postsynaptic receptors 

­block reuptake of free­floating transmitter substance 

*drugs  increasing (agonist), decreasing (antagonist)

reuptake – increasing amount of a drug in brain by taking normal amount being sent through  receptors, taking the free­floating serration and blocking it from being stored by in neurons  Amphetamines –get in squeezes all of it out, allows some to be absorbed 

Cocaine and amphetamines act by boosting dopamine 

­been doing crystal meth for a week straight? That much dopamine­boosting and you’ll get  amphetamine psychosis 

­didn’t touch the crystal meth but stilling having delusions and hallucinations? ***finish slide

For some things, we don’t even need our brain

­some refleces don’t need to go through the brain 

­sucking in newborns 

­limb flexion in withdrawal from pain


Why this is oversimplified 

Mammalian brain

­even smallest brain structures = very complex, contain substructures we cannot capture w/  imaging 

­function of brain depends on connections­ how are they interconnected

plasticity V. localization 

­certain parts if removed, remove that overall function 


­changes in physical structure and functional organization of the brain due to experience  ­learning – neurons that fire together, wire together 

­remapping of sensory cortex (losing finger)

­neurons rewire to come to aid of something else 

­brain damage (invasive surgery)

­can be positive or negative (changes in amygdala due to post­traumatic stress)

Human Echolocation 

­use clicking noise to find distance of oncoming or surrounding objects 

­using sounds, gets 3D images with depth and character 

­processes and interacts with those 

­gets info into brain in visual portion of his brain 

subcortical structures 




cortex – composed of lobes, structures in layers with different densities of neurons across them 

2 hemispheres of brain 

­left and right sides are separate

­corpus callosum: major pathway b/w hemispheres

­some functions are lateralize

­right hemisphere = left hand control 

­left hemisphere = right hand control 

Sensory info sent to opposite hemisphere

­contralateral organization 

­sensory data crosses over in pathways leading to the cortex 

­visual crossover 

­left visual field to right hemisphere 

­right field to left 

­other senses similar 

­> ability to speak = almost exclusively in left hemisphere 

­guy with sep. hemispheres had to draw it to say it 

*when you split 2 hemispheres = almost like causing 2 separate people to reside in your head  ­gazzaniga and split brain patients 


­implicated heavily in emotional processing, especially fear 

­activated when viewing fearful stimuli 

­recognition of facial expressions of fear 

­amygdala lesions impair fear conditioning 

­plays important role in emotional memory 

­activation ot pictures correlated w/ implicit measures of racism



­much of what he said about psychology is likely wrong 

­even worse, not even wrong 

­also weird 

­interesting and influential ideas 

example of a “big” theory 

­tries to understand everything –everyday life, humor, dreams, development, personality  ­attempts a real explanation 

­dreams, jokes, personality, neuroses –even religion and civilization owe their existence  to the dynamic unconscious 

­understanding failures of Freud’s attempt at big theorizing sets the stage for understanding how  scientific psychology unfolded

lasting contribution 

­the unconscious mind

­our motivation can be unknown to us

­basic, often hidden, motivations influence all aspects of psychology 

­importance of early childhood development 

­willingness to discuss pleasure and sexuality 

­broadly defined

­where you derive pleasures changes throughout the life span 

some background: 


­trained as M.D. neurologist 

­from Vienna, Jewish –sexuality was not polite convo 

­became interested in work being done on patients with odd symptoms w/ no clear physical basis

The origins of Pyschoanalysis 

 Anna O. and the talking cure

­patient of Dr. Josef Breuer – Freud’s friend 

­patient presented w/ “hysterical symptoms”

­conversion disorder 

­glove paralysis (no organic cause possible) lost ability hands

­hallucinated about snakes, skulls, skeletons 

­would love ability to speak native German, only speak French or English  ­during treatment, symptoms would start disappearing when she would start speaking about them  ­Anna O. dubbed it the ‘talking cure’ and ‘chimney sweeping’

“Structural” theory of mind 

­id (it)–“dumb” – driven by instinct, present from birth 

­does not distinguish b/w reality and fantasy 

­operates according to pleasure principal 


­ego (I) –develops out of id infancy 

­understands reality and logic 

­mediator b/w id and superego 

­supergo (“over­I”)

­internalization of society’s moral standards 

­responsible for guilt

Big idea: most mental life is unconscious 

The mind as “hydraulic”

5 stages of psychosexual development

­infant is all id 

­each developmental stage is characterized by the primary source of please  ­oral 





­an individual can become fixated on a stage – never quite move along 

­an attempt t achieve pleasure as an adult in ways that are equivalent to how it was achieved in  these stages 


­mouth associated w/ sexual pleasure 

­weaning child can lead to fixation if handled wrong 

­can lead to oral activities in adult hood

Anal (1­3 years)

­anus associated with pleasure 

­toilet training can lead to fixation if handled wrong

­can lead to retentive or expulsive behaviors in adulthood 

phallic stage (3­5)

­focus of pleasure shifts to genitals 

­oedipus or electra compelx can occur 

­fixation can lead to excessive masculinity and males and need for attention or domination in  females 

Oedipus complex 

­moms is nice, I love her. I mean, I really love her 

­dad is always in business.. 

­he must die 

­uh oh dad knows 

­but what can he do 


The Psychology of Learning: Freud Continued

Defense Mechanisms

o Unconscious mental processes employed by the ego to  reduce the anxiety caused by the Id (source of motivation) o A set of “filters” preventing the Id’s desires to come out in  their true form

o Hydraulic model – pressure coming from what lies beneath

o Sublimation  converting energy to activities that are  valued by society

 Releasing that energy into something else (i.e., art  work, exercise)

o Displacement  re-direction to other targets (kick the dog  because boss was mean)

o Projection  reducing anxiety by attributing unacceptable  impulses to someone else

 Blaming an incident on someone else – the glass was broke, instead of I broke the glass

 You are a male and you want to get with another  man – but in order to hide that you call everyone else gay (because you don’t know how to handle the  feeling)

o These defense mechanisms are necessary but they’re not  going to solve everything

o Rationalization  reasoning away anxiety-producing  thoughts

o Regression  retreating to a mode of behavior  characteristic of an earlier stage of development  When a baby is getting attention – a slightly older  child can get jealous and start acting like a baby  again (i.e., wanting a bottle or a pacifier)

o Reaction formation  replacing threatening wishes and  fantasies with their opposites

 Gay example – preaches about how bad it is to be  gay (doing the opposite of what your impulse is  telling you)

 Modern evidence

∙ 2 groups of hetero men:

o High vs. low homophobics

o Both have the same starting points of  


∙ Watched videotapes of

o Hetero activity (porn)

 Everyone gets aroused (no matter  

sexual orientation)

o Lesbian activity

 Similar arousal between the two

o Gay activity

 High homophobics are aroused  


 Low homophobics are aroused  

much less

∙ Assessed sexual arousal

o Penile circumference while watching  


o Greater circumference, more blood,  

greater arousal  

- For Freud, the unconscious still rears its head

o Parapraxes (slips of the tongue)

o Humor

o Dreams – just your unconscious

- Deep Problem

o A theory that can account for nearly every possible  observation

o So…not a theory at all

o No matter what you say – Freud would always find a way to fit it into his theory

 Warning sign that you have a bad theory

∙ If you can’t find evidence that would disprove  

his theory then it is NOT science

o Unfalsifiability came partly from a reliance on unobservable constructs (“ids” and “egos”)

o Between Freudian psychology and “introspectionist”  psychology, psychologists rejected “mentalism” as  


o Solution? Stick to things that you can measure directly:  behavior

o We cannot rely on unobservable entities to tell about  science

- Ego keeps you in check with reality – when the Id doesn’t get  what it wants

- Superego is not reality based but it is the internalization of  conscience, more behavior

- Ego acts as a filter – a lid keeping energy from the Id from  coming out

o Ex. desire to have sex – gets filtered out by the ego  turns  into wanting something else

- The goal of therapy is to make the unconscious conscious –Freud - The Psychology of learning

o Behaviorism: the science of learning

 A collection of theories that emphasize learning

 “Learning” is often defined as a change in the  

organism’s response as a result of experience

 Rejection of “mentalism” as unscientific

∙ Unscientific  desires, wishes, goals, beliefs,  

emotions, etc.

∙ Scientific  observables; stimulus, response,  

environment, etc.

 Same learning mechanisms operate across species ∙ Understanding how rats, pigeons, and dogs  

learn can give us insight into how humans  


o Nature vs. Nurture Round 1

 This is one of the 1st examples of the many heated  debates in the field about how much of psychological

experience is innate (instinctual or otherwise  

unlearned), and how much is due to the environment

∙ Nativism vs. empiricism

 This debate will rear its head repeatedly

o The optimism of behaviorism – John B. Watson  

 Doesn’t matter who you are born to  can be taught  different things

- Three basic learning mechanisms proposed to explain everything o Habituation

o Classical conditioning

o Operant conditioning


How can Behaviorism Explain the Scope of Psychology - Three basic learning mechanisms proposed to explain everything o Habituation

 The decline in the tendency to respond to stimuli that are familiar due to repeated exposure

∙ E.g., clock ticking, traffic noise, trains

 An adaptive mechanism to keep us focusing on new  objects and events

 This mechanism is non-associative

 After awhile you adapt to the smell, sound, or feeling  of something

∙ You can become accustomed to feeling a ring  

on your fingers, but if you take them off then  

those neurons recognize a change in feeling

o Classical (Pavlovian) conditioning

 The learning of an association based on repeated  

presentation of paired stimuli

∙ An Unconditioned Stimulus (US or UCS) such as

food or shock that causes a reflective response

o You salivate when you eat food

∙ Paired with a neutral stimulus that does not  

normally cause a reflective response, the  

Conditioned Stimulus (CS)

∙ After enough pairings, the Conditioned  

Stimulus the response without need for the

Unconditioned Stimulus

o The dog experiment  the dog become  

accustomed to getting food so it was  

salivate before he got the food

o The experimenter adding a ticking noise  

to distract the dog from salivating before  

food was given to him

o After awhile, whatever the stimulus, the  

dogs could be conditioned to salivate

 Repeated pairings of Unconditioned Stimulus and  Conditioned Stimulus will give rise to a Conditioned  Response with just the CS

 Optimal timing – right before (contiguous AND  


 Extinction

 Stimulus generalization

o Operant (Instrumental) conditioning

 Can an Infant learn via classical conditioning? The  “Little Albert” Experiment

∙ In 1920 John Watson and Rosalie Rayner  

conducted an experiment on 9 month old  


∙ Goal: use classical conditioning to “teach” the  

infant a novel fear

o Shows him a series of furry animals  

accompanied by a loud noise

o Albert soon fears all furry animals  

because he is afraid of the loud noise  

associated with them

∙ Evidence that what seems instinctual and  

innate – a fear response – is actually learned

o The Scope of Power of Classical Conditioning

 Crabs, fish, cockroaches, pigeons, rates, etc.

 Humans

∙ Fear

o Flooding  expose people to their fears  

(lock someone in a room with a bunch of  

spiders for awhile)

∙ Hunger

o At lunch time your body prepares to eat,  

you become hungry, you salivate

∙ Sex

o Fetishes

- Why do we learn this way? What makes it so powerful? o It is an adaptive response; it helps prepare the organism

 E.g., salivating helps get the mouth ready for the  

presence of food

 Ability to predict and prepare is a good thing for an  organism’s survival

One trial learning  things that make you sick behooves you to never  try them again (his ex. of eating candy corn)  

When you only need once to learn : taste aversion 

The Garcia effect 

­found that rats given sweetened water, then exposed to radiation to induce nausea  ­rats avoided sweet water after only 1 trial 

organisms biologically prepared to learn this association 

­conscious awareness is not necessary 

­sickness can occur hours later 

­only some kinds of stimuli work (pairing nausea with tons or lights has no effect)

learning mechanisms 


­classical conditioning 

­operant conditioning 

­simple but powerful: organism learn relationships b/w actions and rewards and punishments  ­learning occurs as long as organism changes it behavior as function of consequences that follow from their behavior 

­organisms act on environment in random fashion 

­cat in the box  if gets out they get food 

Radical behaviorism 

­“big theory of psychology”

­emphasize learning only through conditioning (rejected any “innate” skills or knowledge) ­rejected unobersvable variables (thoughts and feelings) as unscientific 

­learning mechanisms no different across species 

a “skinner box”

­contains lever/ set of levers that donate food

The pigeon as a weapon

­pigeon guided missile

shaping behavior 

positive reinforce  increases behavior 

­can be primary or secondary (food V. money)

negative reinforcement  rewarding someone by removing a BAD thing 

punishment  negative consequences in response to an unwanted behavior 

The partial reinforcement effect 

­goal = maintain behavior 

­don’t deliver reward every time  keep them guessing 

­better way to get people to engage in behavior

fixed ration reinforcement = reward after every nth response 

variable ratio reinforcement = reward on average once in every n responses  fixed interval reinforcement = reward after every y seconds (or minutes, or hours) variable interval reinforcement = reward every once in every y seconds (or minutes or hours)

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