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UA / Psychology / PSY 150 / What is psychology and two things that psychologist primarily study?

What is psychology and two things that psychologist primarily study?

What is psychology and two things that psychologist primarily study?


School: University of Arizona
Department: Psychology
Course: Structure of Mind & Behavior
Professor: Adam lazarewicz
Term: Spring 2016
Cost: 50
Name: Study Guide for Midterm #1
Description: This is the study guide found on D2L completely filled out with answers from the textbook and in class notes. All of the questions are answered in detail. This should help you ace our first midterm!
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PSY150A1: Structure of Mind and Behavior 

What is psychology and two things that psychologist primarily study?

Study Guide for Midterm Exam #1 

Chapter 1: History and Approaches to Psychology 

∙ What is the hindsight bias?

After learning an outcome you have the tendency to believe that you would have  foreseen it. “I knew it all along” phenomenon

∙ What is psychology? What are the two things that psychologists primarily study? Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.

∙ How did the fields of physiology and philosophy inform the birth of psychology?  How were Hippocrates, the phrenologists, and John Locke examples of this  influence?

Physiology is the study of biological workings and philosophy uses logic and speculation  to understand humanity. They are the roots of psychology. Hippocrates was a  physiologist who saw illness as an imbalance of fluids or “humors”. Phrenologists  predicted someone’s personality based upon bumps on the skull. Phrenology marked the  first study of brain regions. John Locke was a philosopher who believed we are all born  with a “blank slate” (tabula rasa) and what we experience in life makes us who we are.

What is gestalt psychology and perceptual units?

Don't forget about the age old question of What is Ardipithecus Kadabba/ramidus?

∙ Describe the primary difference between the structuralists and the functionalists.

Structuralists focus on uncovering the fundamental mental components of  consciousness, thinking, and other kinds of mental states and activities. Functionalists  concentrated on what the mind does-the functions of mental activity-and the role of  behavior in allowing people to adapt to their environments.

∙ What is gestalt psychology? What are perceptual units?

Gestalt psych focuses on the organization of perception and thinking in a whole sense  rather than on the individual elements of perception. Our understanding of objects is  greater and more meaningful than the individual elements that make up our perceptions. Perceptual units are the way that the brain organizes incoming info to simplify the world.  If you want to learn more check out what are The six steps in the scientific method for conducting research?

∙ Describe the basic concepts of psychoanalysis. Who is the most famous  psychologist associated with psychoanalysis?

What is behaviorism? How was it a reaction to the fields that came before it?

We also discuss several other topics like what is cultural capital?

Psychoanalysis argues that unconscious inner forces that the individual has little control  over motivate behavior. There is tension between thoughts and behavior. Sigmund Freud.

∙ What is behaviorism? How was it a reaction to the fields that came before it?

Behaviorism is the approach that suggests that observable, measurable behaviors (and  how we learn them) should be the focus of study. Proponents of the behavioral  perspective rejected psychology’s early emphasis on the inner workings of the mind.

∙ How were humanistic psychology and cognitive psychology reactions to  behaviorism?

Humanistic psych rejected the view that behavior is determined by unfolding biological  forces, unconscious processes, or the environment. It emphasized the growth potential of healthy people. Cognitive psych focuses on how people think, understand, and know  about the world. Cognitive psych studies how information is stored and worked with. It  says our brains are like hardware and mental processes are the software.  

Chapter 2: Research Methods 

∙ Describe the 5 steps of the scientific method. Be sure your answer includes the  following terms: hypothesis, variable, operational definition, theory.

1. Identify a problem 2. Make a hypothesis. 3. Carry out research and collect data using  operational definitions (translation of a hypothesis into specific, testable procedures that  can be measured and observed). 4. Communicate findings and create a theory. 5. Test  theory by generating a new hypothesis. Don't forget about the age old question of How economics help in daily life?

∙ What is the difference between a population and a sample? Why is random  sampling important?

A population is a large group of interest, while a sample is a small group that represents  the whole (population). Random sampling is important to insure that every subject has  an equal likelihood of being represented and to lessen the effect of bias. Don't forget about the age old question of what is hyperglycemia?

∙ What is descriptive research, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?

Descriptive research describes characteristics of a certain group. It offers insight into  relationships but cannot determine causality.  

∙ What is correlational research, and what are its strengths and weaknesses? Be  sure that you know how to interpret a correlation coefficient.

Correlation research examines two sets of variables to determine whether they are  associated. Again, it offers insight into relationships but cannot determine causality.  

∙ What is experimental research, and what are its strengths and weaknesses? Experimental research produces a change in one variable to observe the effects of that  changes on other variables. They offer the only way to determine cause and effect  relationships. However, to be valid, they require random assignment and other careful  controls. We also discuss several other topics like what is Constitutional Law?

o What is the difference between an independent variable (IV) and a  dependent variable (DV)? What is a confound?

o IV is manipulated while the DV is measured. Confounding variables cause the outcome to differ but is not an IV.  

o What is random assignment, and why is it important to an experiment?

o Random assignment reduces bias and makes the experiment more valid.  ∙ Explain what it means to say that research is reliable, valid, and bias-free.

1. Reliability: Consistency, same results when repeated 2. Valid: Internal- Confidence that the IV manipulated caused group difference in DV External-Extent to which a study’s  findings can be generalized to situations outside lab 3. Bias-free: the experiment has a  placebo, control, and may be double-blind design.  

∙ What does it mean to say that two groups in an experiment were “significantly  different” from one another?

Meaningful results that make it possible for researchers to feel confident that they have  confirmed their hypothesis.  

∙ What are informed consent, debriefing, and institutional review boards (IRBs)?  Why are they important?

Informed consent is a document signed by participants affirming that they have been  told the basic outlines of the study and are aware of what their participation will involve.  Debriefing is the interview after that ensures participant has no negative reactions and  understands why the study was conducted. IRBs make sure that the experimenters  follow the laws and that the experiments are ethical.  

Chapter 3: Biological Bases of Behavior 

∙ What is a neuron? Describe the structures that make up a neuron, and what each  structure does.

Neurons are nerve cells, the basic elements of the nervous system. Dendrites are a  cluster of fibers at one end of a neuron that receives messages from other neurons. The  axon carries messages destined for other neurons. Terminal buttons are small bulges at  the end of axons that send messages to other neurons. The myelin sheath is a protective coating of fat and protein that wraps around the axon.  

∙ Describe the process of neural firing. Be sure to include the following terms: all-or none law, excitatory messages, inhibitory messages, threshold, action potential,  neurotransmitter.

Like a gun, neurons either fire (transmit an electrical impulse along the axon) or  don’t fire. There is no in between, that is why it is called the all or none law. An excitatory message that makes it more likely that a receiving neuron will fire and an action  potential will travel down its axon. An inhibitory message prevents or decreases the  likelihood that a receiving neuron will fire. The action potential is an electric nerve  impulse that travels through a neuron’s axon when a “trigger” changing the neuron’s  charge from negative to positive sets it off. Neurotransmitter carry messages across the  synapse to the dendrite (and sometimes the cell body) of a receiver neuron. The  threshold is reached if there are enough excitatory signals for the neuron to fire.  

∙ What is a neurotransmitter? Describe the basic functions of acetylcholine,  dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. What are agonists and antagonists?

A neurotransmitter is a chemical that sends signals from one neuron to another over  synapse through an electrochemical process.  

Acetylcholine: muscle movement & cognitive functioning

Dopamine: movement control, pleasure & reward, attention

Norepinephrine: controls alertness & arousal “fight or flight”

Serotonin: Sleeping, eating, mood, pain, depression

Agonists: Excite or promote neurotransmission, they mimic structure of  neurotransmitters (morphine & endorphins)

Antagonists: Inhibit or block neurotransmissions, similar enough to occupy receptor but  not enough to activate (curare) or may prevent release of neurotransmitter (botox)

∙ Describe the following neuroimaging techniques: EEG, CT scan, PET scan, MRI,  fMRI. Be sure that you can identify whether each images the structure or function  of the brain.

EEG: Recording of electrical activity (brainwaves) that sweeps across brain’s surface  *measures function

(+) Tracks activity in response to a stimulus, high temporal resolution, not invasive (-) Electrodes on scalp do not demonstrate precise location of activity (low spatial  resolution)

CT: Creates 3D image of brain structure using x-rays, used to examine brain injuries,  tumors, strokes

(+): Allows direct view of level of interest, high contrast spatial resolution (-): High levels of radiation

PET: Uses radioactive glucose to track energy consumption in the brain, neurons use  more glucose when active so glucose is delivered to most active areas *brain function (+): Shows where brain functions(-): Radiation, low temporal resolution, expensive

MRI: Uses magnets to take sharp pictures of *structure  

fMRI: Detects amount of blood flow throughout the brain * function

(+): High spatial resolution, noninvasive, no radiation, quick

∙ Describe the basic functions of the following brain structures: medulla, pons,  reticular formation, thalamus, cerebellum, amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, corpus callosum, frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe, occipital lobe.


“Older brain” region, comprised of  brainstem and cerebellum

Life sustaining, mostly bodily processes


Heartbeat, breathing, swallowing


Sleep, coordinating motor movements

Reticular formation

Regulates alertness fight or flight  response


“Little brain” extending from rear of  brainstem which coordinates physical  movement, posture, balance, timing

Integrates sensory info to fine tune  movement

2. Midbrain

Bridge between hindbrain & forebrain


Brains sensory switchboard (except for  smell)

Receives signals from senses, relays  them to the appropriate brain structures

3. Forebrain

Limbic system

Responsible for emotion, motivation,  memory- “emotional brain” (fighting,  fleeing, feeding, sex, etc.)

∙ Amygdala

Emotion, anger & fear: rhesus monkey  experiment

∙ Hypothalamus

Regulates body, maintains homeostasis  “pleasure center”

Stores new info in memory *doesn’t  contain memories

Hippocampus: HM: anterograde  amnesia, retrograde amnesia

HM had epilepsy, removed hippocampi  surgically after the surgery he was  unable to form new memories  

(anterograde amnesia) *memory  consolidation, procedural memories  (how to do things)

-His short term memory was intact but  he was unable to commit info to long  term memory as opposed to the inability to retrieve old memories (retrograde  amnesia)

Cerebral Cortex

Convoluted outer surface of the brain,  most higher level mental processes 2 parts: Cerebral Hemispheres & Corpus Callosum (connects left and right  Hemispheres)

Corpus Callosum

The split brain: with independent  hemispheric functions

4 Lobes

1. Frontal  

Directly behind forehead, uniquely  human-planning, personality, language

2. Parietal  

Top of cortex, sense of touch, integrates  sensory info  

3. Temporal

Under temples in front of ears, hearing,

understanding language

4. Occipital

Back of brain, vision, separate areas for  shape, color, motion

Chapter 4: Sensation and Perception 

∙ What is the difference between sensation and perception?

Sensation is the activation of the sense organs by a source of physical energy. Perception is the sorting out, interpretation, analysis, and integration of stimuli by the sense organs  and brain.

∙ What is the difference between bottom-up processing and top-down processing?

Bottom up processing is initiated by stimulus input begins with senses and works up to  perception

Top down processing is guided by knowledge, expectations, or beliefs. It works from  perceptions to senses.

∙ Define the following terms that apply to all senses: absolute threshold, just noticeable difference, subliminal sensation, priming, sensory adaptation,  transduction.

Absolute threshold

Smallest amount of a sensory stimulus needed  to notice that the stimulus is there

Just noticeable difference

Amount of change in a stimulus to notice that a  change has occurred

Subliminal sensation

Sensory signal that is not registered by our  conscious awareness

Subliminal messages work in a certain way


Tendency for recently used words/ideas to come  to mind easily, influences the interpretation of  new information

Sensory Adaptation

Decreased sensitivity due to constant  


Why don’t things disappear when we stare at  them?

-Slight ocular (eye) movements


Transforming sensory input into neural impulses

∙ How do the amplitude and wavelength of light waves influence what we see?

Vision depends on sensitivity to light, electromagnetics waves in the visible part of the  spectrum that are either reflected off objects or produced by an energy source. Larger  amplitude has a brighter color. A shorter wave is seen as blue while a longer wave is  seen as red.

∙ Describe the function of the following structures of the eye: cornea, pupil, iris, lens, retina, rods and cones.


Transparent covering to protect  eye


Small opening that allows light in


Colored muscle adjusts size of  pupil


Bends light to focus image on  back of eye


Inner back wall of eye  



color, detailed vision


black & white, dim light

∙ Describe the trichromatic theory of color vision. Describe the opponent-process  theory of color vision.

The trichromatic theory of color vision says that there are 3 kinds of cones in the retina,  each of which responds primarily to a specific range of wavelengths. The opponent  process theory of color vision says that receptor cells for color are linked in pairs working in opposition to each other.  

∙ What is perceptual constancy, and why is it important?

Perceptual constancy is our understanding that physical objects are unvarying and  consistent even though sensory input about them may vary. It allows us to view objects  as having an unchanging size, shape, color, and brightness, even if the image on our  retina changes.

∙ What are schemas, and how do they influence perception?

Schemas are organized bodies of information stored in memory that bias the way new  info is interpreted stored and recalled. Because we use schemas to organize information  our memories often consist of a reconstruction of previous experience.  

∙ Describe the role of attention in perceptual processing. What is change blindness,  and how does it demonstrate the limits of perception? What is the Stroop task,  and how does it demonstrate the limits of perception?

Attention is the gateway to awareness. It is focusing on particular info and allowing it to  be processed more fully. Sensation leads to attention, which leads to perception. Change  blindness is the failure to detect large changes in a visual scene, or in other words a lack  of attention. The Stroop task is where you have to name the color of the ink used for  words that spell different colors. This demonstrates a limit of perception because we  cannot simply turn off our bottom-up processing in service of our top-down attention.  

∙ What are synesthesia and ideasthesia? Why do they happen?


Stimulation of one sense leads to automatic experiences in  a second sense

-Not just cross-metaphors (loud shirt or bitter wind) -Up to 1 in 23 people (but maybe everyone?)

-not considered an illness or affliction

-60+ forms/ combinations

Some common types of:

 Grapheme-color synesthesia, letters and or numbers  associated with specific colors (A and red, S yellow)  Music-color, tones/songs with specific colors  Lexical-gustatory, certain words/sounds associated  with specific tastes, rare


Activation of a concept leads to perception-like experience  Numbers – forms, numbers days of week, month of  year occupy certain positions in space relative to the  person

 Ordinal-linguistic personification, sequences  (numbers, days, months) associated with personality  traits

 Bouba & Kiki connections between visual and  auditory

Why do 



Runs strongly in families


 Stroke

 Psychedelic drugs

 Epilepsy seizures

 Deafness, blindness

-Due to reduced pruning of neural connection in  childhood/adolescence

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