HOME STUDY COURSE - INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY
Graduate comment: "[This course] is really valuable, because we can imagine and identify people's behaviour and social/environmental effects on personality. We can be aware of our own children's psychological aspects and their childhood development. Very good outcome from the course." Lanka Narsinga Rao, Australia - Introduction to Pscyhology course.
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7 Lessons and 7 assignments, comprehensive notes and self assessment tests (CD & Online study methods only).
Psychology is the study of animal and human behaviour. This course will develop your ability to analyse aspects of a person's psychological state and apply derived knowledge to motivate that person. This provides a solid introduction/foundation for further studies of psychology covering the nature and scope of psychology, neurological and environmental effects on behaviour, personality, consciousness, perception, needs, drives and motivation.
"Ever wondered what Freud said, but were afraid to ask? Do you think psychology sounds interesting and want to know more, but don’t know where to start? Well, stop right here. This course gives you an interesting and informative start to the exciting field of psychology.Tracey Jones, B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies), ACS Tutor
There are 7 lessons in this course:
The nature and scope of psychology
Neurological basis of behaviour
Environmental effects on behaviour
Consciousness and perception
Needs, drives and motivation
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Explain the nature and scope of psychology.
Explain characteristics of the neurological basis of behaviour.
Explain environmental effects on behaviour.
Explain the differences between consciousness and perception.
Explain the effect of personality on behaviour.
Explain psychological development.
Apply different techniques to motivate people.
What You Will Do
Define different psychological terms such as ambivalence, apathy, behaviour, catalyst, cognition, empirical, fixation, homeostasis, obsession, perception, performance, psychosomatic, socialisation, stereotype, temperament, trait.
Explain how a knowledge of psychology can be applied in different types of jobs.
Explain the risks involved in applying psychology in two different specified situations.
Differentiate between developmental and interactive explanations of behaviour, in a case study.
Describe how the nervous system functions to transmit messages throughout the body.
Explain how the disfunctioning of different parts of the nervous system, can influence behaviour.
Compare the function of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Explain two examples of conditioning which you observe.
Explain an example of behaviour affected by modelling observed by yourself.
Compare the likely affects of positive and negative reinforcement in a case study.
Distinguish between consciousness and perception in the attitude of an observed individual.
Explain selective attention in a case study.
Explain in summaries, different states of consciousness including daydreams, sleeping, dreaming and meditation.
Explain the relationship between consciousness and behaviour in a case study.
Explain three different theories of personality.
Distinguish between the "id" and "superego" in a person you are familiar with.
Compare the application of humanistic approaches with the social learning approach and the psychoanalytic approach in educating children.
Explain through examples different defence mechanisms including repression, displacement, rationalisation, projection, denial, evaluation, sublimation, reaction/formation, intellectualisation.
Explain the factors which may have influenced the psychological development of a teenager who you know.
Compare cognitive development with physical development in a case study.
Explain through a summary the four main stages of development including sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational.
Explain moral development in two different case studies.
Explain psychosexual stages of development in a case study.
Explain psychosocial stages of development in a case study.
Distinguish between needs, drives and instincts in a specific workplace.
Explain the cyclical nature of primary drives in a case study.
List examples of secondary drives.
Explain how to motivate a worker in a specified situation using the psychoanalytical approach.
Summarise Maslow's theory of human motivation.
Demonstrate the application of three different motivation techniques in three different specified situations through role playing.
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UNDERSTAND MORE OF WHAT CAN GO ON INSIDE A PERSON'S HEAD
Altered States of Consciousness
What is an altered state of consciousness? Most would cite an extreme example such as the hallucinatory state that certain drugs induce. Yet in normal everyday life, we do not experience consciousness in the same way, but experience different states of consciousness. We sleep, we meditate, we enter in deep concentration, and we daydream, each activity being quite different in nature to the other. Therefore, we can say that an altered state refers to a clear change in the normal, waking level of awareness, such as when we drift into a daydream, doze off, sleep or dream, or focus intently on an activity.
When we daydream, our awareness of our immediate physical surroundings decreases and is replaced by a heightened awareness of our thoughts, feelings and mental images. We allow our focus to drift from one thought to another, without defining logical connections. Some people are capable of daydreaming for sustained periods of time, creating entire imaginary stories. Daydreaming is a perfectly common and healthy activity. There are cases, however, where excessive daydreaming is regarded as a sign of psychological instability (e.g. if an individual ceases to be able to distinguish between daydreaming and reality).
Sleeping and Dreaming
While the nature of sleeping can best be left to physiologists, psychologists are concerned about the altered state of consciousness while dreaming occurs. A lot of research has been conducted to measure the depth of sleep, and noting the periods in which dreams occur. During such research a device is employed to measure electrical changes in the brains activity, and another device measures eye movements (which tend to occur when dreaming).
There are five stages of sleep. Four stages involve deep sleep. The fifth stage involves rapid eye movement, thus it is called "REM sleep". When roused from REM sleep, subjects usually report a dream. Dreams also occur during NREM (Non REM), however these dreams are not recalled as easily. Although many people claim that they do not dream much, research into REM sleep supports conclusions that we all dream, and do so approximately five times a night. Some find it more difficult to remember their dreams than others. Time of waking also affects dream recall. Those that wake easily during REM will tend to have greater dream recall. As far as the length of dreams is concerned, research suggests that incidents in dreams last about as long as they would in real life. Experimental subjects have had the duration of the REM measured. When awoken, they were asked to mime the incidents in their dreams. The pantomime lasted for approximately the same amount of time as the duration of the REM sleep.
The Origin of Dreams
The greatest pioneer in the study of the psychological origin of dreams was Sigmund Freud. Freud stated that, despite their strangeness, dreams are meaningful, giving expression to the person’s wishes and impulses that have been repressed and cannot find other expression because of guilt or social inhibitions. These hidden wishes and desires constitute the content of dreams, and are expressed through the images and experiences of our dreams.
Freud evokes the image of a "censor" at the threshold between our consciousness and our unconscious. This "censor" converts the latent content into the dream work, transforming some of the impulse-expressions that might be too disturbing into symbols that seem harmless and meaningless. In effect, the mechanism protects our sleep from too much psychological disturbance. Much of psychoanalysis is involved with trying to decipher the symbols of our dreams, and symbolic behaviours with which we disguise our true feelings when awake.
The activation-synthesis theory of dreaming formulated by Hobson and McCarley (1977) asserts that dreams have no inherent meaning, but that the mind tries to make meaning out of them by synthesising them into meaningful events. According to this theory, dreams are no more than the result of random firings of neurons in the brain. Dream images are triggered by the firing in different areas of the brain, so that firing in the part of the brain that controls balance will trigger sensations and images of falling.
Another theory of dreaming is the computer theory, which proposes that the brain is like a computer whose programs are adjusted and tested when the computer is offline (or the brain asleep). The images and sensations of our dreams are not new creations, but data being sifted and sorted: the day’s experiences, impressions, worries, ideas being organised. Yet another theory is that we dream to allow the brain to get rid of unwanted data, and the random firing of neurons that triggers images and sensations is the brain’s way of defusing unwanted neural connections.
PSYCHOLOGY HELPS US UNDERSTAND OURSELVES AND OTHERS
The study of human development focuses on behavioural and psychological development from conception through later life. Emphasis is on the processes and mechanisms underlying developmental change and stability and the contexts in which development takes place. Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. For example, psychology studies the brain, sensation and perception, motivation, intelligence, emotions, memory, psychological disorders, and much more. Developmental Psychology is a subfield of psychology. Its focus is on studying the changes that take place across our life span. Development is defined as changes in our physical structure, thought, and behaviour due to genetics or the environment. Development is life long and also can be a very personal thing.
Development incorporates change over time. We all change as we mature. Some of those changes are due to experience and others to our physiology. Developmental psychology is concerned with the patterns and processes of change throughout our lifetimes. A significant question in developmental psychology is the relation between innateness and environmental influence in regard to any particular aspect of development – put in more easy terms nature vs nurture.
Developmental psychology is interested in discovering the psychological processes of development. This is also the study of progressive psychological changes that occur in human beings as they age. Originally concerned with infants and children, and later other periods of great change such as adolescence and early life aging, it now encompasses the entire life span of an individual. This ever growing field examines change across a broad range of topics including: motor skills and other psycho-physiological processes, problem solving abilities, conceptual understanding, acquisition of language, moral understanding, and identify formation.
Although developmental psychologists begin their work by charting the changes they see in the developing human, their ultimate goal is to explain how those changes came about. This is challenging because humans are dynamic, complex beings who are shaped by different people and events. It is often difficult to draw conclusions about exactly which influences and experiences are most important for particular aspects of cognitive development. Thus, psychologists examine a variety of influences including changes in the brain, the influence of parents, the effect of a child's interaction with siblings and peers, and the role of culture. Typically, in order to accurately characterize aspects of development, psychologists must consider interactions between physiological changes in the brain and the child's or person’s social environment. For example, people often use child-directed speech when talking with young children. This type of language accentuates word boundaries and is spoken more slowly compared to adult-directed speech. This aspect of the child's environment may interact with changes in the baby's brain to help the baby comprehend the language spoken around her.
Human development scientific roots date back to fledgling observational and interview studies of children and adolescents in the early part of the twentieth century. In the beginning, description--charting age-related milestones, such as when a child first walked, spoke in sentences, formed a best friendship, and reached puberty--was the principal activity of developmental psychologists. Little attention was accorded to process--the how and why of human change.
Following World War II, the field came into it’s own. Although always a melting pot of interdisciplinary contributions, by the 1960s human development achieved the status of a distinct subdivision within psychology. Empirical work flourished, becoming more sophisticated in methodology and focusing more directly on explanation. Each research was closely tied to a specific domain, or aspect, of human functioning. Together, the grand theories and research brought tension and debate to the field, offering powerfully opposing perspectives on the course and processes of change. A passive child continuously shaped by environmental inputs was pitted against an active, sense-making being undergoing a series of staged shifts rooted in human biology.
Investigators of the mid-century phase had become increasingly sensitive to social and applied issues. Besides traditional topics of enduring interest, such as perception, intelligence, language, personality, and morality, they turned to questions of burning practical concern, such as the impact of poverty, child abuse and neglect, the rising divorce rate, maternal employment and day care, and learning problems in school. In addition to theoretical advances, the field had aligned itself more closely with the goal of improving children's conditions of life.
A theory is a coherent set of ideas that helps to explain data and to make predictions. A theory is consists of hypotheses, or assumptions that can be tested to determine their accuracy. These assumptions, once supported by evidence, become the new "theories" for future research. Researchers use theories as a tool to guide them in their observations and to generate new information. Theories, therefore, are the basis for all research. The most common theoretical approaches to developmental psychology are as follows:
These approaches evolved from Freudian theory and concerned with the development of unconscious and psychological processes in children, and their effects on behaviour. According to this group of theories, children develop in stages where particular inner conflicts must be resolved in order for normal development into adulthood.
Freud's theory is quite interesting, and he was well beyond his time. Freud addresses "psychic energy", the conscious, unconscious, and preconscious, and developmental stages. The stages are: Oral, Anal, Phallic, and Genital.
Freud is also well known for his theory of id, ego, and superego. The id, ego, and superego are in constant struggle to maintain balance. The Id is the child in you, and operates on the pleasure principle. The Ego operates on the reality principle. The Superego is that nagging parent keeping you out of trouble, or our sense of morality.
Freud's emphasis on the early years being important for later development has been extended by psychologists interested in the concept of attachments such as Jung and Erikson. Jung and Erikson developed Freud’s theories in different directions, while still focusing on the need to resolve inner conflicts or challenges in order to mature normally, and also included developmental stages of adulthood.
Behavioural Learning Theories
These approaches evolved from the work of Skinner, and include classical and operant conditioning.
Essentially classical conditioning refers to learning by association and operant conditioning is learning by effect.
Social & Cognitive Theories
Social theories are those that focus on the influence of an individual’s social environment and cognitive responses to it. These include ‘imitation’; ‘identification’ (as in identifying with one parent); meta-cognition (thinking about what we think and learn); and social expectation (the influence of what others expect of us). They also include the development of ‘theory of mind’ (recognition of others’ minds, beliefs and capabilities).
Cognitive Developmental Theory was advanced by Jean Piaget. Piaget claims that cognitive thought develops in four qualitatively different stages. Each stage represents a different mode from which we view our world. Piaget's four stages are: sensormotor – birth to 2 years, preoperational – 2 to 7 years, concrete operational 7 to 11 years, and formal operational which is 11 years on.
These theories posit that the development of any individual can only be discussed and understood in context. Individuals do not develop in a vacuum, nor are their families isolated. Rather, a person’s development occurs also within the context of the society in which they are raised and the religious and cultural implications that these have for the individual.
Locus of control theory is one example. Children vary in their levels of ambition, and their ‘achievement motivation’ can make the difference as to how well they do in society. Locus of control theory states that children’s belief or lack of belief in their ability to change their circumstances through effort and achievement will determine how much effort they put into succeeding. If their ‘locus of control’ is internal (ie. they believe that the power to change their circumstances lies in them), they are more likely to be motivated, persistent, and to work to achieve success. If their locus of control is external (ie. they believe that only outside influences can change their circumstances), they will feel less motivated to make efforts if results are not achieved immediately, and may learn to feel helpless or victimised by lack of opportunity.
Is development determined by nature or nurture? This question has been under much debate since before psychology emerged as a science. Although today, most developmental psychologists agree that development is a result of both nature AND nurture, the relative strength of influence from each is still under scrutiny.
In the early twentieth century there was much debate about how much of our behaviour was due to nature (genetic maturation) and how much was due to nurture (learning). We now know that these two influences interact to produce different behaviours, attitudes, and personalities. Nevertheless, the debate continues to be vigorous.
In the 1950’s, Noam Chomsky challenged the dominant theory of language acquisition at the time, that all aspects of language are learned, mostly by imitation. According to Chomsky and other theorists, humans are born with a natural, inherent capacity and tendency to create language. This nativist theory of language (as opposed to B.F. Skinner’s learning theory of language) posits that humans are genetically equipped with an innate process for learning language, much as birds are genetically equipped for flight. This and similar theories of language are partly supported by the fact that children all over the world develop language in very similar ways, by learning the fundamental rules of their native language. Research has shown that they can do this irregardless of environmental factors, unless those factors are extreme. Even fairly isolated children, given a minimum of interaction with others, learn the rudiments of language, though not as well, of course, as in a stimulating environment.
Interactionist theories of language acquisition have tried to resolve the problems with nativist and learning theories. These propose that while children do have an inherent pre-disposition to form and learn language, experience and a supportive learning environment are also needed for language to develop.
With so many research projects being held on development, there are some ethical constraints on studying development. These are concerns about the methods that researches use as well as the ethical issues of confidentiality, full disclosure of purposes, and the respect for individuals’ freedom to participate. Most research done today, take these three issues in to account.
Learning experiences that occur over a lifetime are the source of developmental change. Changes in existing learning opportunities or the creation of new ones can modify the course of an individual’s developmental psychology. Direct learning results when a person actively responds to and interprets new problems and experiences based on patterns of thought and action he already knows. These existing patterns are called a scheme which is a systematic pattern of thoughts, actions, and problem-solving strategies that helps the individual deal with a particular situation. Simply said, how we handle things in relation to what we have already experienced. As an infant, we don’t have much prior experiences but this rapidly changes the infant encounter new experiences through the complementary process of assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation is the process by which an infant interprets and responds to a new experience or situation in terms of an existing scheme. When a child realizes to do drink and suck the bottle when it is presented to him.
Accommodation is when a child changes existing schemes, or ways of thinking, when faced with new ideas or situations in which the old schemes no longer work. When a child understands that the item in its hands actually has a name – ball.
Adaptation results when schemes are deepened or broadened by assimilation and stretched or modified by accommodation.
Piaget’s cognitive theory uses the above three principles to explain the development of thinking.
Development processes in information processing allow children to process information more efficiently and comprehensively. As a child grows older it develops meta-cognition, an awareness and understanding of how thinking and learning work. It allows us to understand how difficult a problem is, and how to find a good way to deal with it.
The zone of proximal development refers to a level at which a range of tasks, that a child cannot yet accomplish without active assistance from parents or others with more knowledge of the situation, will be able to solve. These levels change as children grow, and can also be seen in terms of cultural, social, and historical processes.
Coping styles can be a determinant that affects development and learning. These styles can be either learned or innate to the individual. Some coping mechanisms like wishful thinking may not be good for the outcome after not studying for a test, but in a ongoing stressful situation such as being a victim of the Holocaust may be helpful for survival.
Learning and development can also be affected by life events. Each individual has specific events that help to shape its psychological development. If a non-normal life event has occurred such as surviving a plane crash or car crash at a young age this can have a tremendous effect on the development and also learning of a child. If a child has been in the crash of a car when younger, this can set off the child emotionally whenever seeing a picture of a car in school. This can interfere and complicate his learning process and well as development if he starts feeling unsafe in school.
Development is one of those familiar concepts that seeps almost unnoticed into the conversations of many in the fields of psychology, education, and counselling. They are self-evidently concerned with the development of people. But what is development? Are there particular stages that we pass through in our life course? As stated in the above there are theories and ideas to we develop.
We need to address the fact of how to define what development means. The first and obvious element is change - that development involves movement from one state to another. As a result an interest in development leads one to a concern for transitions. Again nature and nurture both play a part in our development as well as our lifespan development.
When researching why people develop as they do, scientist usually consider four interactive forces:
- Biological forces
- Psychological forces
- Socio-cultural forces
- Life cycle forces
Each being is a unique and special combination of these forces. No two of us are alike. Not even twin siblings. These forces affect each one of us differently and with different impact.
Development in Infancy and Childhood
It does not take an expert to observe the many magnificent changes that take place in a human being from the time of birth through early childhood and beyond. Parents lovingly mark these changes in baby books and with photographs. Other relatives remark at the new abilities that babies seem to acquire daily. While parents may have just one or a few children to observe, developmental psychologists study many more. By studying many children over time, experts can chart the changes, and then begin to explain how they occur.
Biological or Physical Development
Most infants develop motor abilities in the same order and at approximately the same age. In this sense, most agree that these abilities are genetically pre-programmed within all infants. The environment does play a role in the development, with an enriched environment often reducing the learning time and an impoverished one doing the opposite.
The following chart delineates the development of infants in sequential order. The ages shown are averages and it is normal for these to vary by a month or two in either direction.
- 2 months – able to lift head up on his own
- 3 months – can roll over
- 4 months – can sit propped up without falling over
- 6 months – is able to sit up without support
- 7 months – begins to stand while holding on to things for support
- 9 months – can begin to walk, still using support
- 10 months – is able to momentarily stand on her own without support
Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. It was once believed that infants lacked the ability to think or form complex ideas and remained without cognition until they learned language.
It is now known that babies are aware of their surroundings and interested in exploration from the time they are born. From birth, babies begin to actively learn. They gather, sort, and process information from around them, using the data to develop perception and thinking skills. Cognitive development refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factors. Among the areas of cognitive development are information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory.
As soon as they are born, infants begin learning to use their senses to explore the world around them. Most newborns can focus on and follow moving objects, distinguish the pitch and volume of sound, see all colours and distinguish their hue and brightness, and start anticipating events, such as sucking at the sight of a nipple. By three months old, infants can recognize faces; imitate the facial expressions of others, such as smiling and frowning; and respond to familiar sounds.
At six months of age, babies are just beginning to understand how the world around them works. They imitate sounds, enjoy hearing their own voice, recognize parents, fear strangers, distinguish between animate and inanimate objects, and base distance on the size of an object. They also realize that if they drop an object, they can pick it up again. At four to seven months, babies can recognize their names.
By nine months, infants can imitate gestures and actions, experiment with the physical properties of objects, understand simple words such as "no," and understand that an object still exists even when they cannot see it. They also begin to test parental responses to their behavior, such as throwing food on the floor. They remember the reaction and test the parents again to see if they get the same reaction.
At 12 months of age, babies can follow a fast moving object; can speak two to fours words, including "mama" and "papa"; imitate animal sounds; associate names with objects; develop attachments to objects, such as a toy or blanket; and experience separation anxiety when away from their parents. By 18 months of age, babies are able to understand about 10–50 words; identify body parts; feel a sense of ownership by using the word "my" with certain people or objects; and can follow directions that involve two different tasks, such as picking up toys and putting them in a box.
Between 18 months to three years of age, toddlers have reached the "sensorimotor" stage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development that involves rudimentary thought. For instance, they understand the permanence of objects and people, visually follow the displacement of objects, and begin to use instruments and tools.
Toddlers start to strive for more independence, which can present challenges to parents concerned for their safety. They also understand discipline and what behaviour is appropriate and inappropriate, and they understand the concepts of words like "please" and "thank you."
Two-year-olds should be able to understand 100 to 150 words and start adding about ten new words per day. Toddlers also have a better understanding of emotions, such as love, trust, and fear. They begin to understand some of the ordinary aspects of everyday life, such as shopping for food, telling time, and being read to.
Maturity and Old Age
In general, the study of psychology in maturity and old age has been based on observation. There have been no clear theoretical principles to guide the search for consistent patterns of development. Scientists have established that sensory acuity (keenness), speed of response, productivity in art and science, and the ability to process new information decline with age, particularly after the late 50's. Less well documented are declines in memory and in the ability to solve familiar kinds of problems. Psychologists know little about the most remarkable fact of old age - that some people go through a degrading decline with the passage of years, and others remain capable and active until the end of their lives.
OTHER COURSES IN PSYCHOLOGY
Perhaps you may be interested in carrying out a more indepth course in psychology, why not have a look at some of the courses below –
Reasons to Study This Course
This course is the ideal course to take for anyone who has an interest in psychology but has yet to explore it. It exposes students to a number of different areas of enquiry in the field of psychology and encourages them to apply their understanding to their own lives. Through addressing key concepts and theories, graduates are able to develop a solid framework of what is involved in the field of psychology and use this as a foundation to underpin further study. It can be studied as a standalone course to see whether psychology is for you or to satisfy personal interest, or it may be taken as part of a certificate or higher level course.
This course is aimed at people working in, or planning to work in:
- Any job that requires interaction with people
- Social work
- Caring roles
- Health professions
- General employment
The course is also applicable to many other areas of life and for satisfying personal development.
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