This is “Chapter Summary”, section 1.3 from the book Beginning Psychology (v. 1.0).
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Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behavior. Most psychologists work in research laboratories, hospitals, and other field settings where they study the behavior of humans and animals. Some psychologists are researchers and others are practitioners, but all psychologists use scientific methods to inform their work.
Although it is easy to think that everyday situations have commonsense answers, scientific studies have found that people are not always as good at predicting outcomes as they often think they are. The hindsight bias leads us to think that we could have predicted events that we could not actually have predicted.
Employing the scientific method allows psychologists to objectively and systematically understand human behavior.
Psychologists study behavior at different levels of explanation, ranging from lower biological levels to higher social and cultural levels. The same behaviors can be studied and explained within psychology at different levels of explanation.
The first psychologists were philosophers, but the field became more objective as more sophisticated scientific approaches were developed and employed. Some of the most important historical schools of psychology include structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, and psychodynamic psychology. Cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and social-cultural psychology are some important contemporary approaches.
Some of the basic questions asked by psychologists, both historically and currently, include those about the relative roles of nature versus nurture in behavior, free will versus determinism, accuracy versus inaccuracy, and conscious versus unconscious processing.
Psychological phenomena are complex, and making predictions about them is difficult because they are multiply determined at different levels of explanation. Research has found that people are frequently unaware of the causes of their own behaviors.
There are a variety of available career choices within psychology that provide employment in many different areas of interest.