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Foundation - The Brain -Consciousness -Neurons - Introductory Readings - Freud -Stages of development -Defense Mechanisms - Skinner -The three learning principles

The Brain



The Astonishing Hypothesis: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” This quote summarizes materialism

Descartes arguments for Dualism



Dendrites receive either excitatory (+) or inhibitory (-) the cell body calculates the total of +’s and -‘s, when a certain threshold is met theres a neural firing, through the axon, surrounding the axon is a myelin sheath.   Types of neurons:

  Neuron firing is all or nothing, they either fire or they don’t, intensity of experience is handled in two ways, Quantity of firing i.e (x) firings corresponds to a mild experience, (x) times 10 firings must therefore be an intense experience. The second type is timing of firings if (x) fires over 1s is mild then (x) times 10 over 1s must be intense.

Parts of the brain

Subcortical, below cortex

medula, handles automatic function, heartrate, blood pressure, swallowing etc. cerebellum, body balance and muscle coordination Hypothalamus, feeding, sex, thirst, appetite Cerebral cortex, Reasoning, language and complex perceptions

Our two brains

The topic of lateralization is about the difference between both halves of the brain though both sides can do most tasks generally speaking the halves break up as follows


Left Side   Right Side
-Written language   -Insight
-Spoken language   -Imagination
-Number skills   -Art awareness
-Reasoning skills   -Musical awareness
-Logic skills   -3D Forms

  Contralateral organization: Sensory information is sent to opposite hemisphere crossing over in pathways leading to cortex   Visual Crossover: Left eye to right hemisphere, right eye to left hemisphere   Motor Crossover: Right hemisphere controls left side, left hemisphere controls right side   Corpus callosum: Major (but not only) pathway between sides, connects comparable structures, permits data received on one side to be processed in both hemispheres.

Ending notes

Introductory Readings


-History of psychology (D.B. Baker)

-Research Designs (C.N. Scollon)

-Psychology formally proposed in late 19th century

-Precursors to psychology can be found as early as 1632 (John locke, Thomas Reid)

-empiricism is the idea all knowledge comes from experience

-German physiologist Hermann Von Helmholtz (1821-1894) explored the physiology of vision and hearing by measuring impulses, the implications being that the mind can deceive. Separating the psychological reality from the physical reality.

-Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) is considered a founding figure of psychology.

Introspection: Identification of the elements of consciousness Structuralists: Contents of the mind, what the mind is Functionalists: The activities of the mind, what the mind does



Psychoanalytical Theory   Unconscious motivation: unconscious reasons for feelings and actions

Unconscious dynamics: conflict between different systems in the brain leading to dreams, speech errors, jokes etc.

  Psychoanalytic divisions of the mind



Most standards set for the superegos morals are done so during childhood and may be based on the biases of who raised you or the biases of the culture you were raised in.

Stages of development






Defense Mechanisms


Id sends out violent and sexual desires and the superego suppresses them occasionally these slip out, in freuds view they did so in the forms of jokes, dreams and slips of the tongue.







The theory of behaviourism (and it’s three claims)

The three learning principles

  Habituation: A decline in the tendency to respond to familiar stimuli due to repeated exposure - An adaptive mechanism to keep us focusing on new objects and events - Graded exposure, fear extinction

  Classical conditioning: The learning of an association between one stimulus and other stimulusPavlovs dog experiments displays this concept, making dogs salivate due to expecting food even when none is present - Before conditioning: - Neutral stimulus: no consistent response (the bell) - Unconditioned Stimulus: unconditioned response (the food) - During conditioning: - neutral stimulus + unconditioned stimulus » Unconditioned response - After conditioning: - Conditioned stimulus » conditioned response - CS immediately before UCS

  Instrumental/operant Conditioning: - learning what works and what doesn’t - The law of effect, The tendency to perform an action is increased if rewarded, lessened if not

  Schedules of reinforcement:

  Criticisms: “I think it’s fair to say that nobody believes this anymore. Just about everybody agrees to at least some extent that these three claims are mistaken. First, there’s a lot of evidence for unlearned knowledge. We’ll see in subsequent lectures that was evidence for an eight contribution to capacities like learning language, perceiving a physical world, understanding number, certain aspects of sexual preference, and so on. Furthermore, even when it comes to learning, which is the focus of behaviorism, it turns out different animals have different learning mechanisms. The way birds learn birds song seems quite different from the way that humans learn language. The way some animals learn to navigate is just different from the way other animals learn to do this. The way some animals form attachments or develop cooperative behavior is often special to that sort of species of animal. And none of this is that surprising, natural selection will take different creatures on different paths.”