A concise study on fundamentals of psychology

Dr  Smita deb Krori (Maity)
B. Sc. (Hons) [NEHU] BHMS (Hons) [Calcutta] MD (Hom. Organon) [Pune]
Associate Professor,Teaching Psychology, Organon & Repertory
Lal Bahadur Shastri Homoeopathic Medical College, Bhopal – 26 (MP)

The term ‘Psychology’, literally means  The Science of Soul  [Psyche ≡ Soul; Logos ≡ Science]. It deals with mental process, apart from the soul or mental soul. It is the science of experience & behaviour – which tells us how the mind works & behaves. It can predict the behaviour of an individual, and control it to a certain extent by putting him under proper conditions. It seeks to discover the Laws of Mind. Psychology is concerned with the experience and behaviour of the individual.

Etymologically [Science of origin of Word], Psychology means the Science of Soul. The earlier psychologists maintained that the function of psychology was to study the nature, origin & the destiny of the human soul. Modern psychologists, however, doubt the existence of the soul – since there is no empirical evidence for its existence.

Psychology — as a Science:
Psychology is a natural or positive science. It deals with a definite subject matter viz. mental process. It studies mental processes and their expressions in the organism by observations & experiments, and seeks to explain mental processes in the context of concomitant physiological processes and physical stimuli. It believes that all mental processes are determined by their causes and tries to explain them by the laws of mind & some hypotheses. It aims at a systematic and self-consistent body of knowledge relating to mental processes. So, it is a natural science.

  •    Anger  – Testosterone, Adrenalin & Nor-adrenalin equilibrium disbalance.
  •    Fear – Adrenalin.
  •    Emotion – Nor-adrenalin.
  •    Mildness, Weeping – Progesterone.
  •    Vindictiveness, Vulgarism – Testosterone.
  •    Destructiveness – Testosterone.

The psychologist explains complex mental processes by analyzing them into simplex ones, traces the growth & development of each mental process and shows the connection between mental processes & physiological processes and physical objects & social events – constituting the environment. Complex mental modes are explained by analyzing them into their simple constituents. The growth & development of mental processes are traced through different stages to their origin. Mental processes are explained by their concomitant mental processes.

A science is a systemic body of knowledge relating to certain subject. It deals with a particular department of phenomenon. Physical Sciences study the nature of physical system. Biological Sciences study the nature of living systems. Psychological Sciences study the nature of mental processes and telic behaviour.

A science adopts observation, experiment, comparison and classification – as methods of investigation of its date. In descriptive sciences — there is observation with classification. In experimental sciences — observation is supplemented by experiments. Psychology observes mental processes, compares them with one another and groups them under different classes. Psychology, as a science, adopts scientific methods.

A science seeks to explain the phenomenon within its scope. Explanation is the ultimate aim of science. A phenomenon is explained by a Law of Nature; and a law is explained by a higher law of nature. The fall of bodies is explained by the Law of Gravitation of Earth.  The LAW OF ATTRACTION explains the laws of planetary motions. Psychology also tries to explain mental processes by the Laws of Mind.

There are sciences of matter, life & mind. Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy etc. are Physical sciences – since they deal with the phenomenon of matter. Physics deals with heat, light, electricity & other physical phenomenon. Chemistry deals with chemical combinations of elements. Astronomy deals with the heavenly bodies. These are physical sciences. Botany deals with the phenomenon of plant life. Zoology deals with the phenomenon of animal life. Physiology deals with the functions of animal & human bodies. These deal with phenomenon of life. These are biological sciences. Psychology deals with mental processes and purposive behaviour. It deals with physiological processes – also which accompany them. Psychology is the science of experience and telic behaviour.

A science starts with certain assumptions about its subject-matter. Chemistry, Physics etc. assume the reality of matter & energy. Similarly, the psychologists assume the reality of mind, the reality of the environment and the capacity of the mind to interact with the environment.  These are the fundamental assumptions of psychology.

The science demands self-consistency within its own sphere; its facts and laws must be consistent with one another. If there are apparent contradictions among them, they must be removed. Psychology also aims at a self-consistent body of knowledge relating to mental processes. Thus psychology is a natural science of mental processes and behaviour.

Schools of Psychology

Faculty psychology
“Faculty Psychology” refers mental processes to their corresponding faculties. The mind is said to have the faculties of sensation, perception, memory, imagination, thinking, feeling, emotion, instinct and violation. The faculties are the different powers of the mind.

Stout says in his Manual of Psychology that this school explains in a circle when it assigns certain mental processes to a faculty. It merely describes and classifies mental processes – but does not explain them at all.  Thus it is futile to say that a particular voluntary decision is due to the faculty of will or that uncommon persistence in a voluntary decision is due to an uncommon strength of will or of the faculty of will. Certain mental processes are the functions of certain faculties of the mind. Faculty Psychology does not help us in the casual explanation of mental processes. Modern Psychology regards the mind as an organic unity of inter-dependent processes. It is not honeycombed with independent faculties.

Faculty Psychology does not recognize the casual interaction of mental processes. It only gives a appearance of explanation, and thus retards the progress of knowledge. Faculty Psychology made a valuable contribution by describing & classifying mental processes – but it failed to explain them by analyzing them into their component factor or by the Laws of Mind. It failed to make psychology an explanatory science. Faculty Psychology has become obsolete.

Faculty Psychology found its enemy in the advocates of associationism. Hume, Berkley, Bain and James Mill were associationists. They reduced mental life to sensations, ideas & reflex actions, and their combinations – according to the Law of Association. Sensations are elementary units of cognition. Ideas are faint copies or reproductions of sensations.

These are combined in various ways according to the Law of Association; and give rise to complex cognition. Reflex actions are elementary units of action. They are combined into complex voluntary actions according to the Laws of Association. The associationists make too much of the elements of the mental life – viz. sensations & reflex actions and Laws of Association. They do not recognize unity & activity of mind. They regard it as a series of the mental states. They start with unconnected sensory elements & seek to reduce them to a unity by means of the Laws of Association. They do not recognize the unity and the activity of the mind. They regard it as a series of mental states. They start with unconnected sensory elements & seek to reduce them to a unity by means of the Laws of Association.

Associationism lays stress on the intellectual aspect of mental life and aim & analysis of it into its simplest units or sensation. It explains their synthesis into complex experiences, ideas & thoughts by the Laws of Association. Hence the Gestalt Psychologists call Associationists Psychology, Brick and Mortar Psychology. Mc. Dougall calls it Mosaic Psychology and Atomistic Psychology.

The associationists try to reduce all mental processes to the single process of association. They seek to explain memory by the linkage of one ‘idea’ with another. When two mental processes were linked by association in a person’s experience, and one of them somehow occurs to him, it arouses the other by virtue of the linkage or association.

Mental Chemistry
J. S. Mill introduced mental chemistry into Associationism. Mental Chemistry is the fusion of sensory elements in a new compound which is more than the mere seems of the constituent parts.   J. S. Mill says, “When many impressions or ideas are operating in the mind together, there sometimes takes place a process of a similar kind to chemical combination. When impressions have been so often experienced in conjunction, that each of them call up readily & instantaneously the ideas of the whole group, those ideas sometimes melt and coalesce into one another, and appear not as several ideas, but one. The complex idea, formed by the blending together of several simplex ones, should when it really appears simple (i.e. when the separate elements are not consciously distinguishable in it), be said to result from or be generated by the simple ideas, not to consists of them. The simple ideas generate, rather then they compare the complex ones”.

J. S. Mill clings to Associationism inspite of his Doctrine of Mental Chemistry. But mental chemistry is opposed, in principle, to associationism. In the products of chemical combination the elementary factors disappear in order to give rise to their products. But J. S. Mill is not clearly aware that he abandons associationism when he advocates mental chemistry.

Structuralism seeks to explain the ‘Structure of Consciousness’ by analyzing it into distinguishable elements or units, and their relations to one another in the complex stream regards as compounded of such elements. It regards introspection by experts under laboratory conditions as the sole legitimate method. It conceives the task of psychology to be a complete analysis of the stream of consciousness into ultimate units of atoms of consciousness and analyses it into its elements & their relations. Titchener, a pupil of Wundt (1832 – 1920 A. D.), was an exponent of structuralism in America. Associationism and Mental Chemistry also are different forms of Structuralism.

The task of Psychology, according to existentialism, is to study the individual’s experiences as ‘existence’, or facts deserving of description, analysis & classification. Psychology seeks to analyze experiences, to compare & classify them and arrange them in a system. Existential Psychology studies the individual as an experience and as a performer. The individual’s experiences are to be studied on their own account, not as a clue to his performances.

The subject’s attention is directed in advance to the precise matter, which is observed. He observes his experience, under laboratory conditions, and reports it to the experimenter. The method of impression is not incidental observation; but scientific observation, in which the subject’s mind is set for the particular experience he has to observe. It is the primary method of psychological investigation. It reveals the elementary experiences of the individual. But it has to be supplemented by the method of introspection which more complex experiences. It does not study the objects of experiences. Essential Psychology is Structural Psychology.

William James was the Founder of Functional Psychology in America. Structural Psychology aims at the description and analysis of the structure of consciousness.

Functional Psychology seeks to show the part of different kinds of consciousness play in the life of the individual. It seeks to discover the functions of sensation, perception, memory, imagination, reasoning, emotion & violation in the life of the organism. It tries to find out what needs of the organism are satisfied by these mental processes in its growing adjustment to the complex environment.

It adopts the evolutionary point of view, and tries to show that more & more complex mental processes emerged to meet the pressing needs of the organism, which appeared on the scene to adjust the organism to the complex environment more & more effectively. The higher mental processes emerged to meet the pressing needs of the organism for a wider and more flexible control of the environment. Thus, functional psychology regarded psychology as a branch of biology. It tried to assign a place to psychology in the general field of biological sciences.

Functional Psychology deals with acts or operations rather that with contents or elements; it deals with perceiving, conceiving, believing etc. and not with sensations, concepts, beliefs etc.

It also deals with automatic & habitual responses which are not attended with consciousness.

J. B. Watson regards functional psychology as an inconsistent compromise between structural psychology and a truly biological science. He seeks to reduce psychology to a purely biological science. He defined psychology as a science of behaviour. It is not a science of experience. Mental processes are invisible & intangible. Experimental psychology has made progress by studying the ‘performance’ of individuals. Psychology is the science of behaviour and not the science of experience of consciouscence. Its methods are observation and experiment; which are the methods of physics, chemistry & other exact sciences. It is concerned with behaviour which is the response of the whole organism to the stimuli in the environment. Psychology is the science of stimuli-response. The sense-organs receive the stimuli, and so are called the Receptors. The muscles execute actions in response to stimuli and are so-called the Effectors.

Watson denies the existence of sensations. He scrupulously avoids the word ‘Sensation’ in the treatment of the senses. He uses such expressions as ‘response to light’, ‘auditory response’, ‘olfactory response’ etc. He does not mention ‘Perception’ – because it involves interpretation of meanings of sensory signs – because it is very difficult to explain meanings in terms of sensory-motors behaviours. He explains ‘after images’ as reactions of the receptors after the withdrawal of the stimuli, acting upon them.

Positive after image : The subject may react as though he was stimulated a new by the original light.

Negative after image: The subject react as though he was stimulated by light complementary to the original light.

Watson never uses the term memory and reduced it to natural habit. He believes in habit memory only and rejects pure memory. The feeling of familiarity, involved in memory simply means the revival of old visceral (emotional) responses. Watson holds that memory images consist partly in kinæsthetic impulses and partly in the visceral responses. Watson believes in the environmentalism or complete determination of the individual by the environment. He asserts that he can make any healthy, well-formed-child into a scholar, a lawyer, an engineer, a poet pr a philosopher – by putting him in the proper environment. The behaviour of the child can be moulded into any form by the appropriate environment.

A habit is a leaned act acquired by the individual. Instinct & habit are undoubtedly composed of some elementary reflexes. In instinct the pattern & the order are inherited; in habit both pattern & the rider are acquired by the individual during his life-time.

Watson rejects the ‘Law of Effect’ – because it refers to pleasure & pain and their effects on actions. Watson rejects the influence of pleasure and pain – because they are mental processes. He regards all learning & conditioning. All learned acts are conditioned responses. All learning is mechanical or by trial & error – without reference to the end or to pleasure or pain.

Watson means by personality – an individual’s total assets (actual & potential) and liabilities (actual & potential) or the reaction side. By assets he means the total mass of organized habits that adjust him to the environment. By liabilities he means the part of his equipment, which does not work in the present environment and prevent him from adjusting himself to the environment. Personality is the pattern of an individual’s behaviour in the environment.

Gestalt Psychology
Gestalt Psychology appeared as a revolt against the Analytical Psychology of Wundt. He holds that experience come in complexes or compound, not in elements. Every experience & action is complex. Thus the task of psychology is first to analyze these complex processes into their elements, and then to study how the elements are combined into complex products and the Laws of their combination. Analytical Psychology emphasizes the elements of experience & behaviour. But Gestalt Psychology starts with the fundamental assumption that every kind of experience or behaviour is a unique, whole, Gestalt which cannot be analyzed into elements. Gestalt is its slogan. It means ‘shape’, ‘form’, ‘pattern’ or ‘configuration’. The Gestalt Psychologists are called Configurationists.

Gestalt Psychology stresses organized wholes. The human or animal organism is a Gestalt. It is not a mere sum or aggregate of the parts & organs. All parts of an organism are interrelated. The brain also functions as a whole. A simple reflex acts upon other parts of the organism and is not confined to a particular part of the body. Gestalt is a whole, a gestalt, from the very start.

The Gestaltists look upon association as cohesion. Two or more perceptions which occur together or in close succession are not bound together mechanically by a glue – called Association. They do not maintain an independent existence before & after they are connected. The Gestaltists hold that when two or more discrete perceptions or ideas enter into a configuration. They are connected with one another by virtue of their men-ship in a whole. They are retained & recalled as a member of a single pattern, and not as isolated & independent items.

Gestalt Psychology dislikes the explanation of behaviour in terms of the stimulus & the response. Köhlër, a Gestaltist, hold that Chimpanzes learn by insight — not by trial & error. They have the power of ‘seeing the point’; they see the key to a situation. Learing consists in performing a new movement by which the gap between the present situation and the goal may be bridged. The unique movement can be performed when the key to the situation as a whole or a pattern is fully grasped – which includes the goal & leads to it.

Gestalt Psychologists hold that the facial expression of an emotion should be taken as complex whole. The face must be taken as a whole, and not as segregated parts of expression. An emotion finds its expression in the whole face and the different features of a face — e.g. brow elevated; eyes wide; lips retracted etc. are the expression of one underlying emotion that expresses itself in the face as a whole.

The Gestalt Psychologists regard the character of a person as an organized, whole, a gestalt, and not a mere seem of traits [distinguishing features, ÁÒkl]. It cannot be estimated by measuring each trait and placing his traits side by side in diagram – because it fails to show which trait is dominant and which traits are subordinate to it in his character – and because it does not show the function of each trait in his personality. So, personality is not a mere sum total of isolated traits, but a pattern or configuration.

Hormic / Purposive Psychology
Mc. Dougall is the profounder of the Hormic Theory. The term ‘Hormic’ is derived from the Greek word Horm – which means an urge to action. Purpose is the central concept of Hormic Psychology.

 Nobody can dispute the fact of human purpose. Voluntary actions of men are purposive. But      Mc. Dougall asserts that every action of an animal is purposive; even instinctive actions are instinctive. Each animal species is so constituted that it naturally seeks to realize certain goals, which satisfy its needs. These organic needs & the tendencies to satisfy them by trying to realize certain goals [e.g. food, shelter & mate] – are inborn and common to all members of the species. Hence, they are called Instinctive. Man also inherits certain propensities natural to the species, which are also called Instincts. Mc. Dougall calls them “Psycho-physical Dispositions”. These are the primary motives of all his striving. Intelligence is subservient to instincts. It supplies the means for the natural goals of instincts. Mc. Dougall explains behaviour in terms of striving for goal or purpose. He explains experience also in terms of ‘Goal-seeking’.

There are 02 types of Purposive Psychology

Hedonistic Psychology : It asserts that the true goal of all striving is pleasure; that we always strive to attain a for

seen pleasure  and avoid a for seen pain; that we desire such things at food, shelter, repose etc. Only for the sake of pleasure which we shall deserve from them. This is pleasure – pain theory of action – generally called Psychological Hedonism.

Hormic Psychology: It rejects Psychological Hedonism and maintains that the hedonistic theory is false. We really desire and strive for these objects, regarding them as intrinsically good & desirable. We desire and seek this or that goal or objects, because we are constituted in that way. The attainment of the goal or object is commonly suffused with a pleasure or satisfaction that outlines the activity. But pleasure is never the goal or striving or action.

Hormic Psychology is anti-behaviouristic. It is opposed to behaviourism – which reduced to mechanical response to stimulus. Mc. Dougall holds that behaviour cannot be explained with a purpose. All behaviour is purposive or teleological. It involves striving for a goal and foresight of a goal.

Mc. Dougall agrees with the Gestaltists that higher animals learn by insight. But he adds that foresight is also necessary for learning. Learning involves foresight as well as insight. The animal foresees the attainment of the goal and the steps necessary for the attainment of it. Therefore he experiences something for the pleasure of success. The pleasure accompanies the making of the necessary movement; and it reinforces, sustains & invigorates those movements. Thus foresight is necessary. But Mc. Dougall does not deny learning by trail & error. He recognizes 02 forms of learning

Intelligent Learning involving achievement through insight and foresight.

Quasi-mechanical Learning through trial & error.

In the 2ND kind of learning, also, there is striving towards a goal, and some satisfaction results from reaching the goal. If there were no striving & goal-seeking, more repetition of a movement sequence would not result in facilitation. Thus all kinds of learning — intelligent learning through insight & foresight and unintelligent learning through mere repetition — are purposive.

  • Mc. Dougall regards personality as moulded by disposition, temperament & character.
  • Disposition is the sum total of the instinctive tendencies; and determined by heredity.
  • Temperament is the sum total of the effects of metabolic & chemical changes in the body upon mental life.
  • Character is the sum total of the acquired habits & sentiments.

Hormic Psychology is opposed to Associationism / Psychological Atonism – which regards the mind as a mosaic of discrete elements, sensations & ideas – connected with one another by the Laws of Association. Hormic Psychology is anti-intellectualistic. It is Psychology of Motivation. It emphasizes “The Urge of Action” and regards cognitive activity as subordinate to it.

1. Hurlock, Elizabeth B. – Developmental Psychology: A Life-Span Approach (29th Reprint, 2003; Tata McGraw Hill Companies).
2. Sinha, Dr. Jadunath – A Manual of Psychology [Part I & II] (Reprint, 2004; New Central Book Agency).

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