Lecture Topics 1A

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Lecture Topics 1A

These lectures are designed to provide a background to the philosophy of scientific research and experimental design. The lectures will deal with broader conceptual issues around the analysis of psychological data rather than explicit statistical procedures. The lectures will complement the practical experience gained in the labs across the year, and provide a basis for more in depth treatment of statistical analysis in years 2 and 3.

We are biological creatures, and the mind is the product of brain structure and function. This is why psychologists are interested in brains - or, more generally, in the nervous system that enables us to perceive the world around us, process information, and control the way we move and interact with our environment.

These lectures consider why the world seems like it does to us. We will explore the field of perception, focusing mainly on vision, from the low-level firing of sensory receptors, through the perception of complex forms in 3D space, to visual attention and the use of vision to guide action.

The study of animal learning was a cornerstone of psychology from the 1930s to the 1970s and is as relevant now for understanding humans as it was back then for studying animals. This module will provide an introduction to classical and instrumental conditioning and related topics. It will also introduce preparedness and other areas of learning theory that are at the intersection of the evolutionary history of a species and how it interacts with the environment.

 

Differential Psychology – the psychology of individual differences – describes and explains how and why people differ from each other psychologically. In other words, it is interested in what makes us individuals. The two main topics in differential psychology are personality and intelligence. Differential psychologists also study moods, attitudes, and people’s interests. They study the development of intelligence and personality in children and adults, and how these change with age. This includes the contribution of genetics and environments to differences in intelligence and personality.