Introduction to Psychology

Intro to Psychology - Crash Course Psychology #1

What does Psychology mean? Where does it come from? Hank gives you a 10 minute intro to one of the more tricky sciences and talks about some of the big names in the development of the field.


[00:00:00,539 --> 00:00:04,759] That dream about the dinosaur in the leotard, those times that you said that thing that
[00:00:04,759 --> 00:00:08,020] you know you shouldn't have said, or even that thing you didn't even know you were gonna
[00:00:08,020 --> 00:00:12,799] say. The little cogs of your consciousness cranking away, making your life possible,
[00:00:12,799 --> 00:00:17,230] making society function, all of the things that you're so glad you can do and all of
[00:00:17,230 --> 00:00:21,160] the ones that you wish you could stop doing. Excluding other human minds, your mind is
[00:00:21,160 --> 00:00:25,020] the most complicated piece of the universe that humans currently know about. The rules
[00:00:25,020 --> 00:00:30,230] that govern it are mysterious and elusive. Maybe our brains just aren't complex enough
[00:00:30,230 --> 00:00:34,120] to understand themselves. But that's not going to stop us from trying!
[00:00:34,120 --> 00:00:38,600] The word 'psychology' comes from the Latin for the "study of the soul." And while its
[00:00:38,600 --> 00:00:43,030] formal definition has evolved over the last several decades, today we can safely call
[00:00:43,030 --> 00:00:48,110] it the science of behavior and mental processes. The term 'psychology' wasn't coined until
[00:00:48,110 --> 00:00:51,630] around the turn of the sixteenth century, and the practice that we would actually call
[00:00:51,630 --> 00:00:56,560] science today wasn't established until the mid-1800s. But of course, humans have always
[00:00:56,560 --> 00:01:01,290] been curious about themselves and what's going on up here. Aristotle pondered the seed of
[00:01:01,290 --> 00:01:05,760] human consciousness and decided that it was in the heart, not the head -- being, as we
[00:01:05,760 --> 00:01:09,740] have seen quite a lot here on Crash Course, absolutely and completely wrong.
[00:01:09,740 --> 00:01:14,830] Two thousand years ago, Chinese rulers conducted the world's first psychological exams, requiring
[00:01:14,830 --> 00:01:19,040] public officials to take personality and intelligence tests. And in the late 800s, Persian doctor
[00:01:19,040 --> 00:01:23,690] Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Rhazes, also known as Rhazes, was one of the first to describe
[00:01:23,690 --> 00:01:28,890] mental illness, and even treated patients in what was essentially a very early psych
[00:01:28,890 --> 00:01:30,360] ward in his Baghdad hospital.
[00:01:30,360 --> 00:01:34,200] From the efforts of those early thinkers up until today, the field of psychology has been
[00:01:34,200 --> 00:01:38,960] all about tackling some of the big questions: How can humans do horrible things like commit
[00:01:38,960 --> 00:01:42,979] genocide and torture other humans, and how come we know those things are horrible? Do
[00:01:42,979 --> 00:01:47,310] we have free will, or are we simply driven by our environment, biology, and non-conscious
[00:01:47,310 --> 00:01:52,840] influences? What is mental illness, and what can we do about it? And what is consciousness?
[00:01:52,840 --> 00:01:57,119] Or the notion of self? If I lose my awareness of myself, am I still human?
[00:01:57,119 --> 00:01:57,700] I DON'T KNOW!
[00:01:57,700 --> 00:02:01,689] But over the next 6 months, these are the questions that we're gonna be exploring together:
[00:02:01,689 --> 00:02:05,659] how our brains work, how they can break, how they can be healed, why we behave the way
[00:02:05,659 --> 00:02:12,659] we do, even when we don't want to, and what it means to be thinking and feeling and alive.
[00:02:16,139 --> 00:02:21,459] [Intro]
[00:02:21,459 --> 00:02:25,290] When hearing the word psychology, most people probably think of a therapist listening to
[00:02:25,290 --> 00:02:29,680] a patient unpacking the details of his day while reclining on a couch. Maybe that therapist
[00:02:29,680 --> 00:02:33,120] is wearing glasses, chewing on a cigar, stroking his whiskered chin.
[00:02:33,120 --> 00:02:37,269] Admit it! If you're thinking about psychology, you're probably picturing Freud.
[00:02:37,269 --> 00:02:40,689] Sigmund Freud was one of the most tremendously influential and controversial thinkers of
[00:02:40,689 --> 00:02:46,049] his time, maybe of all time. His theories helped build our views on childhood, personality,
[00:02:46,049 --> 00:02:50,919] dreams and sexuality. And his work fueled a legacy of both support and opposition.
[00:02:50,919 --> 00:02:54,590] His life was long and spanned an important swath of history from the American Civil War
[00:02:54,590 --> 00:02:58,809] to World War II. But like most great scientists, Freud developed his revolutionary ideas by
[00:02:58,809 --> 00:03:02,680] building on the work of others, and of course innovation in the field didn't stop with him.
[00:03:02,680 --> 00:03:07,319] In truth, psychology is one of the most wildly diverse sciences in terms of the questions
[00:03:07,319 --> 00:03:11,590] it proposes, the methods it applies, and the different schools of thought and disciplines
[00:03:11,590 --> 00:03:12,120] it contains.
[00:03:12,120 --> 00:03:16,870] Perhaps more than any other science, psychology is just a big old integrated melting pot.
[00:03:16,870 --> 00:03:20,779] For instance, right around Freud's time, there were a lot of different schools of thought
[00:03:20,779 --> 00:03:25,510] of about how the study of the human mind should be tackled. Mainly, there were the ideas of
[00:03:25,510 --> 00:03:28,760] structuralism, functionalism and psychoanalysis.
[00:03:28,760 --> 00:03:34,319] Scientific psychology got its start in 1879 in Germany when physician Wilhelm Wundt set
[00:03:34,319 --> 00:03:38,529] up the first psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig just a few years after
[00:03:38,529 --> 00:03:44,239] publishing his Principles of Physiological Psychology, considered the first true psychology
[00:03:44,239 --> 00:03:44,779] textbook.
[00:03:44,779 --> 00:03:49,839] Wundt and his student Edward Bradford Titchener took cues from chemists and physicists and
[00:03:49,839 --> 00:03:54,559] argued that if those people could break down all matter into simple elements or structures,
[00:03:54,559 --> 00:03:56,919] why couldn't they do the same for the brain?
[00:03:56,919 --> 00:04:01,529] They tried to understand the structures of consciousness by getting patients to look
[00:04:01,529 --> 00:04:06,029] inward, asking them how they felt when they watched the sun set, or smelled a coffee,
[00:04:06,029 --> 00:04:07,339] or licked a kitten, or whatever.
[00:04:07,339 --> 00:04:11,979] Titchener named this approach 'structuralism', but despite its rigid sounding name, it really
[00:04:11,979 --> 00:04:16,820] relied so much on introspection that it became too subjective. I mean, you may sense and
[00:04:16,820 --> 00:04:20,810] feel something different that I do, even if we lick the same kitten. Psychologists, of
[00:04:20,810 --> 00:04:25,120] course, can't actually observe a patient's inner thoughts or feelings, so ultimately,
[00:04:25,120 --> 00:04:27,870] the structuralist school of thought was fairly short-lived.
[00:04:27,870 --> 00:04:32,540] By contrast, American physician and philosopher William James proposed a different set of
[00:04:32,540 --> 00:04:38,580] questions, focusing on why we think and feel and smell and lick, or whatever. Basically,
[00:04:38,580 --> 00:04:43,090] he focused on the function of behavior. This approach, 'functionalism', was based on Charles
[00:04:43,090 --> 00:04:47,570] Darwin's idea that adaptive behaviors are conserved throughout the evolutionary process.
[00:04:47,570 --> 00:04:52,840] James published his seminal book, The Principles of Psychology, in 1890, defining psychology
[00:04:52,840 --> 00:04:58,550] as the science of mental life, just as Freud was starting to flex his big brain.
[00:04:58,550 --> 00:05:02,940] Sigmund Freud began his medical career at a Viennese hospital, but in 1886, he started
[00:05:02,940 --> 00:05:07,710] his own practice, specializing in nervous disorders. During this time, Freud witnessed
[00:05:07,710 --> 00:05:13,220] his colleague Josef Breuer treat a patient called Anna O with a new talking cure. Basically,
[00:05:13,220 --> 00:05:18,250] he just let her talk about her symptoms. The more she talked and pulled up traumatic memories,
[00:05:18,250 --> 00:05:23,590] the more her symptoms were reduced. It was a breakthrough, and it changed Freud forever.
[00:05:23,590 --> 00:05:28,160] From then on, Freud encouraged his patients to talk freely about whatever came to mind,
[00:05:28,160 --> 00:05:33,430] to free associate. This technique provided the basis for his career, and an entire branch
[00:05:33,430 --> 00:05:34,240] of psychology.
[00:05:34,240 --> 00:05:39,890] In 1900 he published his book The Interpretation of Dreams, where he introduced his theory
[00:05:39,890 --> 00:05:44,190] of psychoanalysis. Now, you probably think of psychoanalysis as a treatment -- the whole
[00:05:44,190 --> 00:05:48,310] patient on the couch scenario. And that's definitely part of it. But Freud's concept
[00:05:48,310 --> 00:05:52,150] was actually a lot more complex than that, and it was revolutionary.
[00:05:52,150 --> 00:05:57,590] A radical kernel of psychoanalysis was the theory that our personalities are shaped by
[00:05:57,590 --> 00:06:02,950] unconscious motives. Basically Freud suggested that we're all profoundly affected by mental
[00:06:02,950 --> 00:06:05,040] processes that we're not even aware of.
[00:06:05,040 --> 00:06:09,910] Now that sounds almost obvious to us now, but part of the genius of Freud's theory was
[00:06:09,910 --> 00:06:14,780] that in 1900, it wasn't obvious at all. The idea that our minds could be driven by something
[00:06:14,780 --> 00:06:20,050] that our minds themselves didn't know about was hard to grasp. As hard as like, uhh, maybe
[00:06:20,050 --> 00:06:25,400] organisms evolving by natural selection. It was abstract, invisible, and there was something
[00:06:25,400 --> 00:06:26,650] about it that seemed irrational.
[00:06:26,650 --> 00:06:30,560] But the other important part of Freud's theory was that the unconscious, literally the thing
[00:06:30,560 --> 00:06:35,590] below consciousness, was still discoverable. Even though you weren't aware of it, you could
[00:06:35,590 --> 00:06:39,940] come to understand it through a therapeutic technique that used dreams, projections and
[00:06:39,940 --> 00:06:44,390] free association to root out repressed feelings and and gain self-insight.
[00:06:44,390 --> 00:06:48,980] So what Freud was really saying was that mental disorders could be healed through talk therapy
[00:06:48,980 --> 00:06:54,230] and self-discovery. And this was a really big breakthrough. Because prior to this, people
[00:06:54,230 --> 00:06:58,800] with mental illnesses would be confined to sanatoriums and at best given menial labor
[00:06:58,800 --> 00:07:01,730] to do and at worst, shackled to a bed frame.
[00:07:01,730 --> 00:07:05,990] After The Interpretations of Dreams, Freud went on to publish over 20 more books and
[00:07:05,990 --> 00:07:10,510] countless papers with an iconic cigar in hand all the while. He believed smoking helped
[00:07:10,510 --> 00:07:14,680] him think, but it also helped him get jaw cancer. During the last sixteen years of his
[00:07:14,680 --> 00:07:19,120] life, he underwent at least thirty painful operations while continuing to smoke.
[00:07:19,120 --> 00:07:24,210] By the late 1930s, the Nazis had taken over Austria, and Freud and his Jewish family narrowly
[00:07:24,210 --> 00:07:29,770] escaped to England. By September 1939, the pain in his cancerous jaw was too great and
[00:07:29,770 --> 00:07:34,300] a doctor friend assisted him in suicide through morphine injection. He was eighty-three.
[00:07:34,300 --> 00:07:38,880] Whether you love him or hate him - and make no mistake, plenty of people vehemently disagreed
[00:07:38,880 --> 00:07:43,440] with him - there is no question that Freud's impact on psychology was monumental. While
[00:07:43,440 --> 00:07:47,490] competing theories in the young field of psychology either fell away or evolved into something
[00:07:47,490 --> 00:07:51,919] else, psychoanalysis remains an important concept and practice today.
[00:07:51,919 --> 00:07:55,510] The next big shake-up rolled in during the first half of the 20th century when behaviorism
[00:07:55,510 --> 00:08:00,280] gained a higher profile. Heavy hitters like Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, and B. F. Skinner
[00:08:00,280 --> 00:08:05,300] were key players here. They focused on the study of observable behavior. You may remember
[00:08:05,300 --> 00:08:10,510] Skinner as the dude who put rats and pigeons and babies in boxes and conditioned them to
[00:08:10,510 --> 00:08:14,840] perform certain behaviors. Right around when Freud escaped to England, Skinner published
[00:08:14,840 --> 00:08:19,730] his Behavior of Organisms, ushering in the era of behaviorism which remained all the
[00:08:19,730 --> 00:08:21,480] rage well into the 1960s.
[00:08:21,480 --> 00:08:25,430] The other major force at the time was, of course, Freud's psychoanalysis, and its many
[00:08:25,430 --> 00:08:30,600] descendents collectively known as the psychodynamic theories. These focused on the importance
[00:08:30,600 --> 00:08:35,879] of early experiences in shaping the unconsciousness and how that process affects our thoughts,
[00:08:35,879 --> 00:08:37,789] feelings, behaviors, and personalities.
[00:08:37,789 --> 00:08:41,929] By the mid-20th century, other major forces in psychology were also brewing -- schools
[00:08:41,929 --> 00:08:46,680] we'll explore later in this course including humanist psychology, which focuses on nurturing
[00:08:46,680 --> 00:08:51,499] personal growth; cognitive science and neuroscience, all of which contributed their own unique
[00:08:51,499 --> 00:08:53,139] takes on the study of mind.
[00:08:53,139 --> 00:08:57,660] Today's formal definition of psychology, the study of behavior and mental processes, is
[00:08:57,660 --> 00:09:02,069] a nice amalgamation that pulls from all these different schools of thought. It recognizes
[00:09:02,069 --> 00:09:06,350] the need for observing and recording behavior, whether that's screaming, crying or playing
[00:09:06,350 --> 00:09:11,499] air saxophone to an imaginary audience, but it also gives credit to our mental processes:
[00:09:11,499 --> 00:09:15,559] what we think and feel and believe while we're tearing it up on our invisible instruments.
[00:09:15,559 --> 00:09:20,309] Because again, the point I really want you to take home is that psychology is an integrative
[00:09:20,309 --> 00:09:24,850] science. Yes, folks still get grumpy and disagree plenty, but the essence of the discipline
[00:09:24,850 --> 00:09:29,370] has everything to do with creating different ways of asking interesting questions and attempting
[00:09:29,370 --> 00:09:34,389] to answer them through all kinds of data-gathering methods. The human mind is complicated. There
[00:09:34,389 --> 00:09:40,019] is no single way to effectively crack it open; it must be pried at from all sides.
[00:09:40,019 --> 00:09:44,249] Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich has gazed into the distant horizon of space, and even
[00:09:44,249 --> 00:09:49,529] he has acknowledged that the human brain is by far the most complex physical object known
[00:09:49,529 --> 00:09:55,470] to us in the entire cosmos. And we all get to have one! Of our very own! Just knocking
[00:09:55,470 --> 00:09:56,680] around right up in here.
[00:09:56,680 --> 00:09:59,990] We here at Crash Course are really excited to spend the next several months delving into
[00:09:59,990 --> 00:10:04,899] the world of psychology -- how it applies to our lives, our minds, and our hearts, and
[00:10:04,899 --> 00:10:08,889] how it deepens our understanding of each other, our world, and ourselves.
[00:10:08,889 --> 00:10:12,689] Thanks for watching this first lesson in Crash Course Psychology, and I'd like to especially
[00:10:12,689 --> 00:10:17,730] thank all of our Subbable subscribers, without whom we would literally not be able to do
[00:10:17,730 --> 00:10:22,149] this. Would you like a personalized signed Crash Course Chemistry Periodic Table, or
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[00:10:28,879 --> 00:10:33,649] And thanks to our crew. This episode was written by Kathleen Yale and edited by Blake de Pastino.
[00:10:33,649 --> 00:10:38,540] Our psychology consultant is Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat, our director and editor is Nicholas Jenkins.
[00:10:38,540 --> 00:10:42,350] The script supervisor was Michael Aranda who was also our sound designer, and our graphic
[00:10:42,350 --> 00:00:00,000] team is Thought Cafe.