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Experimental psychology: its 5 orientations and objectives

Experimental psychology: its 5 orientations and objectives

June 21, 2024

From psychology we propose the scientific study of how we perceive, learn, feel, etc. Experimental psychology studies these processes from the experimental method, which includes observation, recording and manipulation of variables.

There are three types of variables: independent variables, which are manipulated by the experimenter; dependent variables, those that are registered and strange or intervening variables, that may appear in the process being studied. In this article we will discuss the different perspectives what's inside experimental psychology .

  • Related article: "History of Psychology: authors and main theories"

The currents within experimental psychology

Historically, the most important perspectives within the field of psychology are the following.

1. Structuralism

The structuralism, whose representative was Wilhelm Wundt, was the first current of the scientific psychology in relation to the perceptive processes. For them, perception is determined by the brain structures that the subject possesses. These structures are not given innately , but they are generated through a learning process of a perceptual type.

Structuralism has an empiricist component, in such a way that perception is studied by lending great interest to the sensation as a unit of analysis. This analysis led to the development and study of thresholds, giving rise to psychophysics. Thus, perception depends on stimulation and the sensation is the result of a complex learning process.

2. Gestalt

At the beginning of the 20th century a psychological current appears, the theory of Gestalt . According to it, the whole is much more than the simple union of the parts.

In the Gestalt, the conscious experience of the observer is used, also called "phenomenological description", in which, unlike structuralism, the subject is not required to discriminate between perceptions, but rather to describe the data as objectively as possible. of the perceptive scene.

The psychologists of the Gestalt they gave special importance to the perception of emerging properties , that come to be the product that arose fruit of the relation between the different components of the perceptive scene. For them, the organization and relations between the components were carried out in an orderly manner, generating a series of laws. In addition, the principles that constitute our perception were not the result of what the subject had learned perceptively, but the result of the interaction of the innate brain structures with the environment.

  • Related article: "Theory of Gestalt: laws and fundamental principles"

3. Behaviorism

This current was born in the first quarter of the 20th century. This focused so much on the study of behavior that in his investigations focused on it rather than the perceptual experience, which was very simple with the aim of enhancing the explanatory capacity in his experiments.

Thus, from the work of Pavlov, behavioral researchers such as Whatson or B. F. Skinner took experimental psychology to an exceptional degree of development.

  • Related article: "Behaviorism: history, concepts and main authors"

4. Cognitive psychology

Entering into the second half of the twentieth century comes cognitive psychology that, unlike behaviorism, focuses on the study of the processes that transform the entry of information in the response of the subject. These processes are called cognitive and refer to the processing of perceptual information from the same perceptual experience, also influenced by the previous experience of the subject and its subjective characteristics.

Cognitive psychologists use the "computer metaphor" , where they use the term "input" to refer to the input of the information and "output" to refer to the behavior. To explain the functioning of cognitive processes, they considered it as a series of elements that present a certain structure and a series of interactions. The way to represent this structure and the interaction of components is called "flow diagrams".

The investigation of cognitive psychology showed that the processing of perceptual information tended to decompose of the same, as well as that the processes related to its processing can be carried out in a serial, parallel, automatic (non-conscious) or controlled manner.

5. Computationalism

Computationalism, whose representative was David Marr , arose from a radicalization of the computer metaphor.For them, the computer is another processing system that, like the human mind, processes information, which generated cognitive science, which is a multidisciplinary orientation that studies cognitive processes, beginning with the perceptual ones.

There are three different levels of analysis: the "computational" level, aims to answer the question of what, that is, the objective of the system to be studied, indicating the objective and purpose of the system. The "algorithmic" level tries to explain how operations are carried out that allow the system to achieve its objectives, and the "implementation" level, which is interested in the physical implementation of the system.

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