It is generally known that psychology is about people, but what exactly does psychology involve? What does it study about people and how does it do so? In this chapter, I will introduce you to psychology by examining what it is, and what it is not! We will also look at how it came to be a distinct subject and why it is largely regarded as a science.
We are all interested in human behaviour. We regularly speculate about our own and other people's acts in our day-to-day lives. For instance, we wonder 'why did she say that?' or 'why do I forget to do things?' Also our sayings, such as 'birds of a feather flock together', reveal how we try to make sense of behaviour by creating rules of thumb. It is a rare person who does not try to work out how and why other people act and react the way they do, and what their thoughts and feelings are based on. Since we are all familiar with human behaviour, it can appear not to be a worthy subject to study. Indeed, if you mention to a friend or relative that you are reading about or studying psychology, you may well get the response 'Isn't it just common sense?' As psychology involves looking at everyday behaviour, it is often viewed as just common sense dressed up as science. But how far does common sense get us in understanding human behaviour? Consider the following statements:
'Our memory is more accurate when we are hypnotized'
'Not everybody dreams every night'
'The more bystanders there are at an emergency, the faster the victim will
'We can completely rely on an eyewitness's memory of an event'
'Brainstorming in groups is more effective than working alone'
'We use only ten per cent of our brain'