Psychology and common sense Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 April 2016

Psychology and common sense

Psychology is a scientific and research based study of human mind-set and behaviours. The field of study focuses on emotions, characteristics and behaviours of individuals in their daily lives and their behaviours when interacting with other people. Wilhelm Wundt is the father of psychology, whom set up his first laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879. His main contribution to the field of psychology was his idea of structuralism; the use of introspection to study individual’s experiences comprising of sensations, images and feelings. Throughout his course of research, he insisted on using systematic observation and measurement, which serve as a strong foundation for psychology studies in the future. Whereas, common sense basically refers to the common knowledge shared by the majority human population. Such knowledge usually arise from daily observation and interaction one another, past experiences, beliefs that are being passed down for generations and scenarios commonly portrayed in television shows. Much of psychology is not based on common sense, but on research, testing, and applications of theory. As such, psychologists are heavily trained in research methods and statistics.

Psychology is a real science as It uses scientific methods such as the experimental research and analysis to support a hypothesis and that psychology is not just things we see everyday. Psychology has a wide variety of aspects; from the social side of understanding why people behave in a specific way, to the neuroscience side of understanding what goes wrong in the brain of people with mental health disorders. As psychologists attempt to explain the mind and brain in the context of real life, it is definitely not common sense. One common sense belief states that if someone recalls something vividly and confidently, that memory is true and accurate. In another words, an individual will not false memories. Even if there is, the individual will have the ability to differentiate real from false memories. However, psychological research have proven this common sense belief to be wrong.

False memories, also known as pseudomemories, can usually be formed when individual try to fill up the gaps in their memory by logic guesses combining with their actual memory (Koutstaal, Norman & Schacter, 1998, p. 289-318). This action is otherwise called constructive processing. A study by Braun, Ellis and Loftus (2002) shows that sixteen percent of the people who were shown with a fake advertisement of Bugs Bunny in Disney resort actually insisted that they met Bugs in Disney. However, it was not possible since Bugs is a character from Warner Brothers and not Disney (p. 1-23). This study reflected that some subjects experience constructive processing after seeing the fake advertisement. Hence, the false memory formed seems rather logical to them. In another research carried out by Loftus (1997), together with her research associate, Jacqueline Pickrell, they told a group of subjects, ranging from 18 to 53 years old, a series of their childhood incidents recounted by their family members or close relatives.

Out of all the incidents told, they included one whereby the subjects had been lost in a shopping mall when they were still children. In the next two interview sessions, the subjects were asked to recall the incident of being lost in the mall. Surprising, about a quarter of them said they could remember it and even supplied extra details about what happened even though the incident was actually made up. This shows a way of inducing a completely false memory into someone simply by providing external evidence that prompt the happening of such incident (p.71). Similar situation of implanting false memories into someone would be under therapy or hypnosis. The ‘misinformation effect’ is also theory accounted for the formation of pseudomemories. This refers to the distortion of memory as a result of the presence of misleading and suggestive information as well as source confusion (Porter et. Al., 2010, p. 55-61).

The above mentioned studies and psychological theories such as constructive processing, hypnosis, misinformation effect, memory construction and schemas, have proven the common sense belief to be wrong. It is possible for an individual to take pseudomemories as their true and accurate memories. In conclusion, common sense beliefs are knowledge that everybody are exposed to whereas psychology comprises of careful and scientific researches and analysis. Though common sense beliefs may be widely used and agreed to, that do not necessary mean that they are correct. In fact, they are generally false explanations of thought process and behaviour. Psychologists are hence able to come up with psychological explanation to prove the direct opposite of the common sense. Nonetheless, psychological explanation can also be used to prove certain common sense beliefs which are true. As such, people can view psychology as a tool employed to prove the credibility of common sense. Therefore, psychology is not just common sense.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

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  • Date: 3 April 2016

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