psychology

India
January 8, 2007 6:27am CST
In 1890 William James, the American philosopher and physician and one of the founders of modern psychology, defined psychology as 'the science of mental life' and this definition provides a good starting point for our understanding even today. We all have a mental life and therefore have some idea about what this means, even though it can be studied in rats or monkeys as well as in people and the concept remains an elusive one. Like most psychologists, William James was particularly interested in human psychology, which he thought consisted of certain basic elements: thoughts and feelings, a physical world which exists in time and space, and a way of knowing about these things. For each of us, this knowledge is primarily personal and private. It comes from our own thoughts, feelings, and experience of the world, and may or may not be influenced by scientific facts about these things. For this reason, it is easy for us to make judgements about psychological matters using our own experience as a touchstone. We behave as amateur psychologists when we offer opinions on complex psychological phenomena, such as whether brain-washing works, or when we espouse as facts our opinions about why other people behave in the ways that they do: think they are being insulted, feel unhappy, or suddenly give up their jobs. However, problems arise when two people understand these things differently. Formal psychology attempts to provide methods for deciding which explanations
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