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To what extent is the layperson's view of psychology an accurate view?

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´╗┐To what extent is the layperson's view of psychology an accurate view? When the layperson hears the term "psychology", they often associate it with psychologists- who they typically sees as individuals who give advice, analyse personality, and help those who are troubled or mentally ill. But psychology can be considered far more than the treatment of personal problems. Psychology tries to explain the mysteries of human nature- why people think, feel, and act as they do. Psychology also studies animal behaviour, using the findings to determine laws of behaviour and to create theories about how humans behave and think. Definition The modern understanding of the word "psychology" is "mind" (psycho-) and "science" (-logy). Therefore, psychology translates into "the science of the mind". However, because the mind is an abstract assumption, psychology tends to study behaviour instead, as it is more viable to observe. (Carson, p.4, 2000) Nowadays, psychology has branched off into many different areas, which could explain why the layperson would find it hard to give a brief but complete description of what it entails. However, the layperson often sees themselves as detached from the practice of psychology, and assumes that only specialists deal with psychology. They can unwittingly be unaware that they themselves are frequently part of a psychological process themselves everyday through the influence of advertising, media and other means. Social psychology and mass psychology are two areas in which this case could be argued. ...read more.


Attitudes and Behaviour A common assumption is that attitudes determine behaviour. However, there are many that disagree with this statement and claim that they are independent of each other in particular cases. A sociologist named LaPiere, was one of those who said that there was a considerable difference between the two. In his studies in America during the 1930s, he found that restaurants and hotels which said they would not serve Chinese as guests, actually did in practice (LaPiere, 1934). The study of human behaviour and its relationship with attitudes by methods of self-report (interviews, opinion polls, and attitude surveys) has also been criticised. It has been argued that recording words and opinions cannot necessarily be taken as an adequate substitute for observing actions. It is often hard to identify situations where there is an evident connection between what people say and what they do, and to identify the characteristics of situations where the relationship between the two might be doubtful or non- existent. The layperson may have firm opinions on politics or other matters, but whether they will act on those beliefs is another matter. Attitudes towards sex is a subject which the layperson may well be aware of, yet the thought of the psychology involved is disregarded frequently. Society's attitudes about sexuality strongly influence our sexual behaviour and even research on behaviour, because it is considered by many as a taboo, especially for young children. ...read more.


The philosopher Roland Barthes argued that the imagery or slogans used in advertising can be used to sell the product to the general public. He claimed that in these cases, the instinct within people wins over the reasoning mind. Political propaganda, (i.e. Lord Kitchener's recruiting posters during world war II), without delving into the complex issues which surround war, works in the same way. (Barthes, 1967) Extremist groups such as religious cults, national movements or simply adolescent gangs intent on crating mayhem are run with very simple sets of norms (Reich, 1997). Examples might include believing one's country is "best", choosing to wear particular clothing because it is "cool", or stealing because they feel society is unbalanced. These groups can be considered quite dangerous as they project their own problems on the rest of the world. Remaining separate from wider, open and more inclusive social norms could escalate resulting in disastrous consequences (i.e. the genocide of World War II, and the September 11th attacks this year) Because extreme examples of mass behaviour result in violence, such as the dominance of "mob rule", maintenance of peace and social cohesion depends on an understanding of mass psychology. To sum up, it would be reasonable to say that mass psychology and social psychology form a part of everyday life. The layperson is bound to come across it in some form be it through advertising, attitudes and behaviour, and interaction with other people. However, when describing psychology, the layperson will have a tendency to omit these facts, resulting in an incomplete and somewhat inaccurate view of the subject. ...read more.

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