How Psychology Can Help In Understanding Human Behavior Psychologists analyze what people do and what people think. They study what people feel, dream, sense and perceive using scientific methodology to steer their investigations about human behavior and mental processes from centuries of determined inquiry (Nevid, 2009)…
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Psychology is the “science of behavior and processes” (Nevid, 2009, p. 4). Plotnik and Kouyoumdjian (2011) inserted systematic into the previous definition, which seemed appropriate. However, it is the definition provided by Bernstein (2011) best fits the goals of this paper - psychology is “the science that seeks to understand behavior and mental processes and to apply that understanding in the service of human welfare” (p. 3). Psychology facilitates understanding of human behavior by addressing its four main goals – to describe, explain, predict and control behavior. One way by which psychology helps in understanding human behavior is by describing it. Psychologists address questions pertaining to human behavior by description of observable behaviors. The term describing in psychology refers to naming or classifying, and involves the preparation of a comprehensive record of behavior based on observation (Coon and Mitterer, 2009). As explained in Plotnik and Kouyoumdjian (2011), describing behaviors and mental processes of autistic children about their difficulties in learning language helps psychologists understand their behavior. A case in point would be Donna. As a child, Donna recounts that she does not understand what people were saying, simply sounds with no particular meaning. These senseless sounds bothered Donna and she reacts by endlessly tapping or twirling in fingers since these movements hold her attention and allows her to escape from a non-sensible environment (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2011). Psychologists were able to solve the tapping and twirling puzzle by observing Donna and describing the circumstances which would trigger tapping or twirling. It should, however, be made clear at this point that describing observed behaviors benefits both normal humans or those who are mentally challenged like the autistic Donna in Plotnik and Kouyoumdjian (2011). Psychology paved the way for the development Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory. In this theory, Sternberg proposed a framework for teaching and assessment for any grade level or subject by which teaching and evaluation may be designed to highlight the three abilities analytical, analytic, practical, as well as memory. The framework consists of a description or listing of activities which were proven to facilitate analytic, creative and practical learning and sharpen the memory of the students (Snowman, McCown, & Biehler, 2009). Thus, as already discussed, psychology can help in the understanding of human behavior by observing and describing learning behavior to facilitate learning among normal students and to understand learning difficulties among individuals with learning disabilities. Coon and Mitterer (2009), however, argued that describing alone would not help explain behavioral phenomenon. Hence, psychologists also attempt to explain various phenomena in order to understand human behavior. Finding explanations for various behavioral phenomena assists in discovering the causes of human behavior (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2011). Psychology helps explain why students miss classes, why they obtain low achievement scores, why divorce is on the rise, why STD claims many victims despite the known perils of contracting it. From a mere description of observed behavior, psychology goes beyond listing by explaining the causes of behavior. Psychological breakthroughs in autism helped explain it is not really caused by cold and rejecting parents
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