Critically evaluate the role that the study of human evolution, philosophy, and the history of psychology can contribute to understanding the field of modern psychology

The intended learning outcomes are that on completion of this module the student should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the historical development of psychology as the scientific investigation of human consciousness and behaviour.
2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the philosophical issues underlying psychological inquiry, from debates about the philosophy of science
3. Critically assess the status of modern psychology as an organised, scientific, professional discipline applicable to a wide range of real world problems individually and collectively.

advice given:

What is a ‘good understanding’?

Imagine that a friend asked you what you studied about human evolution.

Would you be able to tell them the story of human evolution in a way that is basically accurate but clear and interesting?
Where would the gaps in your understanding be?
How would you answer if your friend asked the question ‘That’s all very interesting but what is the relevance of that to psychology?’.
How could you tell the story in such a way that your friend would never need to ask that question?
How can you link your understanding of human evolution with the history of psychology itself? (Hint there are perspectives in our recent lecture on history of psychology which would almost certainly fit nicely with the kind of study of psychology that is part of paleoarchaeology and Wynn’s Cognitive Archaeology).

Whilst human evolution tells us about the pre-history of modern homo sapiens and other homo species, the history of psychology itself as a distinctive discipline has a ‘pre-history’ too, i.e. there is a period before psychology truly became a named field of individual inquiry ? this period was presented in terms of mesmerism/hypnosis, spiritualism, and phrenology on the cultural hand, and mental philosophy on the other hand. Mental philosophy itself was about the study of the Will, Human Ethics and of course most importantly involved the study of the Philosophy of Mind.

Think about the ways that Philosophy of Mind differs from the psychological study of the mind (more generally think about how philosophy in general differs from science as a starting clue). How does Cartesian Dualism, which sits right at the transition from Religion as the dominant worldview to the ‘age of science’, enable the transition from philosophy to psychology? Is there any significance to the fact that James, Fechner and Wundt were all trained in medicine or physiology (i.e. biological sciences).

In lecture 7 consider the fact that philosophy hasn’t left psychology ? Cognitive Psychology has the philosophy of Functionalism at its core. Clearly then philosophy is still relevant ? but in what way? And consider that the notion of modularity, an important concept in Cognitive Psychology applied to modern humans, has also been shown to be useful in understanding human evolution, but how has studying human evolution been useful in understanding modularity?

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