Has Neuroscience Replaced Psychology in Explaining Behavior ?

Topics: Psychology, Nervous system, Neuron Pages: 8 (2954 words) Published: May 25, 2013
In the following essay I will be looking at both sides of the debate of whether neuroscience replaced psychology in explaining behavior. To begin with we must firstly understand what exactly neuroscience is and what it entails. It is generally defined as the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure and the functions it carries out. Neuroscientists study the brain and how it impacts on human beings behavior and cognitive functions. The study also looks at what occurs when things don’t go right. It aims to understand neurological, psychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders. Only in recent decades has neuroscience become a recognized discipline. It has now joined other fields in becoming unified and integrating with biology, chemistry, and physics with studies of structure, physiology, and behavior, including human emotional and cognitive functions.

Psychology is the scientific study of behavior. It can range from the study of large crowds, through the dynamics of small groups interactions, to the study of an individual. In general terms, psychology emerged out of two traditions: philosophy and natural science. Philosophers have always been concerned with understanding the meaning of human experience, and many basic concepts in psychology trace their origin back to philosophy. Much behaviourist research involves studying learning in animals under laboratory conditions, using experimental methods. Animals are used because behaviourists assume they learn in the same way as people but are more convenient to study. Laboratory settings are favoured because they allow researchers to control very precisely the conditions under which learning occurs (e.g. the nature and availability of reinforcement and punishment). Behaviourists use two processes to explain how people learn: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In classical conditioning, people learn to associate two stimuli when they occur together, such that the response originally elicited by one stimulus is transferred to another. The person learns to produce an existing response to a new stimulus. For example, Watson & Rayner (1920) conditioned a young boy (‘Little Albert’) to respond with anxiety to the stimulus of a white rat. They achieved this by pairing the rat with a loud noise that already made Albert anxious. The anxiety response was transferred to the rat because it was presented together with the noise.This means that generalizations between species must be made with more caution than many behaviorists apply.

There were several philosphers and scientists whose work had strongly influenced the development of psychology because their work established the philosophical and scientific assumptions for the new discipline. The three most influential individuals in this respect were the philosophers Descartes, Locke and the scientist Charles Darwin. They each had a main field the focused on and in the case of Descartes he was responsible for putting forward the idea now known as ‘ Cartesian dualism”. This was the idea that the mind and body are separte and independent of one another. Descartes believed the body is essentially a machine, although a very complex one. It functions mechanisticallu, and its workings are essentially automatic. The mind, though is the seat of the soul. As such, it forms a kind of essence, interacting with the body through the brain, but not really being apart of it. Catersian dualism is also concerned with the distinction between human beings and animals. Descartes believed that animals operated by instinct, blindly programmed to act in ways appropriate for their survival. Human beings, on the other hand , are able to reason; and it was this which made them special. John Locke argued the case that knowledge was obtained through the senses and that human beings did not inherit any knowledge or instincts. This was known as empiricism, which argued that the external stimuli which an organism was receiving, and the...
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