For the students who are willing to take up psychology major in college, Advanced Placement Exam Board provides an opportunity to take a look into the brief course details of Psychology through the AP Psychology course.
The exam consists of 2 sections: firstly, a 70-minute multiple choice questions and secondly 50 minutes free response questions. From 2011 onwards, there is no longer negative marking for the wrong answers.
The main aim of this course is to give the students a brief glimpse of the scientific study of the behaviour and mentality of the human beings as well as the other animals. They also get to learn the basic principles and theories of the everyday applied psychology.
The AP Psychology exam has two parts: Multiple Choice and the Free Response parts. The first part consists of 100 questions and the Free Response part has 2 questions. The topics on which the questions in the first part can be asked are:
The students are required mainly to evaluate certain psychological concepts in the Free Response part. They need to gain a clear understanding about the terms; the theories and most importantly they need to learn to apply those theories to analyse certain concepts and behaviours.
Now let’s take a brief glance at the course topics in syllabus of AP psychology:
The students are required to learn how the psychological viewpoints shape and develop their psychological thoughts through a course on brief history of psychology and how different terms came into being.
The origin of psychology goes back to the prehistoric ages. The evidences show that even creatures like monkeys and apes suffered from psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, functionless behaviours etcetera. During Stone Age, humans, as it seems, tried to cure the victims from various mental problems. Those persons, we might think of them as distantly connected to the psychiatrists, were called shamans. In order to drive away the ‘evil spirits’ they used to perform a sort of medical treatment, known as ‘Trephination’. It involves drilling a hole with half inch diameter in the victim’s skull. The evidences suggest that a large number of people managed to survive the operation which could be the result of the healers’ expertise and growth of the bone after the procedure. In 1879, German scientist, Wilhelm Wundt established a psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany. There he trained almost 180 students from all over the world. Through introspection, the subjects were asked to record their cognitive reactions, as in emotional ones like shock, anger, pain and so on. Studying the stimuli, he managed to develop the theory of Structuralism that the mind operates through combining subjective emotions and objective feelings. According to this they break an emotion into fragments as they believe the combination.
Later, the second important paradigm of psychology developed as Functionalism, the study of the mental procedure. Being influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, the supporter of Functionalists decided to find out the reasons behind the mental procedures. William James was one of the most influential among them. Through the phrase ‘Stream of Consciousness’ he argued that consciousness can’t be broken into parts since the whole of it works in unison and change accordingly.
However, the methodology of Wundt and James went into background as in 1913, John Watson rejected the theory of consciousness and started putting emphasis upon the observation of the behaviour of the living beings which gradually led to Behaviourism. B.F.Skinner was the most influential figures among all of them. He shaped the ideas of Watson in better and detailed ways.
In 1920s, Germany witnessed another movement caused by Marx Wertheimer known as the Gestalt psychology. According to this belief, the whole unison or compilation is better than the parts. Our brains shape the sensory experiences into perceptions. During the 1800s, the world witnessed the emergence of the modernistic views of psychological disorders, that they should be treated as medical conditions only. The most famous among these views are the theory of Psychoanalysis. It generally focuses on the power of the Unconscious mind, which according to the theory controls the entire behaviour. The leading figure behind the theory is Sigmund Freud who is also famous for his interpretations of dreams which, according to him are the way to be connected to the unconscious mind. Now let’s have a look at certain terminologies:
Apart from these approaches the others are: Socio- Cultural and Eclectic perspective. Socio-cultural perspective talks about the importance of having different perspectives for different kinds of people and cultures. Eclectic approach too focuses on different perspectives for different objects.
Now let’s proceed to the next topic which is based on Methods of psychology.
In order to understand the basics of Psychology the students are required to know the methodology, certain methods and disciplines so that they can differentiate between those methods and apply those methods in their lives if situation occurs. This course on the methodology enables the students to differentiate between types of researches like Experimental, Survey, Case studies and so on; to identify the dependent, independent elements in the research findings. This course also helps them to apply the concepts of basic descriptive statistics which includes interpreting and charting out graphs and calculating the statistics, to learn the role of Ethical issues in the research practices. However they are also required to maintain sound ethics and protect the privacy of the research participants. Let’s have a look at the different modes of methodology.
This method includes manipulating one variable to check if any kind of change occurs in the other one. This method has its root in the controlled methods, assignments, manipulation in order to test hypothesis. Generally the experiments are lab based as these allow more control over the variables. Sometimes the experiments need to do field work, especially if they are experimenting on some social behaviour. The experiments generally are based on Scientific methods. The basic steps are forming hypothesis, the variables and collecting the data, analyse the data in order to find out the conclusion, and share it.
This method is based on the association. It is the measure to show how much the two variables are related. Correlation is of two kinds, Positive correlation and Negative correlation
When the change in one variable causes similar changes in the other one too, then it’s called Positive Correlation.
When the change in one variable increases and the changes in the other one decreases, it’s called Negative Correlation.
This pattern suggests the absence of any kind of relationship between the two variables.
This method can be performed through various observations like the Natural Observation, Survey Method, Archival Research Method and so on.
Clinical research method in psychology is a combination of medical science, theory as well as clinical knowledge in order to understand, resist, and relieve psychological distress and disorders and anxieties. It can be associated with Freud’s method of Psychoanalysis. It includes issues related to the intellectual, emotional logical sides as well as the social behaviours and the personal ones too. The information about the patients can be collected from the friends and family, school records, medical records, interview, observation of the behaviours and so on. This therapy focuses on listening. As we have often seen people can feel cured after they talk about certain things to their close ones like issues related to anxiety, deep seated fear, grief, disorder and so on. In today’s lifestyle, stress is something which we can’t escape therefore it can be of an excellent help if the students know about these problems and can apply diagnosis in their daily life if the situation occurs.
Freud’s theory that the behaviour of the human beings is not random, it can be the result or the cause of trauma of childhood, residing in the ‘Unconscious’ which gradually come into the surface and create problems. Also, according to Skinner, Aaron Beck, people become psychologically disturbed and problematic due to their faulty ways of thinking. Cognitive-Behavioural psychologists tend to change these faulty ways of thinking.
The other important terminologies are following:
This is a method to provide a summarized account of the collected data in the field of Psychology. Graphical representations such as bars, charts, graphs are an important part of the Descriptive Statistics.
The researchers use it to summarize and make the data comprehensible
Some of the descriptive statistics units are mean, average, mode etcetera.
Inferential Statistics, unlike Descriptive Statistics, works on the small sample instead of the whole. Descriptive Statistics provides the scenario where as Inferential Statistics explains the scenario.
Earlier, the researchers could perform any kind of experiments in the name of science, without any restraint. In present days, they are bound to maintain certain ethics which protect the rights of the researchers as well as the people on whom they are conducting the researches. For example, institutions like the American Psychological Association, British Psychological Society maintain certain codes of ethics and the violation of any of those are strictly prohibited. Some of those are:
The relationship between the physiological process, behavioural process, the influence of neural function and the nervous system is of extremely importance. Therefore the students of the AP Course are supposed to have sufficient knowledge about this field. This topic will teach them to identify between the basic process and the systems of the neurons and the process of transmission of signals between the neurons, to learn the influence of drugs on neurotransmitter. While learning these, the students are also required to learn about the entire Nervous system and the role of neuroplasticity in traumatic brain injuries. All of these things are important to identify the influence of all these on the person’s psychological aspects, as we can witness in the works on Paul Broca, Darwin, Carl Wernick and so on. Now let’s take a quick glance at the different steps of biological basis of behaviour.
Physiological Techniques, as the term suggests, are used in the Physiological Psychology which is a branch of psychology which is concerned with the biological basis of behaviour and very much related to the Neuroscience. It connects the functioning of the brain with our mental behaviour. This part focuses on the practical and experimental parts of the course.
The main part here is the Nervous System.
It controls the entire functioning of the body. Consisting of brain, spinal cord, nerve tissues its main work is to produce responses to the internal and external stimuli. By using chemical and electrical signals it sends responses to different parts of the body. The brain is the central part of the CNS or Central Nervous System which contains millions of Neurons. Emotions are also majorly responsible for the human behaviour. Behavioural elements produce the muscular movements which accompany that particular emotion. These emotions affect certain areas of brain. The effects may cause the secretion of certain hormones like Oxytocin, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Serotonin, Dopamine and so on.
As its name suggests Neuroanatomy suggests, it studies the anatomical structure of the Nervous system. It is connected with Neuroscience and it’s connected to the concept of Psychology as it also deals with the effect of certain brain injuries on the behaviour. In order to understand the basic concept of Neuroanatomy we have to understand the structure of the nervous system which is divided into Central and Peripheral Nervous System. Central Nervous System or CNS consists of Brain and Spinal Cord. Peripheral Nervous System consists of the Neurons which are further divided into Autonomic and Somatic Nervous System. Somatic nervous system consists of neurons which convey sensory information. Autonomic nervous system is further divided into 2 sections: the Systematic Nervous System, which becomes activated during the time of ‘do or die’ situation; the Parasympathetic Nervous System, unlike the Systematic one, enables the body to rest and to be able to store energy. Now, let’s have a glance at certain psychological problems caused by the certain problems of brain.
Among several problems, most problematic is the Schizophrenia, a mental disorder due to which the patients show signs of abnormal behaviours, difficulty to realize what is real and also suffer from hallucinations, confused thinking, memory loss and so on. Both the genetic and environmental elements can cause the problem. Who has a family history of Schizophrenia may have the chances of being affected by it. The difference between the sizes of the ventricles in the brains, filled with CSF or Cerebrospinal Fluid can resulted in the disease. The larger the ventricle, the problem is more acute.
Another kind of disease is Bipolar disorder. It’s a kind of mental illness, indicated by rapid and sudden mood swings, from manic to depressive kinds. These patients may feel excited euphoric at first but gradually it worsens as the patients might start to get used to drugs, alcohols, impulsive abnormal sexual behaviour and so on. The situation gets worse if it’s not treated properly and timely. The other kind of mental problems can be OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety and so on.
The nervous system consists of 2 parts: CNS and PNS. CNS is divided into brain and spinal cord and PNS is divided into Autonomic and Somatic nervous system. Autonomic nervous system is sub divided into Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System. Somatic nervous system is also divided into 2 parts: Sensory nerves and Motor nerves.
The structure of our genes is functional into determining our behaviour. As the name suggests Behavioural Genetics studies different behavioural traits and how genes influence the behaviour. Gregor Mendel is the most important developer in this field as he showed us how the genes, genetic qualities influence our genetic behaviours. It has been proved that by gene manipulation, one can control certain behaviour patterns.
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Evolutionary psychology is an effort to understand and explain the complexity of human brains and psychology. This branch studies the process of Natural Selection, Social Behaviour. It deals with both scientific and social background of human evolution and behaviour.
The most recommended book for studying for AP Psychology exam is a comprehensive book of Psychology titled Psychology by David Myers. This book comprehensively covers topics of psychology such as thinking critically with psychological sciences, neurosciences, genetics and behaviors, developing child, adolescence and adulthood, sensation, perception, states of consciousness, learning, memory, thinking, language, intelligence, motivation, emotion, psychological disorders, therapy, stress, social psychology, statistics for psychology. The book psychology by Myers also offers glossary of important terms in psychology as well as practice quizzes.
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