A Jargon-free Introduction for Non-academics

Tutor: Dr. ALEC GILL MBE. BSc. MSc. Author, psychologist, broadcaster, DvD producer, folk historian, university lecturer, and public speaker.

I naively entered Psychology in 1972 as a mature student knowing "I am interested in people". That initial passion has survived and thrived despite the scientific rigours of academia. Nearly forty years on I am still a keen Psychologist and at one time (briefly) entered the world of NLP Psychotherapy. Where I feel Psychology has failed is in getting its subject matter over to the general public. Alongside my other research interests, I enjoy the opportunity to teach this topic to non-academics. Since 2002, however, I ceased presenting Adult Residential College weekend courses on this subject.

I adopt a light-hearted look at the topic because it concerns everyone and emphasize that it centres around 'YOU'. Psychology, basically, is simply common sense dressed up in quasi-scientific jargon. In an easy-going manner, I like to introduce the FIVE MAJOR SCHOOLS OF PSYCHOLOGY: Freud's controversial psycho-sexual stages; Pavlov, dogs, bells and Behaviourists; the Cognitivists Camp; the Mind-Body Dilemma; and Humanism. Each school has a different answer to the question "What Makes Us Tick?". Other key topics include childhood development, body language, personality, and mental disorders. 

COURSE OUTLINE: (although I no longer teach this topic, this outline still provides a good overview for this part of my website)

WELCOME: To each other and the topic. Debate plan: Purpose / Structure / Benefits.

ID, EGO & SUPEREGO: Sigmund Freud and his psycho-sexual theory of childhood development. Stage theory = oral, anal, genital, latent and puberty levels. Are adult problems caused by childhood experience? Or is every stage of life a 'critical phase'?

OLD DOGS and NEW TRICKS: The work of Pavlov and the Behaviourist focus upon Learning. They are objective and adopt an experimental approach to understanding human behaviour. This school is at the opposite end of the psychological continuum from the Psycho-analytical thinkers.

ALL IN THE MIND: Cognitivists research into: linguistic development; body language; mental maps; attitude change; cognitive dissonance; etc.

THE MIND-BODY GAP: The Central Nervous System is 'what makes us tick' say Psycho-biologists. Split-brain patients (unwittingly) provide answers to speech development. Geschwind highlights Language and the Brain. The years ahead will see fantastic areas of progress in this field, especially with the latest scan equipment and technological advances.

WHOLE-PERSON APPROACH: Humanists study the whole person in their research into Love, Guilt, Worry, Anxiety and Manipulation within the Family. N.L.P. = Neuro-Linguistic Programming examines many everyday problems. This wholistic (organic) approach is more in line with the public view of what Psychology is all about.

PERSONALITY: Nature or Nurture? Fixed or Fluid? Traits or States? "Who Am I?" The Greeks tried to answer these questions - and made only a little progress. Indeed, it may take another three centuries before many of these questions can really be answered.

WHEN THE TICKING GETS ERRATIC: Mental breakdowns; Neurotic / Psychotic Disorders: Types, Theories, and Treatments. Madness can teach us a lot about what it is to be 'normal'. In a sense, all abnormal behaviours are normal behaviours, but taken to extremes. Perhaps we fear psychotics because they show what could become of any one of us.

The Psychology page was last updated on 22 June 2011