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Key concepts

There are four main key concepts in psychology.

Behaviour

Human behaviour is complex. Psychology attempts to unpack this complexity.

Psychologists interested in behaviour ask questions around mental, physical and social processes that contribute to different behaviours. What is it that influences or determines human and non-human behaviour and how can it be measured. Psychologists pose a variety of theories to explain human behaviour.

Personality

The term ‘personality’ refers to a person’s unique behavioural and cognitive patterns. Personality is closely linked to identity.

Every day and all the time, we assess the personalities of people around us – why do they do what they do and in the way that they do it? This informal process of reflecting is not unlike what personality psychologists do.

Psychologists use broadly applicable conceptions of personality. They have developed a number of theories that help explain how and why different personality traits arise.

Motivation

Motivation is largely about values and rewards. Motivation theories tend to assume that every learned response is the result of some motivation.

Psychologists do not agree, however, on whether motivation is a primary influence on behaviour or whether environmental and ecological influences, perception, memory, cognitive development, or emotion provide better explanations.

Intelligence

While intelligence is one of the most widely discussed subjects in psychology, psychologists have very different views as to what it actually consists of. Some believe that intelligence is a single, general ability, while others believe it encompasses a range of aptitudes, skills, and talents.

Last updated March 4, 2012



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