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Psychology 101, How To Understand People By Understanding Human Psychology


Looking for the best in psychology information?  Well, in this psychology 101 article, we investigate how to understand human psychology. Human beings are diverse and individual. Essentially, however, we are all natural Psychologists with an innate ability to observe, test and formulate an assumption based upon the behaviours of others.

Just like our innate ability to formulate opinions as to people's intentions and emotions, the science of psychology aims to test and measure humans behaviors in controlled ways, formed from hypothesis. This article looks at research, as well as, evolutionary psychology and the nature and nurture debate.

Special thanks for the question asked by Hubber, WebbyAvatar from HubPages.com.

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Psychology Definition

As this is a psychology 101 based article, I will start by providing a ‘working definition’ of psychology as a term:

‘Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans and animals.’

Psychologists concentrate on what is observable and measurable in a person’s behaviour. This includes the biological processes in the body, although, the mind is central to the subject.

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Learn More Here

We Are All Innate Psychologists

The first thing we need to understand, in terms of human psychology, is that we are all innate Psychologists.

Generally speaking, we find it easy to analyse human behaviour because we have subconscious and conscious ability in deciphering what people really mean.

People communicate this with subtle social ques, such as:

  • Verbalising (speaking how we feel - our needs, our wants, our fears and our joys).
  • Non-verbal communication (our body language, how we express ourselves, facial expressions, even the subtle hesitancy's and silences in our speech).
  • Physical representation (how we present ourselves - the way we dress, the way we feel will show itself in skin tone - for example anger and illness will present itself in redness, beads of sweat and/or paleness).

You can learn more about this by clicking on the links opposite.

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Read More About Asperger's Syndrome...

Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Examples of Exceptions To Disprove The Rule

It is here that I want to highlight one of the exceptions to disprove the idea that we are all natural Psychologists.

This comes in the form of Asperger's Syndrome. People with this condition have major difficulties that presents itself in the inability to understand these social cues.

This is why it is important for people with autistic spectrum disorders, like Asperger's Syndrome, to learn about this on a conscious, academic and logical level. 'Reading' people is something that most people take for granted. People with this form of autism find this difficult.

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  • In understanding human psychology, therefore, we have to concentrate on what is observable and measurable in human behaviour.

  • This is built from a hypothesis and measured in terms of probability.

  • The accuracy stems from a 5% baseline variance (> greater than and less than <) in a statistical anaylsis prediction.

The Nature Versus Nurture Debate

Human beings are diverse and individual. They maybe thought of as consisting a mixture of various factors that make them who they are. This can range from being a product of their intelligence, their environment and how they are brought up.

Psychologists have debated the question of nature or nurture for many years, and this debate continues today. However, many may agree, that people are a product of both these factors.

Of course, with the advent of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) analysis and sensitive equipment like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanning, amongst many other advancements in research, this helps further refine and measure a hypothesis much more effectively than the past.

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Recommended Reading On The Nature Versus Nurture Debate


To Understand Human Behavior, Theories Need To Be Tested

Now, we understand that in order to understand human behaviour, most of us already have this innate ability.

We also know that in order for Psychologists to understand human behaviour, theories have to be tested. It would, therefore, be a reasonable assumption, to say that many of us naturally test our theories out on others. We can then formulate a conclusion as to their true intentions.

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Evolution And Human Behaviour

Evolutionary Psychology is a subject so huge that I can only provide a brief possibility, or theory, that may affect human nature.

It has been dogged with volatile debate since Darwin published his 'Origins of Species' in 1859.  This forms the foundation of evolutionary biology. 

Psychology, therefore, makes comparisons and contrasts to human behavior to that of other animals in the animal kingdom.

The above video is a comprehensive debate from Yale and asks the question: Does evolution explain human nature?

Evolution And Human Psychology

This mechanism, it has been recognised, is something that has evolved, in terms of evolution, as a survival mechanism.

Those that are good at identifying other people's intentions from their behaviour, have a better chance of survival. Having insider knowledge provides an informed choice for the actions of the observer.

Those people who have a good, natural, understanding of human psychology are more likely to procreate and produce children that have this ability too.

This natural ability, therefore, can be genetically inherited and learned from one generation to another, thereby, keeping the skill strong in the gene pool.

Consider this, not just in relation of today, but something that has evolved over 80,000 generations from the first homosapien sapien.

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How Can You Do Psychology Without Darwin's Origin Of Species?

Recommended Reading By David Buss on Evolutionary Psychology

What Is Science?

As human psychology is defined as a scientific study, what is science?

  • Something that involves experimentation - Experiments are conducted to try to find the causes of effects in all scientific subjects.
  • Something that can be only properly carried out in controlled conditions.

Psychology As A Science

Now let's go back to our attempt in finding out 'How To Understand Human Psychology'. In this, let's re-look at the working definition:

‘Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans (and animals).’

We have already established that many of us have the innate ability in reading the behaviours of others.

But, as psychology as a science, we need to be more specific in our conclusions and, as already has been suggested, this is about measuring behaviour in a more controlled way than through our natural instinct.

In studying human behaviour, as a bi-product, we may be able to have a greater understanding of how the mind works.

Psychology As A Restricted Science

  • Psychologist like to carry out experiments, but these must be done ethically and practical implications have to be considered.
  • Psychologists might be restricted in research on human beings - they can't research in the same way a chemist researches chemicals, for example.
  • Psychologists have to use various METHODS other than just experiments.
  • Qualitative versus Quantitative methods in psychological research are not satisfactory methods of experiment on their own.

Methodology Of Psychology

There two aspects to methodology in psychology:

Philosophical considerations (or the nature of science itself) and...

Practical considerations (the research methods that should be used):

  • Experiment,
  • Observation,
  • Survey,
  • Case Study
  • Correlation (form of measurement).

You will see more on these in the sections below.

Qualitative Versus Quantitative Methods And More Biases

In research of human behaviour, Psychologists use qualitative and quantitative methods. Both present their restrictions, however, the qualitative method investigates why and how of decision making - not just when, what and where.

This is compared to quantitative methods which focus on measurement and tests. For more on qualitative versus quantitative research, take a look at this Key Points article.  For a funny anecdote, watch this short video on how these methods differ and their biases.  Try and identify the problems these research techniques demonstrate within such irony.


Lots of information can be gained by observing behaviour within natural environments. Many of us do this naturally when we 'people watch'.

Conclusions can be made from this but, as it isn't a method that is controlled, like our experiment methodology (it has no independent variable), it can be unreliable for an acceptable prediction.

We all know what trouble we might get into when we make assumptions about other people, especially when formulated from what we have observed. As a result, sometimes we can be wrong!  This is exactly the same accident that might be made by conclusions from observation.


A hypothesis is made.

This is a prediction that is either accepted or not in controlled testing conditions.

Called an independent variable (IV), or 'cause' variable, these might change depending on the 'effect variable', otherwise known as the dependent variable (DV), when measured.

All the other variables are controlled to remain constant.

Within each method, various techniques can be used. For example, video recording, audio, visual tests, questionnaires, interviews, tests and measurements - to name but a few.

Case Study and Case History

A case study can refer to a small group or person. 

Case or clinical studies are very useful in Cognitive Psychology (the study of mental processes) and have been founded in Psychoanalysis.

The Psychologists looks at the history and formulates opinions as to what is going on within the person - their mental dynamics.


Surveys measure many people.  Psychologists often use questionnaires and/or interviews to do this. 

Questions about attitudes to certain situations, behaviours and emotions produces results for which an inferance can be made.

The problem with surveys and, all research in fact, is the consideration to their reliablility, whether they are consistent and valid.

Example of Positive Correlation

Courtesy of crossingwallstreet.com

Courtesy of crossingwallstreet.com

Example Of Non Correlation

Courtesy of biomedcentral.inist.fr

Courtesy of biomedcentral.inist.fr

Example Of Negative Correlation



Correlation is a measurement of the relationship between two or more variables. These consist of three types, positive, none or zero and negative. Correlation can be deciphered from information within scattergrams.

  • Positive Correlation means as one variable increases, so does the other.

  • Non-Correlations means there is no relationship either positive or negative.

  • Negative Correlation means as one variable increases, the other decreases.

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Correlation Scale and Significance

Correlation can be demonstrated on a number scale. Generally speaking, 0.6 or 0.7 or higher is thought of as a significant correlation. The most important thing to remember, however, is that correlations does not show causation. Just because there is a correlation, this doesn't mean there is a cause.

Example Of Number Scale


Keep In Mind

  • Reliability in research means that tests are repeatable or consistent of which are typically standardized.
  • A test or measurement might be reliable but doesn't mean it is valid.

Philosophical Methodology

Philosophical methodology asks 'How do we know whether something is true?' and questions theories for how correct they are. Essentially, this method questions research and theories.

It is necessary, therefore to find out how theories could be tested and challenges the difference between scientific and unscientific theories.

Psychologists, therefore, have to decide which method is the most useful in their research. This is about sampling. Samples that are selected have to be appropriate both in quantity and quality. The data collected, therefore, needs to be reliable and valid. Of course, this is reliant on the samples.

So what are samples? Sampling is the process of selecting a number of people within a group. These are called participants for the purpose of research. However, this has to be fairly selective because it isn't practical to sample whole populations (unless this is in census conditions, for example). This selective sampling is termed as a representative sample and is labelled as a Quota.

Random samples means that each person in the target population has an equal chance of being selected, whereas opportunistic sampling seeks whoever is available at a given time. The latter, understandably, can biase results.

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Recommended Reading In Psychological Research Methods

Why Look At Research And Theory Techniques In Understanding Human Psychology?

Research and theoretical techniques are incredibly important in understanding human research. Just as we are all natural psychologists within our societies, these ideas need to be developed and validated.

From theories through to research, identifying, scrutinising and testing hypothesis, this really is fundamental in understanding human behaviour. As human behaviour forms the basis to human psychology, research techniques must be central to this understanding.

I may add that I have just tipped on the very basics of psychological research techniques here but hope that it forms a basis of understanding for which you can grow from.

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Understanding Human Psychology - A Closing Summary

In understanding human psychology we have identified that we are all innate psychologists. We formulate our predictions, test them and watch to see if they are correct. This might be right or wrong but there are some similarities to research techniques that are used in Psychological research today. It is important, therefore, that hypothesis and research predictions are reliable and valid. However, we also need to consider how we have got to this point in time in our understanding of human behavior. Looking at genetics and understanding evolutionary psychology might benefit in understanding human psychology. This is especially the case when we take advantage of new technology to assist us with this. What is certain is our future is bright, as we make further advancements, on our quest in learning how to understand human psychology.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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If you liked this psychology 101 article, you might like these...

Recommended Reading And DVDs On Psychology

Psychology Perception Test - Just For Fun!


rachel chinni on October 11, 2014:

its simple by catching the week point of other person we can trap them easily it one kind of small trik

great information thnxs

rachel on October 11, 2014:

good things great

bensonpaul gatnor on May 23, 2013:

i comment to learn human psychology on behave of brain with distance learning

RUSTAM on November 02, 2012:

good informations

Jack on January 02, 2012:

Great hub. Keep up with the good work :)

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on October 21, 2011:

yanastenson - I hope this time it was something you embraced, rather than run from! lol

yanastenson from Toronto on October 20, 2011:

This is something which I always run away from during my School years. Gr8 Hub with lots of info that revived my school days.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on October 01, 2011:

Thank you Jason, but did you understand it?

Jason Sanchez from White Plains, New York on September 29, 2011:

really neat! a lot of work clearly went into this

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 12, 2010:

Thank you Happyboomernurse - this is exactly what I wanted to achieve :)

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on December 11, 2010:

Thanks for another great hub on psychology Shaz.

The ability to read the intentions of others in their behavior is something most people take for granted but as you pointed out, those with Autism Spectrum Disorders don't have this ability and must learn non-intinctive ways to read other people. There is much fascinating research on this topic and your article provides a good starting point for those interested in learning more.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 03, 2010:

Kind of you daydreamer :)

daydreamer13 on December 03, 2010:

Interesting and educational! Good hub!

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 02, 2010:

MPG - thanks again!

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on December 01, 2010:

I did read that Shaz and it is so true, people with ASD do not have the inate ability to read other peoples faces which causes their problems with social interaction. Of course I'm telling you something you know so much about but it is interesting human psychology isn't it? Thanks again for a very informative hub.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on December 01, 2010:

Thanks MPG - notice how I used ASD as an example of the inability to understand innate human psychology? Thank you for reading and your well wishes. :)

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on November 30, 2010:

Congrats on your nomination, well deserved. Voted.

Good luck Shaz.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 30, 2010:

Brian - I am grateful to have been nominated. It has given me real joy - I am uplifted!

brian slater on November 30, 2010:

hi Shaz and well done for this-you deserve to win and I have no doubt that you will.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 26, 2010:

Thank you bojanglesk8 :)

bojanglesk8 on November 25, 2010:

Amazing hub

5 stars

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 23, 2010:

Thanks K9 - this is, of course, the foundations of evolutionary psychology, for which is a very contraversial issue, for sure!

For people with ASD, it is particularly difficult - which is why I used this group as an example. It is far harder to learn the skills of reading others - if it is achieved at all. This is exactly why I have found psychology a fascinating subject since the age of 8.

Thanks for jogging by! :)

India Arnold from Northern, California on November 22, 2010:

It is a genetic trait, a required ability of survival to read the social motions and intent of our species. Helping ourselves to define our placement within the construct of hierarchy, development of needed skills, and to simply live with understanding and proper interaction. When these abilities go wrong or are absent within a human, the retraining of actions and thought patterns or replacing of chemistry can become a daunting task at best. I have high respect for those who challenge themselves to understand these vital yet frightening aspects of our human partners. An ever changing skill to be sure. Nice job as always Shaz!


shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 22, 2010:

Woodamarc, thank you for your contribution. It is appreciated.

Marc Woodard from Portland, Oregon on November 22, 2010:

Observation of behavior is to perceive in "many cases" the expected performance outcome of one's mental and physical abilities. And the ability to perceive anothers performance attributes is to make a selection of whom you want to associate, or do business with. This natural psychological inherent trait is a bonus to those that ultimately are involved in critical decision making processes that revolve around people (e.g., Human Resources, Business Managers, Consultants, etc.). Good hub.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 21, 2010:

Thanks Pamela99 - psychology as a science is a tricky subject to tackle for most researchers. It isn't a case of testing chemicals, but by testing behaviours.

It is great that research is involving more reliability, releaving suffering and improving the quality of people's lives.

You always write inciteful comments and this is no exception. Thank you :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 20, 2010:

Shaz, I think you wrote a very good hub and explained the the hypothesis and the methods of testing very well. I read a lot of medical research. So much depends on the size of the sample and how sound their testing criteria is in the first place. The FDA just approved a Lupus medication which is the first one every to treat the disease and not the symptoms ever. This is thrilling to me as a candidate for the medication. They did 3 year long studies. Yes, sometimes medications get the okay and it turns out that there are unforeseen side effects.

They took Darvocet and Darvon off the market recently and they had been around for decade. They just recently found the medications can cause heart rhythm problems. It was on the market for at least 30 years. I have taken Darvocet numerous times over the years with no problem.

There are not very many 100% absolutes in life, no matter how careful the research is conducted and that is presuming there is no manipulation. Hope I didn't get too far off track from your hub as I think it is very interesting.

shazwellyn (author) from Great Britain on November 20, 2010:

There are no perfect ways of validating a hypothesis, is there Mentalist acer? Just like creative accounting, all research has the potential to be manipulated.

Also, any scientific study with a 5% differential swing can provide a sku that throws the results well off.

Thanks for reading and your valued comment.

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on November 20, 2010:

Hypothesis and theory are fine as a debative and obsevation tool leading to direction in research and development of a defined result,but what I have a problem with,is the treament of patients without defined,but only statistical annalysis,which can be misleading,or in some cases manipulated....such as advocating the advantage of drug-thereapy without revalation of the often severe side-effects of psycotropic medication,for what may be a temporary or mild condition,that requires a fundamental rather than aggressive approach;)