Some of the most promising leads have come from biological research. For example, brain scientists who study neurotransmitters-chemicals that carry messages from one nerve cell to another-are contributing to knowledge of normal and abnormal brain functioning, and they may eventually discover better treatment methods for mental illness. Other researchers are trying to discover how the brain develops-they have learned, for example, that even in adults some nerve cells partially regenerate after being damaged-and such research adds to the understanding of mental retardation, untreatable forms of brain damage, and other conditions.
Psychological research relevant to mental health includes the study of perception, information processing, thinking, language, motivation, emotion, abilities, attitudes, personality, and social behavior. For example, researchers are studying stress and how to cope with it. One application of this type of research may help to prevent mental disorders; in the future, psychologists may be better able to match people (and their coping skills) to work settings and job duties.
Research in the social sciences focuses on problems of individuals in contexts such as the family, neighborhood, and work setting, as well as the culture at large. One example of such work is epidemiological research, which is the study of the occurrence of disease patterns, including mental illness, in a society.
11. Forensic psychology and criminology
The study of abnormal behaviour often leads to special investigations into the origins orcauses of crime. This in turn will lead to the psychological study of criminals and also of the victims of crime. The literature on this topic is growing and there exist now a number of useful indexing services to help with the retrieval of particular contributions from many countries. While most of these indexes and abstracts are orientated towards the work of, and happenings in, the courts, all of them contain, references to the behaviour of criminals or social deviants. Criminology and penology abstracts has been in existence since 1960; its abstracts are arranged under broad subject heading which include psychology, psychopathology, psychiatry, social behaviour of groups.
12. Psychology, religion and phenomenology
The long traditional links between religions and psychology go back to classical antiquity. They received much impetus in the middle ages and again during the many periods of religious and political fervour that stirred Europe during the past six centuries, reaching various climactic peaks through seers, visionaries and martyrs. Every one of these advocated social reforms on earth to attain a new heaven, or threatened new hells should the reforms not be adopted. All were persecuted by the established religious or political power, or both; then as now, the defenders of the status quo almost invariably accused the challengers of being madmen or psychopaths. It is all a matter of firmly held beliefs uttered from pulpits,chancery ballconies and soap boxes as well as printed in broadsides, pamphlets, or large books, or smeared on the walls of houses with a wide brush
Psychical Research, also parapsychology, scientific investigation of alleged phenomena and events that appear to be unaccounted for by conventional physical, biological, or psychological theories. Parapsychologists study two kinds of so-called psi phenomena: extrasensory perception (ESP), or the acquiring of information through nonsensory means; and psychokinesis (PK), or the ability to affect objects at a distance by means other than known physical forces. Psychical research also investigates the survival of personality after death and deals with related topics such as trance mediumship, hauntings, apparitions, poltergeists (involuntary PK), and out-of-body experiences. The name of this field of investigation is taken from the Society of Psychical Research, founded in England in 1882 and in the U.S. in 1884; both groups continue to publish their findings today.
Among the early achievements of the British group was the investigation of hypnotism, a field later claimed by medicine and psychology. The society also investigated phenomena produced at spiritualistic seances and the claims of spiritualism. Psi phenomena to be investigated were classified as either physical or mental. The physical effects, or PK, include the movement of physical objects or an influence upon material processes by the apparent direct action of mind over matter. The mental manifestations, or ESP, include telepathy, which is the direct transmission of messages, emotions, or other subjective states from one person to another without the use of any sensory channel of communication; clairvoyance, meaning direct responses to a physical object or event without any sensory contact; and precognition, or a noninferential response to a future event.
One of the first specific investigations in the field was the examination, by the British chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes, of the phenomena produced at seances held by the Scottish medium Daniel Dunglas Home. Home, a physical medium, held his seances in full light, and the validity of the paranormal phenomena he produced has never been successfully impugned. The contents of verbal utterances by mental mediums were also studied. Significant early research involved the American medium Leonore E. Piper, whose apparent psychical gifts were discovered by the American philosopher and psychologist William James. Other lines of investigation dealt with psychic experiences that seemed to occur spontaneously in everyday life, and involved the controlled testing of persons with apparently outstanding ESP abilities.
In the U.S., one of the earliest groups to become active in parapsychology was the Parapsychology Laboratory of North Carolina's Duke University, which began publishing literature in the 1930s. There, under the direction of the American psychologist Joseph Banks Rhine, methods were developed that advanced psychical investigations from the correlations of isolated and often vague anecdotal reports to a mathematical study based on statistics and the laws of probability.
In the experiments dealing with ESP, Rhine and his associates used mainly a deck of 25 cards, somewhat similar to ordinary playing cards but bearing on their faces only five designs: star, circle,