What is Psychology?

Literally, the word psychology means ‘study of the soul’. The simple definition of psychology could be that it attempts to understand the working of mind through behaviour.  The Encarta Dictionary defines it as “an academic and applied discipline that involves the scientific study of mental functions and behaviours”. In short, it is the science of the mind.

Brief History of Psychology

In a philosophical sense, the study of psychology dates back to the ancient civilizations. It was in 4th century BC that mental orders were identified by a Greek physician Hippocrates as a physical and mental issue and not a paranormal event. Psychology was first combined with a laboratory setting by a German physician Wilhelm Wundt, who established the first psychological laboratory in 1879 at Leipzig University. He considered the mind as a separate and distinct entity and believed that it resided in the brain.

Psychology as a professional field of study is traced back to late eighteen century, when it was viewed as a sub-area of medicine and philosophy. Since then, there have been numerous schools of thought. Structuralism, the first ideology focused on understanding the working of mind and consciousness through its components, namely thought and perception. On the other hand, Functionalism emphasized on the active rather than inert mental faculties and processes. Associationism derives its ideas from the process of learning, in which situations and ideas become linked in the mind.

In the twentieth century, various schools of thoughts and approaches emerged. Behaviourism focuses on a theoretical outlook emphasizing the idea of psychology as a scrupulously. Cognitivism suggests that human behaviour and actions can be comprehended by understanding the process of though. Humanism applies a general approach to explaining the concept of free will, as well as the importance of human capabilities.

Types of Psychology

In the recent times, there are two major branches of psychology: practical psychology and theoretical psychology. Theoretical psychology, usually found in universities and research labs, refers to conducting research and performing experiments so that the existing knowledge bank can be further enriched in areas of behaviour, social interactions and human development. Practical psychology uses psychological principles to resolve everyday mental problems and issues.

Areas of Psychology

Psychology intersects and integrates other scientific disciplines such as biology, philosophy, medicine, linguistics, sociology, etc. Psychologists utilize biological concepts to map the different areas of the brain to understand functions such as memory. They depend on gaining medical knowledge to treat and help people manage mental diseases and disorders as well physical pain.

Psychology is multi-facet subject, with a broad range of branches and domains. Research and practices of psychology can be found in the following subfields:

Abnormal Psychology: As the name suggests, it is the study of abnormal and odd behaviour and psychopathology. The basic objective of this is to cure mental disorders and research them for further understanding.

Biological Psychology: It focuses on understanding the biological processes associated with the working of mind and shaping of behaviour. It studies structure and functioning of the brain referred to as Neurobiology.

Clinical Psychology: It assesses and diagnoses mental disorders and diseases and treats them with various methods. It is the most practiced area of psychology.

Cognitive Psychology: It studies human thought process and cognitions. The subjects of study are memory, attention, perception, linguistics, decision making and problem solving.

Developmental Psychology: It explores the ways humans mature, grow and develop during the course of their life. It measures elements such as rational thinking, social interactions, etc.

Forensic Psychology: A practical field of psychology, it uses the existing theories, principles and research to help the law enforcement authorities.

Industrial–Organizational Psychology: The aim of this category is to aid employers improve the productivity of the employees, select the most suitable employee and overall improve processes by using psychological principles and research.

Personality Psychology: It studies the components of an individual personality such as Freud’s structural model of personality.

School Psychology: It aims at helping studies with their problems, may it be academic, social or emotional. It is customized to suit the educational system.