Psychology (from Greek: “spirit, soul”; and , logos, “knowledge”) is an academic/ applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. Psychologists study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals’ daily lives and the treatment of mental health problems.
Psychology is separate from social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology) due to its focus on experimentation at the scale of the individual, as opposed to groups or institutions. Historically, psychology differed from biology and neuroscience in that it was primarily concerned with mind rather than brain, a philosophy of mind known as dualism. Modern psychological science incorporates physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of perception, cognition, behavior, and mental disorders.
Psychology describes and attempts to explain consciousness, behavior and social interaction. Empirical psychology is primarily devoted to describing human experience and behavior as it actually occurs. The relationship between consciousness and the brain or nervous system. It is still not clear in what ways these interact: does consciousness determine brain states or do brain states determine consciousness – or are both going on in various ways? Perhaps to understand this you need to know the definition of “consciousness” and “brain state” – or is consciousness some sort of complicated ‘illusion’ which bears no direct relationship to neural processes? An understanding of brain function is increasingly being included in psychological theory and practice, particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence, neuropsychology, and cognitive neuroscience.
Fields of psychology
Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning. Abnormal psychology studies the nature of psychopathology and its causes, to treating patients with psychological disorders.
Biological psychology is the scientific study of the biological bases of behavior and mental states. Because all behavior is controlled by the central nervous system, it is sensible to study how the brain functions in order to understand behavior. Neuropsychology is the branch of psychology that aims to understand how the structure and function of the brain relate to specific behavioral and psychological processes. Neuropsychology is particularly concerned with the understanding of brain injury in an attempt to work out normal psychological function.
Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes underlying behavior. It uses information processing as a framework for understanding the mind. Perception, learning, problem solving, memory, attention, language and emotion are all well researched areas. The nature of thought is another core interest in psychology.
developmental psychology seeks to understand how people come to perceive, understand, and act within the world and how these processes change as they age. This may focus on intellectual, cognitive, neural, social, or moral development.
Personality psychology studies enduring psychological patterns of behavior, thought and emotion, commonly called an individual’s personality.
Quantitative psychology involves the application of statistical analysis to psychological research, and the development of novel statistical approaches for measuring and explaining human behavior.
Social psychology is the study of the nature and causes of human social behavior, with an emphasis on how people think towards each other and how they relate to each other. Social Psychology aims to understand how we make sense of social situations.
Applied psychology encompasses both psychological research that is designed to help individuals overcome practical problems and the application of this research in applied settings. Much utilized in other fields, such as business management, product design, ergonomics, nutrition, law and clinical medicine. Applied psychology includes the areas of clinical psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, human factors, forensic psychology, health psychology, school psychology, community psychology and others.
Although modern psychology attempts to be a scientific endeavor, the field has a history of controversy. Some criticisms of psychology have been made on ethical and philosophical grounds. Some have argued that by subjecting the human mind to experimentation and statistical study, psychologists objectify persons. Because it treats human beings as things, as objects that can be examined by experiment, psychology is sometimes portrayed as dehumanizing, ignoring or downplaying what is most essential about being human. This criticism has come from within the field as well, particularly by existential and humanistic psychologists.
A common criticism of psychology concerns its fuzziness as a science. Because some areas of psychology rely on “soft” research methods such as surveys and questionnaires, critics have claimed that psychology is not as scientific as psychologists assume. Methods such as introspection and psychoanalysis, used by some psychologists, are inherently subjective. Objectivity, validity, and rigor are key attributes in science, and some approaches to psychology have fallen short on these criteria. On the other hand, greater use of statistical controls and increasingly sophisticated research design, analysis, and statistical methods, as well as a decline in the use of less scientific methods, have lessened the impact of this criticism to some degree.
Debates continue, however, such as the questioned effectiveness of probability testing as a valid research tool.
There is also concern from researchers about a perceived scientific gap between empirically based practices. Exponents of evidence-based approaches to psychological practice say that “over the past several decades, the fields of clinical psychology, psychiatry, and social work have borne witness to a widening and deeply troubling gap between science and practice” and “less and less of what researchers do finds its way into the consulting room, and less and less of what practitioners do derives from scientific evidence.” Moreover there are many “unvalidated and sometimes harmful psychotherapeutic methods”, such as neurolinguistic programming, rebirthing, and primal therapy that have been promoted within some professional bodies that are not actually licensed Psychotherapists, most of these practices are performed by therapists that have no scholarly training whatsoever. The fields of clinical psychology, psychiatry, and social work have recently placed increased emphasis on evidence-based mental health studies.”