Psychology: definitions, branches, history and how to become one (2023)

Psychology, according to the American Psychological Association, is the study of the mind and behavior. It is the study of the mind, how it works and how it affects behavior.

TheAPA supplementsthat it "encompasses all aspects of human experience, from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to the care of the elderly".

Psychologists and psychiatrists work together to help people withMental healthconditions, but they are not entirely the same.

A psychologist treats a patient through psychotherapy and helps relieve symptoms through behavior changes. The role of the psychiatrist, being a doctor, is more focused on prescribing medication and other interventions to treat mental illness.

Fast facts on psychology

  • Psychology is the study of behavior and the mind.
  • There are different types of psychology, such as cognitive, forensic, social, and developmental psychology.
  • A person with a medical condition that affects their mental health may benefit from evaluation and treatment by a mental health professional.
  • A psychologist can offer treatment that focuses on behavioral adjustments.
  • A psychiatrist is a doctor who focuses more on the medical treatment of mental health problems.

Psychology: definitions, branches, history and how to become one (1)
A psychologist's work can range from counseling people with anxiety to advising companies on how to build better teams.

The mind is very complex, and related disorders can be difficult to treat.

Thought processes, emotions, memories, dreams, perceptions, etc. cannot be seen physically, like a rash or a heart defect.

While physical signs of some mental health problems can be observed, such as B. the plaques that develop with itAlzheimer's disease, many theories of psychology are based on the observation of human behavior.

A practicing psychologistwill meetPatients conduct investigations to find out what their concerns are and what is causing difficulties, and recommend or offer treatment, such as counseling and psychotherapy.

Psychologists can also have other roles. You can conduct studies to advise health authorities and others on social and other policies, assess children with learning disabilities at school, conduct workshops to prevent bullying, work with corporate recruiting teams, and more.

(Video) History of Psychology | Psychology

There are different types of psychology that serve different purposes. There's no fixed way to classify them, but here are some common types.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology integrates science, theory, and practice to understand, predict, and mitigate problems of adjustment, disability, and discomfort. It encourages adjustment, adaptation and personal development.

A clinical psychologist focuses on the intellectual, emotional, biological, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of human performance throughout a person's life, across different cultures and socioeconomic levels.

Clinical psychology can help us understand, prevent, and mitigate psychologically-related distress or dysfunction and promote an individual's well-being and personal development.

Psychological assessment and psychotherapy are central to the practice of clinical psychology, but clinical psychologists are often involved in research, training, forensic testimony, and other areas as well.

cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology studies internal mental processes such as problem solving, memory, learning, and language. It examines how people think, perceive, communicate, remember and learn. It is closely related toneuroscience, philosophy and linguistics.

Cognitive psychologists study how people take in, process, and store information.

Practical uses include improving memory, increasing the accuracy of decision-making, or setting up educational programs to encourage learning.

developmental psychology

This is the scientific study of systematic psychological changes that a person experiences throughout life, often referred to as human development.

It focuses not only on infants and young children, but also on teenagers, adults and the elderly.

Factors include motor skills, problem solving, moral understanding, language acquisition, emotions, personality, self-concept, and identity formation.

It also looks at innate mental structures as opposed to learning through experience, or how a person's characteristics interact with environmental factors and how this affects development.

Developmental psychology overlaps with fields such as linguistics.


Evolutionary psychology studies how human behavior, such as language, has been influenced by psychological adaptations during evolution.

(Video) A Brief History of Psychology: From Plato to Pavlov

An evolutionary psychologist believes that many human psychological traits are adaptive in that they have allowed us to survive for thousands of years.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology involves the application of psychology to criminal investigations and the law.

A forensic psychologist practices psychology as a science within the criminal justice system and the civil courts.

It involves assessing the psychological factors that might affect a case or behavior and presenting the findings in court.

health psychology

Health psychology is also called behavioral medicine or medical psychology.

It observes how behavior, biology and social context affect disease and health.

A doctor often looks first at the biological causes of a disease, but a health psychologist focuses on the whole person and what affects their state of health. This may include their socioeconomic status, education and background, and behaviors that may impact the disease, such as B. Compliance with instructions and medication.

Health psychologists typically work alongside other healthcare professionals in clinical settings.


Neuropsychology studies the structure and function of the brain in relation to behaviors and psychological processes. A neuropsychology may be involved when a condition involves lesions in the brain and assessments that involve recording electrical activity in the brain.

A neuropsychological evaluation is used to determine whether a person is likely to experience behavioral problems after a suspected or diagnosed brain injury, such as:stroke.

The results may allow a doctor to provide treatment that can help individuals achieve potential improvements in cognitive damage that has occurred.

industrial psychology

Occupational or organizational psychologists deal with the assessment and submission of recommendations on the performance of people in work and training.

They help organizations find more effective ways of working and understand how people and groups behave at work.

This information can help improve effectiveness, efficiency, job satisfaction, and employee retention.

social psychology

Social psychology uses scientific methods to understand how social influences affect human behavior. It attempts to explain how feelings, behavior, and thoughts are affected by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other people.

A social psychologist studies group behavior, social cognition, nonverbal behavior, conformity, aggression, prejudice, and leadership. Social perception and social interaction are considered keys to understanding social behavior.

Othersbranches belongMilitary, consumer, educational, cross-cultural and environmental psychology. The number of branches continues to grow.

(Video) Intro to Psychology: Crash Course Psychology #1

In a philosophical context, psychology was known in ancient Greece, Egypt, India, Persia and China about a thousand years ago.

387 v. Chr.,suggested Platothat the brain is where mental processes take place, and in 335 B.C. Aristotle suggested it was the heart.

Avicenna, the famous Muslim physician, born in 980 AD,examined and treated Epilepsy, nightmares and bad memory. Said to have been the first hospitals to treat psychiatric disordersfounded by Islamic doctorsin the Middle Ages.

In 1774, Franz Mesmer suggested that hypnosis, or "mesmerism," might help cure some types of mental illness.

In 1793, Philippe Pinel released the first patients with mental health problems, a move that signaled a move towards more humane treatment.

In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt, Germany, established psychology as a distinct experimental field of study. He set up the first laboratory that exclusively conducted psychological research at the University of Leipzig. Today, Wundt is considered the father of psychology.

In 1890, the American philosopher William James published a book entitled Principles of Psychology. It has been discussed by psychologists worldwide for many decades. That same year, New York State passed the State Care Act, requiring people with mental health problems to leave poorhouses and go to the hospital for treatment.

In 1890 the American Psychological Association (APA) was founded under the direction of G. Stanley Hall.

Hermann Abbingaus, who lived from 1850 to 1909 and worked at the University of Berlin, was the first psychologist to deal extensively with memory.

Ivan Pavlov, who lived from 1849 to 1936, conducted the famous experiment showing that dogs salivated when expecting food and introduced the concept of "conditioning".

The Austrian Sigmund Freud, who lived from 1856 to 1939, introduced the field of psychoanalysis, a form of psychotherapy. He used interpretive methods, introspection, and clinical observation to understand the mind.

He focused on resolving unconscious conflict, psychological stress and psychopathology. Freud argued that the unconscious mind is responsible for most of people's thoughts and behaviors, as well as mental health problems.

E. B. Titchener, an American, was a strong believer in structuralism, which focuses on the question, "What is consciousness?"

William James and John Dewey were strong believers in functionalism, which addressed the question "What is consciousness for?"

(Video) Introduction to Psychology/history of Psychology/branches of psychology/Scope of psychology.

The debate between functionalists and structuralists led to a rapidly growing interest in psychology in the United States and elsewhere, and the establishment of the first US psychology laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.


In 1913, an American psychologist, John B. Watson, started a new movement that changed the focus of psychology.

Behavior, he argued, is not the result of internal mental processes but the result of our response to the environment.

Behaviorism focused on how people learn new behaviors from the environment.


Humanists considered behaviorism and psychoanalytic theory too dehumanizing.

Rather than being victims of the environment or the unconscious, they proposed that humans are inherently good and that our own mental processes play an active role in our behavior.

The humanist movement places great emphasis on the emotions, free will, and a subjective view of experience.

cognitive theory

Introduced in the 1970s, it is considered to be the youngest school of thought in psychology.

Cognitive theorists believe that we take in information from our environment through our senses and then mentally process the data by organizing, manipulating, remembering, and relating it to information already stored.

Cognitive theory is applied to language, memory, learning, perceptual systems, mental disorders, and dreams.


Psychologists today study all of these approaches and choose from each approach what seems best for a given situation.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), you can become a psychologist in the United Statespermitted to practicewith a doctorate in psychology from an accredited university. In addition, each state has requirements for licensing.

Read the article in Spanish.


What are the branches of psychology explain each branch? ›

There are different types of psychology, such as cognitive, forensic, social, and developmental psychology. A person with a condition that affects their mental health may benefit from assessment and treatment with a psychologist. A psychologist may offer treatment that focuses on behavioral adaptations.

Why is it important to learn about the branches of psychology? ›

Essentially, psychology helps people in large part because it can explain why people act the way they do. With this kind of professional insight, a psychologist can help people improve their decision making, stress management and behavior based on understanding past behavior to better predict future behavior.

What are the three main branches in psychology? ›

It is important to recognize that these three icons were the primary leaders in the three great paradigms in American psychology—behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and humanistic psychology—thus suggesting a link between the three great branches of the discipline and the three most historically significant schools of thought ...

What is the most important branch of psychology? ›

Cognitive Psychology is one of the most famous branches of psychology and involves the detailed study of the thought-processing of the human mind from its thinking abilities and memories to problem-solving skills. It aims to understand how people think, remember, communicate, perceive, learn, etc.

What is the best definition of psychology? ›

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior. Psychologists are actively involved in studying and understanding mental processes, brain functions, and behavior.

What are the 7 major schools of thought in psychology? ›

Schools of Psychology: Main Schools of Thought
  • Structuralism.
  • Functionalism.
  • Gestalt Psychology.
  • Behaviorism.
  • Psychoanalysis.
  • Humanism.
  • Cognitive Psychology.

How many psychology branches are there? ›

Eight types of psychology to consider a career in include: abnormal, biopsychology, social, cognitive, developmental, personality, forensic and industrial-organizational.

What are the four major of psychology? ›

To sum up, psychology is centered on four major goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change or control behaviors. These goals are the foundation of most theories and studies in an attempt to understand the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes that people face in their daily lives.

Why is the history of psychology important? ›

Studying the field's successes and mistakes, alongside today's emerging findings, teaches students how to think critically about psychology, they say. Psychology history also demonstrates how the field began and developed in response to modern culture, politics, economics and current events.

What is a real life example of psychology? ›

Psychology also impacts how we think and act about our diet and exercise. For example, a study in Psychological Science demonstrates that people under stress tend to eat high-calorie foods. Individuals who think in a “live for today” mindset ate 40 percent more calories than the control group.

What are the 2 main types of psychology? ›

Psychologists fall into two categories—clinical psychologists and nonclinical— according to Scult. Clinical psychologists work with clients to address their mental health needs and can have a wide range of specialties. They also work across a variety of age groups, backgrounds and concerns.

How to understand psychology? ›

Psychology is the scientific study of how people behave, think and feel. Psychologists study everything about the human experience from the basic workings of the human brain to consciousness, memory, reasoning and language to personality and mental health.

What are the basic concepts in psychology? ›

There are five different psychological concepts. They are biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic. Each concept claims a different idea for the motivator behind human behavior, but all concepts seek to understand human behavior on a deeper, more scientific level.

What is psychology in your own words essay? ›

It deals with many problems of everyday life. Psychology helps us to understand the behaviour of people around us, to find out why they behave differently and what forces are responsible to make them so different from others. ADVERTISEMENTS: It tries to explain wide array of factors involved in what we human beings do.

What is the role of psychology? ›

Overall, psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat the psychological problems and the behavioral dysfunctions resulting from, or related to physical and mental health. In addition, they play a major role in the promotion of healthy behavior, preventing diseases and improving patients' quality of life.

What is the most common type of study in psychology? ›

Surveys are one of the most popular ways to find out what people think and one of the most common research methods in psychology. The key to lifting the survey from a marketing tool to psychology research method is the random sample.

What are the types of psychology and their definition? ›

Psychology includes four major areas: clinical psychology (counseling for mental and behavioral health), cognitive psychology (the study of the mental processes), behavioral psychology (understanding behavior through different types of conditioning), and biopsychology (research on the brain, behavior, and evolution).

What was the first definition of psychology? ›

In its early days, psychology could be defined as the scientific study of mind or mental processes. Over time, psychology began to shift more towards the scientific study of behavior.

What is the new definition of psychology? ›

Saul McLeod, updated 2019. Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. Psychology is a multifaceted discipline and includes many sub-fields of study such areas as human development, sports, health, clinical, social behavior and cognitive processes.

What are the 5 roots of psychology? ›

The five major perspectives in psychology are biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive and humanistic. Each perspective provides its own view on the roots of why you do what you do.

What are the six major theories of modern psychology? ›

6 theories of personality
  • Psychodynamic theories. Sigmund Freud laid the foundation for psychodynamic personality theories with his proposal of the id, the ego, and the superego. ...
  • Trait theories. ...
  • Humanistic theories. ...
  • Social cognitive theories. ...
  • Biological theories. ...
  • Evolutionary theories.
May 20, 2022

What are the 5 units of thought in psychology? ›

The processes of thought depend on several devices, or units of thought: images, symbols, concepts, prototypes, and rules.

What is pure branches of psychology? ›

Pure branches provide the theoretical frame work of the subject. These branches deal with formulation of principles, theories and suggest different methods for the assessment of behaviour. The pure branches also suggest certain techniques for the modification of problematic behaviour.

What are the 6 types of psychology? ›

The 6 main psychological perspectives used today are:
  • Psychodynamic.
  • Biological.
  • Behavioral.
  • Cognitive.
  • Evolutionary.
  • Humanistic.
Sep 6, 2021

What are three importance of psychology? ›

Psychology sheds light on human behavior and helps us understand why we act the way we do. The field offers insights into our human experiences, helps us connect with others, and can mean the difference between a life well-lived and a life of challenges.

What is psychology and why is it important? ›

The science of psychology benefits society and enhances our lives. Psychologists examine the relationships between brain function and behavior, and the environment and behavior, applying what they learn to illuminate our understanding and improve the world around us.

What are the benefits of psychology? ›

6 Surprising Benefits Of Studying Psychology
  • You will understand yourself better. ...
  • You will have the opportunity to master the art of communication. ...
  • You will learn to develop a stronger bond with others. ...
  • You will gain critical thinking skills valued by employers. ...
  • You will deepen your knowledge on issues affecting society.

Why is social psychology so important? ›

It is clear that social psychology is worth appreciating, because it provides us with a framework by which we can understand how we identify ourselves, how we interact in groups. This field essentially assesses our willingness to improve the environments in which we are immersed.

How does psychology connect to history? ›

Understanding present-day psychology requires understanding the past processes, environments, and constraints that led to that psychology. Thus, for psychology to develop a full theoretical understanding of human behavior (Muthukrishna & Henrich 2019), psychology needs to also be a historical science.

What is history in psychology? ›

Summary. Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space.

What is the most important idea in the history of psychology? ›

The importance of the unconscious in human behaviour, the idea that early childhood experiences are critical, and the concept of therapy as a way of improving human lives are all ideas that are derived from the psychodynamic approach and that remain central to psychology.

How many branches does psychology have? ›

Psychology includes four major areas: clinical psychology (counseling for mental and behavioral health), cognitive psychology (the study of the mental processes), behavioral psychology (understanding behavior through different types of conditioning), and biopsychology (research on the brain, behavior, and evolution).

What are the 4 branches of health psychology? ›

In general, there are four main types of health psychology careers - clinical health psychology, community health psychology, occupational health psychology, and public health psychology. Clinical health psychology is an area of health psychology that focuses on treating individuals.

What are the 4 parts of psychology? ›

To sum up, psychology is centered on four major goals: to describe, explain, predict, and change or control behaviors. These goals are the foundation of most theories and studies in an attempt to understand the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes that people face in their daily lives.

What are the branches of psychology Wikipedia? ›

Subdisciplines of psychology
  • Abnormal psychology.
  • Applied psychology.
  • Asian psychology.
  • Behavioral genetics.
  • Biological psychology.
  • Black psychology.
  • Clinical neuropsychology.
  • Cognitive psychology.

What is the main subject of psychology? ›

Psychology is the study of the mind and human behaviour. The subject is about how those around us think, what kind of feelings they experience, how they act and interact, and what motivates them.

What are the 5 components of psychology? ›

The five major perspectives in psychology are biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive and humanistic.

What are the five major areas of psychology? ›

Psychology now has 5 unique and core sub-fields that we will explore below.
  • 1) Developmental Psychology. ...
  • 2) Health Psychology. ...
  • 3) Neuropsychology. ...
  • 4) Experimental Psychology. ...
  • 5) Industrial Psychology.

What are the 7 main perspectives theories of psychology? ›

  • Psychodynamic Perspective.
  • Behavioural Perspective.
  • Cognitive Perspective.
  • Biological Perspective.
  • Cross-Cultural Perspective.
  • Evolutionary Perspective.
  • Humanistic Perspective.
Jan 8, 2022

What are the three stages of psychology? ›

According to U.S. psychologists Paul Morris Fitts (1912–1965) and Michael I. Posner (1936– ), the stages are cognitive (understanding what needs to be done and how to do it), associative (improvement through practice and feedback), and autonomous (automatic performance).

What are the 6 approaches to psychology? ›

There are several major contemporary approaches to psychology (behavioral, cognitive, psychodynamic, evolutionary, biological, humanistic, sociocultural/contextual).

Where did psychology come from? ›

Psychology as a field of experimental study began in 1854 in Leipzig, Germany when Gustav Fechner created the first theory of how judgments about sensory experiences are made and how to experiment on them.


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