Psychology is the study of the mind and of thought, feeling, and behavior. It deals mainly with humans but also sometimes with animals. Because psychology is difficult to study as a whole, psychologists often only look at small parts of it at a time. Psychology has much in common with many other fields, and overlaps with many of them. Some of these fields are medicine, biology, computer science, and linguistics.
Psychology has been split up into smaller parts called branches. These are subjects in psychology that try to answer a particular group of questions about how people think. Some branches of psychology that are often studied are:
- Cognitive psychology looks at how people think, use language, remember and forget, and solve problems.
- Perceptual psychology asks questions about how people make sense of what they see and hear and how they use that information to get around.
- Social psychology looks into how groups of people work together and how societies build and work.
- Developmental psychology is interested in how people develop and change through their lives. This includes what used to be called "Child psychology".
- Evolutionary psychology studies how evolution may have shaped the way people think and do things.
- Neuropsychology looks at the brain and how it works to make people the way they are.
- Abnormal psychology tries to work out what differences there are between people who are healthy and people who have a mental illness.
- Clinical psychology is about finding the best way to help people to recover from mental illness.
- Geriatric psychology looks at aging people, especially over 60 years old.
- Cross-cultural psychology looks at different ways of living and views of the world.
- Educational or school psychology tests and helps students to learn and make friends.
- Industrial/organizational psychology looks at jobs and workers to help business do well.
- Health Psychology looks at the relationship between physical and mental health.
Psychology is often treated as a type of science, and a lot of psychologists use many of the same types of methods that researchers from other natural and social sciences use.
Psychologists will make theories to try to explain a behavior or pattern they see. Based on their theory they will make some predictions. They may then carry out an experiment or collect other types of information that will tell them whether their predictions were right or wrong.
Some types of experiments cannot be done on people because the process would be too long, expensive, dangerous, unfair, or otherwise unethical. There are also other ways psychologists study the mind and behavior scientifically, and test their theories. Psychologists might wait for some events to happen on their own; they might look at patterns among existing groups of people in natural environments; or they might do experiments on animals (which can be simpler and more ethical to study).
Psychology shares other things with natural sciences, as well. For example, a good psychological theory may be possible to prove wrong. Just like in any natural science, a group of psychologists can never be completely sure that their theory is the right one; but if a theory can be proven wrong, and yet other psychologists do not successfully prove it wrong, then it is more likely that the theory is accurate. This is called falsifiability.
Scientific psychologists use many different tools as part of their daily work and to carry out their studies. Psychologists use surveys to ask people how they feel and what they think. They may use special devices to look at the brain and to see what it's doing. Psychologists also often use computers so that they can carefully measure when and how people behave, usually in response to pictures, words, symbols, or other stimuli. Psychologists also use statistics to help them analyze the data that they get from their experiments.
Symbolic and subjective approaches[change]
Not all psychology is scientific psychology. Psychodynamic psychology and depth psychology do things like interpreting people's dreams to understand the unconscious mind, as in older approaches to psychology begun by Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung.
Psychologists are people who work in the field of psychology. A psychologist may work in either basic research or applied research, or if he or she is a clinical psychologist or counseling psychologist they may be a therapist. Basic research is the study of people or animals to learn more about them. Applied research is using what was learned from basic research to solve real-world problems.
To become a psychologist, a person must first get a basic degree at a university and then go to graduate school. A Master's degree, either M.S. (Master of Science) or M.A. (Master of Arts) allows beginning work, like a school psychologist. A doctorate degree takes a longer time because it includes studying more material and writing a research paper called a dissertation. The doctoral graduate uses the initials Ph.D. or D.Phil. (Doctor of Philosophy) after his or her name. Some clinical psychologists earn a Doctor of Psychology degree and use the initials Psy.D. after their name. The American Psychological Association says that a person needs a Ph.D. (or Psy.D. and a current state license) in order to call himself or herself a psychologist.
The words psychologist and psychiatrist may be confused with each other. A psychiatrist has graduated from medical school and uses the initials M.D. Usually, a psychologist cannot prescribe drugs for a patient; only a psychiatrist or another MD can do this.
- Encyclopedia of Psychology A web site with all kinds of information about psychology.
- Psychology at the Open Directory Project.
- In-Mind, Quarterly Magazine for Social Psychology
- Citizen's Commission on Human Rights