Psychology is the field of science dedicated to understanding human motivations, behavior, and the mind. It encompasses a wide variety of subfields, and psychologists may engage in a number of scientific practices.
History of Psychology
Psychology has been around in one form or another for thousands of years. Historically, psychology was a branch of philosophy, and famed philosophers such as Aristotle and Descartes produced psychological theories. Sigmund Freud brought about a revolution in psychology with his ideas and practices in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In modern times, psychology has increasingly become more scientific and evidence-based. Where psychologists of 500 years ago might come to conclusions via syllogisms and argument, modern psychologists rely much more heavily on empirical data and practical experience.
Fields of Psychology
Psychology is a huge and diverse field, and many professions incorporate elements of psychology. For example, a lawyer arguing that his or her client is criminally insane is incorporating psychological research into his/her work. Some subfields of psychology include:
- Organizational/Occupational Psychology – The study of psychology within organizations, particularly on the job. Organizational psychologists may offer management training and study group dynamics.
- Clinical Psychology – This is the field of psychology dedicated to providing treatment to mental health clients. Psychologists may offer individual or group therapy, may practice in psychiatric hospitals, and may conduct research on psychological conditions.
- Forensic Psychology – Forensic psychologists study psychology as it relates to the criminal justice system. They may develop criminal profiles, conduct assessments of criminal defendants or provide psychological care to incarcerated persons.
- Social Psychology – Social psychologists study the behavior of people in groups, and may have a background in sociology. They often perform research on social problems. For example, a social psychologist may conduct surveys to ascertain the degree of racism within a particular population.
Popular psychology is the widespread fascination with the human psyche. Books on popular psychology are frequently written by trained psychologists writing for a general audience. A person attempting to ascertain the reasons his or her partner doe not get along with his or her mother is practicing pop psychology. Numerous websites, periodicals, and books are dedicated to helping laypeople understand psychological principles and how they may apply them to their lives.
- Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Last Updated: 08-18-2015