Introduction to Psychology - Part 1 "What is Psychology?"

Psychology - What is it?

Many people have heard the word psychology in movies or TV shows. Usually, the person representing the field is a clinical psychologist, which is someone who gives therapy. But is this all psychologists do? And would this mean that psychology is the field of mental help?


The short answer for the questions above is no. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Why is it not the study of the mind? Well, since it is a science, all of its information has to be based on research and the mind has never been proven to exist. In fact, since the 1920s when the school of behaviorism arose only the study of behavior was used because it was the only thing that could be observed or study objectively. Then, in 1960, the cognitive revolution came and there was evidence of mental processes. But if there is evidence of mental processes wouldn't this mean that there is a mind? No, because a process is not proof of the existence of what we think may cause it and vice-versa. For example, chairs have legs and don't run and computer programs run but don't have legs.

Careers in psychology

There are two major categories of psychologists: those who conduct research, and those who applied said research. Both of these categories exist on every branch of psychology, which is not only limited to clinical. Let us explore a few of them.

  • Biopsychology: The study of how the body influences our behavior and our mental processes and vice-versa.
  • Clinical psychology: This branch refers to therapists that help people who have mental disorders, syndromes, and paraphilias assess and treat their mental problems.
  • Cognitive psychology: In this branch, psychologists study how humans and animals process information. They usually focus on attention, memory, intelligence, language, problem solving and perception.
  • Comparative psychology: The study of the behavior and mental process of animals.
  • Counseling psychology:  This is similar to clinical psychology, however, this branch focuses more on everyday problems or problems that don't involve psychopathology like divorce, being bullied, or family problems. On the other hand, clinical psychologists can also help with these types of problems, but they are also equipped with the training to deal with more serious disorders.
  • Cross-cultural psychology: This branch focuses on the impact culture has on human behavior and the difference between innate and culture-dependant behavior.
  • Developmental psychology: Psychologists on this branch focus on how behavior and mental processes change throughout life.
  • Educational psychology: This branch has as its goal to study humans in an educational institution to understand how they learn and how they can improve this process. 
  • Engineering psychology: Also known as psycho-ergonomics, this branch explores how humans interact with machines and how this interaction can be improved.
  • Evolutionary psychology: The focus on this branch is to understand how behavior and mental processes came to be using evolutionary principles.
  • Forensic psychology: Psychologists in this branch try to understand the behavior and mental processes present in a courtroom. It is a mixture of psychology and legal issues.

As you can see there are many branches within psychology (If you want to explore other subfields check out this link Psychologists don't only give therapy and they aren't the only ones who can do so, counselors and psychiatrists can too. As you may start to see, human behavior and mental processes are affected by many factors and psychologists try to study each one of them to ultimately find out why we are who we are and why we do what we do. 

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