What is Psychology?


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What is Psychology?

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Having a good grasp of what psychology is all about is essential for anybody wanting to study the topic in greater depth. Now this may sound like an obvious thing to state but psychology is a subject which is often misunderstood and referred to without any real consideration as to its actual meaning. A classic case in point being the usual response you get from people when you tell them that you teach psychology; namely, "I better be careful what I say", or "so do you know what I'm thinking then?"

Confusion over the meaning of psychology is not restricted to members of the public. When I first started teaching I met a number of psychology students coming towards the end of their degree that admitted that they were still not 100% sure what psychology was!

Psychology Definitions

To help understand the ambiguity surrounding psychology, let's start by taking a look at a couple of definitions.

Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behavior. It is both a thriving academic discipline and a vital professional practice. (The British Psychological Society)

The scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes. (American Psychological Association)

Both these definitions tell us that psychology is fundamentally concerned with understanding behavior.

So What's The Problem?

Basically, a lack of unity. Within psychology there are multiple and often competing levels of explanation when it comes to understanding behavior. When you begin studying psychology you quickly realize what a diverse subject area it is, and at times it can almost be overwhelming.

Keep It Simple

Particularly when you're starting out. Just keep hold of the notion that psychology is basically about behavior. You can't be expected to know all the different ways there are to explain behavior straight away; but as you are introduced to more and more you'll find that you'll soon be able to place a behavioral explanation within an appropriate psychological framework.

Not To Be Confused With Psychiatry

A common misconception about psychology is that it is synonymous with psychiatry. It is not. Psychiatry is a distinct medical specialism (all psychiatrists have a medical degree) that is fundamentally concerned with mental disorder. Psychology has a much broader focus and is not inextricably linked to the concept of mental illness.

What is Psychology Video

Recommended Reading

With a strong applied focus, WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY? ESSENTIALS, 2nd Edition, captures and holds students' attention from the first page to the last. Ellen Pastorino and Susann Doyle-Portillo, award-winning psychology professors with an infectious enthusiasm for teaching, have found that students who are curious are motivated to explore and truly learn how psychological concepts are connected. 

This text incorporates the authors' successful and engaging teaching approach, unlocking students' curiosity with compelling, chapter-opening stories of real people that show students how psychology affects their everyday lives. Embedded critical-thinking questions motivate students to continue making connections between personal stories, applications to their own lives, and psychological concepts they will use outside of the classroom. See following link for full details.

What is Psychology? Essentials

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