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What is Psychology?

Having a good grasp of what psychology is all about is essential for anybody wanting to study the topic in greater depth. 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?"

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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.

Paul Bloom Psychology Quote

So Why The Confusion?

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.

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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.

Psychology Defined by Norman B. Anderson, PhD

What Everyone Needs To Know About Psychology

What People Associate Psychology With

"It is common knowledge that public understanding of psychology is typically aligned with the mental health and intervention aspects of the discipline. Most people think of psychologists as clinicians and counselors. Few understand that psychology is the science of behavior, cognition and emotion...Everyone should recognize psychology as a STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) discipline."

(Steven Breckler, PhD) 

Not To Be Confused With Psychiatry

Picard Psychology Meme

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.

Essential Reading

What is Psychology

What is Psychology? Foundations, Applications, and Integration (3rd Edition) includes some of the most effective features from each of Pastorino and Doyle-Portillo's previous two books, as well as new and innovative features to excite readers about the field of psychology. 

Organized around the foundational areas of psychology, the book incorporates the authors' successful and engaging approach, which captures readers' curiosity from the first page to the last. The parts open with attention-grabbing case studies that are threaded throughout all of the chapters of the section, providing a view of the content that is both integrated and applied to real life.

See following for full details.

What is Psychology? Foundations, Applications, and Integration

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