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One of the most common questions asked by students new to the study of psychology is "What is psychology?" Misconceptions created by popular media as well as the diverse careers paths of those holding psychology degrees have contributed this confusion.
Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behavior. Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion and behavior. Applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, ergonomics and many other areas affecting health and daily life.
Psychology evolved out of both philosophy and biology. Discussions of these two subjects date as far back as the early Greek thinkers including Aristotle and Socrates. The word psychology is derived from the Greek word psyche, meaning 'soul' or 'mind.'
Wundt's work was focused on describing the structures that compose the mind. This perspective relied heavily on the analysis of sensations and feelings through the use of introspection, a highly subjective process. Wundt believed that properly trained individuals would be able to accurately identify the mental processes that accompanied feelings, sensations and thoughts.
Throughout psychology's history, a number of different schools of thought have thought have formed to explain human thought and behavior. These schools of thought often rise to dominance for a period of time. While these schools of thought are sometimes perceived as competing forces, each perspective has contributed to our understanding of psychology. The following are some of the major schools of thought in psychology.
Today, psychologists prefer to use more objective scientific methods to understand, explain and predict human behavior. Psychological studies are highly structured, beginning with a hypothesis that is then empirically tested. Psychology has two major areas of focus: academic psychology and applied psychology. Academic psychology focuses on the study of different sub-topics within psychology including personality psychology, social psychology and developmental psychology. These psychologists conduct basic research that seeks to expand our theoretical knowledge, while other researchers conduct applied research that seeks to solve everyday problems.
Applied psychology focuses on the use of different psychological principles to solve real world problems. Examples of applied areas of psychology include forensic psychology, ergonomics and industrial-organizational psychology. Many other psychologists work as therapists, helping people overcome mental, behavioral and emotional disorders.
As psychology moved away from its philosophical roots, psychologists began to employ more and more scientific methods to study human behavior. Contemporary researchers employ a variety of scientific techniques including experiments, correlational studies longitudinal researchand others to test, explain and predict behavior.
Psychology is a broad and diverse field. A number of different subfields and specialty areas have emerged. The following are some of the major areas of research and application within psychology:
Courtesy of About.com http://psychology.about.com/od/psychology101/f/psychfaq.htm
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