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Psychology in a Nutshell - What Is Psychology?

Isi has her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and has personal experience in overcoming challenges and achieving success.

What Do Psychologists Study?

“Psychology” Pen and Marker Drawing by Robin Turner

“Psychology” Pen and Marker Drawing by Robin Turner

What Is Psychology? Introduction to Psychology

People have been curious about the human mind for centuries. Philosophers such as Aristotle had their own theories about how we learn and remember things, what motivates us, and why we perceive things and react the way we do towards each other and our environment. These kinds of musings form the basis of what Psychology seeks to understand.

Back in 1879, Professor Willhelm Wundt and his assistants created a device they hoped would help measure what they thought of as “atoms of the mind”. They recognized that thinking happens very quickly, as does reaction, and they wanted to find a way to measure this.

They used simple instruments to measure the time that it took for people to press a telegraph key when they heard a ball hitting a platform. They also wanted to measure a subject’s awareness of hearing the ball hit the platform, so in a second group they had the subject press the telegraph key when he became aware he had heard the ball hit. Wundt and his associates were looking for data on the differences between the physical sensation of hearing and the mental process of awareness.

The current definition for Psychology is the “scientific study of behavior and mental processes” and is a pretty broad definition. This explains why the topic seems so difficult to grasp. There are many branches of Psychology and if you are thinking of getting a degree or studying psychology, you might be a little overwhelmed at first by the multitude of ideas that are included in the field of Psychology.

Not to worry, if you decide to study Psychology in school you will start with an introductory course. From there, you will take whatever courses are included in your degree. Once the basic courses are completed, you will then decide how to narrow your focus to the area that most interests you.

Whatever your reason for studying Psychology, having a basic understanding of the topic will help, and that is what we will explore in the following paragraphs.

Psychology Is Like A Flowing Stream

“Rivers of Information” Photograph by Robin Turner

“Rivers of Information” Photograph by Robin Turner

What do Psychologists Study? A List of Psychological Topics

In case you need to find your niche in Psychology, or are wondering just what Psychologists study, here is a list of some (not all) of the topics included in the field of Psychology:

  • Consciousness, sleep, and dreams
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Thinking and Language
  • Developmental and Child Psychology
  • Cognitive Behavior
  • Intelligence and Aptitude
  • Perception and the senses
  • Brain Functions
  • Conditioning and Learning
  • Relationships, Emotion and Personality
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Social Psychology (not Sociology but about society and the individual)
  • The Psychology of Religion
  • Trauma
  • Addiction
  • Criminal Behavior and Forensic Psychology
  • Positive Psychology
  • Cultural Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Marketing and Persuasion
  • Online Behaviors and Gaming Addiction

And there are many more areas I am sure I haven’t covered, but will be happy to add later on.

For now we will continue to discuss the basics of Psychology.

Learn A Little About Psychology And You’ll Find There’s More..


What Can We Learn From Psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind, behavior, and thinking processes. When you study Psychology, you will also learn a great deal about yourself. For instance, you might learn that much of your personality is determined by your genetic makeup and that you really should trust your gut, in most cases.

You will learn specifics about the parts of the brain and about the way the brain works. You may also learn about the ways that our bodily functions impact our thinking. You may also learn of new drugs that could enhance brain function and thinking, or how a healthy diet and exercise can increase your enjoyment of life.

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You will learn things you would think were common sense but that make a lot more sense when put to the test of scientific exploration. For example, you might learn that everyone you knew in high school was going through struggles similar to what you were going through, in most cases. You might also learn that everyone really is a hypocrite and that is just a part of being human.

You will learn a lot about other people and the ways that society functions. For instance, you might learn that you are far more easily influenced than you would like to think, and that even small groups of people can accomplish a great deal of good, or evil when they work together.

You may learn things you didn’t really want to know, like the proper use of statistics. You will have to learn how to collect data, record it, and correctly interpret it. This is not so bad when you get the hang of it, but it can be a little challenging. It is essential and will also help you as you navigate any sets of data or statistics you encounter in everyday life. You will also learn how to read scholarly articles and how to tell the difference between reliable information and information that is false or misleading.

In the end, you will have gained some valuable knowledge that will help you as you go through your life, like how the emotions work and how to deal with stress. You may take one course and decide you hate it or you could end up finding a new career direction. You may also learn new ways of coping with past traumas or the important relationships in your life.

So whether or not you plan to make a career of Psychology, you will definitely benefit from some understanding of Psychology. You will also learn the difference between good science and the outdated notions of Psychology that have been discredited over time. That is the great thing about science - better science can refute previously held notions.

Bright and eager minds are needed in the field of Psychology in order to advance our ability to understand ourselves and each other as we move towards a better future.

Learn About Psychology But Stay Grounded

“Grounded in the Flow” Photograph by Robin Turner

“Grounded in the Flow” Photograph by Robin Turner

How To Study Psychology And What Not To Do

A word to the wise, if you haven’t got the time or money for a college education, but you want to learn about psychology like the pros, google the psychology department at any reputable brick and mortar University and look for their Psychology program.

If you poke around enough, you may find a syllabus, which would list the books for the required courses. You can purchase the books online and study from them. If you have questions, you might find a college psychology group online that has regular discussions that would help you.

Just remember that a true scientist is always open to new ideas and without proper instruction, you risk misinterpreting things.

Finally, a word of warning. The best Psychology teachers will tell you that you should never ever try to diagnose yourself or your loved ones. Nor should you ever play at being a therapist. This is to be left to the experts, and should you have questions, always consult a Doctor.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Isibane Bergen


Isibane Bergen (author) from Western North Carolina on October 12, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words Umesh! I am glad it helped.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 11, 2020:

Very elaborate description of what psychology is and what we learn out of it. Nice article. Thanks.

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