Psychology is the study of the mind. It studies thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in humans and animals. Psychology aims to explain how the mind works. It also looks at how our actions relate to how we think.
A lot of the research in psychology is done on humans. However, animals are also used in research. Examples of this are classical conditioning and operant conditioning.  Psychology is a vast subject area. It covers many topics. It is divided into branches. Psychology has a lot in common with other fields of research. Ideas in psychology overlap with ideas in the sciences of anatomy, biology, neuroscience and physiology.
A person who works in the field of psychology is called a psychologist. A psychologist tries to understand how the mind works so that they can help people and animals. They must go to college for many years in order to become a professional. These practitioners attempt to explain how the mind functions by itself (individual) and with others (social). They also see how the mind affects the body. They work with social, behavioral, and cognitive sciences.
Psychology has been split up into smaller parts called branches. These are subjects in psychology that try to answer a particular group of questions about how people think. The branches of psychology that are often studied are:
- Abnormal psychology, the study of differences in the mind of people who are healthy and people who have a mental illness.
- Clinical psychology, which finds the best way to help people to recover from mental illness.
- Cognitive psychology, the study of how people think, use language, remember and forget, and solve problems.
- Cross-cultural psychology, the study of how culture influences human behavior.
- Developmental psychology, the study of how people develop and change from childhood to adulthood. This includes what used to be called "child psychology".
- Educational or school psychology, the study of how people learn.
- Evolutionary psychology, the study of how evolution shaped how people think. It often focus on how brain injury affects behavior.
- Gestalt psychology, a theory of mind formed in Berlin.
- Neuropsychology, the study of how human behavior relates to the brain and nervous system.
- Motivation, which studies the root causes of actions
- Perceptual psychology, the study of how the mind sees the world.
- Personality psychology, the study of personality (the characteristics that describe a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors).
- Political psychology, which studies the behavior of politicians and explains politics from a psychological standpoint.
- Social psychology, the study how groups of people work together and how society works.
Psychologists make theories to try to explain a behavior or pattern they see. Based on their theory, they make predictions. Then, they carry out experiments or collect data to see if their prediction is right or wrong.
Some types of experiments cannot be done on people because it would take too long, cost too much money, risk people's heath, or be unethical. There are also other ways psychologists study the mind and behavior scientifically, and test their theories. Psychologists might wait for some events to happen on their own; they might look at patterns among existing groups of people in natural environments; or they might do experiments on animals (which can be simpler and more ethical to study).
Just like in other fields of science, a good psychological theory can be proven wrong as new information about a subject is learned. Just like in any natural science, psychologists can never be completely sure that their theory is correct. If a theory can be proved wrong, but experiments do not prove it wrong, it is more likely that the theory is accurate. This is called falsifiability.
Psychologists use many tools as part of their daily work. Psychologists use surveys to ask people how they feel and what they think. They may use special devices to look at the brain and to see what it is doing. Psychologists use computers to collect data as they measure how people behave in response to pictures, words, symbols, or other stimuli. Psychologists also use statistics to help them analyze the data that they get from their experiments.
Symbolic and subjective approachesEdit
Not all psychology is scientific psychology. Psychodynamic psychology and depth psychology try to interpret dreams to understand the unconscious mind. They are older approaches to psychology begun by Carl Jung. He was interested in finding methods to measure personality traits.
Psychologists are people who work in the field of psychology. A psychologist may work in either basic research or applied research. Basic research is the study of people or animals to learn more about them. Applied research uses what is learned from basic research to solve real-world problems. A qualified clinical psychologist can become a therapist or counsellor.
To become a psychologist, a person must first get a basic degree at a university and go to graduate school. A Master's degree, either MSc (Master of Science) or MA (Master of Arts), allows for work such as a school psychologist. A doctorate degree takes a longer time to earn because it includes doing research and writing a detailed report. A doctoral graduate uses the initials PhD or DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy). Some clinical psychologists earn a Doctor of Psychology degree and use the initials PsyD after their name. The American Psychological Association say that people need a PhD (or PsyD) and a current state license in the U.S. to call themselves a psychologist.
The words psychologist and psychiatrist may be confused with each other. A psychiatrist has graduated from medical school and uses the initials MD or its equivalent (MB ChB in London University, for example). A psychiatrist or doctor may work with a psychologist by prescribing and checking the effects of medications.
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