What is psychology?
Psychology is the area of science that studies the human mind and behavior and its interactions with the physical and social environment. The word comes from the Greek terms psycho (soul) and logía (study).
The purpose of psychology is to diagnose, understand, explain and guide the change in human behavior.
Even though it is a new area within science, recognized only after 1879, it encompasses many sub-areas of study. Among them, the main ones are:
- Clinical psychology;
- Behavioral Psychology;
- Health Psychology;
- Educational Psychology;
- Forensic Psychology;
- Cognitive Psychology;
- Sports Psychology;
- Social Psychology;
- Organizational psychology;
- Juridical Psychology.
Psychology studies how external influences (conviviality with other people, family members and the life experiences of each individual) and even internal influences (such as beliefs, values and worldview) affect the way human beings think, feel and act..
All these conclusions are based on tried and true scientific studies, made through the methods of observation, experimentation, description and even simulation.
The latter happens when the researcher or teacher simulates possible behaviors and actions, such as the focus on finding hypotheses to solve problems.
A psychologist can work in different areas within psychology, acting in a neutral and impartial way, with the aim of helping their patients in their development, through changes in harmful beliefs and behaviors.
Using various analysis techniques, the psychologist is also able to detect mental or behavioral diseases and disorders. It also helps the patient to interpret their feelings and guide them to understand their emotions.
Areas of psychology
The areas of psychology represent the various fields of work that the professional can exercise in psychological practice.
Social psychology is the branch of psychology that achieved the greatest development in the first half of the 20th century. Its object of study is the social behavior of human beings in the context of groups and addresses phenomena such as social encounter, interdependence and social interaction.
Organizational and work psychology
Organizational psychology studies the behaviors that occur in the context of organizations and institutions. It also includes situations related to the management of human resources within companies.
It is also related to work psychology, which is more comprehensive. While organizational focuses on companies and institutional processes, work psychology focuses on the well-being and safety of individuals in their work environment, whether outside or inside an organization.
It is the area of evolutionary psychology that deals with the investigation and study of psychic manifestations in childhood. In addition to recording each of the evolutionary periods, various functions are investigated in particular, such as the evolution of speech, memory, feelings, values, among others.
It consists of monitoring and treating patients’ emotional issues, from private, individual or group sessions.
It consists of helping patients and other patients who are experiencing some type of physical or mental recovery to overcome the negative conditions imposed by their health situation. In addition, it also provides psychological assistance to the hospitalized person’s family members.
In this area, the psychologist usually works in direct partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals.
The professional in this area usually works in schools, day care centers and other educational institutions. Its main objective is to help students, parents and guardians to solve problems that may be hindering the individual’s learning process.
In the school environment, the presence of the psychologist as a professional advisor is also common, that is, a vocational counselor who helps students on the best career to follow according to each one’s profile.
Works directly with athletes and sports competitors, providing psychological support before and after competitions, for example.
The psychologist in this area has the purpose of helping the sportsman to be able to deal with his emotions and feelings so that they do not interfere with his performance in his activities.
The psychologist who works in the legal area usually follows the adoption processes, violence against minors and all other situations that can psychologically affect the person and that are related to justice.
In legal psychology, psychological monitoring of prisoners is also common, so the presence of a psychologist in prisons and penitentiaries is advisable.
The psychologist works in psychological counseling for drivers, preventing emotional problems from affecting their performance in traffic.
Traffic psychology still has the purpose of developing initiatives for pedestrians and drivers with a history of infractions. The purpose is to understand what probable sentimental problems the analyzed individuals may have and which directly or indirectly influence the environment (specifically in traffic).
It is the area of psychology that is directly linked with justice and legal issues. In this case, psychologists are responsible for assessing the psychological profile of criminal individuals, helping children in suspected cases of abuse, and preparing people to testify in criminal trials.
It is directly linked to the processes of how the individual thinks, learns and remembers. It is the area of psychology that is focused on the study of internal mental processes.
Psychologists working in the behavioral area study and work on aspects such as attention, motivation, learning, focus, memory, problem solving, among other phenomena associated with the individual’s way of understanding and learning.
The origin of the universal symbol of psychology is directly linked to the etymology of the word. It represents the penultimate letter of the Greek alphabet (PSY), which gave rise to the first part of the word psychology. Psycho in Greek means mind or soul.
What does a psychologist do?
A psychologist can work in different areas, such as:
- in sports areas, among others.
A psychology professional evaluates their patients impartially with the aim of helping them with their frustrations, fears, anxieties and traumas, or also with cognitive development and self-knowledge.
It works through active listening, perceiving the way that your patient sees the world and what happens around them. From this, the professional observes, understands and discovers the patient’s distortions, identifying their created beliefs, feelings and behaviors.
The psychologist’s focus is to identify these distortions, make patients perceive them and from that, he understands their harmful attitudes.
Based on this observation and listening, the professional works on self-knowledge and self-perception, making the patient see new possibilities of beliefs and behaviors, having a responsible and positive perspective in relation to his life.
All this work of the psychologist is based on scientifically tested and proven studies, based on analyses, observations and experiments.
Main theoretical approaches to psychology
The approaches of psychology are theoretical bases used by psychologists when developing their work.
There are several different psychological schools and approaches. Below are some of the most popular and important ones in modern psychology:
Structuralism (Wilhelm Wunt)
This is considered by many to be the first approach to thinking in modern psychology. Structuralism was created by Wilhelm Wundt, considered the father of modern psychology. However, the term structuralism was only assigned years later by Edward Titchener.
The main objective of Structuralism was to use the technique of fragmenting and analyzing the mind into the smallest possible parts, in an attempt to understand mental processes, through introspection.
The introspection method consisted of presenting different objects to the patient and asking him to describe his feelings and thoughts about each one.
These thoughts and feelings were reduced to more basic and less complex elements that served for the professional to understand and evaluate his patient in general.
This school of thought had a number of flaws, most notably in the application of introspection as a fully valid scientific method. Thus, Structuralism ceased to be applied from the mid-twentieth century.
Also known as Psychology of Form, this approach began to develop in the early years of the 20th century, through psychologists Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Köhler and Max Werteimer.
Gestalt Psychology aims to understand the parts of the mental process from the analysis and interpretation of the total set. That is, it represented a direct opposition to Atomism, an ancient Greek philosophical doctrine that aimed to understand the whole through the parts.
This new psychological approach is based on the so-called Basic Laws of Gestalt, which continue to be used in contemporary psychology.
Behaviorism (Behavioral Psychology)
This approach, also known as Behavioralism, presents a technique opposite to Structuralism and Functionalism. Alongside psychoanalysis and Gestalt, Behaviorism is considered one of the main approaches in contemporary psychology.
The focus of behavioral psychology is the behavior of the individual under analysis. This method is mainly based on the observation of objective behaviors of the analyzed object, that is, its reactions to the events of its daily life.
The introspective and philosophical aspects of the person (conscience and feelings, for example) are discarded, focusing only on behavior.
One of the best-known approaches in psychology, mainly because of the psychologist who developed this clinical method: Sigmund Freud.
Psychoanalysis focuses on the analysis of the human unconscious as a means to understand the person’s mental processes. Thus, this study, which became known as “theory of the soul”, focuses on the relationship between the unconscious and the feelings and behaviors of a given individual.
Origin and history of psychology
The study of human nature has been carried out since antiquity by thinkers, philosophers and theologians, however, these studies were confused with Philosophy. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were the forerunners of the investigation of the “human soul”.
Psychology with a naturalistic orientation reached its peak in the 19th century and intended to ensure experimental observations. This orientation was allied with sensory physiology (J. Müller, H. Helmholtz) and the invention of psychophysical measurement methods (EH Weber, G. Th. Fechner).
At the end of the 19th century, researchers at the time began to focus their studies on investigations of “conscious experience” (analysis of sensations), through research carried out in the newly created psychological laboratories.
German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) was the founder of the first experimental psychology laboratory in Leipzig, Germany (1879).
Experimental psychology emerged in Germany with Wundt and in France with Ribot, which expanded through the investigation of thought, will, conditioned reflexes (Pavlov), the introduction of factor analysis (Ch. Spearman) and finally, the measurement of intelligence. (A. Binet).
From these experimental investigations, there was a separation between Philosophy and a new discipline that was called Modern Psychology.
List of Acronyms Related to Psychology