introduction to psychology

Psychology: A Brief Introduction

Psychology is derived from the Greek terms- “Psyche” meaning soul and “logo” meaning knowledge. Though psyche originally means soul what we are focused in Psychology is about the mind’s processes and human behaviour. So, we relate psychology here as the study of human mind and behaviours.

What is Psychology?

Psychology can be said as the rationalising counterpart of philosophy. It is a science and is heavily focused on empirical results on mental processes- a data-driven subject.  Many experimental studies started since 17th century which focused on visible physical results like actions and behaviours. But understanding internal cognitive abilities were neglected for a long time until the 20th century.

Though Psychology has deep-roots from the ideas of Philosophy, it is very much inspired by biology as well. A large part of psychology deals with neurological studies of the brain to understand the neural processes.

Quantitative studies were majorly practised in earlier centuries but with the dawn of the 20th century, more elaborative studies on individuals were undertaken.

Definition of Psychology according to APA

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience- from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centres to mental health care services, the understanding of behaviour is the enterprise of psychologists.”

The psychology researches are focused on 2 kinds of approaches-

  1. Nomothetic approach- focuses on generalizing the theories and studies
  2. Idiographic approach- focuses on individual studies to form qualitative theories

Psychology theories since the ages have developed and evolved from only studying behaviours- entirely disinterest in cognitive activities to studying complex mental processes like thinking, problem-solving and their associated actions and behaviours.

Schools of Psychology

Various schools of psychology started forming since the 18th century which is worth mentioning as they paved the way for the richness of knowledge and experiments that psychology possesses today.  Few of the most relevant ones that reformed the empirical nature of psychology are-


It is the study of the structure of human mind. The founders of the structuralism were Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Titchener. Wilhelm Wundt also introduced conducting experiments on the theories of structuralism. Though the experiments conducted back then were not as advanced as now- nonetheless those experiments credited Wundt as the Father of Experimental Psychology.


Functionalism studies the functions of mind and behaviour. Its focus is on understanding how the mind functions in a real-world scenario where environmental factors are so wide and varied. John Dewey and William James are the founders.

Gestalt Psychology

Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler are the founders of Gestalt Psychology which originated in Germany. The German term “Gestalt” means patterns. This school of psychology focuses on the perception through sensory experiences and its corresponding influence in human behaviour. The main aim is to recognize patterns that relates the human behaviour with the external senses.


During his famous dog salivation and digestion experiment,  Ivan Pavlov observed an accidental-conditioning of his dog due to an external stimulus (food in this case). However the school of psychology- behaviourism was officially founded by John Watson. Later the concept was mastered and improved by BF Skinner with his ground-breaking experiments on behaviourism- the study of human behaviours.

The proponents of Behaviourism did not believe that cognitive processes like thinking, decision-making, problem-solving etc influenced human behaviours and actions. Rather they emphasized on learned behaviour and environmentally-conditioned stimulus as the reason for the actions.


During the late 1800s, Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalysis. It explains that the human actions, behaviours and cognition are a result of their unconscious thoughts, feelings and memories. Traumatic childhood experiences can also cause psychological issues in future.

According to Freud, free-talk and dream interpretation are two of the most important ways to cure psychological problems through counselling.

Psychoanalysis later evolved into less intensified form of counselling by Freud’s followers like Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Erik Erikson. They were called Neo-Freudians. Each modified the psychoanalysis theory into a less intensified form of counselling- psychodynamic therapy.


According to this school of thought, every people has the ability to control their life and move it in the direction of positivity. The founder Carl Rogers believed that freedom of will and freedom of choice are present in each individual.

Many therapies evolved from humanistic therapy like Existential therapy, Logotherapy etc.

Cognitive Perspective

Since the 1960s, psychologists and researchers focused on several complex cognitive abilities that we human beings exclusively possess. Some of them are learning, memory, language, understanding concepts, abstract thinking, decision-making etc.


Several social psychologists emerged during the 1900s and especially after World War I and World War II. They aimed at understanding the psychology at play in social setups. Few important scholars in social psychology were Leon Festinger (founded the famous cognitive dissonance theory), Stanley Milgram (obedience to authority), Solomon Asch (on conformity) etc.


It is a psychological domain based on neurological development in the brain and studies its impact on human cognitive processes.


Behaviours can be influenced by evolution. It focuses its studies on sociocultural and genetic factors to understand the development of a fascinating machine like that of our brain.

Fields of Psychology

There are many fields of psychology cropped up in our modern day. Infact every professional area requires psychologist and counsellors for understanding and helping with the cognitive processes needed by and readily available to the resources. Some of the most important ones are:

  1. Cognitive Psychology: the study of the human mind’s perception and processes
  2. Clinical Psychology: Diagnosis and treatment of clinically mental disorders
  3. Counselling Psychology: Focuses on resolving milder emotional  and personal intent
  4. Environmental Psychology: Studies the inter-relation between human and the surrounding environment
  5. School Psychology: Focuses on planning the learning and the extra curriculum activities in a school along with counselling the children who require special care
  6. Educational Psychology: Studies how teachers should educate (teach) students which would allow the optimum enhancement of the student’s performance
  7. Experimental Psychology: Deals with how experiments are conducted and results are achieved which finally modifies or creates fundamental principles and theories
  8. Physiological Psychology: Studies the relationships between brain and behaviour
  9. Organizational Psychology: The field is required in a corporate structure where the employees are counselled.
  10. Social Psychology: Study of behaviours in social groups
  11. Developmental Psychology: Study of development of the human mind from birth to adolescence
  12. Community Psychology: Study the behaviours of different communities around the world- ethnic, religious, race etc
  13. Sports Psychology: Dealing with the holistic development of athletes’ performance and mind
  14. Health Psychology: Focuses on studying about the effects on health and illnesses due to cognitive reasons
  15. Forensic Psychology: Deals with criminal justice and legal system

Methods of Research in Psychology

 There are basically 3 methods of research studies done in psychology:

Descriptive Method

There are many types of descriptive methods of research in psychology . The most important of them are case study, survey and systematic observation.

Experimental method

The experimental research methods are in a form of levels or can sometimes be of cyclical in nature.

  1. Problem
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Testing
  4. Interpretation and conclusion
  5. Report results

The report results can furthermore create more problems and we need to modify the method accordingly to find an accurate solution. So it becomes cyclical sometimes.

Correlation method

This method of research focus on comparing a study result with another which is the standard result.


Trisha Nandi

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