Monday, January 21, 2013

What is Psychology?

Photo by Umar Mita

Lets begin by addressing two misconceptions that I often hear:

  1. Psychology is not just about crazy people. It is about people.
  2. Psychologists are not psychics. We can't read your minds.

People often asked me about the field that I'm currently studying in university - Psychology. Recently I found a comprehensive explanation about what Psychology is. I thought I'd share the explanation here for anyone who is interested.

The information below was taken from the book "Culture & Psychology", 5th edition, by Matsumoto and Juang.

Psychology can be understood from its goals:

Goal #1: To build a body of knowledge about people.

Psychologists seek to understand behaviour when it happens, explain why it happens, and even predict it before it happens. Psychologists achieve this by conducting research and creating theories of behaviour.

Goal #2: To apply the knowledge to intervene in people's lives, to make those lives better.

Psychologists achieve this in many ways: as therapists, counselors, trainers, and consultants. Psychologists work on the front lines, dealing directly with people to affect their lives in a positive fashion.

These two goals are closely related. 

Psychologists who are on the front lines take what psychology as a field has collectively learned about human behavior and use that knowledge as a basis for their applications and interventions.

This learning initially comes in the form of academic training in universities. But it continues well after formal education has ended, through continuing education programs and individual scholarship - reviewing the literature, attending conferences, and joining and participating in professional organizations.

Applied psychologists engage in a life-long learning process that helps them intervene in people's lives more effectively.

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Related post: Why did I choose Psychology?
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