Student Guide for student who want to learn and peruse degree in Psychology.
We often experience moods of anger and joy. We do have remarkable ability to learn and memorize poems, stories and events. We often notice powerful effect of leaders on the behavior of followers. While interacting in groups we often experience conflict and cooperation. At times some of us suffer from depression, hyper-anxiety, etc. All of us remain curious to know about the causes of these happenings and try to make sense in our own ways. Our understanding is often based on beliefs and personal experiences which may not be true. The knowledge gathered in this way cannot be used to formulate theories or to solve problems faced by people in their lives. We need dependable and relatively accurate understanding of the principles describing the working of human mind and behavior.
Psychology is the subject that provides insights into various aspects of human behavior. In this lesson you will learn about the nature of psychology, activities of psychologists and different branches of psychology.
NEED FOR THE STUDY OF PSYCHOLOGY
People hold a variety of expectations from the study of psychology. Many of them are because of ignorance but some are also true. Psychology promises to help us in understanding how various mental functions operate and how people behave in different conditions. Its principles and theories are used in many situations.
Psychology is relevant to solving teaching-learning problems in schools, problems in socializing children at home, motivating people in organizations and helping people to solve their emotional problems in personal lives. In addition, there are numerous human phenomena which require psychological theories and techniques. Selection of people for various jobs, assessing abilities and aptitudes of people, providing training for developing skills, setting goals and motivating people to achieve them and improving the style of life for better health are some of the very popular applications of psychology. In brief, understanding the growth and development of a person or functioning of a group are important areas of psychological applications.
Thus it is clear that the study of psychology is needed to understand ourselves better in terms of the potentialities that we possess and shaping them in desired directions. Such an effort is also done at the level of groups and organizations which represent human collectivities. In other words, a proper study and understanding of psychology can help us understand ourselves and others better and enhance the quality of life.
NATURE OF PSYCHOLOGY
How human beings receive information from environment and perceive objects?
How people, learn and remember experiences?
How do people think, reason and solve problems?
How do they differ in various psychological characteristics like intelligence, personality and interest?
How do people cope with various problems in life?
A moment’s reflection will make it clear that in all the above questions brain, mind or mental activities and behaviour are involved. Any observable action is an outcome of a coordination of brain, mind and behaviour. Brain has a physical structure whereas mind is considered a functional correlate of brain. Psychology tries to understand the laws and principles characterizing the linkages across them in a scientific manner.
In our everyday life we behave in different ways and use the term ‘behavior’ to refer to the verbal and physiological responses and actions.
Interest in psychological issues has a long past. However, attempts to formalize the understanding of psychological phenomena in modern sense started only during 19th century. It was influenced by the developments in the disciplines of philosophy as well as natural sciences. Today psychology is considered as a science as well as a profession contributing to the improvement in quality of life. It focuses primarily on the study of various aspects of mental and behavioral functioning. Psychologists use scientific methods to understand the causes of behavioral phenomena and develop principles and theories about them. They attempt to understand various questions related to human behavior.
In the course of its growth, in this century, psychology has expanded in many directions and has encompassed almost all areas of human life. Thus we can say that psychology is a scientific study of mind, brain and behavior.
WHAT PSYCHOLOGISTS DO?
Many of us carry the impression that psychologists can read the face of a person and tell one’s mental make up, may cure people suffering from mental abnormalities, can guess what is one’s future, and can change one’s mind instantaneously, like a magician. As we will see later, there is no magic in the hands of psychologists. A psychologist uses certain procedures and tools to collect information and tries to draw inferences and conclusions about the probable causes of behaviour.
Psychologists share twin goals:
(1) understanding and explaining the complexities of behavior, and
(2) contributing to the improvement of the quality of human life.
The academic psychologists pursuing basic research are interested in the first goal.
They try to test hypotheses about the diverse aspects of behaviour and mental processes. They develop principles, laws and theories using various methods such as observation and experimentation. They make efforts to describe, explain, predict and control behavioural phenomena. In contrast, the second goal is addressed by applied psychologists who are practitioners. They try to use psychological knowledge in solving various human problems. They are engaged in activities like counselling, therapy, personnel selection, career guidance, consultancy in organizational behaviour (e.g., team building, decision making, leadership training), consumer surveys, and psychological assessment and training in various skills (e.g. communication, self presentation). Psychologists are now seen working not only in academic institutions doing research and teaching but also in institutions like
hospitals, schools, industries, sports-complexes, military establishments, community centers and so on.
FIELDS OF PSYCHOLOGY
In the course of its disciplinary journey, psychology has diversified and expanded in many directions. Beginning with experimental and physiological psychology which focus on the basic psychological processes, attention was shifted to the application of psychology in different spheres of life. In the following paragraphs we shall briefly study the different branches of psychology.
(a) Experimental and Cognitive Psychology: Traditionally experimental psychology has been concerned with the study of psychological processes such as sensation, perception, learning, memory, motivation, emotion, etc.
The goal is to understand the principles underlying these processes with the help of experimental method. For a long time this area has dominated the scene. With increasing information this field has diversified. The new field of cognitive psychology happens to be the closest one to experimental psychology.
This field tries to explain processes involved in the perception, comprehension and use of information for various purposes. Thus reasoning, problem solving, attention and related processes are being analysed with sophisticated methods and tools. This branch tries to understand the fundamental causes of behaviour.
(b) Physiological and Comparative Psychology: This field of inquiry is devoted to the analysis of biological foundations of behaviour. It asserts that all behaviour can be reduced to various physiological processes. For instance, activities in cerebral cortex and hypothalamus are found to be systematically related to thinking and motivation. The field of comparative psychology investigates the dimensions and complexities of behaviour among animals like rats, pigeons and monkeys and compares those across species.
(c) Developmental Psychology: This subfield of psychology deals with the problem of changes in behaviour throughout the lifespan. These changes take place in physical, motor, cognitive, personality, emotional, social and linguistic domains. Study of these changes may be undertaken by following the same person for a longer period. Alternatively, one may study people of different age groups. The first approach is called longitudinal and the second is crosssectional.
Important divisions of this branch include child psychology, adolescent psychology, and psychology of adulthood and aging. The study of developmental psychopathology has great significance for rehabilitation of children with disabilities and behaviour problems.
(d) Social Psychology: Interactions with other human beings are one of the most significant aspects of our life. Social psychology tries to understand the influence of other individuals and groups on our behaviour. Perceiving other individuals, forming attitudes, persuading others to change their views, prejudice, interpersonal attraction, group decision, social motivation and leadership are important themes in social psychology. More recently, great concern has been shown for applications and a new specialization entitled applied social psychology has emerged. Social psychology has particularly benefited by the
contributions from sociologists.
(e) Educational and School Psychology: As an applied field this branch of psychology tries to help solve the problems of teaching and learning in classroom setting. It helps the students and teachers both to deal more effectively with the learning situations. Much of the work of educational psychologists is devoted to the areas of curriculum planning, teacher-training and instruction-design. Psychology of learning and motivation supplies the necessary theoretical framework and empirical data regarding learning process, the principles of learning, reinforcement, transfer of training, retention and forgetting. Educational psychologists plan and suggest curriculum to a school board in the light of
student’s interest, abilities, and needs. The job of school psychologists is to deal with more immediate problems in the school. The school psychologists are particularly concerned with diagnosis of learning difficulties and their remediation, and vocational and other forms of counseling.
(f) Counseling Psychology: A counseling psychologist deals with people who have milder emotional and personal problems. She/he tries to enable an individual to utilize his/her present resources most effectively in solving personal problems. Thus a counseler’s task is to modify behaviour in areas like marital life, delinquency, school maladjustment, dispute in work setting, etc. The counselor systematically changes the behaviour through various procedures including behaviour modification, modelling, sensitization and rational thinking.
(g) Clinical Psychology: The general image of a clinical psychologist is that of a doctor who diagnoses psychological disorders and treats them using psychotherapy. But s/he is not a doctor and should not be confused with a psychiatrist who holds a medical degree. S/he uses various techniques to relieve the symptoms and to help people understand the reasons of their problems. A clinical psychologist strives at changing personality in order to enable a person to cope with his/her situation in an adaptive manner. A clinical psychologist mainly aims at the identification of negative or problematic aspects in
development and their alleviation. For example, a clinical psychologist, treating phobia, a kind of unreasonable fear behaviour, tries to remove reinforcements that maintain the behaviour, and at the same time provide reinforcement in order to promote learning of more rational and effective coping patterns in people.
(h) Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology: Psychologists working in this area help industries and other organizations in personnel selection, training, solving problems related to communication, productivity, and interpersonal and inter-group relations. Various interventions for organizational development (e.g., team building, development of communication skills, goal setting, job design) are currently employed to improve the conditions of work setting and enhancing the quality of products.
(i) Environmental Psychology: This is a relatively new field of psychology which specializes in understanding the relationship between human beings and environment. Environmental planning, environmental perception and attitude, design of environments, environmental stressors (e.g., crowding, pollution, disasters) and environmental attitudes are being studied. The goal is to save the environment and improve its quality.
(j) Engineering Psychology: Human life in the modern world is dominated by machines of various kinds. The human-machine interaction raises many problems. Engineering psychology, also known as human factors engineering, tries to specify the capacities and limitations of human-machine-environment system so that the system can be operated safely and efficiently. Therefore, the task of engineering psychologists is to help designing instruments and machines and developing the layout of work setting. With the advent of computers and innovations in the area of information technology, many new
methods are being used to solve the related problems.
(k) Health Psychology: It is an emerging branch of psychology which focuses on understanding the factors that promote the status of health. In contemporary life the number of health hazards (e.g., stresses, pollution in the environment, frustration) is increasing. In order to cope with them successfully we need to adopt patterns of health behaviour such as exercise, meditation, proper diet, physical activity etc. Health psychology examines the role of these behaviours in promotion of physical and mental health. It also tries to find ways to modify inappropriate behaviours and prevention of illness.
CURRENT TRENDS : THE CHANGING FACE OF PSYCHOLOGY
With increasing complexity in modern life psychology is required to play greater role. It is clear from the description of various branches of psychology that its field encompasses a broad spectrum of issues faced by us. It’s goal is to further knowledge in various domains and apply that knowledge in solving problems. In such efforts psychology has grown in different directions. Some of the current trends that are prominent in shaping this discipline are as follows:
1. Emphasis on Cultural Context
Psychologists are realizing the fact that psychological phenomena can be understood in the specific cultural context in which they take place. The studies in cross-cultural psychology and cultural psychology show that many of the concepts (e.g., self, morality) and practices (e.g, socialization, life tasks) are culturally specific. It is therefore necessary to understand these issues and processes in their cultural context.
2. Breakthrough in Neurosciences
In recent years considerable knowledge has been gained about brain and other parts of nervous system and biological functioning. This has helped in not only understanding the nature of psychological processes but has provided ways and means (e.g., drugs) to cure various diseases.
3. Multidisciplinary Concerns
Psychologists as well as other scientists are now convinced that human reality is complex and one discipline cannot properly comprehend it. Hence multidisciplinary efforts have started to understand the various aspects of human life. In particular, the collaboration of linguists, anthropologists and cognitive scientists is taking place in the study of issues related to language, personality, emotion and values.
PSYCHOLOGY AS A CAREER
By now you must have got a fair idea of the various fields of psychology. Frankly,
nowadays, no area has been left untouched by psychology. Whether it is related to society or the armed forces or educational setting, the need of a psychologist is being felt by all. It is becoming a very popular subject rapidly. With a degree in psychology, one can find various jobs such as –
a) PGT – Psychology.
b) Counsellor – freelancer/ school/ institution.
c) Examiner who conducts various tests.
d) Psychologist in an industrial setting.
f) Work in NGOs.
h) Clinical Psychologist.
i) Child Psychologist.
j) Health Psychologist.
k) School Psychologist.
l) Human Factors Psychologist.
All the jobs stated here demand at least a graduate degree with specialization in a particualr field of psychology.