What is Psychology?


Perhaps more than any subject you have studied before, Psychology is about something that should be of great interest to you. It is about yourself! It seeks to answer many of the kinds of questions you have asked or been asked across the years.

They are questions that captivate us, keep us up at night, and motivate us to study Psychology: Can a person change if they want to? Why do some people thrive under stress, while others do not? Some people seem normal to us, while others seem to behave in ways that we regard abnormal? For what reason are some people withdrawn, while others are friendly? Why some people are aggressive, while others passive? What made that person do that?  Exactly  what were they thinking?

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes, something that is relevant to most every aspect of life both personally and professionally as it can offer insights into understanding the “why”. Think about it…all physical and mental activity is behavior of some sort. In psychology, we consider things such as:

Physical characteristics. Size, sex, appearance, etc. and how they contribute to the physical aspects of behavior.

Cognitive activity. Cognitive = intellectual or thinking activity. Ability to reason, solve problems, learn new behaviors, communicate, etc. are all examples of the thinking side of human behavior.

Emotional states. Anger, fear, love, etc.…all types of emotional behavior.

Social and environmental factors. Here we look at things such as the kind of society one lives in, family influences, etc. and how all these factors play a role in one’s behavior.

Further, none of these are independent of each other. They are all interrelated and play a role in all behavior.

So, with that in mind…can you see how this might be applicable to your life? The contemporary applications of psychology in professional and daily life are all around us. As we get started this week and moving forward, I challenge you to look for specific areas and situations where psychology might offer insights into behavior.

Psychology is Scientific

Also, important to note here – Psychology is Scientific! It does not just accept arguments and conclusions blindly. Many people believe that intuition and common sense are enough. And sure, they may aid in one’s understanding, but they are not free from error! And they are often just plain wrong. Psychology examines assumptions, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions to offer informed insights that aid us in understanding how people feel, think, and act. It is the difference between opinions and examined conclusions!

Now, to be effective at this….it is important that we give attention to the areas of research and writing.

Bill Ling/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images


Regardless of what area in psychology you are interested, learning to think like a scientist is imperative. This is true not only in terms of conducting actual research, but for all of us as consumers of research as well.

With that in mind, pay special attention to the scientific method and the systematic process it provides for conducting research.

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