What Is Psychology:Importance, History And Branches of Psychology

What is Psychology.It is the science of human behavior. It aims to understand human behavior, to predict human behavior, and when necessary to change human behavior.

History of  Psychology

Until the late nineteenth century psychology was not considered a science. Its subject matter fell in the realm of philosophy, like most other knowledge in ancient and medieval times. Many great philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, speculated about human nature and proposed theories, some of which lasted until modern times. But careful and systematic observation of human behavior, let alone experimentation, was unknown.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries astronomy, physics, and chemistry broke away from philosophy to become separate sciences. Biology, less exact because it dealt with living things, became independent in the eighteenth century. Psychology hung on to its parent philosophy until nearly the end of the next century.

With the pioneer work of German physiologists like Ernst Heinrich Weber, Gustav Theodor Fechner, Hermann von Helmholtz, and Ewald Hering, it became apparent that human behavior is closely related to bodily functions. It was hard to know where physiologists left off and psychologists began. This was true of studies of the eye, ear, and other sense organs, of the nervous system, or reflexes and muscular reactions. Gradually it became clear that the physiologist studies the functions of organs within the organism—respiration, circulation, digestion, and so on—while the psychologist studies the functioning of the whole organism as it responds to outside stimuli.

In the i88o’s and 1890’s a new group of psychologists, trained in both philosophy and physiology, founded laboratories in Germany and America, and psychology began its career as an experimental science.

Soon the close tie between psychology and newly emerging social sciences—particularly sociology, anthropology, and political science—became apparent, since man’s behavior is largely social. Now we locate psychology between biology and the social sciences. An “in-between” field, physiological psychology, joins psychology with biology on the one side, while another such field, social psychology, connects it with the social sciences on the other.

What Is Psychology:What Are Different  Branches of Psychology

The study of human behavior includes a broad area. Research on eye, ear, or brain functions relates closely to physiology and neurology. Studies of attitudes, opinions, and propaganda are akin to sociology and other social sciences. Between these extremes the majority of psychologists work away at understanding the abilities, emotions, motives, memories, and whole personalities of children, adolescents, and adults, both normal and abnormal. Because psychology includes such varied material, several specialized subdivisions have developed.

In some of these fields emphasis falls on facts, principles, and theories rather than on applications. Fields that stress the solving of practical problems are included in “applied psychology.” Actually no sharp distinction can be made between “pure” and “applied” psychology. All theoretical discoveries have possibilities for future usefulness. The most practical branches, like industrial and clinical psychology, owe a debt to theoretical psychologists who searched out new knowledge purely for its own sake.

Following is a list of major branches of psychology.

Physiological Psychology.

It concerns the structure and function of sense organs, nervous system, muscles, and glands underlying all behavior. Classic work in this field is described in the chapter called Bodily Bases of Behavior.

Comparative Psychology:

deals with animal behavior. Some of its major findings are described in the chapters on Motivation, Emotions,Learning, and Bodily Bases of Behavior.

Developmental or Genetic Psychology studies the behavior changes occurring from birth, through childhood, adolescence, and maturity to senility. It is discussed in Individual Development, Intelligence, Heredity and Environment, and How Personality Develops.

Child Psychology deals with human behavior from birth to about age 12. Overlapping developmental psychology, it is taken up in the same chapters.

The Psychology of Personality treats individuality, or one’s pattern of behavior as a whole. Two chapters are devoted to this: Measuring Personality and How Personality Develops.

Abnormal Psychology is the study of mental diseases and minor behavior peculiarities. Three chapters take up the abnormal: Mental Disease, Conflicts and the Unconscious, and Feeble mindedness and Genius.

Social Psychology deals with the ways a person influences others and is influenced by them. The chapter called Man’s Social Behavior describes major contributions to social psychology.

Differential Psychology concerns differences in the behavior of one individual compared with another, or of one group compared with another. As differences are best revealed by tests, the chapters on Intelligence and Intelligence Testing, Measuring Specific Aptitudes, and Measuring Personality center about differential psychology. So does the last part of Man’s Social Behavior, which discusses differences between sexes and between races.

Applied Psychology is devoted to solving practical problems. Its most important subdivisions are educational, clinical, industrial, advertising and selling, personnel, vocational, and legal psychology. Some outstanding discoveries in these fields are described here and there throughout the book, and more fully in the last chapter, Psychology in Everyday Life.

What Are Different Schools of Thought in Psychology

In a young and growing science internal disputes often occur. Psychology is no exception. Psychologists have differed about what psychology should or should not include, about what it should emphasize, about what research methods are best. When several psychologists strongly support a certain viewpoint they are called a “school.” At present no active schools exist, but the period between 1900 and 1930 saw five important schools.

Structuralism traces back to two men, Wilhelm Wundt and Edward Bradford Titchener. Wundt is regarded as the father of experimental psychology since he established in 1879 at Leipzig, Germany, the first psychological laboratory. To study with Wundt came young and eager psychologists from many coun-tries. One of these was Titchener, an Englishman, who later came to America to head the psychology department at Cornell University for many years.

Following out Wundt’s basic ideas, Titchener established the school known as structuralism. Psychology is concerned with studying images, thoughts, and feelings, the three elements forming the structure of consciousness. The proper research method is introspection, performed by trained observers. Learning, intelligence, motivation, personality, or abnormal and social behavior Titchener ruled out of psychology. He and his students did notable laboratory studies, some of which are described in the chapters on Bodily Bases of Behavior, Perceiving, Thinking, and Imagery

Functionalism is a less systematic and unified school. It grew out of the protests of many psychologists against analyzing consciousness into ideas, images, and feelings. The Danish psychol- -ogist Harald Hoffding, and the American William Jambs both emphasized the dynamic, changing nature of mental activity and questioned whether it could be analyzed into structural elements. Shortly after 1900 John Dewey and James Rowland Angell at the University of Chicago began to stress the ways in which an organism adjusts to environment. Their aim in studying mental functions was to discover how thinking, emotion, and other processes fulfilled the organism’s needs. The views of the functionalists helped to align psychology with biology and to bring about a genetic approach to psychological problems.

Behaviorism was founded about 1914 by John B. Watson, then an animal psychologist at Johns Hopkins University. He too was impatient with the narrowness of structuralism, but he did not feel that the functionalists went far enough in their criticisms. Watson objected particularly to introspection, which he considered unscientific. Psychology’s reed concern, he said, is to study behavior, not consciousness.

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