Are you acquainted with the definition of psychology? Do you know what psychology is? Why do we procrastinate? Why don’t we avoid smoking and eating fattening food that makes us sick? Why do we shout at others and get easily angry? Why are we sometimes upset but we struggle to find the reason? Psychologists’ attention is drawn to these questions. The science of Psychology is closely connected to our everyday life. The definition of psychology and its usage will be interpreted in this article.
Etymology and symbol of psychology
The word “psy+chology” is made of two Greek words (ψυχολογία). It’s good to know that the word psyche (ψυχή) means soul and it is not related to the words “mind and mentality”. However, the word “psyche” is improperly translated as “mind” into the English language. The Symbol for psychology is also the first character of the Greek word “psychology”. This character is the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and is pronounced as “ saai” (as in side).
A comprehensive definition of psychology
Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behavior.
The above-mentioned definition reveals three points about the essence of psychology.
1. It is a scientific study.
2. It studies behavior scientifically.
3. It studies mental processes.
As mentioned, psychology is a scientific field. Consequently, similar to other fields, it establishes scientific principles and follows them. The science of psychology studies behavior (which are observable) and mental processes (which are subjective). Behavior is how, whereas mental processes are hidden and happen inside the mind.
As we have learned from the quiddity of psychology, psychology is knowledge. So, like other branches of knowledge, it follows scientific principles. This knowledge studies behavior that is visual (objective) and mental processes that are conceptual (subjective). Behavior is all the reactions that occur to people. Behavior is obvious, and the mental process is hidden.
Objectives of psychology
Science is purely objective and scientists pursue those goals.
The primary goals of psychology are:
1. Describe behavior
2. Explain behavior
3. Predict behavior
4. Control behavior
The first objective is to describe the behavior and mental processes in simple terms. Describing the behavior and mental processes make it possible to evaluate and assess them and determine whether they are normal or abnormal. Psychologists use various methods to describe behavior and mental processes, like naturalistic observation, case studies, correlational studies, surveys, and self-report inventories. Psychologists use descriptive sentences and concepts to convey those theories and view-points that are based on hypotheses. So describing mental processes and behavior helps us with understanding the nature behind them and as a result, we find answers to questions like “what is suicide?” or “what is aggression?”.
Psychologists explain behavior and mental processes after describing them. Describing behavior answers “what” questions. However, to answer “why” questions, the behavior needs to be explained. describing issues like “aggression” and “suicide” helps us gain deeper knowledge about their nature, whereas to know why they appear we need to explain them.
The third goal is to predict behavior and mental processes. We should predict how people would think in different situations and react to various stimuli. For instance, some people assume that watching violent scenes (like boxing and wrestling) reduces aggression, However studies have shown that if a 9-year old is willing to watch violent scenes, they are more likely to show aggressive behavior compared to their peers when they are 18.
The most important goal of psychology is to control behavior and mental processes. We can prevent abnormal behavior and reinforce normal behavior only if we control behavior and mental processes.
To conclude, psychologists, seek answers to these questions:
- What are we doing?” (describing)
- “Why are we doing it?” (explaining)
- “When do we act/respond/react in this way?” (predicting)
- “How do we affect our lives and others by acting in this way? How can we control our reaction to the environment? (controlling)
History of psychology
First, we can trace ideas and speculations about human nature and behavior back to the fifth century BC. The origins of modern psychology can be traced back to 500 B.C.E. Philosophers such as Socrates and Plato raised questions about the mental life of human beings. Moreover, moderately similar questions have been discussed in Iran, India, China, and Egypt.
Evident is the fact that some approaches such as cognitive-behavioral and cognitive biology in psychology, have originated from the notion of the works of philosophers like Plato, Socrates, etc.
As a result, there is no surprise that psychology is intimately linked with philosophy.
Most psychologists believe that the birth of psychology as a science occurred in1879; the year that Wilhelm Wundt established the laboratory of psychology in Leipzig-city of Germany. Wilhelm Wundt is known as the father of Experimental Psychology. The history of psychology and an introduction to some famous psychologists will also be covered later in this article.
Approaches in psychology
Psychology includes diverse approaches such as psychoanalysis, behaviorism, cognitive psychology, cognitive behavior therapy(CBT), humanistic psychology, gestalt, positive psychology, etc.
Branches of psychology
Psychology has various branches. At this moment in time, the American Psychological Association(APA) has more than fifty branches and the number implies that psychology is a practical science that embraces all aspects of life. For instance: general psychology, clinical psychology, guidance and counseling psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, experimental psychology, parapsychology, social psychology, personality psychology, political psychology, exceptional children psychology, positive psychology, criminal psychology, and so on.
In this article, I defined psychology in simple terms. Now you offer a satisfactory answer to the question “What is psychology ?”.