Meaning, Definitions, Nature and Scope of Psychology

The word, 'Psychology' is derived from two Greek word, 'Pysche' and Logos'. Psycho means 'soul' and 'Logos' means 'science'. Thus psychology was first

What is Psychology

The word, 'Psychology' is derived from two Greek word, 'Pysche' and Logos'. Psycho means 'soul' and 'Logos' means 'science'. Thus psychology was first defined as the "science of soul".

Nature and Scope of Psychology

Psychology as the Science of Soul:- In ancient days, the Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle interpreted Psychology as the science of the soul and studied it as a branch of Philosophy. But soul is something metaphysical. It cannot be seen, observed and touched and we cannot make scientific experiments on soul.

Psychology as the Science of the Mind:- It was the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant who defined Psychology as te science of the mind. William James (1892) defined psychology as the science of mental processes. But the word 'mind' is also quite ambiguous as there was confusion regarding the nature and functions of mind.

Psychology as the Science of Consciousness:- Modern psychologists defined psychology as the "Science of Consciousness". James Sully (1884) defined psychology as the "Science of the Inner World". Wilhelm Wundt (1892) defined psychology as the science which studied the internal experiences". But there are three levels of consciousness, conscious, subconscious and the unconscious and so this definition also was not accepted by some.

Psychology as te Science of Behaviour:- At the beginning of the 20th century, when psychologists attempted to develop psychology into a pure science it came to be defined as the science of behaviour. The term beaviour was popularized by J.B. Watson. Other exponents are William McDugal! and W.B. Pillsbury. According to R.S. Woodworth, "First Psychology lost its soul, then it lost its mind, then lost its consciousness. It still has behaviour of a sort."

Definitions of Psychology

1. According to William Mcdougall, "Psychology is a Science which aims to give us better understanding and control of the behaviour of the organism as a whole."

2. According to Walter Bowers, "Psychology may be most satisfactorily defined as the Science of human behaviour."

3. According to J.B. Watson, "Psychology is the Science of Behaviour".

4. According to Woodworm and Marquis, "Psychology is the scientific study of the activities of the individual in relation to his environment."

5. According to N.L. Munn, "Psychology today concerns itself with the scientific investigation of behaviour."

Types of Psychology

1. Experimental Psychology:- This branch of psychology describes and plains the ways and means of carrying out psychological experiments following scientific methods in controlled or laboratory situations for the study of mental processes and behaviour. It picks up animals, birds and human beings as subject for these experiments.

2. Geo-Psychology:- This branch or field of psychology describes and explains the relation of physical environment, particularly weather, climate, soil and landscapes with behaviour.

3. Health Psychology:- In this branch of psychology, the facts. principles and theories of psychology are used in the task of preservation of the physical and mental health of the individuals. Since many of our physical ailments are said to be the consequences of the ill effects of our anxieties, worries, stresses, conflicts and frustrations, the psychological handling of the affected individuals may help in the prevention and treatment of various physical and mental disorders, ailments and diseases.

4. Sports Psychology:- This branch of psychology is concerned with the study of the behaviour of the players and sports personnel in relation to the activities, experiences, situations and environments prevailing in the world of sports. Today, this branch of psychology is playing quite an effective role in bringing desirable improvement in the processes and persons connected with the sports world like bringing improvement in the mental and physical health of the players, inculcating in them the true sportsman's feelings and spirits through suitable behaviour modification and group dynamics techniques, providing sufficient motivation and raising their morale at the time of competition, devising techniques of training and coating the players for their excellence in individual as well as group activities etc.

5. Environmental Psychology:- Environment plays a key role in affecting and influencing the process of growth and development. evolution of behaviour patterns, learning of specific personality characteristics, disorders and behaviour problems etc. The description and analysis of the process and ways it happens and the efforts we can make for modifying and structuring environment for the social well being-all go to make the subject matter of environmental psychology. An environment psychologist thus gives more emphasis and weightage to the environment setting and facilities for moulding the behaviour of the individuals in the desired direction, solving their personal and social problems and working towards their individual and social progress.

Nature of Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study and practical application of observable behavior and mental processes of organisms. Psychology differs from other social sciences such as: Sociology, History, or Economics, because psychology specifically deals with the study of an individual. There has been a long discussion among the scholars and psychologists on the acceptance of psychology as a science and its nature as scientific.

The observation and concluding remarks of the famous authority N.L. Munn may be cited as a solid evidence for this purpose. He writes "Psychology is science and the properly trained psychologist is a scientific, or at least a practitioner who uses scientific methods and information resulting from scientific investigation."

  1. Like sciences, it has an organised and systematic body of knowledge, facts, principles and theories which is subjected to change on the discovery of new facts and emergence of new principles and theories.
  2. Like sciences, it believes in the cause and effect relationship. It declares that every behaviour has its roots, the factor of its causes and development.
  3. Like sciences, it emphasizes the search for truth. It studies facts of behaviour and describes the laws governing them.
  4. It adopts the method of systematic inquiry and scientific approach as used by sciences.
  5. Like other sciences Psychology has its pure and applied aspects.

With all such evidences, it can be safely concluded that it is an accepted reality that Psychology is a science.

Scope of Psychology

The field operations and applications of the subject psychology is too vast. The field of psychology can be understood by various subfields of psychology making an attempt in meeting the goals of psychology.

1. Developmental Psychology:- Here the studies are with respect to how people grow and change throughout their life from prenatal stages, through childhood, adulthood and old age. Developmental psychologists work in a variety of settings like colleges, schools, healthcare centres, business centres, government and non-profit organizations, etc.

2. Personality Psychology:- This branch helps to explain both consistency and change in a person’s behaviour over time, from birth till the end of life through the influence of parents, siblings, playmates, school, society and culture. It also studies the individual traits that differentiate the behaviour of one person from that of another person.

3. Health Psychology:- This explores the relations between the psychological factors and physical ailments and disease. Health psychologists focus on health maintenance and promotion of behaviour related to good health such as exercise, health habits and discouraging unhealthy behaviours like smoking, drug abuse and alcoholism. Health psychologists work in healthcare setting and also in colleges and universities where they conduct research.

4. Counselling Psychology:- This focuses primarily on educational, social and career adjustment problems. Counselling psychologists advise students on effective study habits and the kinds of job they might be best suited for, and provide help concerned with mild problems of social nature and strengthen healthy lifestyle, economical and emotional adjustments. They make use of tests to measure aptitudes, interests and personality characteristics.

5. Educational Psychology:- Educational psychologists are concerned with all the concepts of education. This includes the study of motivation, intelligence, personality, use of rewards and punishments, size of the class, expectations, the personality traits and the effectiveness of the teacher, the student-teacher relationship, the attitudes, etc.They also help in designing the curriculum to make learning more interesting and enjoyable to children.

Educational psychology is used in elementary and secondary schools, planning and supervising special education, training teachers, counselling students having problems, assessing students with learning difficulties such as poor writing and reading skills and lack of concentration.

6. Industrial and Organizational Psychology:- The private and public organizations apply psychology to management and employee training, supervision of personnel, improve communication within the organization, counselling employees and reduce industrial disputes. Thus we can say that in organizational and industrial sectors not only the psychological effects of working attitude of the employees are considered but also the physical aspects are given importance to make workers feel healthy.

7. Experimental Psychology:- It is the branch that studies the processes of sensing, perceiving, learning, thinking, etc. by using scientific methods. The outcome of the experimental psychology is cognitive psychology which focuses on studying higher mental processes including thinking, knowing, reasoning, judging and decision-making. Experimental psychologists often do research in lab by frequently using animals as their experimental subjects.

8. Environmental Psychology:- It focuses on the relationships between people and their physical and social surroundings. For example, the density of population and its relationship with crime, the noise pollution and its harmful effects and the influence of overcrowding upon lifestyle, etc.

9. Sports and Exercise Psychology:- It studies the role of motivation in sport, social aspects of sport and physiological issues like importance of training on muscle development, the coordination between eye and hand, the muscular coordination in track and field, swimming and gymnastics.

10. Cognitive Psychology:- It has its roots in the cognitive outlook of the Gestalt principles. It studies thinking, memory, language, development, perception, imagery and other mental processes in order to peep into the higher human mental functions like insight, creativity and problem-solving. The names of psychologists like Edward Tolman and Jean Piaget are associated with the propagation of the ideas of this school of thought.

Branches of Psychology

1. General Psychology:- It is relatively a large area or field of psychology which deals with the fundamental rules, principles and theories of psychology in relation to the study of behaviour of normal adult human beings.

2. Abnormal Psychology:- It is that branch or field of psychology which describes and explains the behaviour of abnormal people in relation to their own environment. The causes, symptoms and syndromes, description and treatment of the abnormalities of behaviour form the subject's matter of this branch.

3. Clinical Psychology:- Clinical Psychology comes into picture after the work and operations of the knowledge and activities connected with abnormal psychology. The knowledge about abnormality of behaviour and the underlying causes, symptoms etc. provides necessary framework to the subject matter and skills required for the study of clinical psychology. The abnormality and mal-adaptation of the behaviour leads to mental illness and diseases. To have a proper diagnosis of such illness and diseases is then the work of clinical psychology. The expert who provides such treatment to the patients attending to the clinic or hospital are known clinical psychologists.

4. Physiological Psychology:- This branch of psychology describes the explains the biological and physiological basis of behaviour. The study of the internal environment and physiological structure of the body. particularly brain, nervous system and functioning of the glands in relation to the conative, cognitive and affective behaviour of the human being from part of the subject matter of this branch.

5. Social Psychology:- This branch of psychology studies the human behaviour in relation to his social environment: One's behaviour as a member of the group, the process of communication and interpersonal relationship, group dynamics and social relationship etc. from the subject matter of this branch.

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