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What is Psychology? Definition & Meaning

Define PsychologyThe word Psychology has its roots in Latin, as do around sixty percent of the words in English language. It is derived from the Greek words psyche, meaning ‘life’, ‘soul’ or ‘breath’ and logia meaning study or research. In literal sense, psychology means ‘the study of soul’. Practically, it involves the examination of brain function and the behavior. Not a pure biological science, psychology does take help from it and is actually the mix of both biological and social sciences and better be called a behavioral science. So what is psychology definition? In simplistic terms, we can define psychology as the scientific study of all kind of human and animal mind and behaviors. It employs the scientific method of identifying a problem, suggesting an answer and then empirically testing it to reach a conclusion.

History of Psychology

The history of the subject can be traced back to ancient civilizations as human beings have always tried to understand each other. The discussion on mental processes is found in the works of 4th century BC by philosophers Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates. However, the earlier scholarship on psychology was mostly philosophical in nature. Its emergence as a distinct field is indebted to German medic Wilhelm Wundt who set up the first psychology lab in Leipzig, Germany in 1879. He described the structures that compose the mind and found the method of introspection to analyze the behaviors, thoughts and feelings. He pioneered the scientific inquiry in the field of psychology.

Methods of Study

The study of psychology can be of either types; purely academic or applied. The academic psychology aims at widening the theoretical base of the subject and focuses on research in the areas of human personality, its development and disorders. Applied psychology deals with the problem-solving techniques and is employed in the areas of communication, forensic psychology and organizational psychology.


The psychological development starts even before birth, right after the baby is conceived. A child is born with certain smell, taste and sound preferences and his or her psychology keeps evolving through the stages of infancy, toddlerhood, adulthood, middle age and old age. The mind learns new things from birth till death. This interaction of mind with the world shapes behavior of a person and what we know as ‘psychology’.


Psychology is a diverse subject and has its applications almost everywhere. It is implausible, if not impossible, to find an area where psychology is not involved. Its application doesn’t exist in only mental health facilities but also in the entertainment industry, advertising companies, consumer goods producers, judicial systems. They all need psychology to understand their target audiences or subjects. No playwright can pen a marvelous drama if he does not understand the human mind. No product can be popular if its design is not inspired from the research on what actually people need and expect. No conviction can be just if it does not take into account the psychological development of convict.

Types of Psychology

What is Psychology? Definition & MeaningBased on its interaction with other subjects and its application in varied fields of life, there can be numerous types of psychology. Some of the important are listed below.

Biological Psychology: It is the study of biological processes which influence the mind and behavior. It is closely associated with the neuroscience.

Clinical Psychology: It involves the study of mind with the purpose of treating the behavioral issues and problems. Clinical psychologists assess the problem and use psychotherapies to relive mind of clogs causing stress. Clinical psychology is practiced as a regulated mental health in many parts of the world.

Cognitive Psychology: It answers the question of how does human mind performs the functions associated with it like thinking, memory and emotions.

Developmental Psychology: Like physical development, psychology also adapts over the course of life. The study of this growth and adaptation comes under Developmental Psychology. The research in this field helps understand developmental challenges and reap full harvest of human potential by overcoming these challenges.

Educational Psychology: Educational Psychologists study the process of teaching and learning in human beings. The research in this field results in development of different teaching models and approaches that are applied in educational institutions.

Forensic Psychology: As is evident from the title, this kind of psychology is related to the study of criminal minds and is used as a support to the legal system as well as other law enforcing organizations.

Counseling Psychology focusing personal and interpersonal activities while Experimental Psychology tends to simulate the mental processes in a laboratory setting. Similarly, the study of human interaction with the nature is such a vast field that it is studied under a specific type called Environmental Psychology.

The fact that there are so many different types of psychology, shows how important psychology is in numerous fields of life.

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