What is Psychology – Types- Methods and History

What is Psychology



Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behavior. It encompasses a wide range of topics and approaches to understanding how people think, feel, and act. Psychologists explore various aspects of human experience, including perception, cognition, emotion, personality, development, social interactions, and mental processes.

History of Psychology

Psychology, as a scientific discipline, has a rich and diverse history that spans several eras. Here is an overview of the major eras in the history of psychology, along with significant dates and activities associated with each era:

Ancient and Pre-Scientific Era (Before 500 BCE)

  • During this era, ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese explored questions related to the mind and behavior.
  • Ancient philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Confucius pondered on topics like perception, memory, and consciousness.
  • However, psychology as a separate scientific discipline had not yet emerged.

Philosophical Era (500 BCE – 1879 CE)

  • This era witnessed the development of philosophical theories and ideas that laid the groundwork for psychology.
  • René Descartes (1596-1650) proposed a dualistic theory of mind and body, suggesting that the mind and body are separate entities.
  • John Locke (1632-1704) introduced empiricism, emphasizing the role of experience and observation in acquiring knowledge.
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) explored the nature of knowledge and the limitations of human perception and reasoning.

Early Scientific Era (Late 19th to Early 20th Century):

  • This era saw the establishment of psychology as a separate scientific discipline.
  • Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) is often regarded as the founder of psychology. He established the first psychological laboratory in Leipzig, Germany in 1879, marking the birth of experimental psychology.
  • Structuralism, led by Edward Titchener (1867-1927), aimed to analyze the structure of consciousness through introspection.
  • Functionalism, championed by William James (1842-1910), focused on the adaptive functions of the mind and behavior.

Behaviorist Era (Early to Mid-20th Century)

  • Behaviorism emerged as a dominant school of thought, emphasizing the study of observable behavior rather than subjective mental processes.
  • Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) conducted experiments on classical conditioning, which demonstrated how learning can occur through associations.
  • John B. Watson (1878-1958) and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) further developed behaviorism, emphasizing the role of environmental stimuli and reinforcement in shaping behavior.

Psychoanalytic Era (Late 19th to Mid-20th Century)

  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) developed psychoanalysis, a theory that emphasized the influence of unconscious processes on behavior.
  • Freud proposed that many psychological disorders stem from unresolved conflicts and repressed desires in the unconscious mind.
  • Psychoanalysis focused on exploring the unconscious through techniques like dream analysis, free association, and interpretation of symbols.

Cognitive Era (Mid-20th Century to Present)

  • The cognitive revolution brought a shift in focus towards studying mental processes, including perception, memory, thinking, and problem-solving.
  • Jean Piaget (1896-1980) pioneered the study of cognitive development in children, emphasizing their active construction of knowledge.
  • Ulric Neisser (1928-2012) introduced the term “cognitive psychology” and emphasized the study of mental processes through scientific methods.
  • Cognitive neuroscience emerged, combining psychology with neuroscience to understand the neural basis of cognition.

Contemporary Era (Late 20th Century to Present)

  • Psychology has become a multidisciplinary field, incorporating insights from various perspectives such as social psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, and neuroscience.
  • Research and advancements have been made in areas such as humanistic psychology, positive psychology, evolutionary psychology, cultural psychology, and neuropsychology.

Major Schools of Thought:

Throughout its history, psychology has witnessed the emergence of several influential schools of thought, each contributing to our understanding of human behavior. Some of the major schools include:


Led by Edward B. Titchener, this school aimed to analyze the basic elements of consciousness through introspection. Researchers sought to break down mental processes into their fundamental components.


Pioneered by William James, functionalism focused on the adaptive functions of consciousness and behavior. It explored how mental processes and behaviors contribute to an individual’s adaptation to their environment.


Prominent figures like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner emphasized the study of observable behavior rather than subjective experiences. Behaviorists believed that behavior could be explained by environmental factors and conditioning.


Sigmund Freud developed this school, which delved into the unconscious mind and the role of early childhood experiences in shaping personality. Psychoanalysis emphasized the significance of dreams, free association, and the interpretation of symbols.

Humanistic Psychology:

Humanistic psychologists, such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, emphasized the importance of personal growth, self-actualization, and the innate drive towards fulfilling one’s potential. It focused on subjective experiences and the individual’s perception of reality.

Types of Psychology

Types of Psychology are as follows:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Comparative Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • School Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal behavior in order to better understand and treat mental disorders. It is a branch of psychology that deals with diagnosing and treating mental illness. Mental disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, brain damage, trauma, stress, and substance abuse.

There are many different types of mental disorders, ranging from mild to severe. Some common disorders include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders. Treatment for mental illness often includes medication, therapy, or a combination of both. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology is the study of human behavior. It is a branch of psychology that looks at how people behave and why they behave the way they do.

Behavioral psychologists use different techniques to study human behavior, including experiments, observations, and surveys. They also use different methods to try to change people’s behavior, such as operant conditioning and reinforcement.

Behavioral psychologists work in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, prisons, and businesses. They work with people of all ages, from children to adults.


Biopsychology is the study of how the brain and nervous system influence behavior. It is a relatively new field that combines aspects of biology and psychology.

Biopsychologists use a variety of techniques to study the brain and behavior, including neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and molecular genetics. By understanding the relationship between the brain and behavior, biopsychologists hope to shed light on a wide range of psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior. Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, and mental health clinics. They may also work in schools, universities, or government agencies.

Clinical psychologists use a variety of methods to assess and treat their patients. These methods include psychological testing, individual and group therapy, and behavior modification. Clinical psychologists are trained to use these methods in order to help their patients improve their mental health and well-being.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of how people think, learn, and remember. It encompass a wide range of topics including attention, language, memory, perception, problem solving, and decision making.

Cognitive psychologists use a variety of research methods to study the human mind, including experiments, case studies, surveys, and observational research.

The goal of cognitive psychology is to understand how people process information and make decisions. By understanding how the mind works, cognitive psychologists can help people improve their thinking skills and learn more effectively.

Comparative Psychology

Comparative psychology is the study of animal behavior. It is the scientific study of how different species of animals behave in their natural habitats. Comparative psychologists use the scientific method to study animal behavior, and they conduct research on a variety of topics, including learning, memory, emotions, and communication.

Animals are complex creatures, and there is a lot we can learn about them by studying their behavior. Comparative psychology can help us understand not only how animals behave, but also how they think and feel. This knowledge can be used to improve the lives of animals in captivity, and it can also help us better understand our own human behavior.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a branch of psychology that helps people work through life’s challenges. Counseling psychologists use psychological principles and techniques to help people manage their emotions, understand their thoughts and behaviors, and make positive changes in their lives.

Counseling psychologists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to help them cope with problems such as anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and family conflict. They also work with people who are dealing with major life transitions, such as divorce or bereavement. In addition to providing counseling services, counseling psychologists also conduct research on topics such as human development and mental health.

Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural psychology is the scientific study of human behavior in social and cultural contexts. It is a relatively new field of psychology that began to emerge in the mid-20th century as a result of increasing contact between people from different cultures.

Cross-cultural psychologists seek to understand how cultural factors influence psychological processes such as cognition, emotion, and motivation. They also examine how psychological processes vary across cultures.

Cross-cultural psychology is an important field of study because it can help us to better understand the complex nature of human behavior. It can also help us to find ways to improve communication and cooperation between people from different cultures.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the physical, cognitive, and social changes that occur throughout a person’s life span. Developmental psychologists study how people grow, develop, and change over time.

Most developmental psychologists work with children and adolescents, but some also work with adults. Developmental psychologists often conduct research on topics such as child development, language acquisition, memory, and attention span.

Developmental psychology is an important field of study because it can help us understand how people learn, think, and behave. It can also help us find ways to improve education and child-rearing practices.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology is the scientific study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. It includes the study of individual differences in learning, motivation, and cognition; classroom dynamics; educational policy; and the sociology of education.

Educational psychologists work in a variety of settings, including schools, universities, government agencies, and private companies. They may conduct research on topics such as memory or motivation; design educational programs or interventions; provide consulting services to schools or organizations; or teach courses in psychology or education.

Experimental Psychology

Experimental psychology is the scientific study of behavior. This type of psychology uses rigorous methods to study human behavior, including both normal and abnormal behavior. Experimental psychologists use a variety of research methods to understand how the mind works and how it affects behavior.

Most experimental psychologists work in university settings, where they conduct research and teach courses. Many also work in private industry, government, or other organizations. Experimental psychologists use their knowledge of psychological principles to solve problems in a variety of fields, such as education, health, business, and sports.

Experimental psychology is a dynamic and growing field with many exciting opportunities for those interested in studying human behavior. If you are curious about how people think and behave, experimental psychology may be the field for you.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is the study of psychological factors as they relate to criminal behavior and the law. It is a relatively new field, having only emerged in the early 20th century. Forensic psychologists use their knowledge of human behavior to help solve crimes and assess criminals’ mental states.

Forensic psychology is one of the most interesting and important fields in psychology. It helps us to understand why people commit crimes, and how we can better prevent them in the future. Forensic psychologists play a vital role in our justice system, and their work has helped to make our world a safer place.

Health Psychology

Health psychology is the scientific study of how psychological factors influence health and well-being. It is a relatively new field that has only emerged over the past few decades, but it has already made a major impact on our understanding of health and disease.

There are many different areas of research within health psychology, but some of the most important include the study of stress and its effects on health, the promotion of healthy behaviors, and the prevention and treatment of illness.

Health psychologists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and businesses. They often collaborate with other professionals such as physicians, nurses, and social workers to provide comprehensive care for patients.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology is the scientific study of the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists apply principles of psychology to organizations and the individual workers within those organizations.

The goal of industrial-organizational psychology is to improve the quality of work life. This includes improving worker productivity and satisfaction, as well as reducing stress and conflict in the workplace.

Industrial-organizational psychologists use a variety of research methods to study topics such as employee selection, training, and performance appraisal. They also may consult with organizations on issues such as work design, stress management, and organizational development.

Personality Psychology

Personality psychology is the scientific study of the whole person. It looks at all aspects of a person’s life, including their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Personality psychologists try to understand how people are different from each other and what factors make them unique.

Personality psychology is a relatively new field. It started to gain popularity in the early 1900s. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1900s that personality psychology became an established field of study.

There are many different theories of personality. The most well-known theory is the Five Factor Model. This theory includes five broad dimensions of personality: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.

School Psychology

School Psychology is the scientific study of children’s learning and development in educational settings. School psychologists work with students, teachers, families, and school administrators to create positive learning environments and to identify and address academic, behavioral, and mental health concerns.

School psychologists use their knowledge of child development, learning, and behavior to help children succeed academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. They collaborate with educators, families, and other professionals to promote healthy development and well-being for all children.

School psychologists have a unique blend of skills that allow them to support the needs of students, families, educators, and administrators. They use data-driven decision making to design effective programs and interventions that support student success.

Social Psychology

In social psychology, researchers study how people interact with one another. They examine how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Social psychologists are interested in all aspects of human social behavior, from the interactions between individuals to the relationships between groups.

Sports Psychology

While the field of psychology generally focuses on the study of human behavior, sports psychology specifically looks at how psychological factors affect performance in athletes. This includes studies on everything from how well athletes perform under pressure to how they can best motivate themselves to achieve their goals.

Sports psychologists often work with athletes to help them improve their performance. They may teach them mental techniques for dealing with pre-game nerves or helping them to focus on their game plan. They may also work with coaches to help them create a positive team environment and develop strategies for dealing with difficult situations.

Psychological Research Method

Psychological research methods are the techniques and procedures used by psychologists to gather data and investigate various aspects of human behavior, cognition, and mental processes. These methods allow researchers to systematically study and understand different psychological phenomena. Here are some common research methods used in psychology:

Experimental Method

This method involves manipulating independent variables to observe their effects on dependent variables. Participants are randomly assigned to different groups (e.g., experimental and control groups) to determine cause-and-effect relationships. Experimental methods help researchers establish causal relationships but may not always be feasible or ethical in certain situations.

Observational Method

Observational research involves observing and recording behavior in natural or controlled settings. Researchers passively observe participants without intervening or manipulating variables. This method provides insights into real-life behavior but may be influenced by the observer’s biases and lack of control over extraneous factors.

Survey Method

Surveys involve collecting self-report data through questionnaires or interviews. Researchers use surveys to gather information about attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and characteristics from a large sample of participants. Surveys are efficient for collecting data but can be influenced by response biases and may not always reflect actual behavior.

Correlational Method

Correlational studies examine the relationship between variables without manipulating them. Researchers measure and analyze the degree of association between variables to determine if they are positively, negatively, or not related. Correlation does not imply causation, but it helps identify patterns and predict behavior.

Case Study Method

Case studies involve in-depth examination of an individual or a small group to understand specific behaviors, experiences, or phenomena. Researchers collect extensive data through interviews, observations, and psychological tests. While case studies provide rich and detailed information, they may lack generalizability to the broader population.

Experimental Design Variations

Various experimental designs, such as within-subjects (repeated measures) and between-subjects designs, allow researchers to control and manipulate variables in different ways. These designs help address specific research questions and control for confounding variables.

Longitudinal and Cross-sectional Studies

Longitudinal studies track the same participants over an extended period to examine developmental or long-term changes. Cross-sectional studies involve comparing different groups of participants at a single point in time. These methods provide insights into developmental trajectories and age-related differences.

Neuroimaging Techniques

Psychologists use neuroimaging techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and positron emission tomography (PET) to examine brain activity and its relation to cognitive processes and behaviors. These methods allow researchers to study the biological basis of psychological phenomena.


Meta-analysis involves combining and analyzing data from multiple studies on the same topic. Researchers use statistical methods to quantify the overall effect size and draw conclusions across studies. Meta-analyses provide a comprehensive overview of existing research and help establish more robust conclusions.

Purpose of Psychology

The purpose of psychology is to understand and explain human thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and mental processes. Psychology is a multifaceted field that encompasses various sub-disciplines and approaches, but its overarching goal is to shed light on how and why individuals and groups behave the way they do.

Some of the key purposes of psychology include:

Understanding Human Behavior

Psychology seeks to investigate and understand the underlying factors and processes that influence human behavior. It examines how individuals think, feel, perceive, learn, and interact with others.

Exploring Mental Processes

Psychology aims to uncover the cognitive processes involved in perception, memory, attention, problem-solving, decision-making, and other aspects of human cognition. It seeks to understand how these processes operate and how they may be affected by various factors.

Promoting Well-being

Psychology is concerned with promoting mental health and well-being. It aims to identify factors that contribute to psychological distress, such as mental disorders, stress, and trauma, and develop interventions and treatments to alleviate these issues and improve overall quality of life.

Enhancing Human Performance

Psychology investigates the factors that influence human performance in various domains, such as education, sports, work, and creative endeavors. It seeks to identify strategies and interventions that can optimize performance and help individuals reach their full potential.

Informing Public Policy and Practice

Psychology provides valuable insights and evidence-based knowledge that can inform public policy, organizational practices, and clinical interventions. It helps shape interventions and programs aimed at improving societal issues, such as education, healthcare, criminal justice, and social inequality.

Conducting Research

Psychology is a scientific discipline that emphasizes research to advance knowledge and understanding. Researchers in psychology conduct studies to test hypotheses, develop theories, and gather empirical evidence to support or refute various psychological phenomena and theories.

Applications of Psychology

Applications of Psychology:

Psychology has practical applications in various domains of life, including education, business, health, sports, and law enforcement. Some of the applications include:

  • Educational Psychology: Educational psychologists study learning processes and develop strategies to enhance teaching and learning outcomes. They help design effective educational programs and interventions.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology: This branch applies psychological principles to the workplace, focusing on areas such as employee selection, motivation, job satisfaction, and organizational behavior. Industrial-organizational psychologists aim to improve productivity, employee well-being, and organizational effectiveness.
  • Clinical and Counseling Psychology: Clinical psychologists work with individuals experiencing mental health issues, providing assessments, therapy, and interventions. Counseling psychologists focus on helping individuals cope with life challenges, improve their well-being, and develop healthier behaviors and relationships.
  • Sports Psychology: Sports psychologists assist athletes in enhancing their performance, managing stress, improving motivation, and developing effective mental strategies. They work with individuals and teams to optimize their psychological skills and mental resilience.
  • Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal and criminal justice settings. They may assist in criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony, risk assessments, and providing expert testimony in court.
  • Health Psychology: Health psychologists study the psychological factors that influence health and illness. They focus on areas such as stress management, health behavior change, adherence to medical treatments, and promoting overall well-being.

Psychology and Society

Psychological research and knowledge have made significant contributions to society. It has helped us understand mental health disorders, develop effective therapies, and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. Psychological research has also contributed to our understanding of human behavior in various social contexts, shedding light on topics such as prejudice, conformity, and obedience.

Moreover, psychology has influenced fields like advertising, consumer behavior, and marketing, helping companies understand and influence consumer decision-making. It has also played a role in shaping public policy, informing interventions in areas such as education, public health, and social justice.

Ethics in Psychology

Ethical considerations play a crucial role in psychological research and practice. Researchers must adhere to strict ethical guidelines when conducting studies involving human participants, ensuring informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, and protection from harm. In clinical practice, psychologists follow ethical codes to prioritize their clients’ well-being, maintain professional boundaries, and respect diversity and cultural differences.

The Future of Psychology

As our understanding of the human mind and behavior continues to evolve, the field of psychology is likely to witness further advancements. With the rise of technology, researchers are exploring the impact of digital platforms, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence on human cognition and behavior. Additionally, interdisciplinary approaches that combine psychology with fields such as neuroscience, genetics, and computer science are expected to lead to new insights and applications.

Psychology remains a dynamic and evolving discipline, offering valuable insights into the complexities of the human mind and behavior. By studying psychology, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, paving the way for personal growth, improved relationships, and advancements in various domains of society.

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer