In this lesson, we’ll discuss what psychology is, as well as the different goals that are involved in this vast field. You will also consider how understanding more about psychology can help you improve your problem-solving and self and social awareness skills.
Specifically, this lesson will cover:
- Definition of Psychology
- Goals of Psychology
1. Definition of Psychology
The word psychology comes from both the Greek word ‘’psyche’’, which means the mind or soul, and the Greek word ‘’logos’’, which means reason, argument, or the study of. So, the word psychology means the study of the human mind and behavior, and it is important to notice each of the two parts of this definition.
The study of psychology examines the mind and all the different types of mental processing that occur within the brain every day. It also considers the behaviors that can be observed outside of the mind itself. It’s easy to see how the self and social awareness skill complement this field. How you think and behave defines both the psychology field and the skill. That second part is key because psychology is a scientific study, meaning that it looks at things through scientific observation and uses evidence and data from experimentation and direct observation to reach conclusions.
Psychology aims to be an objective field of study. Because of this, psychology often examines things that are considered common sense. The more you understand the psychology behind something, the better you’ll be at making decisions and problem-solving. Learning about psychological theories can help you decide on best practices at home, work, and school and develop your problem-solving skill.
When studying psychology, you might find that you are studying something that already feels familiar. While this may be true, studying science also means you’re trying to see how those ideas apply to your own life and use them to aid your own problem-solving.
A common saying in English is that "birds of a feather flock together." Conversely, there is also the saying that "opposites attract." The first saying implies that similar people tend to gravitate towards each other, whereas "opposites attract" means that completely different people tend to gravitate towards each other.
Through psychology, you can take a look at both of these sayings and find that people do tend to hang out with people who are more similar to them. The first statement seems more accurate. While both sayings seem like common sense, psychology involves studying the mind and behavior to determine the objective truth behind such statements.
- The scientific study of mental activities and behavior
- Any human activity
- Scientific Observation
- Planned, systematic use of empirical evidence to study the world in an intersubjective fashion
2. Goals of Psychology
The overall goal of the study of psychology is to gain knowledge about the mind and behavior, especially knowledge that can be beneficial to people. This is particularly true in a field like clinical psychology, which studies psychopathology and mental disorders to better understand the mind in order to help people.
There are four ways you can work as a psychologist:
Description: When studying psychology, you want to examine both the mind and behavior in a good enough way that you can describe what's happening within the person. In other words, you want to provide an accurate and thorough description of both what you understand to be occurring within the mind, as well as what you see happening with behavior. You want to be socially aware.
Prediction: You also want to try to predict what will happen next. Prediction involves understanding what you have learned well enough that you can say, with reasonable certainty, what would happen to a person in a given situation.
Understanding: Third, you want to be able to understand the mind and behavior. True understanding means not only making predictions but also being able to explain why it’s happening. If you have understanding, you can explain what's occurring, both within the brain and the body, to affect the mind and behavior. You can also know yourself and others better.
Control: Finally, you want to be able to control these underlying causes, which connects back to the overall goal of helping people and developing the self and social awareness skill. Ultimately, those who study psychology want to benefit people by understanding the mind and behavior well enough to control the more negative or problematic aspects of psychology.
In this lesson, you learned that the definition of psychology has two parts: Psychology not only involves studying what is happening inside the mind but the observable behavior that is occurring as well. You also saw a direct connection between the definition of psychology and the self and social awareness skill.
You now understand that while the overall goal of psychology is to gain knowledge of the mind and behavior in order to make decisions, solve problems, and to help others, there are four more specific goals of the study: description of what’s occurring in the mind and body, prediction of what will occur, understanding of the underlying causes, and control of the more negative aspects of psychology.