Comprehensive definitions of Psychology in dictionary and
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What is Psychology?
Psychology is the study of behavior and mental
processes. Behavior is a comprehensive concept that
includes reactions to influences, intentional actions, and
bodily processes of psychological interest (such as
activation under stress). With mental processes aiming
to both those that determine people's perception of
themselves and the environment (cognitive processes), and to
those who are the basis for what one feels and what one will
(emotional and motivational processes).
Psychology, on the one hand, borders on the cultural and
social sciences, and on the other hand towards biology,
medicine and health sciences.
Psychological research is based on a wide range
of methods, from quantitative and experimental to more
qualitative studies such as interviews and case studies. The
different areas of psychological research and application
intersect, but to some extent a distinction can be made
between basic research, which aims to elucidate and clarify
issues of theoretical interest, and applied psychology,
which emphasizes the use of professional knowledge in
various practical contexts.
Important topics in basic research are:
- General Psychology, which studies the
general principles of sensory perception, learning,
thinking, emotions and motivation;
- Differential psychology, the study of individual
differences- how people are different from each
- Personality psychology, which is about what
characterizes the individual
- Abnormal psychology or psychopathology, which
applies to conditions and personality traits that
deviate from the "normal"
- Developmental psychology, which deals with changes
through childhood and adulthood
- Social psychology, which is about the interaction
between people and how the individual is influenced by,
perceives and responds to other people and the social
- Biological and physiological psychology, which deals
with the physical basis of psychological processes
- Evolutionary psychology, which is based on human
evolution and generates and tests hypotheses based on
Important research disciplines that have strong applied
- Clinical psychology, which includes the
investigation and treatment of psychological problems
and various mental disorders
- Educational psychology, which is about the
use of psychological knowledge towards children and
adults in learning situations
- Work and organizational psychology, which
focuses on the principles of well-being and efficiency
in working life
- Health psychology, which uses psychological
knowledge and methodology to identify, prevent and
remedy health problems in the population.
The breadth and diversity of subjects and work
assignments in modern psychology indicate that it may be
more appropriate to perceive psychology as a group of
disciplines than as a unified subject.
The term psychology dates from the 1400s, while treatises
"on the soul" and discussion of various psychological basic
questions are known from ancient times, with Aristotle as
the leading philosopher. Up to the 19th century, much of
these writings revolved around the relationship between the
different parts, abilities or powers of the soul, often
Inspired by British philosophy of experience, it became
increasingly common (1700–1900) to define psychology as the
study of consciousness and its conceptual content, which was
often assumed to be associated with associations
In the second half of the 19th century, a new
"scientific" psychology was established, primarily in
Germany, and represented by professionals such as Gustav T.
Fechner, Hermann Helmholtz and Wilhelm Wundt. This
psychology led to the establishment of psychological
laboratories, where simple mental processes
(sensation, perception, associations, memory) were
studied experimentally. Scientists from many countries,
including Scandinavia, visited the German laboratories to be
inaugurated in the new psychology.
In England (in particular Francis Galton) and the United
States (in William James, James Cattell and Granville Hall),
psychology took a turn in the functionalist way at
the turn of the century by also taking an interest in
individual differences, developmental psychology, animal
psychology and the practical applications of
psychology.. The influence of Charles Darwin and the theory
of evolution then played a crucial role.
Large parts of psychology in the 20th century can still
be regarded as functionalist. Of other major directions that
characterized the evolution of psychology in the period
circa 1910-1960, the most important behaviorism, founded
by John B. Watson in the United States, was the Gestalt
Psychology (by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt
Koffka), which originated in Germany, and psychoanalysis.,
developed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna. All of these
directions differed in a different way from the previous
psychology of consciousness.
Some behaviorists argued that one should not deal with
mental processes at all, but with the behavior and the
situations that evoke it, often described as
stimulus-response compounds (so-called SR psychology). The
Gestalt psychologists renounced all attempts to analyze
consciousness and behavior in certain elements, and instead
focused attention on the mental "wholes" (gestures).
Psychoanalytic theory, for its part, is based on a basic
assumption that conscious soul life is secondary to more
fundamentally unconscious drives, conflicts and
processes. The directions were also very different in terms
of research method (experimental animal studies in
behaviorism and clinical case studies in psychoanalysis),
and which psychological themes were argued to be central
(learning, perception, motivation).
In the period after World War II, the bulk of
psychological research took place in the United States,
where, around 1960, new directions arose in partial
opposition to the established ones. Among the new ones were humanistic
psychology (especially by Abraham Maslow and Carl
Rogers), both of which distanced from what was perceived as
little human traits in behaviorism and psychoanalysis,
and cognitive psychology, which was inspired by computer
technology and consisted, among other things, of attempts to
to develop detailed models for the mental processes that one
thinks must be included in, for example, attention, memory
and problem solving.
After 1960, however, psychology has been primarily
characterized by the emergence of a large number of
theoretical topics and areas of application, a development
that has provided a freer relationship with the traditional
In Norway, philosophy professor Anathon Aall founded the
first psychological institute at the University of
Kristiania in 1909, while Harald K. Schjelderup became the
first professor of psychology when in 1928 he converted his
professorship in philosophy. Schjelderup had a background in
both German experimental psychology and psychoanalysis, and
helped to bridge different directions.
To read about the psychology education and profession in
Norway, see the article Psychologist.