What is Psychology? 5 keys to discovering this science

What is Psychology? 5 keys to discovering this science

Psychology is a discipline that is much talked about but is not easy to understand in its entirety.

Some people believe that it is part of the health field, others assume that its main contribution is the spoken cure, or that psychologists know how to read the thoughts of others by analyzing what they say and how they move, and not few people continue to confuse it with philosophy.

All this is indicative of a fact: although psychology is a young science, the large number of currents and professional outlets that start from it has generated confusion about its reason for being.

Understanding Psychology

What exactly is psychology? The answer to this is both simple and complicated,so to understand it in a simple and organized way,we’ll look at it from 5 keys.Let’s start with the basics.

1. A simple definition of "Psychology"

We can start with a simple explanation of what psychology is. This definition would be the following : psychology is the scientific discipline that studies and analyzes the behavior and mental processes of people.

This is a rather superficial explanation of what is meant by psychology, but at least it serves as a starting point and, moreover, allows one of the most frequent myths about this discipline to be put aside. This myth is the one that understands psychology as one of the sections of the health sciences.

Certainly, the first psychologists were strongly linked to medicine and neurology, but already from the beginning there was a will to understand the human mind in its most universal aspects , not only in illness. Even Sigmund Freud, whose theories have become outdated, not only pretended to understand psychopathology, but the psychic structures and mechanisms through which they functioned in any human being.

Thus, this science deals with the study of mental processes in general, not just psychological disorders, although clinical and health psychology are its two best known and most popular fields of intervention. This means that the idea that many people have of it focuses only on one of its facets and leaves out many of its components, such as social psychology, organizational psychology, etc.

2. The study of behavior

As we have seen, the basic definition of psychology is surprisingly broad. However, this creates some problems. For example, there is no absolute consensus about what is the object of study of this discipline, that is, what one is trying to understand.

We have seen that, theoretically, psychologists study mental processes and behavior, but this simple distinction is already controversial.

For some, clarifying that mental processes and behavior are two separate things is necessary in order not to neglect the goal of understanding feelings, beliefs and, in general, everything that happens, so to speak, inside our head.

For others, especially the heirs of the behavioral current, distinguishing between mental processes and behavior is unjustified o. Does what happens inside our head occur parallel to what the rest of our body does? If we do not want to fall into dualism, we should start from the idea that our mental life is not born spontaneously somewhere in our “psyche”, as if it were some substance disconnected from the cells that compose us. According to this perspective, everything that we usually attribute to the mental is also a form of behavior: a type of response that appears before a certain stimulus, produced in turn by a chain of causes and effects that is always connected to our environment and, therefore, to the non-mental.

3. Studying humans and non-humans

The definition mentions the relationship between psychology and the study of aspects of the human being, but this is not entirely true. In practice, psychologists research and intervene by focusing on our species, but many of them also work with ethologists, neuroscientists and biologists in general studying all kinds of animals . In the end, many of them also have a nervous system, a mental life and the propensity to learn new behaviors.

In addition, it is also possible to study animals with an eye on our species to better understand who we are and where we come from. Comparative psychology deals with much of this; to give an example, seeing how certain groups of primates react in front of a mirror helps us to know more about the nature of consciousness and self-concept.

4. Does psychology focus on individuals?

We’ve seen before that psychology studies “people”. If this way of expressing oneself seems ambiguous, it is simply because it is; there are infinite aspects on which this discipline can intervene, and some of them have to do with the social, while others do not.

It is now widely assumed that our way of thinking, feeling and acting has much to do with the social interactions in which we have participated. We do not exist as individuals who live on the margins of society; we are part of it, whether we want to or not, from the moment our mind is shaped by something created together: language. Certainly, the first psychologists were strongly linked to medicine and neurology, but already from the beginning there was a will to understand the human mind in its most universal aspects , not only in illness.
Even Sigmund Freud, whose theories have become outdated, not only pretended to understand psychopathology, but the psychic structures and mechanisms through which they functioned in any human being.

Thus, this science deals with the study of mental processes in general, not just psychological disorders, although clinical and health psychology are its two best known and most popular fields of intervention.
This means that the idea that many people have of it focuses only on one of its facets and leaves out many of its components, such as social psychology, organizational psychology, etc.

2.
The study of behavior

As we have seen, the basic definition of psychology is surprisingly broad.

The power to predict what is going to happen and how you react when the predictions fail is something that is given a lot of attention to determine what is science and what is not. At the end of the day, seeing the predictions about an element of nature confirmed is a sign that its workings have been well understood and that, at least until a better theory emerges, it is reasonable to rely on the one that already exists. It is on this aspect that the discussion about the scientificity of psychology focuses.

Predicting behavior

Compared to chemistry or physics, psychology has many more problems in establishing concrete and accurate predictions, but this cannot be otherwise: the human nervous system, which is the main component of behavior and mental processes in our species, is one of the most complex systems in nature , and it changes constantly. This has two effects.

The first effect is that the number of variables that influence what we think, what we feel and what we do is overwhelming, practically infinite. The simple fact that we have met an intimidating dog at the door of the psychology lab will influence what happens next. That’s why psychology can choose to know statistical patterns and some of the most relevant variables when it comes to understanding psychological phenomena, but it doesn’t aspire to know practically everything that comes into play, something that chemicals that study molecules can.

The second effect is that behavior and the mental are the result of a historical process . This means that we are always different, we never go back to being identical to our “self” of the previous day. What implications does this have when deciding whether psychology is science? Very simple: that on which a prediction is made is never the same as that which has been studied before and whose information has allowed the prediction to be established. The person or group of people about whom we are trying to predict things has already changed since the time we last analyzed them.

Thus, everything depends on the definition of science we use and its degree of breadth .

It is now widely assumed that our way of thinking, feeling and acting has much to do with the social interactions in which we have participated. We do not exist as individuals who live on the margins of society; we are part of it, whether we want to or not, from the moment our mind is shaped by something created together: language.
Certainly, the first psychologists were strongly linked to medicine and neurology, but already from the beginning there was a will to understand the human mind in its most universal aspects , not only in illness.
Even Sigmund Freud, whose theories have become outdated, not only pretended to understand psychopathology, but the psychic structures and mechanisms through which they functioned in any human being.

Leave a Reply