Understanding the Areas of Psychology and its Applications

Psychology is often referred to as the science of behavior and is a multifaceted field that delves into the intricate realms of human and animal conduct. In this article, we will explore the Areas of Psychology and its Applications.

Meaning of Psychology

The word ‘Psychology’ comes from the Greek words ‘psyche’ meaning the mind, soul or spirit and ‘logos’, meaning discourse or to study, thus, the meaning of psychology originally was the science of self or mind. Though earlier psychology was a part of philosophy but after renaissance psychology emerged as a science of behaviour. Behaviour could be as simple as walking, speaking, attending, writing or it could be complex like learning a language, social attitudes, developing friendships etc. Behaviour is a wide term that includes observable processes and activities like speaking, playing, memorizing, solving problems, etc. However behaviour is also invisible like perception, thinking, feeling etc. These behaviours cannot be seen directly but through their manifestation in a range of actions and mannerisms these processes can be recorded and studied. As a scientific discipline psychology employs application of empirical methods to the study of human and animal behaviour. It includes the application of this knowledge to understanding of human problems. Let us see what this means.

The Scientific Nature of Psychology

At its core, psychology is a science. It adheres to empirical methods for scrutinizing human and animal behavior. Contrary to common misconceptions, it’s not merely concerned with the inner workings of the mind, thoughts, or emotions but rather emphasizes observable actions and reactions. This empirical approach sets psychology apart, ensuring its credibility as a science.

The Diverse Fields of Psychology

Psychology encompasses numerous subfields and each with its own unique focus and applications:

  1. Developmental Psychology: This branch investigates how behaviors evolve and change over time. It delves into the growth and transitions occurring in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.
  2. Cognitive Psychology: Here, the spotlight is on the processing of sensory information and its utilization. Key areas of study encompass memory, thinking, and problem-solving.
  3. Experimental and Physiological Psychology: These subfields dive into the foundational causes of behavior. Researchers explore topics such as learning, sensation, perception, motivation, and emotion. Physiological psychology, a related field, examines the connection between biological activities and behavior.
  4. Social Psychology: As humans, we interact with others in a multitude of settings. Social psychology seeks to understand how individuals are influenced by their peers. This can encompass everything from perception and attitudes to interpersonal influences and attitude change.
  5. Personality Psychology: This field aims to comprehend the entirety of an individual’s personality. It explores personality development, factors shaping it, and various personality types.
  6. School and Educational Psychology: School psychologists diagnose and address learning difficulties, while educational psychology concentrates on enhancing learning efficiency within educational systems.
  7. Counseling Psychology: Similar to clinical psychology but dealing with milder emotional and personal issues, counseling psychology assists individuals with concerns like career choices and personal challenges.
  8. Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists are primarily concerned with mental disorders. They engage in psychotherapy to aid individuals in overcoming these issues.
  9. Industrial and Organizational Psychology: These psychologists apply psychological principles to industrial and organizational challenges, including personnel selection, training, and conflict resolution.
  10. Community Psychology: Focused on social problems, community psychology aims to solve such issues and help individuals adapt to their communities.

Applications of Psychology

As a science psychology has its applications in solving real life problems. The problems that are the subject matter of psychology are related to growth, development, learning, and enhancing educational, emotional, personal and social development, well-being, and treatment of mental illnesses, selection, allocation and human resource development in industry and organizations, etc.

The application of knowledge to practical problems is an art based on acquisition of knowledge, skill and competence in the different areas of psychology, which are acquired by study, practice and special experience. The psychotherapist talking to a worried client, the educational psychologist advising a school board on a new curriculum, the clinical psychologist supervising group therapy in a state mental hospital, and the social psychologist trying to lessen tensions between management and workers in a large industry all are using the competence and experience of the art of psychology in their specific areas. Just as a physician or engineer develops skills in using scientific knowledge to solve practical problems, the psychologists have also learnt through special training, the artistry, or skill of applying psychology. The ability to apply psychological principles is a hard-won professional skill.

Core Areas of Application of Psychology

Applications of psychology have expanded to diverse areas from pure or basic research designed to help understand certain processes that are the foundation of complex human behaviour and develop theories such as psychodynamic and learning theories while others do applied research, which addresses itself to solving practical problems. There is much overlap between what the pure and applied researchers do. The core areas of study include cognition, development, social and physiological basis of behaviour, comparative psychology and the study of individual differences. The kind of work done in some of these core areas of psychology is described here:

  • Cognition

This area deals with the study of development of cognitive abilities such as attention, perception, memorization, comprehension, etc. Perception relates to our interpretation of stimuli that we receive from the environment. What makes us attend to some objects in our environment while others escape our attention. It takes into account the past experiences stored in our memory. We often experience difficulty in retaining certain types of material. Psychologists have found that accuracy with which we recall events of our lives depends on several things. Why different people have different views of the same situation. Differences in attitudes and the changes taking place in our attitudes. Psychologists have studied various such processes. The applied cognitive psychologists try to use the principles of attention, perception and memory to solve problems in different areas such as communication, cognitive enrichment and learning disability.

  • Development

Psychologists are interested in finding out the changes taking place in behaviour with age. The growth and development among different individual’s proceed at different rates while some develop faster during childhood others catch up later; even same individual’s rate of development differs across different period. The changes in some individuals are delayed while in others are accelerated, what factors cause these differences and how the slow developing children could be accelerated so as to overcome the developmental delay, or how certain abilities develop earlier among some in comparison with others are questions which concern the developmental psychologists.

  • Teaching – Learning

One of the main responsibilities of the society is to educate its children, the management of learning, imparting skills for life-long learning, instruction in schools to teach health and safety related procedures in the community, etc. The problem is to identify influences that enhance and ensure the highest quality of learning with the greatest possible efficiency. Many public debates have taken place to find out which teaching methods are most effective, what emphasis needs to be placed on the teaching of basic skills like reading and mathematics. It is all concerned with appropriate application of the principles of learning to the fields of instruction.

  • Social Processes

The ways in which an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaivour are influenced by other persons or groups is an area of great significance. The social environment has powerful influence on individual’s behaviour and his/her perception of the situation. When you meet someone and talk with him/her for the first time and for a short duration, chances are that even during this short span of time you tend to make judgments about a number of characteristics of that person. How people make impressions about others even when there is very little information available to them has also been the concern of the social psychologists. They study the processes of perception about individuals, formation of attitudes and social relationships and changes in them with time, reducing negative perceptions and prevention of prejudicial attitudes that cause discrimination between groups, group relations, tensions and dynamics, social movements.

  • Individual Differences

Psychologists are also concerned with the study of ways individuals are different from each other in terms of their abilities, preferences, and personality differences. This concern has given rise to a number of area of interest viz, intelligence, personality, abnormality of behaviour, etc. The psychologists have been trying to identify the varying kinds of intelligences and the way intellectual functioning could be improved. How personality could be defined and assessed, and the development of personality with a view to bringing about better adjustment and well being, have been the concern of psychologists exploring individual differences.

  • Personnel Selection and Training

Another area of application of psychology is selection and training. People differ widely in abilities, preferences, knowledge and skills. Taken together, these factors promote the development of necessary skills and competence for a particular area of study or occupation. We need a reliable method of measuring present and potential abilities of individuals. In today’s technological society, the ability to match the unique talents of each person to the requirements of an occupation area and training for a particular job has advantage for both the individual and society. This necessity has created an important area of psychology namely personnel selection. Psychologists have developed various tools and methods for this. For instance they use various psychological tests such as aptitude test, intelligence test, interviews, observations, etc. for assessment.

Emerging Areas of Psychology

Psychology is expanding very fast and its presence is being noticed in almost all walks of life. With growing complexity of environment the need to apply psychological principles and methods has been increasing. As a result, many new fields have emerged. Some of them are as follows:

(i) Sports Psychology

Performance of players is the key to success of one’s career but very few of them really make it up. The training, team spirit, building the stamina and becoming motivated to perform well requires a variety of psychological inputs. Developing hardiness, invulnerability and morale are subject matter of psychology. By now almost all the teams who go for international matches employ a psychologist for advising the team member and preparing a plan for them to do well in the matches.

(ii) Space and Aviation Psychology

During contemporary period human presence in space has become very prominent. Space technology is one of the frontier areas of research. The time and space dimensions of human life in the outer space demand extraordinary preparations in terms of habits, perceptions and activities. For instance, weightlessness, isolation, lack of normal stimuli, jet-lag due to differences in day and night timings poses challenges for adaptation. Therefore, before travelling in spaceships astronauts have to undergo rigorous training. Many of the readjustments required by them are of psychological nature. Similarly, high altitude aviation through aircraft also poses many problems in flying. These areas are now receiving considerable attention from psychologists.

(iii) Military Psychology

The military is deputed to perform a variety of duties because war is neither desirable nor does it take place continuously. During peace time military is asked to provide help to civilians in meeting emergencies (e.g. flood, earth quake, landslide etc.). The internal security also faces many challenges and military is deployed for maintaining peace during such situations. The problem of terrorism is increasing and some kind of low intensity conflict or proxy war is taking place on the nation’s borders. The people who are in the armed forces have to live under difficult circumstances and cope with a variety of personal, social and environmental problems and hardships. Psychological knowledge and techniques are used to improve the well-being, health status and coping skills of the armed forces which are required to meet the challenges of the task demands.

(iv) Positive Psychology

This is a new area in which positive human concerns such as self efficacy, altruism, humility, forgiveness, compassion, wisdom and positive emotions are studied. The focus of positive psychology is on building the strengths of people and empowering them to act as persons who are productively and contributing to personal as well as societal growth and well-being.

Another way of describing the work of psychologists is to discuss some of the major fields of psychology – clinical psychology, counseling psychology, school and educational psychology, experimental and physiological psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology and community psychology.

Check your Progress –  
Notes:   Write your answers in the space given below.
Compare your answers with those given at the end of the unit.

Matching Fields in Areas of Psychology

Column AColumn B
1. Physiological psychology(b) Explanation of behavior on the basis of physiological pressure
2. Comparative psychology(f) Study of animal behavior
3. Social psychology(g) Study of human interactions with other persons
4. Clinical psychology(e) Concerned with mental disorder
5. Industrial psychology(a) Study of individuals at the workplace
6. Counseling psychology(c) Deals with individuals and groups for solving problems

Check your progress.
Notes:- Write your answers in the space given below.
Compare your answers with those given at the end of the unit.  
1. Psychology is the science of _________________ behaviour.
2. Psychology is a science because ___________________.
3. Behaviour includes anything person or animal does that can be ____________________.
4. The applied side of psychology is used to __________________

Let sum up

Psychology is defined as the science of human and animal behaviour; it includes the application of this science to human problems. As a science, psychology is comprised of systematized knowledge that is gathered by carefully measuring and observing events. Theories are used to summarize observations and to predict the outcomes of future observations. Another important aspect of psychology as a science is its use of measurement (i.e. the assignment of numbers to objects or events according to certain rules).

As the definition indicates, psychology has an applied side. The application of knowledge to practical problems is an art – a skill or knack for doing things which is acquired by study, practice and special experience. The word behaviour in the definition of psychology refers to anything a person or animal does that can be observed in some way. Psychological knowledge is applied to various spheres related to everyday life such as family, education and employment and to the treatment of mental health problems. Psychologists attempt to understand the role of mental functions in individual and social behaviour while also exploring the underlying physiological and neurological processes. Psychology includes many sub fields of study and applications. Among the sub-fields of psychology are clinical psychology, counseling psychology, school and educational psychology, experimental and physiological psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology and community psychology.

Answers to check your progress (Areas of Psychology) –

FieldCorresponding Letter
Physiological Psychology(b)
Comparative Psychology(f)
Social Psychology(g)
Clinical Psychology(e)
Industrial Psychology(a)
Counseling Psychology(c)
(1)Human and Animal
(2)Data are gathered by experiments, observations, and measurement.
(4)Solve real-life problems.

Suggested readings

  1. Ahlawat, N. (2009). Principles of Psychology. Vishwabharati Publications, New Delhi.
  2. Chauhan, S.S. (1991). Advanced Educational Psychology. Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi.
  3. Morgan, K., Weisz, Schopler. (1986). Introduction to Psychology. Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Company Ltd., New Delhi.
  4. Smith, H., Nolen, F. Atkinson, L., Hilgard, E. R. (2003). Introduction to Psychology. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Canada.

Leave a Comment