What is psychology? Definition, Subject and Scope |

Psychology: Definition, Subject, Scope and Nature

      It is difficult to define any discipline of knowledge. Because it is always evolving. And the extent to which the variables are studied cannot be brought under any one definition. This is more true in the case of psychology. Long ago, a student like you would have been told that the word psychology is derived from two Greek words psyche meaning soul and logos meaning science or study of a subject.

      Hence psychology was the study of the soul or the mind. But since then its central point has changed a lot and it has established itself as a scientific discipline that deals with the processes involved in human experience and behavior. The scope of the study of the facts in it spans several levels; For example, individual, bijan (two persons) group and organizational. We have described some of these earlier. They also have biological and social basis. Therefore, naturally the methods of their study are different, as they depend on the fact which is to be studied.

      The definition of any discipline depends on what it studies and how it studies them. In fact, how or what methods she uses. With this in mind, psychology is formally defined as the science that studies mental processes, experiences, and behavior in different contexts. To do this, psychology uses the methods of the biological and social sciences to systematically obtain data. It tells the meaning of the data so that they can be organized in the form of knowledge.

         When we say that experience is intrinsic to the person experiencing it, we mean consciousness or mental processes. When we think to know or remember something or to solve a problem, we use mental processes. These mental processes are reflected at the level of brain functions.

        When we solve a mathematical problem, we see what kind of techniques the brain uses. We cannot consider mental activities and brain functions as one, although they are dependent on each other.

        Mental functions and cellular activities seem to overlap, but they are not identical. Unlike the brain, the mind has no physical structure or location. The mind emerges and develops. This happens when our interactions and experiences in this world move and organize as a system that is responsible for the occurrence of various types of mental processes. The functions of the brain give an indication of how our mind functions. But the consciousness of our own experiences and mental processes is much more than the actions of the cellular or the brain.

✍️ What is the Psychology ?

     Animals are studied in psychology. Psychology is the study of how an animal learns, thinks, remembers, understands, as well as interacts with objects and events in its environment. Apart from this, psychologists also try to find answers to some questions – why can a person remember something easily and cannot remember other things even with a lot of efforts? How does thinking and thinking develop in a person? Why do different people have different perceptions? How does personality develop, etc. – etc.

      It is because of this curiosity and curiosity that compels us to think about how people differ from each other in intelligence, aptitude and disposition: why they are sometimes happy and sometimes they are unhappy. How do they become friends or enemies of each other? Why do some people learn a task quickly, while others take longer to learn the same task? These questions can be answered by an inexperienced person, and also by a person who has knowledge of psychology. An inexperienced person answers these questions on the basis of common sense, whereas a psychologist gives scientific answers to these questions after systematically studying the hidden reasons behind these actions.

✍️  Defination and goals of psychology

       Psychology is made up of two Greek words, ‘Psyche’ and ‘Logos’. Psyche means ‘soul’ and logos means ‘to study’ or ‘to discuss’. Therefore, according to this literal meaning, psychology has been considered as the subject of study of the soul.

      Early Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato called psychology the science of the soul. Philosophers of the 17th century such as Leibniz, Locke, etc. used the more appropriate meaning of the word ‘Psyche’ with ‘mind’. And this is how these people considered psychology to be the subject of the study of the mind. But both the soul or the mind were such a few terms whose nature was observable and unseen. Therefore, both these definitions were not considered acceptable for scientific study. After this people called psychology the science of the study of consciousness or conscious cognition. William Wundt and his disciple Tichner were the main proponents of this definition. But this definition was also not considered acceptable for scientific study because it did not help much in scientific observation and understanding.

      William Wundt is called the Father of experimental psychology because he opened the first psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879.

    Modern psychologists tried to define psychology more scientifically and objectively. These people considered psychology as the science of study of behavior. The definition of psychology as the science of the study of behavior was first given by J.B. Watson gave. Behavior is defined as a concrete and observable aspect.

     So it was quite different from soul, mind and consciousness etc. because all these were something which were subjective and which could not even be observed. It was considered as subject-object-behavioral processes that can be easily observed.

    Psychology studies learning, perception, gestures etc., whose objective study is possible. At the same time, psychology also studies those mental processes which are not directly observed but can be easily estimated on the basis of behavioral and psychological data. Keeping these facts in mind, many scholars have given a better definition of psychology.

According to Santrock, “Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. ,

According to Beron, “Psychology is best defined as the science of cognitive processes and behaviour. ,

According to Ciccarelli and Meier, “Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. ,

✍️ Goals of Psychology

     Neuroscience is the scientific study of the behavioral and cognitive processes of humans and animals. There are some hidden goals behind such studies.

The main goals of psychology are the following three:-

  1. Measurement and description
  2. Prediction and control
  3. Explanation

(i) Measurement and Description

        The first goal of psychology is to describe and then measure the behavioral and cognitive processes of the system. To describe the major psychological processes like anxiety, learning, attitude, ability, intelligence etc., it is necessary to measure them first. A number of tests are needed to measure it. Therefore one of the main goals of psychology is the development of tests or special techniques to measure psychological processes.

      Any psychological test or method must have at least two properties, reliability and validity.

Reliability refers to the fact that repeated measurement does not change a person’s score.
Validity refers to the fact that the test measures what it is designed to measure.

     Psychologists describe that behavior after measuring it. For example, if a person’s intelligence quotient comes to 150 by measuring intelligence by intelligence test, then psychologists understand that the person is of sharp intelligence and he can behave intelligently in different situations.

(ii) Forecasting and Control

     The second goal of psychology is to predict behavior so that it can be properly controlled. As far as forecasting is concerned, success in this depends upon the success of the measurement.

      Generally, on the basis of measurement of behavior, psychologists predict what a person can do and how to do in a certain situation. For example, if we measure the general intellectual level of a student and get an accurate idea about him, then we can easily predict his performance in school.

    For example, by measuring a person’s aptitude, psychologists predict what kind of work would be best to engage a person so that he can get maximum success.

      Prediction and control go hand in hand and whenever a psychologist makes predictions about a behavior, his aim is to control that behavior as well.

(iii) Explanation

     The ultimate goal of psychology is to explain human behavior. To explain behavior, psychologists create some theories so that they can be explained scientifically.

    Such theories organize facts from known sources and help psychologists to make rational inferences in situations where they do not know the correct answer.

   The foremost goal of psychology is to explain human behavior because unless psychologists are able to explain why a person is behaving in a certain way, why they are using a certain measurement method, they cannot accurately describe that behavior. It can only be predicted and it is not possible to control properly.

✍️  History of Psychology

    Psychology is a systematic and scientific study of mental processes, experiences, and behavior, both expressed and latent. The word psychology is derived from two Greek words ‘psyche’ and ‘logus’. In Greek, the word ‘psyche’ means ‘spirit’ and ‘logus’ means ‘scripture’ or ‘study’. Thus, in the earlier times, psychology is considered a subject related to the ‘study of the soul’.

     Psychology as a modern discipline, which has been influenced to a large extent by Western development, has a very short history. It has its origins in ancient philosophy dealing with questions of psychological significance. The history of psychology can be basically divided into two parts: (1) Prescientific Period (2) Scientific Period

(1). pre-scientific period of psychology

    The beginning of the pre-scientific period is considered to be from the studies and ideas of Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates etc. to the second half of the 19th century, especially till 1878 AD. Hippocrates during this period 400 B.C. The Theory of Constitutional Types was given in Which had a great influence on the coming psychologists and Sheldon later created a special theory of personality classification which was called ‘Somatotype theory’, influenced by the ideas of Hippocrates.

     Greek philosophers such as Augustine and Thomas thought that both the mind and the body were two things and that there was no relation between the two. But Descarte, Leibniz and Spinoza etc. pointed out that in fact both the mind and the body are related to each other and influence each other.

     Greek philosophers such as Descartes were of the view that every person has some special thoughts from birth. But other philosophers like Locke were of the opinion that at the time of birth a person is ‘Tebula Rasa’ i.e. his brain is like a blank paper and later new ideas arise from new experiences in him. Later this debate gave birth to a new concept which has been named as instinct and it was understood that every behavior can be explained only in the form of this basic instinct.

    Philosophers like Rousseau used to say that man is of good nature by birth, but the harsh experience of society makes his nature bad.

    On the other hand, philosophers like Spencer were of the opinion that from birth there are qualities like selfishness, aggression etc., which are controlled by the society. As a result, the nature of a person turns from anti-social to social.

    The study done in the early 19th century in two major areas had the most profound impact on modern psychology. The first area was that of philosophy, in which British philosophers such as James Mill and John Stuart Mill contributed, in which people studied consciousness and the ideas generated in it, and the second area was of physical and biological sciences in which more emphasis was placed on the study of the function of the senses. . The contribution of Weber and Fechner etc. was more important in this area.

(2). scientific period of psychology

    The scientific period of psychology started from 1879. In the same year William Wundt opened the first psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig in Germany. Wundt was interested in the study of conscious experience and wanted to analyze the components or units of construction of the mind. In the time of Wundt, psychologists were analyzing the structure of the mind by introspection, hence they were called structuralists.

     Introspection was a process in which subjects were asked in a psychological experiment to describe their mental processes or experiences in detail.

✍️ Development of Psychology

     How did psychology develop in different ‘schools’ and what was the impact of Bunt’s psychology on those schools.

There are five major schools of psychology, which are described below:-

  1. Structuralism
  2. Functionalism
  3. Behaviourism
  4. Gestalt Psychology
  5. Psychoanalysis

(1). Structuralism

     Structuralism which is also known by other names such as Introspectiveism and Existentialism. The School of Structuralism was started in 1892 at Cornell University in America by Tichner, a disciple of Wilhelm Wundt. According to structuralism, the subject matter of psychology was conscious experience. Tichner made a distinction between consciousness and mind.

     By consciousness he meant all those experiences that are present in a person at a given moment, whereas by mind he meant all those experiences which are present in the person from birth.

     According to Tichner, there are three elements of consciousness – sensation, emotion or attachment and image or image. Tichner considered introspection to be the main method of psychology.

(2). Functionalism

     Functionalism was founded informally by William James in 1890 by writing a book entitled ‘Principles of Psychology’. He believed that psychology is concerned with why and how consciousness works. Not only about what are the elements of consciousness?

    Therefore, according to James, the subject matter of psychology was consciousness, but he emphasized the functional utility of consciousness in it.

     Dewey, Engel and Carr are known as the founders of the formal establishment of functionalism.

According to functionalism, psychology is concerned with the study of mental processes or functions and not with the study of the elements of consciousness.

(3). Behaviourism

    Behaviorism was founded by Watson in 1913. He believed that psychology is an objective and experimental psychology. Therefore, its subject matter can be only behavior and not consciousness because only behavior can be studied objectively and experimentally.

     Watson’s behaviorism gave rise to the stimulus-response.

    Watson rejected observation as a method of psychology and he gave four methods of psychology, namely: observation, contract, test and verbal report.

(4). Gestalt Psychology

      The Gestalt School was founded by Max Vardaimer in 1912. Kohler and Kaufka were the co-founders of this school. “Gestalt” is a German word, which has been translated into Hindi as ‘shape’, shape and ‘shape’. The Gestalt school believed that psychology is the science of the organization of mental actions.

(5). Psychoanalysis

    Psychoanalysis as a school was founded by Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theory of the unconscious is considered very important and he attributed all kinds of abnormal behavior to this unconscious. Described several methods of studying the unconscious, including the open associative method, hypnosis, and dream interpretation.

✍️  Psychology and other Disciplines

      Any branch of discipline, which studies people, will certainly recognize the significance of the knowledge of psychology. Similarly, psychologists also accept the importance of other disciplines in understanding human behavior. Researchers and scholars in science, social science and humanities realized the significance of psychology as a discipline.

     Psychology shares its knowledge with neuroscience, physiology, biology, medicine, and computer science in the study of the brain and behavior.

     Psychology also shares its knowledge with anthropology, sociology, social work science, political science and economics to understand human behavior (its meaning, growth and development) in a socio-cultural context. This is the reason why an interdisciplinary approach has been born in psychology, which has been gladly welcomed by all psychologists.

    Some of the major disciplines which are related to psychology are being discussed below:-

(i) Philosophy :- It is said that the father of psychology is philosophy. Until the late nineteenth century, some things related to contemporary psychology, such as what is the nature of the mind or how man knows about his motivations and emotions, were of interest to philosophers. Later in the nineteenth century, Wundt and other psychologists used an experimental approach to these questions and contemporary psychology emerged. Even after the rise of psychology as a science, it draws a lot from philosophy, especially concerning the method of knowledge and various areas of human nature.

(ii) Social Science:- Economics, Political Science and Sociology as participatory social science disciplines, these three have gained a lot from psychology and have enriched it too. Psychology has prepared a good background to understand consumer behavior and saving behavior, using which economists have achieved more success in these areas on better decision making and control about the economic behavior of the individual.

The commendable role of elements like cooperation and conflict in economic behavior was done by Thomas Schelling. For which he was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005.

Like economics, political science also draws a lot from psychology, particularly in understanding the uses of power and dominance, the nature and resolution of political conflicts, and voting behavior.

Psychology and sociology interact with each other to understand and explain the behavior of individuals in different socio-cultural contexts.

(iii) Medical Science: Psychology is also related to medical science. Nowadays many doctors or doctors in medical hospital feel the need for psychological counseling before or after the treatment of patients.

Physicians use psychological principles and models before and after performing cancer patients, AIDS patients, and major surgeries, and for this purpose they also employ counseling psychologists on a permanent basis.

(iv) Computer Science :- From the very beginning, computer has been trying to experience human nature. These things can be seen in the structure of the computer, its organized memory, the sequential and simultaneous processing of information etc. Computer scientists and engineers are not only building intelligent computers, but also making machines that can sense and feel. The developments taking place in both these disciplines are making a meaningful contribution in the field of cognitive science.

(v) Law and Criminology :- A skilled lawyer and criminologist have knowledge of psychology, such questions, how does a witness remember an incident like an accident, street fight or murder? How accurately does he mention these facts while giving evidence in court? What are the reliable signs of lies and remorse? What limit of punishment is considered appropriate for a criminal act? Psychologists answer such questions. Nowadays many psychologists are doing research work on such things, whose answers will be of great help to the future legal system in the country.

(vi) Music and Fine Arts:- Print and electronic communication tools have entered our lives at a very large level. They are influencing our thoughts, attitudes and emotions to a great extent. If they have brought us closer, at the same time cultural inequalities have also been reduced. Psychology helps in formulation of necessary strategies to make communication good and effective.

While writing news stories, journalists should keep the interests of the readers in mind. Since most of the stories are related to human events, knowledge of their motives and emotions is essential.

(vii) Architecture and Engineering : An architect always tries that none of his structures are such that the person gets psychological dissatisfaction. He always tries to make sure that the person’s aptitude, habit and curiosity etc.

Where the field of engineering is concerned, psychology has had a great influence on it too. Engineers take full care of human needs, habits and facilities while determining the form and working of any machine. Therefore psychology is completely mixed with these two disciplines as well.

What is the origin of the word ‘psychology’?
Ans :- The word psychology is derived from two Greek words “psyche” and “logus”. In Greek, the word ‘psyche’ means ‘spirit’ and ‘logus’ means ‘scripture’ or ‘study’.

Where did William Wundt establish the first psychological laboratory?
Ans :- Leipzig University, 1879

What is the meaning of ‘Psyche’ Psyche?
Ans :- Soul

Which one comes under the goal of psychology?
Ans :- (a) Measurement and Description

(b) Explanation

(c) Forecasting and Control

Whose statement is “selfishness, aggressiveness, which are controlled by the society” from birth in man?
Ans :- Spencer

Into how many parts can the history of psychology be divided?
Ans :- The history of psychology can be basically divided into two parts: (1) Prescientific Period (2) Scientific Period

Who started the school of structuralism?
Ans: – The school of structuralism was started by Wilhelm Wundt’s disciple Titchener in 1892 at Cornell University in America.

Who has written the book Principles of Psychology?
Ans :- William James in 1890

Which school was founded by Sigmund Freud?
Ans :- Psychoanalysis School

When was the ‘Indian Psychological Association’ established?
Ans :- In 1924, the Indian Psychological Association was established.

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