One of the most common questions asked by students new to the study of psychology is "What is psychology?" Misperceptions created by popular media as well as the diverse careers paths of those holding psychology degrees have contributed this confusion.
Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behavior. Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion, and behavior. Applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, ergonomics, and many other areas affecting health and daily life.
Psychology evolved out of both philosophy and biology. Such discussions of the two subjects date as far back as the early Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and Socrates. The word psychology is derived from the Greek word psyche, meaning 'soul' or 'mind.'
A Separate Science
The field and study of psychology was truly born when Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychology lab in Leipzig, Germany. Wundt's research utilized a school of thought known as structuralism, which involved describing the structures that compose the mind. This perspective relied heavily on the analysis of sensations and feelings through the use of introspection, a highly subjective process. Wundt believed that properly trained individuals would be able to accurately identify the mental processes that accompanied feelings, sensations, and thoughts.
Schools of Thought
Throughout psychology's history, a number of different schools of thought have thought have formed to explain human thought and behavior. These schools of thought often rise to dominance for a period of time. While these schools of thought are sometimes perceived as competing forces, each perspective has contributed to our understanding of psychology. The following are some of the major schools of thought in psychology.