What is Psychology?


Psychology is a broad field. It covers so many areas. Quite a number of its terms are ambiguous and it is open to different interpretations.
The word psychology comes from Aristotle’s word psyche, which means mind and the word logos, which means the study of.
  •          psyche logos = psychology
  •          mind the study of = the study of mind
 Today, as a modern discipline, psychology is defined as:

Psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes.“  (Feldman, 2005; Lahey, 2004; Santrock, 2008).

The meaning of behaviour and mental processes according to Feldman, Lahey and Santrock are describes in table below:


Behavior

Includes all of a person’s overt actions and reactions, which can be observed by others such as eating, talking, smiling, and working.

Mental processes

Refer to all the covert activities that other people cannot directly observe. Activities such as thinking, dreaming, feeling, and remembering are examples of mental processes.

As a scientific field, psychologists try to understand both humans’ and animals’ behaviour through careful and controlled observations. Psychologists use the scientific method to study psychology because they want to avoid faulty observations and conclusions.

Aristotle,  A Greek Philosopher
Goals of Psychology
There are 4 goals of psychology. The goals of the science of psychology are to describe, understand, predict, and control behaviour and mental processes.

Describeà Understandà Predictà Control Behavior and Mental Processes

The descriptions for the goals of the science of psychology are explained below:

To describe:


The first step is to describe an observed behavior. To describe, a psychologist would ask ‘what is happening?’, ‘when it happens?’ and ‘to whom it happens?’

To Understand:



The second goal is to find out ‘why is it happening?’ In other words, the psychologist is looking for an explanation for the observed behavior or mental processes.

To Predict:



Once the cause of the observed behavior and mental processes is identified, psychologists could predict what is likely to happen if the situation remains the same. Prediction of the future behavior could be done based on previous scientific research of similar situations.

Control behavior and mental processes:



Psychologists go beyond describing, explaining and predicting changes in behavior and mental processes. They try to control the behavior and mental processes by manipulating factors that affect them. This goal is to change an undesirable behavior to a desirable one

To illustrate all the 4 goals, consider the following example.



A group of psychologists observe a number of students in order to describe how large their vocabulary typically is at a certain age. Then, they would attempt to explain how students expand the vocabulary and why some students have limited number of vocabulary. Psychologists would predict that students with limited number of vocabulary will probably continue to do poorly in academic. Finally, the psychologists would propose certain language learning strategies that can be used to increase the size of vocabulary of the students.

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