WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGY?
- the term psychology is derived from two Greek words psyche meaning soul and logos meaning science or study of a subject.
- psychology was a study of the soul or mind.
- A discipline is defined both in terms of what it studies and how it studies.
- psychology is defined formally as a science which studies mental processes, experiences and behaviour in different contexts
- In doing so, it uses methods of biological and social sciences to obtain data systematically
- we refer to states of consciousness or awareness or mental processes.
- We use our mental processes when we think or try to solve a problem, to know or remember something.
- level at which these mental processes are reflected is the brain activity.
- we cannot say that brain activities and mental processes are the same, although they are interdependent.
- Mental activities and neural activities are mutually overlapping processes but, they are not identical.
- Unlike the brain, the mind does not have a physical structure or has a location. Mind emerges and evolves as our interactions and experiences in this world get dynamically organised in the form of a system which is responsible for the occurrence of various mental processes.
- consciousness of our own experiences and mental processes are much more than the neural or brain activities.
- Experiences are subjective in nature.
- We cannot directly observe or know someone else’s experience.
- Only the experiencing person can be aware or be conscious of her or his experiences.
- experiences are embedded in our awareness or consciousness.
- esoteric experiences attract attention of psychologists, such as when a Yogi meditates to enter a different level
of consciousness and creates a new kind of experience or when a drug addict takes a particular kind of drug to get a high, even though such drugs are extremely harmful.
- Experiences are influenced by internal and the external conditions of the experiencer.
- the nature of experience can only be understood by analysing a complex set of internal and external conditions.
- Behaviours are responses or reactions we make or activities we engage in.
- Behaviours may be simple or complex, short or enduring.
- Some behaviours are overt. They can be outwardly seen or sensed by an observer.
- Some are internal or covert.
- When you are in a difficult situation while playing a game of chess you almost feel your hand muscles twitching, trying to experiment with a move.
- All behaviours, covert or overt, are associated with or triggered by some stimulus in the environment or changes that happen internally.
Psychology as a Discipline
- psychology studies behaviour, experience and mental processes.
- It seeks to understand and explain how the mind works and how different mental processes result in different behaviours
- When we observe others our own points of view or our ways of understanding the world influence our interpretations of their behaviours and experiences.
- Psychologists try to minimise such biases in their explanations of behaviour and experience in various ways.
- Some do so by seeking to make their analysis scientific and objective.
- Others seek to explain behaviour from the point of view of the experiencing persons because they think that
subjectivity is a necessary aspect of human experience.
- psychologists have also begun to emphasise the role of self-reflection and self-knowledge in understanding human behaviour and experience
- Psychology, though it is a very old knowledge discipline, is a young science, if one were to take the year of the founding of the first laboratory of psychology in 1879 in Leipzig
- science is psychology, still remains a matter of debate, particularly because of the new interfaces of it that have emerged in recent times. Psychology is generally categorised as a social science
- the most sought after emerging disciplines which continuously borrow from psychology are Neuroscience and
- psychology as a discipline today has two parallel streams.
- One which makes use of the method in physical and biological sciences and the other which makes use of the method of social and cultural sciences in studying various psychological and social phenomena.
- These streams sometimes converge only to drift apart and go their separate ways.
- In the first case, psychology considers itself as a discipline, which focuses largely on biological principles to explain human behaviour.Here the aim of the researcher is to know cause and effect relationship so that a prediction of the behavioural phenomenon can be made and behaviour can be controlled if need be.
- On the other hand, psychology as a social science focuses on how behavioural phenomena can be explained in terms of the interaction that takes place between the person and the sociocultural context of which s/he is a part.
Psychology as a Natural Science
- developments in physics has grown by following what is called a hypothetico-deductive model.
- The model suggests that scientific advancement can take place if you have a theory to explain a phenomenon.
- Theory is nothing else but a set of statements about how a certain complex phenomenon can be explained with the help of propositions which are interrelated.
- scientists deduce or propose a hypothesis, that offers a tentative explanation of how a certain phenomenon takes place
- The theory is revised if data gathered point in a different direction than the one suggested by the hypothesis.
- psychologists have developed theories of learning, memory, attention, perception, motivation and emotion, etc. and have made significant progress
- psychologists have also been considerably influenced by the evolutionary approach which is dominant in biological sciences.
- This approach has also been used to explain diverse kinds of psychological phenomenon such as attachment and aggression to mention just a few.
Psychology as a Social Science
- We mentioned above that psychology is recognised more as a social science because it studies the behaviour of human beings in their socio-cultural contexts.
- Psychology as a social science discipline focuses on humans as social beings
- there are variations in their behaviours and experiences which would be difficult to predict using the known
- people become antisocial under similar circumstances indulging in looting and exploitation when some crisis occurs.
- This shows that psychology deals with human behaviour and experience in the context of their society and culture.
- Thus, psychology is a social science with focus on the individuals and communities in relation to their sociocultural and physical environment.
UNDERSTANDING MIND AND BEHAVIOUR
- psychology was once defined as a science of the mind.
- as a science of the mind. For many decades, the mind remained a taboo in psychology because it could not be defined in concrete behavioural terms or its location could not be indicated.
- It is true that mind cannot exist without brain, but mind is a separate entity.
- patients whose occipital lobes, which are responsible for vision, were surgically removed have been found to be responding correctly to location and configuration of visual cues
- the person had suffered from damage of some part of the brain but his “mind” had remained intact. It was earlier believed by scientists that there is no relationship between the mind and the body and that they were parallel to each other.
- there is a relationship between mind and behaviour.
- using positive visualisation techniques and feeling positive emotions, one can bring about significant changes in bodily processes
- Use of mental imagery, i.e. images generated by a person in her/his mind, have been used to cure various
kinds of phobias
- A new discipline called Psychoneuroimmunology has emerged which emphasises the role played by the mind in strengthening the immune system.
POPULAR NOTIONS ABOUT THE DISCIPLINE OF PSYCHOLOGY
- most of us have developed our own theory of human behaviour.
- If we want some worker to perform better than s/he has in the past, we know that we will need to push her/him. Such popular theories of human behaviour based on common sense may or may not be true if investigated scientifically.
- common sensical explanations of human behaviour are based on hindsight and explain very little.
- explanation follows the occurrence of behaviour.
- Common sense is based on hindsight. Psychology as a science looks for patterns of behaviour which can be predicted and not explained after the behaviour occurs.
- Scientific knowledge generated by psychology often runs against common sense.
- One such example is a study performed by Dweck (1975). She was concerned with children who gave up too easily when faced with a difficult problem or failure. She wondered how they could be helped.
- Common sense tells us to give them easy problems in order to increase their success rate so that their confidence goes up. Only later should we give them difficult problems which they will be able to solve because of their new-found confidence.
- What Dweck found goes against common belief. Those who had always succeeded because they were given
easy problems, gave up much faster when they faced failure than those who had experience of both success and failure and were taught to attribute failure to their lack of effort.
- Common sense also tells us that one is not able to give one’s best if you are asked to perform before a large audience.But according to pschology if you have practiced well, you may actually perform better because the presence of others helps your performance.
- psychologists are different from astrologers, tantriks and palm readers because they systematically examine propositions based on data to develop principles about human behaviour and other psychological phenomena.
EVOLUTION OF PSYCHOLOGY
- Psychology as a modern discipline, which is influenced to a large extent by Western developments,
- It grew out of ancient philosophy concerned with questions of psychological significance.
- The formal beginning of modern psychology is traced back to 1879 when the first experimental laboratory was
established in Leipzig, Germany by Wilhelm Wundt.
- Wundt was interested in the study of conscious experience and wanted to analyse the constituents or the building blocks of the mind.
- Psychologists during Wundt’s time analysed the structure of the mind through introspection and therefore were called structuralists.
- Introspection was a procedure in which individuals or subjects in psychological experiments were asked to
describe in detail, their own mental processes or experiences.
- introspection was considered less scientific because the introspective reports could not be verified by outside observers.
- An American psychologist, William James, who had set up a psychological laboratory in Cambridge, and developed what was called a functionalist approach to the study of the human mind.
- William James believed that instead of focusing on the structure of the mind, psychology should instead study what the mind does and how behaviour functions in making people deal with their environment.
- functionalists focused on how behaviour enabled people to satisfy their needs.
- According to William James, consciousness as an ongoing stream of mental process interacting with the environment formed the core of psychology.
- John Dewey, used functionalism to argue that human beings seek to function effectively by adapting
to their environment.
- a new perspective called Gestalt psychology emerged in Germany as a reaction to the structuralism of
- It focused on the organisation of perceptual experiences. Instead of looking at the components of the mind,
- Gestalt psychologists argued that when we look at the world our perceptual experience is more than the sum of the components of the perception.
- what we experience is more than the inputs received from our environment.
- our perceptual experience is more than the elements.
- Experience is holistic; it is a Gestalt.
- John Watson rejected the ideas of mind and consciousness as subject matters of psychology.
- He was greatly influenced by the work of physiologists like Ivan Pavlov on classical conditioning.
- For Watson, mind is not observable and introspection is subjective because it cannot be verified by another
observer. According to him, scientific psychology must focus on what is observable and verifiable.
- He defined psychology as a study of behaviour or responses which can be measured and studied objectively.
- Behaviourism of Watson was further developed by many influential psychologists who are known as behaviourists.
- Skinner who applied behaviourism to a wide range of situations and popularised the approach.
- behaviourists dominated the field of psychology for several decades after Watson,
- Freud viewed human behaviour as a dynamic manifestation of unconscious desires and conflicts.
- He founded psychoanalysis as a system to understand and cure psychological disorders.
- While Freudian psychoanalysis viewed human beings as motivated by unconscious desire for gratification of pleasure seeking desires,
- the humanistic perspective in psychology took a more positive view of human nature.
- Humanists, such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, emphasised the free will of human beings and their natural striving to grow and unfold their inner potential.
- They argued that behaviourism with its emphasis on behaviour as determined by environmental conditions undermines human freedom and dignity and takes a mechanistic view of human nature.
- Gestalt approach and structuralism were combined and led to the development of the cognitive perspective which focuses on how we know about the world.
- Cognition is the process of knowing.
- It involves thinking, understanding, perceiving, memorising, problem solving and a host of other mental
processes by which our knowledge of the world develops, making us able to deal with the environment in specific ways.
- Psychologists view the human mind as an information processing system like the computer.
- Modern cognitive psychology views human beings as actively constructing their minds through their exploration into the physical and the social world.
- This view is sometimes called constructivism. Piaget’s view of child development which will be discussed later is considered a constructivist theory of development of the mind.
- Psychologist Vygotsky went even further to suggest that the human mind develops through social and cultural processes
DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY IN INDIA
- The Indian philosophical tradition is rich in its focus on mental processes and reflections on human consciousness, self, mind-body relations, and a variety of mental functions such as cognition, perception, illusion,
- Unfortunately, philosophical roots in the Indian tradition have not influenced the development of modern
psychology in India.
- The development of the discipline in India continues to be dominated by western psychology, although some
attempts have been made to find points of departure both within the country and abroad.
- These attempts have tried to establish the truth value of various assertions in Indian philosophical traditions through scientific studies.
- The modern era of Indian psychology began in the Department of Philosophy at Calcutta University where the first syllabus of experimental psychology was introduced and the first psychology laboratory was established in 1915.
- Professor G. Bose was trained in Freudian psychoanalysis, another area which influenced the early development of psychology in India.
- Professor Bose established Indian Psychoanalytical Association in 1922. Departments of Psychology in the Universities of Mysore and Patna were other early centres of teaching and research in psychology.
BRANCHES OF PSYCHOLOGY
- It investigates mental processes involved in acquisition, storage, manipulation, and transformation of
information received from the environment along with its use and communication.
- The major cognitive processes are attention,perception, memory, reasoning, problem solving, decision-making and language.
- Psychologists conduct experiments in laboratory settings.
- An ecological approach, is an approach which focuses on the environmental factors, to study cognitive processes in a natural setting.
- Cognitive psychologists often collaborate with neuroscientists and computer scientists
- It focuses on the relationship between behaviour and the physical system, including the brain and the rest of the nervous system, the immune system, and genetics.
- Biological psychologists often collaborate with neuroscientists, zoologists, and anthropologists.
- Neuropsychology has emerged as a field of research where psychologists and neuroscientists are working together.
- Researchers are studying the role of neurotransmitters or chemical substances which are responsible for neural
communication in different areas of the brain and therefore in associated mental functions.
- They do their research on people with normal functioning brain as well as on people with damaged brain by following advanced technologies like EEG, PET and fMRI, etc.
- Developmental Psychology studies the physical, social and psychological changes that occur at different ages and stages over a life-span, from conception to old age.
- The primary concern of developmental psychologists is how we become what we are.
- For many years the major emphasis was on child and adolescent development.
- They focus on the biological, socio-cultural and environmental factors that influence psychological
characteristics such as intelligence, cognition, emotion, temperament, morality, and social relationship.
- Developmental psychologists collaborate with anthropologists, educationists, neurologists, social workers,
counsellors and almost every branch of knowledge where there is a concern for growth and development of a human being
- Social Psychology explores how people are affected by their social environments, how people think about and influence others.
- Social psychologists are interested in such topics as attitudes, conformity and obedience to authority, interpersonal attraction, helpful behaviour, prejudice, aggression, social motivation, inter-group relations and so on
Cross-cultural and Cultural Psychology
- Cross-cultural and Cultural Psychology examines the role of culture in understanding behaviour, thought, and emotion.
- It assumes that human behaviour is not only a reflection of human-biological potential but also a product of culture.
- Therefore behaviour should be studied in its socio-cultural context.
- Environmental Psychology studies the interaction of physical factors such as temperature, humidity, pollution, and natural disasters on human behaviour.
- The influence of physical arrangement of the workplace on health, the emotional state, and interpersonal relations are also investigated.
- Health Psychology focuses on the role of psychological factors in the development, prevention and treatment of illness.
- Areas of interest for a health psychologist are stress and coping, the relationship between psychological factors and health, patient-doctor relationship and ways of promoting health enhancing factors.
Clinical and Counselling Psychology
- Clinical and Counselling Psychology deals with causes, treatment and prevention of
different types of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and
chronic substance abuse.
- A related area is counselling, which aims to improve everyday functioning by helping people solve problems in daily living and cope more effectively with challenging situations.
- The work of clinical psychologists does not differ from that of counselling psychologists although a counselling psychologist sometimes deals with people who have less serious problems.
- In many instances, counselling psychologists work with students, advising them about
personal problems and career planning.
- Clinical psychologists, psychiatrists also study the causes, treatment, and prevention of
How are clinical psychologists and psychiatrists different?
- A clinical psychologist has a degree in psychology, which includes intensive training
in treating people with psychological disorders.
- In contrast, a psychiatrist has a medical degree with years of specialised training in the
treatment of psychological disorders.
- One important distinction is that psychiatrists can prescribe medications and give electroshock treatments whereas clinical psychologist cannot.
- Industrial/Organisational Psychology deals with workplace behaviour, focusing on both the
workers and the organisations that employ them.
- Industrial/organisational psychologists are concerned with training employees,
improving work conditions, and developing
criteria for selecting employees.
- For example, an organisational psychologist might recommend that a company may adopt a new management structure that would increase communication between managers and staff.
- The background of industrial and
organisational psychologists often includes
training in cognitive and social psychology.
Educational Psychology studies how people
of all ages learn. Educational psychologists
primarily help develop instructional methods
and materials used to train people in both
educational and work settings. They are also
concerned with research on issues of relevance
for education, counselling and learning
problems. A related field, school psychology,
focuses on designing programmes that
promote intellectual, social, and emotional
development of children, including those with
special needs. They try to apply knowledge of
psychology in a school setting.
Sports Psychology applies psychological
principles to improve sports performance by
enhancing their motivation. Sports psychology
is a relatively new field but is gaining
Other Emerging Branches of Psychology :
The interdisciplinary focus on research and
application of psychology has led to the
emergence of varied areas like aviation
psychology, space psychology, military psychology, forensic psychology, rural
psychology, engineering psychology,
managerial psychology, community
psychology, psychology of women, and
political psychology, to name a few.
THEMES OF RESEARCH AND APPLICATION
Theme 1 : Psychology like other sciences
attempts to develop principles of behaviour and
In research, the main concern is with the
understanding and explanation of behaviour
and mental events and processes.
Psychologists, who choose to engage in
research, function more like other scientists.
Like them, they draw conclusions which are
supported by data. They design and conduct
experiments or studies under controlled
conditions on a wide range of psychological
phenomena. The purpose is to develop general
principles about behaviour and mental
processes. The conclusions drawn on the basis
of such studies apply to everybody and are,
therefore, universal. Experimental,
comparative, physiological, developmental,
social, differential and abnormal psychology
are generally regarded as domains
representing “basic psychology”.
The themes of research in these fields differ
from each other. For example, experimental
psychologists study the processes of
perception, learning, memory, thinking, and
motivation, etc., using experiment as their
method of enquiry, whereas physiological
psychologists attempt to examine
physiological bases of these behaviours.
Developmental psychologists study qualitative
and quantitative changes in behaviour from
the beginning of human life to its end, whereas
social psychologists focus on the study of
experience and behaviour of individuals as
they take place in social contexts.
Theme 2 : Human behaviour is a function of
the attributes of persons and environment.
Kurt Lewin first proposed the famous
equation B = f(P,E) – which suggests that
behaviour is the product of a person and her/
his environment. What this equation simply
tells us is that the variations we find in human
behaviour are largely due to the fact that
persons differ with respect to their various
attributes because of their genetic
endowments and diverse experiences and so
do the environments they are placed in. Here
the environment is conceptualised as it is
perceived or made sense of by the person.
Psychologists have for a long time considered
that no two individuals are the same, if one
considers their psychological attributes. They
vary with respect to their intelligence,
interests, values, aptitudes and various other
personality characteristics. In fact,
psychological tests came to be constructed to
measure such differences. A discipline
called, differential psychology, which focused
on individual differences emerged and
flourished in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth century. Most of it still remains in
the form of personality psychology.
Psychologists believe that although, core
psychological processes are universal, they are
susceptible to individual dispositions. Besides
individual differences, psychologists also
believe that there are variations in behaviour
which occur due to environmental factors.
This is a view which psychologists have taken
from anthropologists, evolutionary theorists
and biologists. Psychologists look for
explanations of various psychological
phenomena based on individual-environment
interactions. Although it is difficult,
psychologists do seek out the relative
importance of heredity and environment in
explaining human behaviour.
Theme 3 : Human behaviour is caused
Most psychologists believe that all human
behaviour can be explained in terms of causes
which are internal (to the organism) or external
having location in the outside environment.
Causal explanations are central to all sciences
because without understanding them no
prediction will be possible. Although,
psychologists look for causal explanations of
behaviour, they also realise that simple linear
explanations, such as X Causing Y do not hold
true. There is no one cause of behaviour.
Human behaviour has multiple causes.
Psychologists, therefore, look for causal
models where a set of interdependent variables
are used to explain a behaviour. When it is
said that behaviour has multiple causes, it
means that it is difficult to pinpoint one cause
of a behaviour because it may itself be caused
by another variable, which in turn may be
caused by some other.
Theme 4 : Understanding of human behaviour
is culturally constructed.
This is a theme which has recently
surfaced. There are psychologists who believe
that most psychological theories and models
are Euro-American in nature and therefore,
do not help us in understanding behaviours
in other cultural settings. Psychologists from
Asia, Africa and Latin America have been
critical of Euro-American approaches which
are propagated as universal. A similar critique
is made by feminists who argue that
psychology offers a male perspective and
ignores the perspective of women. They argue
in favour of a dialectical approach which will
accommodate both male and female
perspectives in understanding human
Theme 5 : Human behaviour can be controlled
and modified through the application of
Why do scientists like to know how certain
events can be controlled, be they physical or
psychological? Their concern arises from their
desire to develop techniques or methods that
will improve the quality of human life.
Psychologists also seek the same while
applying knowledge generated by them.
This often requires removal of certain
difficulties or adverse conditions that
individuals experience in different phases of
their life. Consequently, psychologists make
certain interventions into the lives of needy
people. This applied role of psychologists has,
on the one hand, brought the subject closer
to the life of people in general than other social
science subjects and in knowing the limits of
the applicability of its principles. On the other
hand, this role has also been very helpful in
popularising psychology as a subject in itself.
Thus, several independent branches of
psychology have emerged that try to use
psychological theories, principles and facts to
diagnose and resolve problems related to
industrial and organisational settings, clinical
services, education, environment, health,
community development and so on. Industrial
psychology, organisational psychology, clinical
psychology, educational psychology,
engineering psychology and sports psychology
represent some of the areas in which
psychologists are engaged in delivering
services to individuals, groups or institutions.
Basic vs Applied Psychology
It may be noted at this point that various areas
put under the rubrics of “basic” and “applied”
psychology are identified only on the basis of
their emphasis on the study of certain subject
matters and broader concerns. There is no
sharp cleavage between research and
application of psychology. For example, basic
psychology provides us with theories and
principles that form the basis of application
of psychology and applied psychology provides
us with different contexts in which the theories
and principles derived from research can be
meaningfully applied. On the other hand,
research is an integral part of even those fields
of psychology that are mainly characterised
by or subsumed under the category of
application. Due to ever increasing demands
of psychology in different settings, many fields
that were regarded as primarily “researchoriented”
in previous decades, have also
gradually turned into “application-oriented”.
Newly emerging disciplines like applied
experimental psychology, applied social
psychology, and applied developmental
psychology indicate that in fact all psychology
has the potential of application and is basically
applied in nature.
Thus, there is seemingly no fundamental
difference between research and application
of psychology. These activities are highly
interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Their
mutual interactions and pervasive influences
on each other have become so specific that
several offshoots have emerged in recent years
with very specific emphasis on their subject
matters. Thus, ecological psychology,
environmental psychology, cross-cultural
psychology, biological psychology, space
psychology, and cognitive psychology, to
mention a few, have come up as new and
frontier areas of research and application that
previously formed part of other fields of
psychology. These newer developments
require highly specialised research skills and
training on the part of researchers than ever
PSYCHOLOGY AND OTHER DISCIPLINES
Any discipline, which deals with people, would
definitely recognise the relevance of the
knowledge of psychology. Similarly
psychologists also acknowledge the relevance
of other disciplines in understanding human
behaviour. This trend has led to the emergence
of interdisciplinary approach in the field of
psychology. Researchers and scholars in
science, social science and humanities have
felt the significance of psychology as a
discipline. Figure 1.1 clearly shows the
relationship of psychology with other
disciplines. In studying brain and behaviour,
psychology shares its knowledge with
neurology, physiology, biology, medicine and
computer science. In studying human
behaviour (its meaning, growth and
development) in a socio-cultural context,
psychology shares its knowledge with
anthropology, sociology, social work, political
science and economics. In studying mental
activities involved in creation of literary texts,
music and drama, psychology shares its
knowledge with literature, art and music.
Some of the major disciplines linked to the
field of psychology are discussed below:
Philosophy : Until the end of the 19th century,
certain concerns that are now part of
contemporary psychology like, what is the
nature of the mind or how do humans come
to know their motivations and emotions were
the concerns of philosophers. In the later part
of the 19th century, Wundt and other
psychologists adopted an experimental
approach to these questions and
contemporary psychology emerged. Despite
the emergence of psychology as a science, it
greatly draws from philosophy, particularly
with respect to methods of knowing, and
various domains of human nature.
Medicine : Doctors have realised that the
maxim, healthy body requires a healthy mind,
is actually true. A large number of hospitals
now employ psychologists. The role of
psychologists in preventing people from
engaging in health hazardous behaviours and
in adhering to the prescribed doctors’ regimen
are some of the important areas where the
two disciplines have come together. While
treating patients suffering from cancer, AIDS,
and the physically challenged, or handling
patients in the Intensive Care Unit, and
patients during post operative care doctors
have also felt the need for psychological
counselling. A successful doctor looks at the
psychological as well as physical well-being
of the patients.
Economics, Political Science and
Sociology : As sister social science disciplines,
these three have drawn considerably from
psychology and have enriched it as well.
Psychology has contributed a great deal to the
study of micro-level economic behaviour,
particularly in understanding consumer
behaviour, savings behaviour and in decisionmaking.
American economists have used data
on consumer sentiments to predict economic
growth. Three scholars who have worked on
such problems have received the Nobel Prize
in Economics, namely H. Simon, D. Kahneman
and T. Schelling. Like economics, political
science too draws considerably from
psychology, particularly, in understanding
issues related to exercise of power and
authority, nature of political conflicts and their
resolutions, and voting behaviour. Sociology
and psychology come together to explain and
understand the behaviour of individuals
within different socio-cultural contexts. Issues
related to socialisation, group and collective
behaviour, and intergroup conflicts gain from
both these disciplines.
Computer Science : From the very beginning,
the effort of computer science has been in
mimicking the human mind. One can see it in
terms of how a ‘computer’ is structured, its
memory organised, sequential and
simultaneous (read parallel) processing of
information. Computer scientists and
engineers are seeking to make computers not
only more and more intelligent but also
machines which can sense and feel.
Developments in both these disciplines have
brought about significant advancement in the
field of cognitive sciences.
Law and Criminology : A skilled lawyer and
a criminologist requires knowledge of
psychology in answering such questions as:
How well a witness remembers an accident, a
street fight, or a murder? How well can s/he
report such facts when taking the witness
stand in the court? What factors influence the
decision which is taken by the jury? What are
the dependable signs of guilt and falsehood? What factors are held important in holding a
culprit responsible for her/his action? What
degree of punishment is considered just for a criminal act? Psychologists seek to answer
these questions. Currently, a number of
psychologists are involved in research on such issues, the answers to which would help the
legal system of the country in the future.
Mass Communication : The print and the
electronic media have entered in our lives in a
very big way. They have a major influence on
our thinking, attitudes and our emotions. If
they have brought us closer together, they have
also reduced cultural diversities. The impact
of the media on the formation of attitudes of
children and their behaviour is a domain
where both these disciplines come together.
Psychology also helps in developing strategies
for better and effective communication. A
journalist in reporting news must know the
reader’s interests in the story. Since most
stories deal with human events, knowledge of
their motives and emotions is very important.
A story will be more penetrating if based upon
a background of psychological knowledge and
Music and Fine Arts : Music and psychology
have converged in many areas. Scientists have
made use of music in raising work
performance. Music and emotions is another
area in which a number of studies have been
carried out. Musicians in India have recently
started experimenting with what they call
‘Music Therapy’. In this they use different
‘Ragas’ for curing certain physical ailments.
The efficacy of music therapy still remains to
Architecture and Engineering : At first glance
the relationship between psychology and
architecture and engineering would appear
improbable. But such is actually not the case.
Ask any architect, s/he must satisfy her/his
clients by providing mental and physical space
through her design and satisfy aesthetically.
Engineers must also take into account human
habits in their plans for safety, for example,
on streets and highways. Psychological
knowledge helps in a big way in designing of
all mechanical devices and displays.
To sum up, psychology is located at the
intersection of many fields of knowledge
pertaining to human functioning
PSYCHOLOGISTS AT WORK
Clinical psychologists specialise in
helping clients with behavioural problems by
providing therapy for various mental
disorders and in cases of anxiety or fear, or
with stresses at home or at work. They work
either as private practitioners or at hospitals,
mental institutions, or with social agencies.
They may be involved in conducting
interviews and administering psychological
tests to diagnose the client’s problems, and
use psychological methods for their treatment
and rehabilitation. Job opportunities in
clinical psychology attract quite a few to this
field of psychology.
Counselling psychologists work with
persons who suffer from motivational and
emotional problems. The problems of their
clients are less serious than those of the
clinical psychologists. A counselling
psychologist may be involved in vocational
rehabilitation programmes, or helping persons
in making professional choices or in adjusting
to new and difficult situations of life.
Counselling psychologists work for public
agencies such as mental health centres,
hospitals, schools, colleges and universities.
Community psychologists generally
focus on problems related to community
mental health. They work for mental health
agencies, private organisations and state
governments. They help the community and
its institutions in addressing physical and
mental health problems. In rural areas they
may work to establish a mental health centre.
In urban areas they may design a drug
rehabilitation programme. Many community
psychologists also work with special
populations such as the elderly or the
physically or mentally challenged. Besides the
redirection and evaluation of various programmes and plans, community based
rehabilitation (CBR) is of major interest to
School psychologists work in
educational systems, and their roles vary
according to the levels of their training. For
example, some school psychologists only
administer tests, whereas others also
interpret test results to help students with
their problems. They also help in the
formulation of school policies. They facilitate
communication between parents, teachers
and administrators, and also provide teachers
and parents with information about the
academic progress of a student.
Organisational psychologists render
valuable help in dealing with problems that
the executives and employees of an
organisation tend to face in their respective
roles. They provide organisations with
consultancy services and organise skill
training programmes in order to enhance their
efficiency and effectiveness. Some
organisational psychologists specialise in
Human Resource Development (HRD), while
others in Organisational Development and
Change Management programmes.
PSYCHOLOGY IN EVERYDAY LIFE
The discussion above may have clarified that
psychology is not only a subject that satisfies
some of the curiosities of our mind about
human nature, but it is also a subject that
can offer solutions to a variety of problems.
These may range from purely personal (for
example, a daughter having to face an alcoholic
father or a mother dealing with a problem child)
to those that may be rooted within the family
set up (for example, lack of communication and
interaction among family members) or in a
larger group or community setting (for example,
terrorist groups or socially isolated
communities) or may have national or
international dimensions. Problems related to
education, health, environment, social justice,
women development, intergroup relations, etc.
are pervasive. While the solution of these
problems may involve political, economic and
social reforms, interventions at the individual
levels are also needed in order to change. Many
of these problems are largely of psychological
nature and they result from our unhealthy
thinking, negative attitude towards people and
self and undesirable patterns of behaviour. A
psychological analysis of these problems helps
both in having a deeper understanding of these
problems and also in finding their effective
The potential of psychology in solving the
problems of life is being realised more and
more. Media has played a vital role in this
respect. You may have seen on television
counsellors and therapists suggesting
solutions to a variety of problems related to
children, adolescents, adults and the elderly
people. You may also find them analysing vital
social problems relating to social change and
development, population, poverty,
interpersonal or intergroup violence, and
environmental degradation. Many
psychologists now play an active role in
designing and executing intervention
programmes in order to provide people with a
better quality of life. Hence, it is no surprise
that we find psychologists working in diverse
settings such as schools, hospitals, industries,
prisons, business organisations, military
establishments, and in private practice as
consultants helping people solve problems in
their respective settings.
Besides helping you in rendering social
service to others, the knowledge of psychology
is also personally relevant to you in your dayto-day
life. The principles and methods of
psychology that you will learn in this course
should be made use of in analysing and
understanding yourself in relation to others.
It is not that we do not think about ourselves.
But very often, some of us think very highly
of ourselves and any feedback that contradicts
our opinion about ourselves is rejected
because we engage in what is called a
defensive behaviour. In some other cases,
persons come to acquire a habit of running
down themselves. Both conditions do not
permit us to grow. We need to have a positive
and balanced understanding of ourselves. You
may use psychological principles in a positive
manner to develop good habits of study for
improving your learning and memory, and for
solving your personal and interpersonal
problems by using appropriate decisionmaking
strategies. You will also find it of use
to reduce or alleviate the stress of
examination. Thus, the knowledge of
psychology is quite useful in our everyday life,
and is rewarding from personal as well as
social points of view