Psychology encompasses the study of human mental processes, behaviors, and emotions. It can substantially contribute to understanding of human relationships and actions. The study of human behaviors, experiences, and mental processes occur in diverse socio-cultural contexts making psychology a diverse field of study. Its theories and principles are applicable in addressing learning problems in schools and emotional problems (cognition), problems in socializing in children (behavioral psychology), and motivating employees in an organization (motivation) among other areas (Bransford, 1979, p. 56). Additionally, psychological theories and techniques are useful in addressing various human phenomena such as selection of suitable people for specified jobs, assessment of people’s cognitive abilities and aptitudes, improving the quality of life for better mental and physical health, and motivating people to achieve higher goals.
Understanding human behavior takes multiple perspectives; structuralism focuses on the study of human sensations and consciousness; functionalism involves the study of human consciousness or emotion in relation to survival; behaviorism study of observable human behaviors; psychoanalysis entails the study of unconscious processes, conflicts and disorders. In brief, explaining or understanding human psychological processes resulted to the diversification of psychology as a discipline as no single theory can explain human behavior in totality. The complexity of studying the behavior of humans leads to diversification of psychology.
Major Sub-disciplines within Psychology
The dynamic nature of human thought processes means that, generalizations may not apply to all cases. Therefore, generalizations only indicate the likelihood of specified behaviors or events taking place. However, human behavior is often a product of the immediate environment and personal characteristics. In other words, human behavior is a result of multiple causes. Thus, the analysis of psychological processes involves certain philosophical and cultural assumptions. This results to multiple approaches to understanding human actions and behaviors. The main sub-disciplines or perspectives to human psychology include behaviorism, motivation, and cognition among others.
This approach emphasizes on the environment and the way it influences people’s behaviors and actions. This perspective argues that human behavior is largely the product of past learning (Gross, 2005, p. 173). The observable human behaviors form the subject matter of psychological study. This perspective does not dwell on consciousness or thought processes. Instead, it focuses on the relationship between environmental conditions and human behavior. All the variants of behavioral perspectives give emphasis on observable behavior in the context of the cultural or social environment.
The subfields under behavioral perspective include developmental psychology and social psychology. Developmental psychology specializes in behavior problems or behavior changes throughout the human lifespan. The changes occur in the cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and personality aspects of an individual resulting to overt behaviors such as aggression, binge drinking or cheating. Developmental psychology involves a cross-sectional study of different age groups including children and adolescents with the aim of rehabilitating those with behavior problems. Social psychology, on the other hand, focuses on human interactions and their influence on individual behavior.
This view mainly focuses on human though processes i.e. human understanding and thinking. Human cognitive processes such as perception, thinking, and memory influence human behavior as much as environmental stimuli. The cognitive processes mediate the human response to environmental stimuli and largely determine human behavior (Cromley, 2000, p. 197). The human response is often dependent on an individual’s interpretation of environmental stimuli and is exhibited as overt actions. The subtopics under this perspective include cognitive science that analyses human reasoning and problem solving in the context of human behavior and human intelligence.
Relationship between Psychological Perspectives and other Disciplines
Psychology, being a behavioral science, has many applications in the contemporary society. The behavioral perspective is largely applied in the sociology of human behavior (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 2005, p. 117). It helps to understand human behavior in the social/cultural context. Social psychology is applied in counseling psychology that deals with individuals who have behavior or emotional problems. It aims at modifying human behavior with regard to marital problems, workplace disputes, and school delinquency behaviors. Developmental psychology, on the other hand, is important in the rehabilitation of adolescents with behavior problems or disabilities.
Cognitive psychology is largely applied in educational psychology in schools. Cognitive science has significance in solving teaching and learning problems in schools. It enables the student and instructors to handle various learning situations effectively. In particular, cognitive science has applications in teacher training and curriculum development. Human intelligence has been applied in psychological testing, concepts of self-esteem and artificial intelligence.
In my view, cognitive approaches of human psychology have significance in understanding the individual differences in cognitive functioning. I believe that human functioning varies from one person to another and generalizations are not appropriate. Accordingly, cognitive science and intelligence subtopics recognize these inherent individual differences in cognition and intelligence hence their learner-centered approach. For the behavioral perspective, I believe the socio-cultural or lifestyle factors highly influence human behavior. Additionally, age-group expectations have overbearing influence on behavior. In this context, social psychology deals with the social factors that influence behavior while the developmental psychology focuses human behavior in the context of human development.
Psychology is a diverse field applicable in multiple settings. In workplace settings, I would recommend that supervisors understand the group processes and social factors that influence cooperation or competition to achieve optimal performance and resolve intergroup conflicts. In education, various standardized tests can reveal students with learning or cognition difficulties, which can then be addressed. In health, I believe that understanding how patients cope with chronic illnesses or pain can help physicians develop interventions to reduce the risks of such illnesses. Additionally, understanding people’s perceptions within the cultural contexts can help develop appropriate entertainment.
Bransford, J. D. (1979). Human Cognition: Learning, Understanding, and Remembering. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Web.
Brehm, S., Kassin, S. M., & Fein, S. (2005) Social Psychology. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Web.
Cromley, J. (2000). Learning to Think, Learning To Learn: What the Science of Thinking and Learning has to Offer Adult Education. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. Web.
Gross, R. (2005) Psychology: The Science Of Mind and Behavior, London: Hodder & Stoughton. Web.