How does thinking, perceiving and responding happen and why does it happen so differently in different individuals? How does your psychology decide who you are and why? Find it all in this PsycholoGenie article on the different fields in psychology.
Psychology (derived from the Greek words psyche meaning mind and soul and logos meaning discourse), is the study of mental processes and behavior. It attempts to explore different facets of that element which enables us to think, feel and be aware of the world around – the mind. Theorists identify three broad categories of psychology, namely, the cognitive, the conative and the affective. For more on this, refer to theoretical perspectives of psychology. Here we take you through the different fields of psychology to choose from, when opting for this field as your career.
If the clinical side of psychology interests you, consider choosing fields like clinical or counseling psychology. Fields such as child psychology, rehabilitation psychology or social work require the psychologist to work with people, understand their problems, counsel them and help them get out of their problems. On the other hand, fields like neuropsychology, color or dream psychology, experimental psychology and biological psychology are more research-based. They involve the study of human behavior and factors affecting it. Other branches like the psychology of ambition, altruism, art, beauty, atheism among others are more theoretical, less practical. They again, are research-based and include study, more than practical application. Here’s an introduction to the various psychology fields, arranged alphabetically.
Fields in Psychology
It is a branch of psychology that deals with the study of abnormal behavioral patterns and their causes. There are theories about what to consider abnormal. Actions or behavior not in coherence with what an average human being would do are referred to as abnormal. The study of abnormal psychology finds application in clinical psychology, which is used in the treating psychological disorders. This is not a specialized field in psychology but is definitely an important branch that interests many.
Psychology of Addiction
A complete dependence on a certain substance or drug is known as addiction. Both physiological and psychological factors can lead to addiction. The psychology of addiction analyzes these factors and attempts to find ways of controlling addiction. The study of this field of psychology is closely related to rehabilitation and community psychology, and is of help in counseling the addicts to start a new life.
Psychology of Advertising
Advertising is largely based on customer behavior. Marketing strategies aim at tapping the customers’ emotions in order to make them feel compelled to buy the product. Psychology of advertising involves the analysis of customer behavior and how promotional techniques change it. This field involves the study of advertising techniques and how they affect market trends. The psychology of advertising analyzes customer behavior in response to different advertising strategies, and thus is an exciting field of psychology to study. The analysis of consumer behavior is the study of how one’s thoughts and beliefs influence his behavior in the selection and buying of products or services; simply put, consumer psychology.
Psychology of Altruism
Altruism is a selfless concern towards the welfare of others. The psychology of altruism involves the analysis of factors that make an individual selfless. Psychologists believe that altruistic behavior is a part of how we evolved. They say, we are born with this feeling, which, by nature, makes us feel concerned about others. If understanding the nuances of altruism interests you, venture this field of psychology.
Psychology of Ambition
Ambition is associated with one’s need of achievement. Heinz Kohut developed the psychology of self, which studies the system of ambitions and ideals. The psychology of ambition studies the process by which ambition is generated in an individual and how it dictates the way he/she behaves. The study of this field can be of help if you aspire for a career in developmental psychology, school psychology or counseling.
This is another interesting field of psychology that deals with the emotional state and behavioral traits of animals. It is believed that animals react to stimuli in a trial and error manner and that their behavior is mostly unintentional. The study of animal psychology aims at understanding how animals behave in different situations and how their emotions and reflexes vary.
Art is the manifestation of human creativity. The art forms one is interested in and the way he portrays them, is closely associated with his personality. The psychology of art tries to analyze the characteristics of art and its production. There is a lot published on the psychology of art and there are universities offering programs in art psychology. Though not a field in psychology, art therapy is related to the psychology of art. It makes use of art-making for physical and emotional healing.
Psychology of Atheism
This field analyzes the intriguing question of whether God exists. Atheism is defined as disbelief in God. The psychology of atheism tries to understand the factors that lead to disbelief in God. Opinions vary over whether belief in God is only wishful thinking or there really exists a supreme power ruling us.
Psychology of Attraction
What makes a person attract to another? What role does attraction play in a lasting relationship? The psychology of attraction attempts to answer these questions and analyzes the factors governing relationships between human beings.
During air travel, changes in one’s spacial orientation lead to an altered psychological state and mental stress. The field of aviation psychology deals with the psychological changes that take place when flying. It caters to solving psychological problems related to aviation and air traffic control. The work of aviation psychologists pertains to development of psychological medicine and providing counseling to those working in the aviation sector.
Psychology of Beauty
The perception of beauty differs from one individual to another. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. What makes things beautiful? How does the human mind perceive beauty? The psychology of beauty attempts to find an answer to questions like these and tries to analyze whether beauty is an abstract feeling, whether it is based on personal judgment and how it leads to joy.
Psychology of Behavior
This is a very important field of psychology that deals with the analysis of behavioral patterns in human beings. It studies the factors that influence different types of behavior in individuals. Behaviorism is based on the principle that behavior is acquired. This field of psychology tries to analyze how behavioral patterns are acquired and which factors influence behavioral change. This psychology studies observable behavior and is taught as a part of any introductory course in the subject.
Psychology of Belief
Our beliefs form the core of our knowledge system and influence our personality. This field attempts to analyze the belief systems of individuals and how they affect behavior.
This field of psychology analyzes the biological aspect of human behavior. As the nervous system controls behavior, the patterns of behavior can be derived from the functioning of the brain. Biological psychology also tries to analyze the biological aspects of psychological disorders. It is closely related to behavioral neuroscience and can also be referred to as biopsychology.
This field of psychology analyzes the emotional and social development of children. This field includes the analysis of changing behavioral patterns in children and the different stages in their overall development. As a child psychologist, you may need to work with toddlers, children or teenagers and help diagnose and treat the cognitive, social or emotional issues they have.
This field of psychology analyzes the mental processes, which are responsible for behavior. It deals with the study of problem-solving, information processing, memory and emotional abilities of human beings. If questions like how human beings perceive things, how they remember and recollect and what is the process of thinking like, have intrigued you, cognitive psychology could be the field you should enter.
This field of psychology analyzes the effect of different colors on the behavior and emotions of human beings. Colors are believed to affect human emotions and influence behavior to a large extent. That’s the reason behind use of specific colors for specific purposes in advertising or otherwise. Colors carry different meanings in different cultures. The study of how colors affect human emotions, how they influence human behavior and how colors affect your mood is what color psychology includes.
This branch of psychology studies how an individual and his community affect each other. It analyzes the influence society has on an individual’s behavior and also how individual behavior affects the society. Social work, social psychology, community development and cross-cultural psychology are some fields of study, that are closely related to community psychology.
The study of animal behavior falls under the category of comparative psychology. This field of psychology deals with the study of mental processes in animals in order to get a better understanding of human psychology. The study of adaptations, reproduction and evolution in animals comes under comparative psychology.
This branch of psychology deals with the art of counseling people about their roles in personal or professional life. It focuses on issues related to stress management. Counseling psychologists deal with the psychological well-being of an individual as opposed to clinical psychologists who focus more on the medical aspect of one’s emotional health and well-being.
It deals with the analysis and treatment of health disorders related to psychology. It deals with the clinical management of individuals with respect to their neural and psychological functioning. As a clinical psychologist, you are required to have knowledge of medicine to be able to look at the clinical aspect of one’s emotional health.
Psychology of Communication
It analyzes the different patterns of behavior that lead to the expression of different kinds of emotions. It deals with the study of various types of communication like verbal and nonverbal or direct and indirect communication. It involves the study of how communication takes place and how expression and listening skills impact the way situations are perceived.
Psychology of Creativity
Creativity leads to new discoveries. Creativity is God’s gift. Plainly put, it is the understanding of unique and complex relationships between various components of the environment. Creativity emerges from thinking differently. The psychology of creativity studies the factors that lead to development of creative thinking.
This field of psychology deals with the study of the thinking and behavioral patterns of criminals. It analyzes the factors that lead to criminal behavior and involves understanding a criminal’s mind.
This field of psychology attempts to analyze the behavioral patterns of individuals in different age groups. It analyzes the patterns of changes in behavior with advancing age. For example, the physical and psychological changes that take place as a result of growing age are studied in the developmental psychology of aging.
Psychology of Dreams
According to the famous theory of Sigmund Freud, dreams are the means of expression of one’s subconscious wishes. Some theories say that dreams are the means by which the brain organizes thoughts. It is also believed that dreams modify one’s mental state. The causes of dreams, the different types of dreams and the significance of dream content have always been a subject of curiosity and interest. The psychology of dreams deals with this.
It involves the study of the education system and the behavioral and social development resulting from it. The much-debated issue of heredity versus environment and how it influences an individual is dealt with, in this field of psychology.
This field studies the interaction between human beings and their environment. The term environment encompasses one’s social setting, as well as his natural and artificial environments. It focuses on analyzing how physical environments affect an individual’s psychology. Environmental psychologists study how and why individuals react differently to different surroundings and what is it that makes an environment conducive to reasonable behavior, positivity and increased productivity.
It involves the study of various psychological traits through an evolutionary perspective. It focuses on the study of how psychological traits might have evolved through adaptations in living beings.
More than a field in psychology, experimental psychology is an approach taken in the study of different psychology fields. Experimental psychologists conduct experiments to understand perception and behavioral changes in individuals. They propose theories based on observations made through experiments in psychology. The Milgram experiment is one good example of an experimental approach to the study of psychology.
It is defined as the intersection between psychology and the criminal justice system. It is applied to the criminal justice system to assess the defendant’s state of mind at the time of offense and at the time of trial.
This field is related to the application of psychology to healthcare. It analyzes a wide range of health-related behavioral patterns. The psychology of the body consists of three aspects, namely, the body image, body language and body awareness. Body image is one’s perception of his/her identity, body language helps individuals communicate with others and body awareness involves the analysis of the mind-body relationship.
Human Factors Psychology
It is the analysis of how psychology affects human interactions with objects in the environment. This field of psychology is also known as engineering psychology.
It is used to analyze and improve the potential of individuals at their workplace. It finds applications in the selection and evaluation of employees in an organization. The psychology of business is applied to gain a systematic understanding of employees.
Research-based in its approach, this field of psychology studies the role psychology plays in law and legal policies. It tries to understand the psychological implications of laws, on people. It involves the psychological analysis of witnesses, investigators, the jury and those involved in law-making. Legal psychologists can work as trial consultants or advisers to decision-makers in law. This field looks similar to forensic psychology. But the difference is that forensic psychology evaluates the psychology of defendants, while legal psychology involves the psychological research of legal institutions and those associated with law.
This field focuses on the study of how individuals interact with media. It tries to analyze the psychological impact that media has on society. Media influences lives in a big way. It influences behavior. Media psychology deals with the study of how we perceive and react to media elements. With the increasing availability of media and technology, it is imperative to be affected by it. The impact is both positive and negative. Media psychologists work towards enhancing the positive impact while reducing the negative.
This branch of psychology tries to understand how the brain influences behavioral responses in human beings, by studying the structure and functions of the brain and their relationship with psychological processes. There are two approaches in the study of this field of psychology. One which analyzes the correlation between the nervous system and behavior and the other which studies the impact of brain injury or ailments of the brain on one’s psychological state. Psychobiology is a branch of biology that deals with the study of how nervous system functions affect an individual at the physical level. It involves the analysis of how the mind and body influence each other, because of which it comes close to what neuropsychology (as a field of psychology) includes.
It analyzes the different types of personalities and studies the effects of behavior, thoughts and emotions on an individual’s personality.
Psychology is commonly associated with the study of behavioral problems arising from a disturbed psychological state. Positive psychology is a relatively recent field that deals with the positive aspects of psychology. It is the study of factors that lead to positive human development. It involves the analysis of how positive traits and experiences can lead to healthy development of individuals and give them happier lives.
It uses mathematical and statistical data for the study of behavioral patterns in human beings. Psychometrics is a branch of psychology that deals with the measurement of knowledge, abilities and attributes.
This field of psychology focuses on applying the knowledge of psychology for providing support to individuals with chronic illnesses or with physical or developmental disabilities. It aims at helping these individuals cope with their illness and lead a meaningful life. Rehabilitation psychologists work towards developing educational and support programs for the disabled and are involved in providing them with clinical care.
The principles of school psychology combine those of educational and clinical psychology. It attempts to understand and help students with learning disabilities.
It deals with the analysis of how human beings think about each other and how they react to different situations. Their understanding of social issues and their mental setup is analyzed in this field of psychology.
This field analyzes a person’s behavior in sports. It studies the factors that affect an individual’s performance in sports or any physical activity. The skills built through sports are closely associated with psychology. Sports psychology studies this relationship.
Many of the fields of study in psychology given here, are streams you can build your career in. When choosing a psychology field as your career, first give a thought to which areas interest you the most. Also think about whether you would want your work to be application-based or would prefer it to be research-based. Talk to someone in the field and try to find out why he chose that particular field as his career and what his work involves. Job shadowing can help you develop a better understanding of the kind of work involved in that field.
Psychology looks interesting but it is complex too. The deeper you delve into it, the more intriguing it gets. It has been divided into several fields, each opening doors to a new facet of the human mind. Interestingly, something as abstract as the human mind is studied in so many different ways to only find how complex its working is!