There are many ways to classify the study of psychology, which is the study of human mind and behavior. One school of thought is that there are four major areas:
- Clinical psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Behavioral psychology
Clinical psychology is a specialty that provides counseling services for mental and behavioral health care for individuals and families. Clinical psychologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat many different types of mental illness. Many practitioners are also involved in research and teaching.
Clinical psychology applications can include:
- Adult counseling
- Childhood counseling
- School psychologists
- Family therapy
Clinical psychologists may have a general practice, or they may specialize in certain age groups such as children or the elderly, or certain mental health disorders such as eating disorders, chronic illness, depression, or phobias.
Cognitive psychology is the study of the mental processes related to perception, language, attention, thinking, memory, and consciousness. It can help people understand and overcome problem behaviors and ways of thinking. It can help people change distorted thought patterns and behaviors into functional ones.
Cognitive psychology can be used to address wide range of problems such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Personality disorders
- Substance abuse
- Health-related problems
- Academic performance
- Relationship problems
- Stress management
- Problems in daily living
Behavioral psychology is based on the theory that all behaviors are derived from conditioning, that is, our habitual responses to our environments. It is an attempt to get at the root of why people think and act as they do.
There are two main types of conditioning in behavioral psychology:
- Classical conditioning
- A technique used in behavioral training in which a neutral stimulus is paired with a naturally occurring stimulus
- Eventually, the neutral stimulus triggers the same response as the naturally occurring stimulus, even without the presence of the natural stimulus
- Pavlov’s experiments with dogs are an example of this: a neutral stimulus (a lab assistant) is associated with an unconditioned stimulus (dog food) to trigger a response (salivating)
- The neutral stimulus becomes the conditioned stimulus and the learned response is called a conditioned response
- Operant conditioning (also called instrumental conditioning)
- Learning that occurs through reinforcements (rewards) and punishments
- An association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior
- If a desirable consequence follows a behavior (a reward) that behavior is more likely to occur again in the future
- If an undesirable response (punishment) follows a behavior, behavior is less likely to occur again
Biopsychology involves research on the brain, behavior, and evolution. It aims to explain human behavior from a biological standpoint. Research is often focused on non-human mammals and may involve:
- Sensory processes
- Learning and memory
- Motivation and excitement
Biopsychology studies aspects of behavior including decision-making, reward processes, memory, emotion, motivation, attention, mating, reproduction, aggression, and affiliation.
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