This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 01 table of contents.

Summary: What is Psychology?

Psychology has been defined in many ways over the years. One definition, still current, is the science of behavior and mental processes. Slightly over half of all psychologists are engaged in psychology as a helping profession (some form of counseling or consultation aimed at helping people with their problems). Other psychologists perform a wide variety of different professional activities.

Students often have misconceptions about the field of psychology. Often they fail to distinguish between psychology and psychiatry. Many do not realize a PhD is required for most jobs in psychology. Students in the United States tend to overestimate typical starting salaries.

At least four distinct approaches to the subject matter of psychology can be identified. One, the biological perspective, concentrates on the nervous system and its components, especially the brain. Another perspective, the cognitive approach, emphasizes information processing involved in mental processes. The behavioral approach studies measurable activity of the organism and how it reflects stimuli in the environment plus the organism's history of learning. The fourth perspective, the subjective or phenomenological approach, is the study of things as they appear to people.


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