Psychology is a very broad field, and has been divided into a number of subfields for specialization. Areas of specialization are listed as follows:
- Biological psychology/behavioral neuroscience
- Clinical psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Comparative psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Educational and school psychology
- Evolutionary psychology
- Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology
- Personality psychology
- Social psychology
- Positive psychology
Biological Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience
This subfield focuses on the biological aspects of behavior and mental processes. There are different specialties within this subfield, including physiological psychology, which uses animal models to study the neural, genetic, and cellular mechanisms that underlie specific behaviors; cognitive neuroscience, which investigates the neural correlates of psychological processes in humans, using neural imaging tools; and neuropsychology, which uses psychological assessments to determine specific aspects, and the extent of cognitive deficits, caused by brain damage or disease .
This subfield involves the study and application of psychology for the purpose of understanding, preventing, and treating psychologically based dysfunction. Clinical psychologists use various treatment methods to promote subjective well-being and personal development. Although clinical psychologists may engage in research, teaching, consultation, forensic testimony, and program development, many clinical psychologists focus on using psychological assessment and psychotherapy to treat individuals with psychological disorders. In many countries, clinical psychology is a regulated mental health profession. There are four major theoretical approaches within clinical psychology, including the psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, existential-humanistic, and systems therapy approaches.
This subfield focuses on the mental processes underlying mental activity, including: perception, attention, reasoning, problem solving, memory, learning, language, and emotion. Classical cognitive psychology is associated with the theoretical approach of cognitivism, whose adherents argue for an information processing model of mental function . On a broader level, cognitive psychology is a highly interdisciplinary field comprised of cognitive psychologists, cognitive neuroscientists, researchers in artificial intelligence, linguists, researchers in human-computer interaction, computational neuroscientists, logicians, and cognitive social psychologists.
Comparative psychology refers to the scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals, especially as they relate to adaptive significance and the development of behavior. This subfield researches many different species from insects to primates .
This subfield mainly focuses on the development of the human mind across the life span. Developmental psychologists seek to understand how people come to perceive, understand, and act within the world, and how these processes change as they age. Areas of particular interest include cognitive, affective (emotional), moral, social, and neural development. Researchers study changes across the life span, but tend to focus on ages where rapid change is seen, such as infancy, adolescence, and old age.
Educational and School Psychology
Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the study of schools as organizations. School psychology combines principles from educational psychology and clinical psychology to understand and treat students with learning disabilities; foster the intellectual growth of gifted students; facilitate prosocial behaviors in adolescents; and to otherwise promote a safe, supportive, and effective learning environment.
Evolutionary psychology examines psychological traits, such as memory, perception, or language, from a modern evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary psychologists seek to identify which of these traits are evolved adaptions - in other words, how they are the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection.
Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology
This subfield applies psychological concepts and methods to optimize human potential in the workplace. One subfield of I-O psychology, personnel psychology, applies the methods and principles of psychology in selecting and evaluating workers. Another subfield of I-O psychology, organizational psychology, examines the effects of work environment and management styles on worker motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity.
Personality psychology is concerned with enduring patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion in individuals. There are several different approaches to personality theory including Neo-Freudianism, trait theory, and social cognitive theory.
Social psychology is the study of how humans think about each other and how they relate to one another. Social psychologists study such topics as social influence (e.g. conformity, obedience), attitudes, prejudice, group dynamics, and social justice. There are many subtypes of social psychology, including social cognition and social neuroscience. This subfield has been referred to as a bridge between psychology and sociology.
Positive psychology derives from the humanistic approach to psychology. It is a discipline that utilizes evidence-based scientific methods to study factors that contribute to happiness and mental balance. Unlike clinical psychology, which often focuses on mental illness, positive psychology is concerned with maintaining the mental well-being of healthy clients.