The overarching goal of psychology is to understand the behavior, mental functions, and emotional processes of human beings. The word psychology comes from two specific Greek words – psyche, which means "soul" or "life", and logia, which means "the study of". Simply put, psychology is the study of the soul . Psychologists study many different areas including biological foundations, mental well-being, change over time, the self and others, and potential dysfunctions. Psychologists usually work in one of three fields – basic research, mental health, or applied psychology.
Clinical psychology involves assessment and diagnosis, as well as the implementation of psychotherapy. Clinical psychology focuses on mental disorders and their treatment, with much of this practice based on research. Many students who major in clinical psychology go on to work as therapists, school psychologists, substance abuse counselors, or professors.
Developmental psychology studies human development over the lifespan. Most developmental psychologists focus on a particular stage of life, such as infancy or the elderly. Developmental psychology studies the various processes that occur during each stage of development, and how human beings transition between stages throughout their lifetime.
Educational psychology looks at the process of learning - specifically how learning takes place in each individual person. This field uses various means of testing and evaluation to assess a person's ability to retain information. Educational psychologists examine what contributes to a person's ability to memorize facts and figures, as well as to develop the complex thinking skills necessary to be successful in today's world.
Social psychology explores social constructs and their effects on human behavior. This field of study began in the early 20th century with the study of group and individual characteristics, specifically after the Nazi crimes of the Holocaust. Social psychologists study three main concepts: social thought, social influence and social connections.
Forensic psychology is the intersection between psychology and the justice system. It involves understanding criminal law in the relevant jurisdictions in order to be able to interact appropriately with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. An important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court as an expert witness, reformulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom, providing information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood. Most practitioners work within the court or prison systems, or with specific populations, such as children, families or the elderly.
Comparative psychology is the study of non-human animals, specifically their mental processes and behavior, in an attempt to make links to human behavior. Comparative psychologists study everything from primates to insects hoping to make sense of a variety of behaviors, such as mating practices. They use what are known at Tinbergen's four questions: How pervasive is the behavior across species? How does the behavior contribute to reproductive success? What mechanisms are involved in the behavior? How does the behavior develop within the individual?
Evolutionary psychology examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language and how they change over time. For example, evolutionary psychologists ask the question – which human traits are evolved modifications of either natural or sexual selection? This view sees human nature as a product of a universal set of psychological adjustments to problems arising in the environment.
Industrial and organizational (IO) psychology focuses on the study of people within the workplace. Psychologists seek to understand an individual's attitude toward work, and what contributes to employees' motivation, happiness, and productivity. IO psychology can help coach supervisors on better leadership practices to make businesses run more effectively.
Neuropsychology studies the brain involvement in mental process. Studies are usually done with people who are suffering from some type of brain disorder or dysfunction. Neuropsychologists attempt to create links between cognition and physiology, and examine how brain impairment can create problems in thought processes.