You are on page 1of 21

What is Ps

1 After reading this chapter, you would be able to
• understand the nature and role of psychology in understanding mind
and behaviour,
• state the growth of the discipline,
• know the different fields of psychology, its relationship with other
disciplines, and professions, and
• appreciate the value of psychology in daily life to help you understand
yourself and others better.

What is Psychology?
Psychology as a Discipline
Psychology as a Natural Science
Psychology as a Social Science
Understanding Mind and Behaviour
Popular Notions about the Discipline of Psychology
Evolution of Psychology
Some Interesting Landmarks in the Evolution of
Modern Psychology (Box 1.1)
Development of Psychology in India
Branches of Psychology
Themes of Research and Applications
Psychology and Other Disciplines
Psychologists at Work
The growth of the human mind Psychology in Everyday Life
is still high adventure,
Key Terms
in many ways the highest Summary
adventure on earth. Review Questions
Project Ideas
– Norman Cousins
You were, perhaps, asked by your teacher in the first class why you opted for
psychology over other subjects. What do you hope to learn? If you were asked this
question, what was your response? Generally, the range of responses which surface
in class to this question are truly bewildering. Most students give inane responses,
like they want to know what others are thinking. But then one also comes across
such responses as knowing oneself, knowing others or more specific responses like
knowing why people dream, why people go out of their way to help others or beat
each other up. All ancient traditions have engaged themselves with questions about
human nature. The Indian philosophical traditions, in particular, deal with questions
relating to why people behave in the manner in which they do. Why are people
generally unhappy? What changes should they bring about in themselves if they
desire happiness in their lives. Like all knowledge, psychological knowledge too is
intended to contribute to human well-being. If the world is full of misery, it is largely
due to humans themselves. Perhaps, you have asked why a 9/11 or war in Iraq
happened. Why innocent people in Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar or in the North-East
have to face bombs and bullets? Psychologists ask what is in the experiences of
young men which turn them into terrorists seeking revenge. But there is another
side to human nature. You may have heard the name of Major HPS Ahluwalia,
paralysed waist down because of an injury he suffered in a war with Pakistan,
who climbed the Mt. Everest. What moved him to climb such heights? These are not
only questions about human nature which psychology addresses as a human
science. You will be surprised to learn that modern psychology also deals with
somewhat nebulous micro-level phenomenon like consciousness, focusing attention
in the face of noise, or supporters trying to burn down a shopping complex after
their team had scored victory in a football game over its traditional rival. Psychology
cannot claim that answers have been found to these complex questions. But it
surely has improved upon our understanding and how we make sense of these
phenomena. The most striking aspect of the discipline, unlike other sciences, lies in
the study of psychological processes which are largely internal and available to
humans for observation within themselves.

psychology was a study of the soul or mind.

But since then it has moved away considerably
Any knowledge discipline is hard to define. from this focus and established itself as a
Firstly, because it evolves continuously. scientific discipline which deals with processes
Secondly, because the range of phenomena it underlying human experience and behaviour.
studies cannot be captured by any one The range of phenomena it studies, some of
definition. This is even more true of psychology. which we mentioned above, are spread over
Long time back, students like yourself were told several levels, viz. individual, dyadic (two
that the term psychology is derived from two person) group, and organisational. They also
Greek words psyche meaning soul and logos have biological as well as social bases.
meaning science or study of a subject. Thus, Naturally, therefore, the methods required to

study them also vary greatly depending on the trying to understand how the mind works and
phenomenon one wants to study. A discipline to help us improve the uses and applications
is defined both in terms of what it studies and of these mental capacities.
how it studies. In fact, more in terms of how or Psychologists also study experiences of
method/s it uses. Keeping this in view, people. Experiences are subjective in nature.
psychology is defined formally as a science We cannot directly observe or know someone
which studies mental processes, experiences else’s experience. Only the experiencing person
and behaviour in different contexts. In doing can be aware or be conscious of her or his
so, it uses methods of biological and social experiences. Thus, experiences are embedded
sciences to obtain data systematically. It makes in our awareness or consciousness.
sense of these data so that they can be Psychologists have focused on experiences of
organised as knowledge. Let us try to pain being undergone by terminally ill patients
understand the three terms used in the or of psychological pain felt in bereavement,
definition, namely, mental processes, besides experiences which lead to positive
experience, and behaviour. feelings, such as in romantic encounters.
When we say experiences are internal to There are some esoteric experiences also which
the experiencing person, we refer to states of attract attention of psychologists, such as
consciousness or awareness or mental when a Yogi meditates to enter a different level
processes. We use our mental processes when of consciousness and creates a new kind of
we think or try to solve a problem, to know or experience or when a drug addict takes a
remember something. One level at which these particular kind of drug to get a high, even
mental processes are reflected is the brain though such drugs are extremely harmful.
activity. As we think or solve a mathematical Experiences are influenced by internal and the
problem, our brain activities can be observed external conditions of the experiencer. If you
using different techniques of brain imaging. are travelling in a crowded bus during a hot
However, we cannot say that brain activities summer day, you may not experience the
and mental processes are the same, although usual discomfort if you are going for a picnic
they are interdependent. Mental activities and with some close friends. Thus, the nature of
neural activities are mutually overlapping experience can only be understood by
processes but, they are not identical. Unlike analysing a complex set of internal and
the brain, the mind does not have a physical external conditions.
structure or has a location. Mind emerges and Behaviours are responses or reactions we
evolves as our interactions and experiences make or activities we engage in. When
in this world get dynamically organised in the something is hurled at you, your eyes blink in
form of a system which is responsible for the a simple reflex action. You are taking an
occurrence of various mental processes. examination and can feel your heart pounding.
Brain activities provide important clues to You decide to go for a particular movie with a
how our mind functions. But the friend. Behaviours may be simple or complex,
consciousness of our own experiences and short or enduring. Some behaviours are overt.
mental processes are much more than the They can be outwardly seen or sensed by an
neural or brain activities. Even when we are observer. Some are internal or covert. When
asleep some mental activities go on. We you are in a difficult situation while playing a
dream, and receive some information such game of chess you almost feel your hand
as a knock on the door while we are asleep. muscles twitching, trying to experiment with
Some psychologists have shown that we also a move. All behaviours, covert or overt, are
learn and remember in our sleep. Mental associated with or triggered by some stimulus
processes, such as remembering, learning, in the environment or changes that happen
knowing, perceiving, feeling are of interest to internally. You may see a tiger and run or think
psychologists. They study these processes that there is a tiger and decide to flee. Some

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
psychologists study behaviour as an students go on to earn a B.Sc. or M.Sc. degree
association between stimulus (S) and response in universities. In fact, two of the most sought
(R). Both stimulus and response can be after emerging disciplines which continuously
internal or external. borrow from psychology are Neuroscience and
Computer Science. Some of us would be aware
Psychology as a Discipline of the fast developing brain imaging techniques
like fMRI, EEG, etc. which make it possible to
As we have discussed above, psychology
study brain processes in real time, i.e. when
studies behaviour, experience and mental
they are actually taking place. Similarly, in IT
processes. It seeks to understand and explain
areas, both human-computer interaction and
how the mind works and how different mental
artificial intelligence cannot possibly grow
processes result in different behaviours. When
without psychological knowledge in cognitive
we observe others as lay or common persons,
processes. Thus, psychology as a discipline
our own points of view or our ways of
today has two parallel streams. One which
understanding the world influence our
makes use of the method in physical and
interpretations of their behaviours and
biological sciences and the other which makes
experiences. Psychologists try to minimise
use of the method of social and cultural
such biases in their explanations of behaviour
sciences in studying various psychological and
and experience in various ways. Some do so
social phenomena. These streams sometimes
by seeking to make their analysis scientific
converge only to drift apart and go their
and objective. Others seek to explain
separate ways. In the first case, psychology
behaviour from the point of view of the
considers itself as a discipline, which focuses
experiencing persons because they think that
largely on biological principles to explain
subjectivity is a necessary aspect of human
human behaviour. It assumes that all
experience. In the Indian tradition, self-
behavioural phenomena have causes which can
reflection and analysis of our conscious
be discovered if we can collect data
experiences, is held to be a major source of
systematically under controlled conditions.
psychological understanding. Many western
Here the aim of the researcher is to know cause
psychologists have also begun to emphasise
and effect relationship so that a prediction of
the role of self-reflection and self-knowledge
the behavioural phenomenon can be made and
in understanding human behaviour and
behaviour can be controlled if need be. On the
experience. Regardless of the differences in the
other hand, psychology as a social science
way psychologists go about the study of
focuses on how behavioural phenomena can
behaviour, mental processes and experiences,
be explained in terms of the interaction that
they seek to understand and explain them in
takes place between the person and the socio-
a systematic and verifiable manner.
cultural context of which s/he is a part. Each
Psychology, though it is a very old
behavioural phenomenon is assumed to have
knowledge discipline, is a young science, if one
multiple causes. Let us now discuss these two
were to take the year of the founding of the
streams separately.
first laboratory of psychology in 1879 in
Leipzig. However, what kind of science is
Psychology as a Natural Science
psychology, still remains a matter of debate,
particularly because of the new interfaces of It has been mentioned earlier that psychology
it that have emerged in recent times. has its roots in philosophy. However, modern
Psychology is generally categorised as a social psychology has developed because of the
science. But it should not come to you as a application of the scientific method to study
surprise that, not only in other countries, but psychological phenomenon. Science places a
also in India, it is also a subject of study offered great deal of emphasis on objectivity which
in the faculty of science, both at the can be obtained if there is consensus on the
undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Many definition of a concept and how it can be

measured. Psychology influenced by Descartes from a farmer’s family. Her grandparents,
and later on by the developments in physics parents and elder brother worked on their farm.
has grown by following what is called a They lived together in their house in the village.
hypothetico-deductive model. The model Ranjita was a good athlete and was the best
suggests that scientific advancement can take long distance runner in the school. She loved
place if you have a theory to explain a meeting people and making friends.
phenomenon. For example, physicists have Unlike her, Shabnam lived with her mother
what is called a Big-bang theory to explain in the same village. Her father worked in an
how the universe came to be formed. Theory office in a town nearby and came home during
is nothing else but a set of statements about holidays. Shabnam was a good artist and loved
how a certain complex phenomenon can be staying home and taking care of her younger
explained with the help of propositions which brother. She was shy and avoided meeting
are interrelated. Based on a theory, scientists people.
deduce or propose a hypothesis, that offers a Last year there was very heavy rain and
tentative explanation of how a certain the river nearby overflowed into the village.
phenomenon takes place. The hypothesis then Many houses in the low lying areas were
is tested and proved true or false based on flooded. The villagers got together and
empirical data that one has gathered. The organised help and gave shelter to people in
theory is revised if data gathered point in a distress. Shabnam’s house was also flooded
different direction than the one suggested by and she came to live in Ranjita’s house with
the hypothesis. Using the above approach her mother and brother. Ranjita was happy
psychologists have developed theories of helping the family and making them feel
learning, memory, attention, perception, comfortable in her house. When the flood water
motivation and emotion, etc. and have made receded, Ranjita’s mother and grandmother
significant progress. Till date, most of the helped Shabnam’s mother to set-up their house.
research in psychology follows this approach. The two families became very close. Ranjita
Apart from this, psychologists have also been and Shabnam also became very good friends.
considerably influenced by the evolutionary In this case of Ranjita and Shabnam, both
approach which is dominant in biological are very different persons. They grew up in
sciences. This approach has also been used different families under complex social and
to explain diverse kinds of psychological cultural conditions. You can see some
phenomenon such as attachment and regularity in the relationship of their nature,
aggression to mention just a few. experience and mental processes with their
social and physical environment. But at the
Psychology as a Social Science same time, there are variations in their
We mentioned above that psychology is behaviours and experiences which would be
recognised more as a social science because dif ficult to predict using the known
it studies the behaviour of human beings in psychological principles. One can understand
their socio-cultural contexts. Humans are not why and how individuals in communities
only influenced by their socio-cultural become quite helpful and self-sacrificing in
contexts, they also create them. Psychology crisis as was the case with the people in the
as a social science discipline focuses on village of Ranjita and Shabnam. But, even in
humans as social beings. Consider the that case, not every villager was equally helpful
following story of Ranjita and Shabnam. and also under similar circumstances not
Ranjita and Shabnam were in the same every community is so forthcoming; in fact,
class. Although, they were in the same class, sometimes, the opposite is true – people
they were just acquainted with each other and become antisocial under similar
their lives were quite different. Ranjita came circumstances indulging in looting and

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
exploitation when some crisis occurs. This relationship between the mind and the body
shows that psychology deals with human and that they were parallel to each other.
behaviour and experience in the context of Recent studies in affective neuroscience have
their society and culture. Thus, psychology is clearly shown that there is a relationship
a social science with focus on the individuals between mind and behaviour. It has been
and communities in relation to their socio- shown that using positive visualisation
cultural and physical environment. techniques and feeling positive emotions, one
can bring about significant changes in bodily
processes. Ornish has shown this in a number
of studies with his patients. In these studies a
You will recall that psychology was once person with blocked arteries was made to
defined as a science of the mind. For many visualise that blood was flowing through her/
decades, the mind remained a taboo in his blocked arteries. After practicing this over
psychology because it could not be defined in a period of time, significant relief was obtained
concrete behavioural terms or its location by these patients as the degree of blockage
could not be indicated. If the term “mind” has became significantly less. Use of mental
imagery, i.e. images generated by a person in
returned to psychology, we should thank
her/his mind, have been used to cure various
neuroscientists like Sperry and physicists like
kinds of phobias (irrational fears of objects and
Penrose, who have given it the respect which
situations). A new discipline called
it deserved and now has. There are scientists
Psychoneuroimmunology has emerged which
in various disciplines including psychology,
emphasises the role played by the mind in
who think that a unified theory of the mind is
strengthening the immune system.
a possibility, although it still is far away.
What is mind? Is it the same as brain? It
is true that mind cannot exist without brain,
Activity 1.1
but mind is a separate entity. This can be
Imagine and visualise yourself in the following
appreciated on account of several interesting situations. Mention three psychological processes
cases that have been documented. Some involved in each situation.
patients whose occipital lobes, which are 1. You are writing an essay for a competition.
responsible for vision, were surgically removed 2. You are chatting with a friend on an
have been found to be responding correctly to interesting topic.
3. You are playing football.
location and configuration of visual cues.
4. You are watching a soap opera on TV.
Similarly, an amateur athlete lost his arm in 5. Your best friend has hurt you.
a motorcycle accident but continued to feel 6. You are appearing in an examination.
an “arm” and also continued to feel its 7. You are expecting an important visitor.
movements. When of fered cof fee, his 8. You are preparing a speech to deliver in your
“phantom arm” reached out to the coffee cup
9. You are playing chess.
and when someone pulled it away, he 10. You are trying to figure out the answer of a
protested. There are other similar cases difficult mathematics problem.
documented by neuroscientists. A young man Discuss your answers with the teacher and
who suffered brain injury in an accident, after classmates.
he returned home from the hospital, claimed
that his parents had been replaced by their
“duplicates”. They were imposters. In each of POPULAR NOTIONS ABOUT THE DISCIPLINE
these cases, the person had suffered from OFPSYCHOLOGY
damage of some part of the brain but his
“mind” had remained intact. It was earlier We mentioned above that everyday, almost
believed by scientists that there is no everyone of us acts like a psychologist. We

try to understand why someone behaved in confidence. Dweck’s study tested this. She
the manner in which s/he did and come up took two groups of students who were trained
with ready explanations. Not only this, most for 25 days in solving math problems. The first
of us have developed our own theory of group was given easy problems which they were
human behaviour. If we want some worker always able to solve. The second group had a
to perform better than s/he has in the past, mix of easy and difficult problems. Obviously,
we know that we will need to push her/him. in case of difficult problems, they failed.
Maybe even use a stick because people are Whenever this happened Dweck told them that
basically lazy. Such popular theories of their failure was because they had not tried
human behaviour based on common sense hard enough and persuaded them not to give
may or may not be true if investigated up and keep trying. After the training period
scientifically. In fact, you will find that was over, a new set of math problems were
common sensical explanations of human given to the two groups. What Dweck found
behaviour are based on hindsight and explain goes against common belief. Those who had
very little. For example, if a friend you love always succeeded because they were given
goes away to a distant place, what will easy problems, gave up much faster when they
happen to your attraction for her/him? There faced failure than those who had experience
are two sayings which you may recall to of both success and failure and were taught
answer this question. One of them is “Out of to attribute failure to their lack of effort.
sight, out of mind”. The second one is There are many other common sense
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder”. Both notions which you may not find to be true.
of them make opposite statements, so which Not too long ago it was believed in some
one is true. The explanation you choose will cultures that men are more intelligent than
depend on what happens in your life after women or women cause more accidents than
your friend leaves. Suppose you are able to men. Empirical studies have shown that both
find a new friend, the saying “Out of sight, of these are untrue. Common sense also tells
out of mind” will be used by you or others to us that one is not able to give one’s best if you
explain your behaviour. If you are unable to are asked to perform before a large audience.
find a new friend, you will keep remembering Psychological studies have shown that if you
your friend fondly. In this case, the saying have practiced well, you may actually perform
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder” will better because the presence of others helps
explain your behaviour. Notice that in both your performance.
cases the explanation follows the occurrence It is hoped that as you go through this
of behaviour. Common sense is based on textbook you will discover that many of your
hindsight. Psychology as a science looks for beliefs and understanding of human behaviour
patterns of behaviour which can be predicted will change. You will also gather that
and not explained after the behaviour occurs. psychologists are different from astrologers,
Scientific knowledge generated by tantriks and palm readers because they
psychology often runs against common sense. systematically examine propositions based on
One such example is a study performed by data to develop principles about human
Dweck (1975). She was concerned with behaviour and other psychological phenomena.
children who gave up too easily when faced
with a difficult problem or failure. She Activity 1.2
wondered how they could be helped. Common
sense tells us to give them easy problems in Ask a cross-section of students about what they
order to increase their success rate so that think psychology is? Draw a comparison between
their confidence goes up. Only later should what they say and what the textbook tells you.
we give them difficult problems which they What conclusion can you draw?
will be able to solve because of their new-found

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
In the early 20th century, a new perspective
called Gestalt psychology emerged in
Psychology as a modern discipline, which is Germany as a reaction to the structuralism of
influenced to a large extent by Western Wundt. It focused on the organisation of
developments, has a short history. It grew out perceptual experiences. Instead of looking at
of ancient philosophy concerned with the components of the mind, the Gestalt
questions of psychological significance. We psychologists argued that when we look at the
mentioned earlier that the formal beginning world our perceptual experience is more than
of modern psychology is traced back to 1879 the sum of the components of the perception.
when the first experimental laboratory was In other words, what we experience is more
established in Leipzig, Germany by Wilhelm than the inputs received from our environment.
Wundt. Wundt was interested in the study of When, for example, light from a series of
conscious experience and wanted to analyse flashing bulbs falls on our retina, we actually
the constituents or the building blocks of the experience movement of light. When we see a
mind. Psychologists during Wundt’s time movie, we actually have a series of rapidly
analysed the structure of the mind through moving images of still pictures falling on our
introspection and therefore were called retina. Thus, our perceptual experience is more
structuralists. Introspection was a procedure than the elements. Experience is holistic; it is
in which individuals or subjects in a Gestalt. We will learn more about the Gestalt
psychological experiments were asked to psychology when we discuss about the nature
describe in detail, their own mental processes of perception in Chapter 5.
or experiences. However, introspection as a Yet another reaction to structuralism came
method did not satisfy many other in the form of behaviourism. Around 1910,
psychologists. It was considered less scientific John Watson rejected the ideas of mind and
because the introspective reports could not consciousness as subject matters of
be verified by outside observers. This led to psychology. He was greatly influenced by the
the development of new perspectives in work of physiologists like Ivan Pavlov on
psychology. classical conditioning. For Watson, mind is not
An American psychologist, William James, observable and introspection is subjective
who had set up a psychological laboratory in because it cannot be verified by another
Cambridge, Massachusetts soon after the observer. According to him, scientific
setting up of the Leipzig laboratory, developed psychology must focus on what is observable
what was called a functionalist approach to and verifiable. He defined psychology as a study
the study of the human mind. William James of behaviour or responses (to stimuli) which
believed that instead of focusing on the can be measured and studied objectively.
structure of the mind, psychology should Behaviourism of Watson was further developed
instead study what the mind does and how by many influential psychologists who are
behaviour functions in making people deal known as behaviourists. Most prominent
with their environment. For example, among them was Skinner who applied
functionalists focused on how behaviour behaviourism to a wide range of situations and
enabled people to satisfy their needs. popularised the approach. We will discuss
According to William James, consciousness Skinner’s work later in this textbook.
as an ongoing stream of mental process Although behaviourists dominated the field
interacting with the environment formed the of psychology for several decades after Watson,
core of psychology. A very influential a number of other approaches and views about
educational thinker of the time, John Dewey, psychology and its subject matter were
used functionalism to argue that human developing around the same time. One person
beings seek to function effectively by adapting who shook the world with his radical view of
to their environment. human nature was Sigmund Freud. Freud

viewed human behaviour as a dynamic unfold their inner potential. They argued that
manifestation of unconscious desires and behaviourism with its emphasis on behaviour
conflicts. He founded psychoanalysis as a as determined by environmental conditions
system to understand and cure psychological undermines human freedom and dignity and
disorders. While Freudian psychoanalysis takes a mechanistic view of human nature.
viewed human beings as motivated by These different approaches filled the
unconscious desire for gratification of pleasure history of modern psychology and provided
seeking (and often, sexual) desires, the multiple perspectives to its development. Each
humanistic perspective in psychology took of these perspectives has its own focus and
a more positive view of human nature. draws our attention to the complexity of
Humanists, such as Carl Rogers and Abraham psychological processes. There are strengths
Maslow, emphasised the free will of human as well as weaknesses in each approach. Some
beings and their natural striving to grow and of these approaches have led to further

Box 1.1 Some Interesting Landmarks in the E volution of Modern PPsychology

Evolution sychology

1879 Wilhelm Wundt establishes the first behaviourism as a major approach to

psychology laboratory in Leipzig, psychology.
Germany. 1954 Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow
1890 William James publishes Principles of publishes ‘Motivation and Personality’.
Psychology. 1954 Bureau of Psychology is established at
1895 Functionalism is formulated as a system Allahabad.
of psychology. 1955 National Institute of Mental Health and
1900 Sigmund Freud develops Psychoanalysis. Neurosciences (NIMHANS) is established at
1904 Ivan Pavlov wins the Nobel Prize for his Bangalore.
work on digestive system that led to 1962 Hospital for Mental Diseases in Ranchi is
understanding of principles of established.
development of responses. 1973 Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen win the
1905 Intelligence test developed by Binet and Nobel Prize for their work on built-in species-
Simon. specific animal behaviour patter ns that
1916 First Psychology Department at Calcutta emerge without any prior experience/
University is established. learning.
1920 Gestalt psychology is born in Germany. 1978 Herbert Simon wins the Nobel Prize for work
1922 Psychology is included in Indian Science on decision-making.
Congress Association. 1981 David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel win the Nobel
1924 Indian Psychological Association is Prize for their research on vision cells in the
founded. brain.
1924 John B. Watson publishes ‘Behaviourism’, 1981 Roger Sperry wins the Nobel Prize for split-
a book that led to the foundation of brain research.
behaviourism. 1989 National Academy of Psychology (NAOP) India
1928 N.N. Sengupta and Radhakamal Mukerjee was founded.
publish the first textbook on Social 1997 National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) is
Psychology (London : Allen & Unwin). established at Gurgaon, Haryana.
1949 Psychological Research Wing of the 2002 Daniel Kahneman wins the Nobel Prize for
Defence Science Organisation of India is research on human judgment and decision-
established. making under uncertainty.
1951 Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers 2005 Thomas Schelling wins the Nobel Prize for his
publishes Client-Centred Therapy. work in applying Game Theory to
1953 B.F. Skinner publishes ‘Science and understanding of conflict and cooperation in
Human Behaviour’, strengthening economic behaviour.

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
developments in the discipline. Aspects of departure both within the country and abroad.
Gestalt approach and structuralism were These attempts have tried to establish the
combined and led to the development of the truth value of various assertions in Indian
cognitive perspective which focuses on how philosophical traditions through scientific
we know about the world. Cognition is the studies.
process of knowing. It involves thinking, The modern era of Indian psychology
understanding, perceiving, memorising, began in the Department of Philosophy at
problem solving and a host of other mental Calcutta University where the first syllabus
processes by which our knowledge of the world of experimental psychology was introduced
develops, making us able to deal with the and the first psychology laboratory was
environment in specific ways. Some cognitive established in 1915. Calcutta University
psychologists view the human mind as an started the first Department of Psychology in
information processing system like the the year 1916 and another Department of
computer. Mind, according to this view is like Applied Psychology in 1938. The beginning of
a computer and it receives, processes, modern experimental psychology at Calcutta
transforms, stores and retrieves information. University was greatly influenced by the Indian
Modern cognitive psychology views human psychologist Dr. N.N. Sengupta who was
beings as actively constructing their minds trained in USA in the experimental tradition
through their exploration into the physical and of Wundt. Professor G. Bose was trained in
the social world. This view is sometimes called Freudian psychoanalysis, another area which
constructivism. Piaget’s view of child influenced the early development of
development which will be discussed later is psychology in India. Professor Bose
considered a constructivist theory of established Indian Psychoanalytical
development of the mind. Another Russian Association in 1922. Departments of
psychologist Vygotsky went even further to Psychology in the Universities of Mysore and
suggest that the human mind develops Patna were other early centres of teaching and
through social and cultural processes in which research in psychology. From these modest
the mind is viewed as culturally constructed beginnings, modern psychology has grown as
through joint interaction between adults and a strong discipline in India with a large number
children. In other words, while for Piaget of centres of teaching, research and
children actively construct their own minds, applications. There are two centers of
Vygotsky took a view that mind is a joint excellence in psychology supported by the
cultural construction and emerges as a result UGC at Utkal University, Bhubaneswar and
of interaction between children and adults. at the University of Allahabad. About 70
universities offer courses in psychology.
DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY IN INDIA Durganand Sinha in his book Psychology
in a Third World Country: The Indian
The Indian philosophical tradition is rich in Experience published in 1986 traces the
its focus on mental processes and reflections history of modern psychology as a social
on human consciousness, self, mind-body science in India in four phases. According to
relations, and a variety of mental functions him, the first phase till independence was a
such as cognition, perception, illusion, phase with emphasis on experimental,
attention and reasoning, etc. Unfortunately, psychoanalytic and psychological testing
philosophical roots in the Indian tradition have research, which primarily reflected the
not influenced the development of modern development of the discipline in western
psychology in India. The development of the countries. The second phase till the 1960s was
discipline in India continues to be dominated a phase of expansion of psychology in India
by western psychology, although some into different branches of psychology. During
attempts have been made to find points of this phase Indian psychologists showed a

desire to have an Indian identity by seeking
to link western psychology to the Indian
context. They did this by using western ideas Various fields of specialisation in psychology
to understand the Indian situation. However, have emerged over the years. Some of these
psychology in India sought to become relevant are discussed in this section.
for Indian society in the post 1960s phase of
problem-oriented research. Psychologists Cognitive Psychology investigates mental
became more focused on addressing the processes involved in acquisition, storage,
problems of the Indian society. Further, the manipulation, and transfor mation of
limitations of excessive dependence on information received from the environment
western psychology for our social context were along with its use and communication. The
also realised. Leading psychologists major cognitive processes are attention,
emphasised the significance of research, which perception, memory, reasoning, problem
is of relevance to our situation. The search for solving, decision-making and language. You
a new identity of psychology in India led to will be studying these topics later in this
the phase of indigenisation, which started textbook. In order to study these cognitive
during the late 1970s. Besides rejecting the processes, psychologists conduct experiments
western framework, Indian psychologists in laboratory settings. Some of them also follow
stressed the need for developing an an ecological approach, i.e. an approach which
understanding based on a framework, which focuses on the environmental factors, to study
was culturally and socially relevant. This trend cognitive processes in a natural setting.
was also reflected in some attempts to develop Cognitive psychologists often collaborate with
psychological approaches based on traditional neuroscientists and computer scientists.
Indian psychology, which came from our
Biological Psychology focuses on the
ancient texts and scriptures. Thus, this phase
relationship between behaviour and the
is characterised by development in indigenous
physical system, including the brain and the
psychology, which originated from the Indian
rest of the nervous system, the immune
cultural context and was relevant for society
system, and genetics. Biological psychologists
and Indian psychology based on the Indian
often collaborate with neuroscientists,
traditional knowledge system. While these
zoologists, and anthropologists.
developments continue, psychology in India
Neuropsychology has emerged as a field of
is making significant contributions to the field
research where psychologists and
of psychology in the world. It has become more
neuroscientists are working together.
contextual emphasising the need for
Researchers are studying the role of
developing psychological principles, which are
neurotransmitters or chemical substances
rooted in our own social and cultural context.
which are responsible for neural
Alongside, we also find that new research
communication in different areas of the brain
studies involving interfaces with neuro-
and therefore in associated mental functions.
biological and health sciences are being carried
They do their research on people with normal
functioning brain as well as on people with
Psychology in India is now being applied
damaged brain by following advanced
in diverse professional areas. Not only have
technologies like EEG, PET and fMRI, etc.
psychologists been working with children
about which you will study later.
having special problems, they are employed
in hospitals as clinical psychologists, in Developmental Psychology studies the
corporate organisations in the HRD and physical, social and psychological changes
advertising departments, in sports that occur at different ages and stages over a
directorates, in the development sector and life-span, from conception to old age. The
in IT industry. primary concer n of developmental

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
psychologists is how we become what we are. Health Psychology focuses on the role of
For many years the major emphasis was on psychological factors (for example, stress,
child and adolescent development. However anxiety) in the development, prevention and
today an increasing number of developmental treatment of illness. Areas of interest for a
psychologists show strong interest in adult health psychologist are stress and coping, the
development and ageing. They focus on the relationship between psychological factors and
biological, socio-cultural and environmental health, patient-doctor relationship and ways
factors that influence psychological of promoting health enhancing factors.
characteristics such as intelligence, cognition,
Clinical and Counselling Psychology deals
emotion, temperament, morality, and social with causes, treatment and prevention of
relationship. Developmental psychologists different types of psychological disorders such
collaborate with anthropologists, as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and
educationists, neurologists, social workers, chronic substance abuse. A related area is
counsellors and almost every branch of counselling, which aims to improve everyday
knowledge where there is a concern for growth functioning by helping people solve problems
and development of a human being. in daily living and cope more effectively with
challenging situations. The work of clinical
Social Psychology explores how people are
psychologists does not differ from that of
affected by their social environments, how
counselling psychologists although a
people think about and influence others.
counselling psychologist sometimes deals with
Social psychologists are interested in such
people who have less serious problems. In
topics as attitudes, conformity and obedience
many instances, counselling psychologists
to authority, interpersonal attraction, helpful
work with students, advising them about
behaviour, prejudice, aggression, social personal problems and career planning. Like
motivation, inter-group relations and so on. clinical psychologists, psychiatrists also study
Cross-cultural and Cultural Psychology the causes, treatment, and prevention of
examines the role of culture in understanding psychological disorders. How are clinical
behaviour, thought, and emotion. It assumes psychologists and psychiatrists different? A
clinical psychologist has a degree in
that human behaviour is not only a reflection
psychology, which includes intensive training
of human-biological potential but also a
in treating people with psychological disorders.
product of culture. Therefore behaviour should
In contrast, a psychiatrist has a medical degree
be studied in its socio-cultural context. As you
with years of specialised training in the
will be studying in different chapters of this
treatment of psychological disorders. One
book, culture influences human behaviour in
important distinction is that psychiatrists can
many ways and in varying degrees. prescribe medications and give electroshock
Environmental Psychology studies the treatments whereas clinical psychologist
interaction of physical factors such as cannot.
temperature, humidity, pollution, and natural Industrial/Organisational Psychology deals
disasters on human behaviour. The influence with workplace behaviour, focusing on both the
of physical arrangement of the workplace on workers and the organisations that employ
health, the emotional state, and interpersonal them. Industrial/organisational psychologists
relations are also investigated. Current topics are concerned with training employees,
of research in this field are the extent to which, improving work conditions, and developing
disposal of waste, population explosion, criteria for selecting employees. For example,
conservation of energy, efficient use of an organisational psychologist might
community resources are associated with and recommend that a company may adopt a new
are functions of human behaviour. management structure that would increase

communication between managers and staff. psychology, forensic psychology, rural
The background of industrial and psychology, engineering psychology,
organisational psychologists often includes managerial psychology, community
training in cognitive and social psychology. psychology, psychology of women, and
political psychology, to name a few. Try the
Educational Psychology studies how people Activity 1.3 to reflect upon your interest areas
of all ages learn. Educational psychologists in psychology.
primarily help develop instructional methods
and materials used to train people in both
educational and work settings. They are also THEMES OF RESEARCH AND APPLICATIONS
concerned with research on issues of relevance
for education, counselling and learning In the previous section, you got some idea of
problems. A related field, school psychology, the various branches of psychology. If you
focuses on designing programmes that were to ask a simple question about “what
promote intellectual, social, and emotional psychologists do?”, the usual answer will be
development of children, including those with that they do several things while working in a
special needs. They try to apply knowledge of variety of settings. However, if you try to
psychology in a school setting. analyse their work, you will notice that they
basically engage in two kinds of activities. One
Sports Psychology applies psychological is research in psychology; the other is
principles to improve sports performance by application of psychology.
enhancing their motivation. Sports psychology What are some of the themes which
is a relatively new field but is gaining provide direction to research and application
acceptance worldwide. of psychology? There are several such themes.
Other Emerging Branches of Psychology : We will focus on some of them.
The interdisciplinary focus on research and
application of psychology has led to the Theme 1 : Psychology like other sciences
emergence of varied areas like aviation attempts to develop principles of behaviour and
psychology, space psychology, military mental processes.
In research, the main concern is with the
understanding and explanation of behaviour
Activity 1.3 and mental events and processes.
Think about the areas of psychology that you have Psychologists, who choose to engage in
read in the text. Go through the list given below research, function more like other scientists.
and rank them from 1 (most interesting) to 11 (least Like them, they draw conclusions which are
interesting). supported by data. They design and conduct
Cognitive psychology experiments or studies under controlled
Biological psychology conditions on a wide range of psychological
Developmental psychology
phenomena. The purpose is to develop general
Social psychology
Cross-cultural and cultural psychology principles about behaviour and mental
Environmental psychology processes. The conclusions drawn on the basis
Health psychology of such studies apply to everybody and are,
Clinical and counselling psychology therefore, universal. Experimental,
Industrial/Organisational psychology
comparative, physiological, developmental,
Educational psychology
Sports psychology social, differential and abnormal psychology
After going through this textbook and completing
are generally regarded as domains
the course you may like to return to this activity representing “basic psychology”.
and mark the changes in your ranking. The themes of research in these fields differ
from each other. For example, experimental

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
psychologists study the processes of and biologists. Psychologists look for
perception, learning, memory, thinking, and explanations of various psychological
motivation, etc., using experiment as their phenomena based on individual-environment
method of enquiry, whereas physiological interactions. Although it is difficult,
psychologists attempt to examine psychologists do seek out the relative
physiological bases of these behaviours. importance of heredity and environment in
Developmental psychologists study qualitative explaining human behaviour.
and quantitative changes in behaviour from
the beginning of human life to its end, whereas Theme 3 : Human behaviour is caused.
social psychologists focus on the study of Most psychologists believe that all human
experience and behaviour of individuals as behaviour can be explained in terms of causes
they take place in social contexts. which are internal (to the organism) or external
having location in the outside environment.
Theme 2 : Human behaviour is a function of Causal explanations are central to all sciences
the attributes of persons and environment. because without understanding them no
Kurt Lewin first proposed the famous prediction will be possible. Although,
equation B = f(P,E) – which suggests that psychologists look for causal explanations of
behaviour is the product of a person and her/ behaviour, they also realise that simple linear
his environment. What this equation simply explanations, such as X Causing Y do not hold
tells us is that the variations we find in human true. There is no one cause of behaviour.
behaviour are largely due to the fact that Human behaviour has multiple causes.
persons differ with respect to their various Psychologists, therefore, look for causal
attributes because of their genetic models where a set of interdependent variables
endowments and diverse experiences and so are used to explain a behaviour. When it is
do the environments they are placed in. Here said that behaviour has multiple causes, it
the environment is conceptualised as it is means that it is difficult to pinpoint one cause
perceived or made sense of by the person. of a behaviour because it may itself be caused
Psychologists have for a long time considered by another variable, which in turn may be
that no two individuals are the same, if one caused by some other.
considers their psychological attributes. They
vary with respect to their intelligence, Theme 4 : Understanding of human behaviour
interests, values, aptitudes and various other is culturally constructed.
personality characteristics. In fact, This is a theme which has recently
psychological tests came to be constructed to surfaced. There are psychologists who believe
measure such differences. A discipline that most psychological theories and models
called, differential psychology, which focused are Euro-American in nature and therefore,
on individual differences emerged and do not help us in understanding behaviours
flourished in the late nineteenth and early in other cultural settings. Psychologists from
twentieth century. Most of it still remains in Asia, Africa and Latin America have been
the form of personality psychology. critical of Euro-American approaches which
Psychologists believe that although, core are propagated as universal. A similar critique
psychological processes are universal, they are is made by feminists who argue that
susceptible to individual dispositions. Besides psychology offers a male perspective and
individual differences, psychologists also ignores the perspective of women. They argue
believe that there are variations in behaviour in favour of a dialectical approach which will
which occur due to environmental factors. accommodate both male and female
This is a view which psychologists have taken perspectives in understanding human
from anthropologists, evolutionary theorists behaviour.

Theme 5 : Human behaviour can be controlled and principles derived from research can be
and modified through the application of meaningfully applied. On the other hand,
psychological principles. research is an integral part of even those fields
Why do scientists like to know how certain of psychology that are mainly characterised
events can be controlled, be they physical or by or subsumed under the category of
psychological? Their concern arises from their application. Due to ever increasing demands
desire to develop techniques or methods that of psychology in different settings, many fields
will improve the quality of human life. that were regarded as primarily “research-
Psychologists also seek the same while oriented” in previous decades, have also
applying knowledge generated by them. gradually turned into “application-oriented”.
This often requires removal of certain Newly emerging disciplines like applied
dif ficulties or adverse conditions that experimental psychology, applied social
individuals experience in different phases of psychology, and applied developmental
their life. Consequently, psychologists make psychology indicate that in fact all psychology
certain interventions into the lives of needy has the potential of application and is basically
people. This applied role of psychologists has, applied in nature.
on the one hand, brought the subject closer Thus, there is seemingly no fundamental
to the life of people in general than other social difference between research and application
science subjects and in knowing the limits of of psychology. These activities are highly
the applicability of its principles. On the other interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Their
hand, this role has also been very helpful in mutual interactions and pervasive influences
popularising psychology as a subject in itself. on each other have become so specific that
Thus, several independent branches of several offshoots have emerged in recent years
psychology have emerged that try to use with very specific emphasis on their subject
psychological theories, principles and facts to matters. Thus, ecological psychology,
diagnose and resolve problems related to environmental psychology, cross-cultural
psychology, biological psychology, space
industrial and organisational settings, clinical
psychology, and cognitive psychology, to
services, education, environment, health,
mention a few, have come up as new and
community development and so on. Industrial
frontier areas of research and application that
psychology, organisational psychology, clinical
previously formed part of other fields of
psychology, educational psychology,
psychology. These newer developments
engineering psychology and sports psychology
require highly specialised research skills and
represent some of the areas in which
training on the part of researchers than ever
psychologists are engaged in delivering
services to individuals, groups or institutions.


It may be noted at this point that various areas Any discipline, which deals with people, would
put under the rubrics of “basic” and “applied” definitely recognise the relevance of the
psychology are identified only on the basis of knowledge of psychology. Similarly
their emphasis on the study of certain subject psychologists also acknowledge the relevance
matters and broader concerns. There is no of other disciplines in understanding human
sharp cleavage between research and behaviour. This trend has led to the emergence
application of psychology. For example, basic of interdisciplinary approach in the field of
psychology provides us with theories and psychology. Researchers and scholars in
principles that form the basis of application science, social science and humanities have
of psychology and applied psychology provides felt the significance of psychology as a
us with different contexts in which the theories discipline. Figure 1.1 clearly shows the

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
relationship of psychology with other Economics, Political Science and
disciplines. In studying brain and behaviour, Sociology : As sister social science disciplines,
psychology shares its knowledge with these three have drawn considerably from
neurology, physiology, biology, medicine and psychology and have enriched it as well.
computer science. In studying human Psychology has contributed a great deal to the
behaviour (its meaning, growth and study of micro-level economic behaviour,
development) in a socio-cultural context, particularly in understanding consumer
psychology shares its knowledge with behaviour, savings behaviour and in decision-
anthropology, sociology, social work, political making. American economists have used data
science and economics. In studying mental on consumer sentiments to predict economic
activities involved in creation of literary texts, growth. Three scholars who have worked on
music and drama, psychology shares its such problems have received the Nobel Prize
knowledge with literature, art and music. in Economics, namely H. Simon, D. Kahneman
Some of the major disciplines linked to the and T. Schelling. Like economics, political
field of psychology are discussed below: science too draws considerably from
psychology, particularly, in understanding
Philosophy : Until the end of the 19th century, issues related to exercise of power and
certain concerns that are now part of authority, nature of political conflicts and their
contemporary psychology like, what is the resolutions, and voting behaviour. Sociology
nature of the mind or how do humans come and psychology come together to explain and
understand the behaviour of individuals
to know their motivations and emotions were
within different socio-cultural contexts. Issues
the concerns of philosophers. In the later part
related to socialisation, group and collective
of the 19th century, Wundt and other
behaviour, and intergroup conflicts gain from
psychologists adopted an experimental
both these disciplines.
approach to these questions and
contemporary psychology emerged. Despite Computer Science : From the very beginning,
the emergence of psychology as a science, it the effort of computer science has been in
greatly draws from philosophy, particularly mimicking the human mind. One can see it in
with respect to methods of knowing, and terms of how a ‘computer’ is structured, its
various domains of human nature. memory organised, sequential and
simultaneous (read parallel) processing of
Medicine : Doctors have realised that the information. Computer scientists and
maxim, healthy body requires a healthy mind, engineers are seeking to make computers not
is actually true. A large number of hospitals only more and more intelligent but also
now employ psychologists. The role of machines which can sense and feel.
psychologists in preventing people from Developments in both these disciplines have
engaging in health hazardous behaviours and brought about significant advancement in the
in adhering to the prescribed doctors’ regimen field of cognitive sciences.
are some of the important areas where the
two disciplines have come together. While Law and Criminology : A skilled lawyer and
treating patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, a criminologist requires knowledge of
and the physically challenged, or handling psychology in answering such questions as:
patients in the Intensive Care Unit, and How well a witness remembers an accident, a
patients during post operative care doctors street fight, or a murder? How well can s/he
have also felt the need for psychological report such facts when taking the witness
counselling. A successful doctor looks at the stand in the court? What factors influence the
psychological as well as physical well-being decision which is taken by the jury? What are
of the patients. the dependable signs of guilt and falsehood?

Political Science Education Economics

Philosophy Music and Fine Arts


Computer Science Law/Criminology

Medicine/Psychiatry Mass Communication

Architecture and Engineering Sociology

Fig.1.1 : Psychology and Other Disciplines

What factors are held important in holding a criminal act? Psychologists seek to answer
culprit responsible for her/his action? What these questions. Currently, a number of
degree of punishment is considered just for a psychologists are involved in research on such

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
issues, the answers to which would help the
legal system of the country in the future.
Psychologists today work in a variety of
Mass Communication : The print and the settings where they can apply psychological
electronic media have entered in our lives in a principles for teaching and training people to
very big way. They have a major influence on cope effectively with the problems of their lives.
our thinking, attitudes and our emotions. If Often referred to as “human service areas” they
they have brought us closer together, they have include clinical counselling, community,
also reduced cultural diversities. The impact school and organisational psychology.
of the media on the formation of attitudes of Clinical psychologists specialise in
children and their behaviour is a domain helping clients with behavioural problems by
where both these disciplines come together. providing therapy for various mental
Psychology also helps in developing strategies disorders and in cases of anxiety or fear, or
for better and effective communication. A with stresses at home or at work. They work
journalist in reporting news must know the either as private practitioners or at hospitals,
reader’s interests in the story. Since most mental institutions, or with social agencies.
stories deal with human events, knowledge of They may be involved in conducting
their motives and emotions is very important. interviews and administering psychological
A story will be more penetrating if based upon tests to diagnose the client’s problems, and
a background of psychological knowledge and use psychological methods for their treatment
insight. and rehabilitation. Job opportunities in
clinical psychology attract quite a few to this
Music and Fine Arts : Music and psychology field of psychology.
have converged in many areas. Scientists have Counselling psychologists work with
made use of music in raising work persons who suffer from motivational and
performance. Music and emotions is another emotional problems. The problems of their
area in which a number of studies have been clients are less serious than those of the
carried out. Musicians in India have recently clinical psychologists. A counselling
started experimenting with what they call psychologist may be involved in vocational
‘Music Therapy’. In this they use different rehabilitation programmes, or helping persons
‘Ragas’ for curing certain physical ailments. in making professional choices or in adjusting
The efficacy of music therapy still remains to to new and difficult situations of life.
be proven. Counselling psychologists work for public
agencies such as mental health centres,
Architecture and Engineering : At first glance hospitals, schools, colleges and universities.
the relationship between psychology and Community psychologists generally
architecture and engineering would appear focus on problems related to community
improbable. But such is actually not the case. mental health. They work for mental health
Ask any architect, s/he must satisfy her/his agencies, private organisations and state
clients by providing mental and physical space governments. They help the community and
through her design and satisfy aesthetically. its institutions in addressing physical and
Engineers must also take into account human mental health problems. In rural areas they
habits in their plans for safety, for example, may work to establish a mental health centre.
on streets and highways. Psychological In urban areas they may design a drug
knowledge helps in a big way in designing of rehabilitation programme. Many community
all mechanical devices and displays. psychologists also work with special
To sum up, psychology is located at the populations such as the elderly or the
intersection of many fields of knowledge physically or mentally challenged. Besides the
pertaining to human functioning. redir ection and evaluation of various

programmes and plans, community based social reforms, interventions at the individual
rehabilitation (CBR) is of major interest to levels are also needed in order to change. Many
community psychologists. of these problems are largely of psychological
School psychologists work in nature and they result from our unhealthy
educational systems, and their roles vary thinking, negative attitude towards people and
according to the levels of their training. For self and undesirable patterns of behaviour. A
example, some school psychologists only psychological analysis of these problems helps
administer tests, whereas others also both in having a deeper understanding of these
interpret test results to help students with problems and also in finding their effective
their pr oblems. They also help in the solutions.
formulation of school policies. They facilitate The potential of psychology in solving the
communication between parents, teachers problems of life is being realised more and
and administrators, and also provide teachers more. Media has played a vital role in this
and parents with information about the respect. You may have seen on television
academic progress of a student. counsellors and therapists suggesting
Organisational psychologists render solutions to a variety of problems related to
valuable help in dealing with problems that children, adolescents, adults and the elderly
the executives and employees of an people. You may also find them analysing vital
organisation tend to face in their respective social problems relating to social change and
roles. They provide organisations with development, population, poverty,
consultancy services and organise skill interpersonal or intergroup violence, and
training programmes in order to enhance their environmental degradation. Many
ef ficiency and ef fectiveness. Some psychologists now play an active role in
organisational psychologists specialise in designing and executing intervention
Human Resource Development (HRD), while programmes in order to provide people with a
others in Organisational Development and better quality of life. Hence, it is no surprise
Change Management programmes. that we find psychologists working in diverse
settings such as schools, hospitals, industries,
prisons, business organisations, military
establishments, and in private practice as
The discussion above may have clarified that consultants helping people solve problems in
psychology is not only a subject that satisfies their respective settings.
some of the curiosities of our mind about Besides helping you in rendering social
human nature, but it is also a subject that service to others, the knowledge of psychology
can offer solutions to a variety of problems. is also personally relevant to you in your day-
These may range from purely personal (for to-day life. The principles and methods of
example, a daughter having to face an alcoholic psychology that you will learn in this course
father or a mother dealing with a problem child) should be made use of in analysing and
to those that may be rooted within the family understanding yourself in relation to others.
set up (for example, lack of communication and It is not that we do not think about ourselves.
interaction among family members) or in a But very often, some of us think very highly
larger group or community setting (for example, of ourselves and any feedback that contradicts
terrorist groups or socially isolated our opinion about ourselves is rejected
communities) or may have national or because we engage in what is called a
international dimensions. Problems related to defensive behaviour. In some other cases,
education, health, environment, social justice, persons come to acquire a habit of running
women development, intergroup relations, etc. down themselves. Both conditions do not
are pervasive. While the solution of these permit us to grow. We need to have a positive
problems may involve political, economic and and balanced understanding of ourselves. You

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?
may use psychological principles in a positive
manner to develop good habits of study for
improving your learning and memory, and for
Key Terms
solving your personal and interpersonal Behaviour, Behaviourism, Cognition, Cognitive
problems by using appropriate decision- approach, Consciousness, Constructivism,
making strategies. You will also find it of use Developmental psychology, Functionalism,
to reduce or alleviate the stress of Gestalt, Gestalt psychology, Humanistic
approach, Introspection, Mind,
examination. Thus, the knowledge of Neuropsychology, Physiological psychology,
psychology is quite useful in our everyday life, Psychoanalysis, Sociology, Stimulus,
and is rewarding from personal as well as Structuralism
social points of view.

• Psychology is a modern discipline aimed at understanding the complexities of mental
processes, experiences and behaviour of individuals in different contexts. It is treated as a
natural as well as a social science.
• The major schools of psychological thought are structuralism, functionalism, behaviourism,
Gestalt school, psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology and cognitive psychology.
• Contemporary psychology is multivocal as it is characterised by many approaches or
diverse views, which explain behaviour at different levels. These approaches are not
mutually exclusive. Each provides valuable insights into the complexities of human
functioning. The cognitive approach uses thought processes as central to psychological
functions. The humanistic approach views human functioning as characterised by a desire
to grow, be productive and fulfill human potential.
• Today psychologists work in many specialised fields which have their own theories and
methods. They make efforts to develop theories and solve problems in specific domains.
Some of the major fields of psychology are: cognitive psychology, biological psychology,
health psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, educational and school
psychology, clinical and counselling psychology, environmental psychology, industrial/
organisational psychology, sports psychology.
• More recently a need is felt to have multi/interdisciplinary initiatives to arrive at a better
understanding of reality. This has led to a collaboration across disciplines. Interests of
psychology overlap with social sciences (e.g., economics, political science, sociology),
biosciences (e.g., neurology, physiology, medicine), mass communication, and music and
fine arts. Such efforts have led to fruitful research and application.
• Psychology is a discipline not merely contributing to the development of theoretical
knowledge about human behaviour, but contributing to the solution of problems at different
levels. Psychologists are employed to help in diverse activities in a variety of settings
including schools, hospitals, industries, training institutes, military and government
establishments. Many of them are doing private practice and are consultants.

Review Questions
1. What is behaviour? Give examples of overt and covert behaviour.
2. How can you distinguish scientific psychology from the popular notions about the
discipline of psychology?
3. Give a brief account of the evolution of psychology.

4. What are the problems for which collaboration of psychologists with other disciplines
can be fruitful? Take any two problems to explain.
5. Differentiate between (a) a psychologist and a psychiatrist (b) a counsellor and a clinical
6. Describe some of the areas of everyday life where understanding of psychology can be
put to practice.
7. How can knowledge of the field of environmental psychology be used to promote
environment friendly behaviour?
8. In terms of helping solve an important social problem such as crime, which branch of
psychology do you think is most suitable. Identify the field and discuss the concerns of
the psychologists working in this field.

Project Ideas
1. This chapter tells you about several professionals in the field of psychology. Contact a
psychologist who fits into one of the categories and interview the person. Have a list of
questions prepared beforehand. Possible questions could be: (i) What kind of education is
necessary for your particular job? (ii) Which college/university would you recommend for
the study of this discipline? (iii) Are there many jobs available today in your area of work?
(iv) What would a typical day at work be like for you – or is there no such thing as
“typical”? (v) What motivated you to enter this line of work?
Write a report of your interview and include your specific reactions.
2. Go to the library or some bookstore or surf the internet and obtain names of some books
(fiction/non-fiction or films), which have reference to applications of psychology.
Prepare a report giving a brief synopsis.

Chapter 1 • What is Psychology?