A Few Branches of Psychology – Understanding Your Mind and Behaviour

Psychology is derived from psyche (mind) and logos (study). It focuses on the mind, how it works and how it affects behaviour in humans and other animals. Understanding how human experiences can in turn shape or explain human behaviour is also of particular interest. 

Some misconceptions with psychologists are that they can read people’s inner thoughts and body language or interpret dreams. They are also not the same as psychiatrists (medical doctors specialised in mental health) and philosophers (study general and fundamental questions such as existence, values, language and beauty). Psychologists are interested in the role of mental functions in individual and social behaviours as well as exploring the biological processes underlying cognitive functions. 

Varied Psychology branches and research areas are: 

  • Cognitive Psychology: focuses on understanding a variety of mental processes including memory, perception, language, problem-solving and thinking. Let’s focus on memory for example. Memory is the word given to structures and processes involved in the storage and later retrieval of information. Without it, we would not be able to think abstractly, about the future or function in the present. We rely on short term memory for shortly stored information such as a 7 item shopping list while our lost term memory is thought to be unlimited. Published papers suggest chewing gum, sleep, going on walks and turning off any electronical devices, significantly boosts concentration.  
  • Social Psychology: examines how we think about, influence and relate to one another in certain conditions as well as focuses on the power of context of our social behaviours. Social thinking relies on our attitude which can guide our actions often when outside influences are minimal but reciprocally our actions can also affect our attitudes “fake it until you make it”. Conformity or the adjustment of one’s behaviour or thinking to coincide with a group standard is also studied particularly interesting in the context of peer pressure. Social influence can also lead to deindividuation or a loss of self-awareness or self-restraint in group situations. 
  • Positive Psychology: refers to all the theories and research about what makes life most worthwhile and is increasingly covered in academic settings. 

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As such, it focuses on how scientific interventions can help improve happiness by emphasising on one’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. It is important to note that reducing misery is not equivalent as accentuating happiness. Proposed scientific exercise to boost happiness involve performing random acts of kindness daily, writing 5 things you are grateful for daily or developing your strengths. 

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