What is Psychology?

Have you ever wondered why people do things they don’t really agree with just because their friends do? Or why some people seem to find it easy to make friends and have happy relationships while others always struggle? Maybe you are interested in how your memory works or the causes and treatment of psychological illnesses. These are just some of the questions that psychology tries to answer in a scientific manner and we begin to think about them in the first year of the A level course.

Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour, mind and experience. It aims to discover truths by carrying out objective, systematic and verifiable research and it takes a number of different perspectives. For example, behaviour can be explained at the most basic level by considering its biological basis or from a much wider perspective by considering how we function in social groups. Because it is a science, all psychology courses involve a substantial portion of study of research methods; it also involves precise learning, the application of facts and the development of essay-writing and evaluation skills.

Students may study psychology because they want to follow a career which is directly related to it, such as clinical or counselling psychology, educational psychology or operational psychology. Others find it useful as a basis for a career in human resources, probation work or advertising and the media. Still more students study psychology just because it is interesting and because helps to develop a range of transferable skills which are useful in any future career.