Psychology: What Is It?

Consider This:     

     Christof Koch, chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, states that the brain  is “the most complex object in the known universe.” What is ironic about Christof’s conclusion is that he is using his own “complex” brain to come up with this conclusion, thus bringing up an undesirable idea: the brain is not complex enough to even figure itself out (Green). Nevertheless, it is important to understand the laws of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of humans, no matter how far scientists are to finding out how the brain functions, and psychology is one of the studies of science that is used to solve exactly that.

Basic Information:

    According to the University of Dallas, psychology is “the study of mental processes, behavior, and the relationship between them.” Mental processes include skills such as learning, reasoning, emotion, and motivation, while behavior is the way a person acts or conducts oneself. The goal of a psychologist is to help his or her patient cope with a life experience problem by predicting the outcome of the patient’s behavior and then manipulating negative traits (Rowan). Examples include phobias, depression, and family issues. A lesson in Crash Course provides a very brief, informational video about psychology.

History of Psychology:

    The word “psychology” is derived off the Greek roots psyche (soul) and ology (study) and formulates the definition of psychology: the study of the soul (Zimmer). Evidently, the definition has grown and evolved throughout the hundreds of years. After all, information builds off of past ideas, and although psychology’s biggest breakthroughs happened in the 1800s, its roots date back to 450 B.C., with figures such as Plato and Aristotle (Stangor). According to the University of Texas at Austin, there are four branches in the evolution of psychology.The three branches discussed in Crash Course’s “Intro to Psychology” are: structuralism, functionalism, and psychoanalysis.


Structuralismthe study of the elements of consciousness (Hall). Wilhelm Wundt, the father of Structuralism, began the first psychological lab in Leipzig, Germany. His goal was to find the individual “elements” in the mind. For example, Wundt believed simple elemental experiences he referred to as immediate experiences (such as red) were assembled together to form mediate experiences (such as a rose).

Functionalism: the theory about the nature of mental states, or the function of the mind and mental processes. It focuses more on what “the nature of mental of states” does, rather than “the elements of consciousness”, which is what separates it from functionalism. William James, the father of functionalism, published his textbook on functionalism called The Principles of Psychology which is still widely used today (“The History and Bases of Psychology”).

Psychoanalysis: the comprehensive theory about human nature, motivation, behavior, development and experience. Sigmund Freud proposed that unconscious processes can affect conscious actions and behaviors, which lead to therapeutic practices like “dreams, projections, and free association” (Green). He based his theory off of psychiatric disorders because of their affects on the unconscious brain, which lead to the release of constrained, mentally-ill people (“The History and Bases of Psychology”).


Psychology is still a newly developing science that will surely evolve to have many more branches. For example, Gestalt, a possible branch of psychology founded in the 20th century, is argued as a forth branch of psychology, but still has developing, new ideas, and is hard to find concrete information on. It’s funny, because even Princeton University states to not cite their page “Gestalt psychology” when finding information on Gestalt psychology because “content of [their] page is taken from Wikipedia, and may not be up-to-date.” Just a little fun-fact to end this blog 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Works Cited

*Disclaimer: The greater than symbol was causing problems with the links, so I took them out.

“About Psychoanalysis.” American Psychoanalytic Association. DPPT of the International Psychoanalytical      association. 2009-2014. Web. 1 November 2014. <http://www.apsa.org/About_Psychoanalysis.aspx

“Gestalt psychology.” Princeton University. CC-BY-SA. 2 November 2014. Web. 2 November      2014. <http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Gestalt_psychology.html

Green, Hank. “Intro to Psychology – Crash Course Psychology #1.”      Youtube. YouTube. 3 February 2014. Web.      27 October 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo4pMVb0R6M

Hall, Richard. “Structuralism.” Psychology World. Creative Commons Copyright. Web. 1      November 2014.      <http://web.mst.edu/~psyworld/structuralism.htm

Koch, Christof. “Decoding ‘the Most Complex Object in the Universe’.” NPR. 14 June      2013. Web. 29 October     2014. <http://www.npr.org/2013/06/14/191614360/decoding-      the-most-complex-object-in-the-universe

Polger, Thomas W. “Functionalism.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ISSN 2161-0002. Web. 2 November      2014. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/functism/

Rowan, Kiri. “Goals of Psychology: Describe, Explain, Predict, and Control.” Udemy Blog. Udemy. 25 March 2014. Web. 1      November 2014. <https://www.udemy.com/blog/goals-of-psychology/

Stangor, Charles. “Introduction to Psychology, v. 1.0.” Flat World Knowledge. Flat      World Education Inc. 2014. Web.      2 November 2014. <http://catalog.flatworldknowledge.com/bookhub/127?e=stangor-ch01_s02

“The History and Bases of Psychology.” The History and Bases of Psychology. Web. 29 October 2014.      <http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Class/Psy301/Salinas/01History.htm

“What is Psychology? Essentials.” UT Dallas. 2012. Web. 1 November      2014. <http://www.utdallas.edu/dept/abp/PDF_Files/Psychology_Folder/Introduction.pdf

Zimmer, Gene. “Psychology – It’s Definition and Actual Meaning.” Psychology – It’s Definition and Actual Meaning. Web.1      November 2014. <http://www.sntp.net/evolution.htm

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