What are the Important Fields / Branches of Psychology?

Scope of psychology is increasing day by day, Therefore new fields of psychology / branches of psychology are emerging. Now a days there are more than 50 fields of psychology / branches of psychology to study human behavior with different angles.

There are two broad areas of psychology-

  1. Theoretical fields or branches of Psychology
    1. 1. Developmental Psychology
      2. Child Psychology
      3. Social Psychology
      4. Cognitive Psychology
      5. Experimental Psychology
      6. Abnormal Psychology
    2. 7. Neuropsychology
  2. Applied fields or branches of Psychology
    1. 1. Educational Psychology
      2. Clinical Psychology
      3. Counselling Psychology
      4. Industrial/ Organizational Psychology
      5. Sports Psychology
      6. Criminal Psychology
    2. 7. Health Psychology


1. Theoretical fields or Branches of Psychology

Basic Focus mainly on conducting research, formulating theories, developing principles and establishing laws to explain human behavior. Also called as ‘Basic Psychology’.

    1. Developmental Psychology

      • It studies the physical, social and psychological changes that occur at different ages and stages over a life-span, from conception to old age. The primary concern of developmental psychologists is how we become what we are.
      • For many years the major emphasis was on child and adolescent development. However today an increasing number of developmental psychologists show strong interest in adult development and ageing.
      • They focus on the biological, cognitive, socio-cultural and environmental factors that influence psychological characteristics such as intelligence, cognition, emotion, temperament, morality, and social relationship.
      • Developmental psychologists  deals with questions like What are the developmental changes that take place during childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age?
    2. Child Psychology

      • It deals with the biological, psychological & emotional changes that occur during childhood. These changes occur as the individual progresses being dependent to becoming independent.
      • They also conduct researches on effective child rearing practices, Parenting styles, role of reinforcement in motivating children etc
      • Child psychologist studies the questions like What are the causes of misbehavior in children? How does separation of parents affects a child? Why do some children suck their thumb? etc.
      • Important Child Psychology theorist  – Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Developmental Stages; Erikson’s eight-stage theory of psychosocial development; John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner; Piaget’s a theory of Cognitive development; Bowlby’s attachment theory; Albert Bandura’s  social learning theory;  Lev Vygotsky‘s Sociocultural theory; 

    1. Social Psychology

      • It explores how people are affected by their social environments, how people think about and influence others.
      • Social psychologists are interested in such topics as attitudes, conformity and obedience to authority, interpersonal attraction, helpful behaviour, leadership, prejudice, aggression, social motivation, inter-group relations and so on.
      • Social Psychologist deals with questions like When do people follow norms and when do they break rules?
      • Kurt Lewin’s formula B = f(P,E) – which suggests that behaviour is the product of a person and her/ his environment.
      • Important Social Psychology theorist- Kurt Lewin (Father of Modern Social Psychology) Group Dynamics, Experimental learning & Field Theory  Allport’s Social Facilitation;  Milgram’s Obedience Experiment; Zimbardo’ s conformity prison simulation ;
    2. Cognitive Psychology

      • It explores mental processes involved in acquisition, storage, manipulation, and transformation of information received from the environment along with its use and communication.
      • The major cognitive processes are attention, perception, memory, Thinking, reasoning, problem solving, decision-making, Intelligence and language.
      • Cognitive psychologists often collaborate with neuroscientists and computer scientists deals with questions like How does memory disruption occur? What are the different types of learning styles and learning disorders? What causes them? What leads to
        speech impairment? How does the decision making mechanism work?
      • Important Cognitive psychologists- Ulrich Neisser (Father of cognitive psychology),  Alan Baddeley, Jean Piaget, , etc

    1. Experimental Psychology

      • The experimental psychologist tries to understand the fundamental causes of behaviour.
      • They conduct experiments to study how people react to sensory stimuli and perceive the world.
      • The method of investigation in this field is that of laboratory experiment.
      • Important Experimental psychologists- Pavlov’s Dog Experiment, B. F. Skinner pigeon experiment, etc
    2. Abnormal Psychology

      • It studies unusual patterns of behaviour, emotions and thinking. It aims to study the causes and factors leading to
        abnormal reactions.
      • It deals with causes, treatment and prevention of different types of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and chronic substance abuse.
      • For example : excessive suspiciousness, extreme mood swings, perceiving objects or situations which are not real, mental retardation, extreme fear of objects, animals or situation etc.
      • Manuals for Classifications of disorder- APA’s DSM5 & WHO’s ICD-10 
    3. Neuropsychology

      • It focuses on the role of neurotransmitters or chemical substances which are responsible for neural communication in different areas of the brain and therefore in associated mental functions.
      • They do their research on people with normal functioning brain as well as on people with damaged brain by following advanced
        technologies like EEG, PET and fMRI, etc.
      • Currently growing field.

2. Applied fields or Branches of Psychology

The Theories, knowledge and principles generated through research in theoretical Psychology are used to develop techniques to solve practical issues/problems of individuals.

    1. Educational Psychology

      • It is concerned with increasing the efficiency of teaching and learning process. studies how people of all ages learn.
      • The educational psychologist is concerned with developing effective methods of teaching / learning, preparing intervention programs for exceptional children, developing personality development programs, preparing relevant curriculum etc.
      • They deal with behavioural issues of children such as learning disorder, hyperactivity, lack of concentration, ADHD etc
    2. Clinical Psychology

      • Clinical Psychology is concerned with the study, diagnosis & treatment of emotional and behavioural problems such as mental illness, marital and family conflict, drug addiction, severe depression, alcoholism, delinquency etc.
      • For the purpose of diagnosis, clinical psychologists collect detailed information about the client by using psychological tests, interviews of client and his significant others like family and friends.
      • They use appropriate psychotherapy to help the client to deal with his problem.
      • In India, you need RCI registration to practice as clinical Psychologist
    3. Counselling Psychology

      • It aims to improve everyday functioning by helping people solve problems in daily living and cope more effectively with challenging situations.
      • Deals with relatively less severe problems as compared to clinical psychologist.
    4. Industrial/Organizational Psychology

      • Its focus is on workplace behavior, focusing on both the workers and the organizations that employ them.
      • Industrial/organizational psychologists are concerned with training employees,  motivation, job satisfaction, appraisals and grievances, improving work conditions, and developing criteria for selecting employees.
      • They help to enhance motivation, group morale, leadership skills among the employees.
      • Commonly known as HR in companies.
      • Important Industrial Psychologists – Robert Yerkes’ Army Alpha & Army beta Intelligence test ; Frederick W. Taylor’ scientific management; Kurt Lewin‘s leadership theories;  etc

  1. Sports Psychology

    • It applies psychological principles to improve sports performance by enhancing their motivation stamina during actual performance and also maintaining themselves when they are not on the field.
    • help players to work under pressure, to maintain their emotional balance when they are going through a bad patch and guide them to maintain themselves when they are recovering from personal injuries.
    • Sport Psychologist has the credit of Iga Swiatek’s French Open Title 2020! – Careershodh
  2. Criminal Psychology

    • It concerned with identifying the causes of crime, studying personality of criminals, suggesting preventive measures to control criminal behaviour and implementing plans for criminal rehabilitation.
    • They play significant role in forensic department to uncover the scene of crime by understanding and interpreting the behavioural clues of the criminals.
  3. Health Psychology

    • focuses on the role of psychological factors (like stress, anxiety & coping) in the development, prevention and treatment of illness.
    • Areas of interest for a health psychologist are stress and coping, the relationship between psychological factors and health, patient-doctor relationship and ways of promoting health enhancing factors.

Other fields or Branches of Psychology

    1. Environmental Psychology

      • It studies the interaction of physical factors such as temperature, humidity, pollution, and natural disasters on human behaviour.
      • The influence of physical arrangement of the workplace on health, the emotional state, and interpersonal relations are also investigated.
      • Current topics of research in this field are the extent to which, disposal of waste, population explosion, conservation of energy, efficient use of community resources are associated with and are functions of human behaviour.

  1. Cultural and Cross-Cultural Psychology

    • It examines the role of culture in understanding behaviour, thought, and emotion.
    • It assumes that human behaviour is not only a reflection of human-biological potential but also a product of culture. Therefore behaviour should be studied in its socio-cultural context.
  2. Others-aviation psychology, space psychology, military Psychology ,forensic psychology, rural psychology, engineering psychology, managerial psychology, community psychology, psychology of women, and political psychology, etc.

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