There are a number of unique and distinctive branches of psychology. Each branch looks at questions and problems from a different perspective. While each branch has its own focus on psychological problems or concerns, all areas share a common goal of studying and explaining human thought and behavior. The following are some of the major branches of psychology within the field today.
Abnormal psychology is the area that looks at psychopathology and abnormal behavior. The term covers a broad range of disorders, from depression to obsession-compulsion to sexual deviation and many more. Counselors, clinical psychologists and psychotherapists often work directly in this field.
Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. While this branch of psychology dominated the field during the first part of the twentieth century, it became less prominent during the 1950s. However, behavioral techniques remain a mainstay in therapy, education and many other areas.
The branch of psychology focused on the study of how the brain influences behavior is often known as biopsychology, although it has also been called physiological psychology, behavioral neuroscience and psychobiology.
Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that focuses on internal states, such as motivation, problem solving, decision-making, thinking and attention. This area of psychology has continued to grow since it emerged in the 1960s.
Comparative psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the study of animal behavior. The study of animal behavior can lead to a deeper and broader understanding of human psychology.
Cross-cultural psychology is a branch of psychology that looks at how cultural factors influence human behavior. The International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP) was established in 1972, and this branch of psychology has continued to grow and develop since that time. Today, increasing numbers of psychologists investigate how behavior differs among various cultures throughout the world.
This branch of psychology looks at development throughout the lifespan, from childhood to adulthood. The scientific study of human development seeks to understand and explain how and why people change throughout life. This includes all aspects of human growth, including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, perceptual and personality development. Topics studied in this field include everything from prenatal development to Alzheimer's disease.
Educational psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with schools, teaching psychology, educational issues and student concerns. Educational psychologists often study how students learn or work directly with students, parents, teachers and administrators to improve student outcomes.
Experimental psychology is the branch of psychology that utilizes scientific methods to research the brain and behavior. Many of these techniques are also used by other areas in psychology to conduct research on everything from childhood development to social issues.
Forensic psychology is a specialty area that deals with issues related to psychology and the law. Forensic psychologists perform a wide variety of duties, including providing testimony in court cases, assessing children in suspected child abuse cases, preparing children to give testimony and evaluating the mental competence of criminal suspects.