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Subfields of Psychology

Some of the Major Subfields of Psychology

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The study and practice of psychology encompasses a vast range of topics and a large number of subfields and specialty areas have developed as a result. Because human behavior is so varied, the number of subfields in psychology is constantly growing and evolving.

Psychology can be roughly divided into two major sections: research, which seeks to increase our knowledge base, and practice, through which our knowledge is applied to solving problems in the real world.

Because psychology touches on a number of other subjects including biology, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, new areas of research and practice are continually forming. Some of these subfields have been firmly established as areas of interest, and many colleges and universities offer courses and degree programs in these topics.

Biopsychology

  • This area of psychology is known by a number of titles including behavioral neuroscience, psychobiology, and neuropsychology.

  • Biopsychologists study the relationship between the brain and behavior, such as how the brain and nervous system impact our thoughts, feeling, and moods.

  • This field can be thought of as a combination of basic psychology and neuroscience.

Clinical Psychology

  • Clinical psychology is the largest specialty area in psychology.

  • These psychologists apply psychological principles and research to assess, diagnose, and treat patients with mental and emotional illnesses.

  • Clinicians often work in private practices, but many also work in community centers or at universities and colleges.

Developmental Psychology

  • Developmental psychologists study the physical and cognitive development that occurs over the course of the lifespan.

  • These psychologists generally specialize in an area such as infant, child, adolescent, or geriatric development, while others may study the effects of developmental delays.

Forensic Psychology

  • Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues. This may involve studying criminal behavior and treatments, or working directly in the court system.

  • Forensic psychologists often conduct evaluations, screen witnesses, or provide testimony in court cases.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

  • Psychologists in this field apply psychological principles to research on workplace issues such as productivity and behavior.

  • Some psychologists in this field work in areas such as human factors, ergonomics, and human-computer interaction.

  • Research in this field is known as applied research because it seeks to solve real world problems.

Personality Psychology

  • Personality psychologists study the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior that make each person unique.

  • These psychologists often work in academic settings as instructors or researchers.

Social Psychology

  • Social psychologists study social behaviors, including how individual self-image and behavior is impacted by interactions with others.

  • These psychologists often conduct research in academic settings, but others work in such areas such as advertising and government.

School Psychology

  • School psychologists work within the educational system to help children with emotional, social, and academic issues.

  • These psychologists collaborate with teachers, parents, and students to find solutions to academic, social, and emotional problems.

  • Most school psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools, but others work in private clinics, hospitals, state agencies, and universities. Some go into private practice and serve as consultants, especially those with a doctoral degree in school psychology.
This article is one of the resources included in the Psychology 101 WebQuest, a lesson plan designed for students grade eight and up. The webquest allows students to gather information about a specific topic and then utilize what they have learned to create a class presentation.

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