Main Branches of Psychology

Branches of psychology
(Last Updated On: October 1, 2021)

Psychology is often defined as the study of the mind and behavior, a very broad topic that is often broken down into a number of different branches of psychology. Each branch is centered on a specific subfield within psychology.

Some psychologists study the functions of the brain and their influence on behavior. Others explore how personality develops and changes over the course of life. Other psychologists are interested in exploring how psychology can improve life in the workplace.

Overview of the Branches of Psychology

Each branch of psychology differs in terms of what it studies and what perspective it typically takes. All of these areas of psychology share the goals to help describe, explain, predict, and sometimes change how people behave and think.

The branches of psychology often tend to focus on one of two areas, although some fields encompass both:

  • Basic research: This type of research is focused on contributing our scientific knowledge about the topic.
  • Applied research: This type of research is focused on solving problems that exist in the real world.

In order to understand just how broad and deep of s subject psychology truly is, let’s take a closer look at some of the different branches of psychology.

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology is a branch of psychology that seeks to identify, understand, and treat behavioral, thought, and emotional patterns that are considered abnormal and maladaptive.

There are different ways of defining what is normal and what is not. In statistical terms, things that are considered abnormal are those that lie outside of what the majority of people experience.

Abnormality can also be defined in terms of functioning. Behaviors that are considered maladaptive and make it difficult to functioning normally in daily life are often considered abnormal.

Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is an area of psychology that is devoted to the study of observable behaviors and how learning takes place via conditioning processes.

Important behavioral concepts include classical conditioning, which involves learning through associations, and operant conditioning, which involves learning as a result of consequences.

Biological Psychology

Biological psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how biological influences, specifically the brain and nervous system, influence the human mind and behavior.

Biopsychologists often study how brain injury and illness impact normal psychological functioning. This area of psychology also often involves using imaging tools such as MRI and PET scans to look at the brain to determine which areas are activated when particular tasks are performed.

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Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a field that is known as one of the single largest areas of employment within psychology. Clinical psychologists typically work directly in mental health treatment and work with patients who experience some form of mental illness, psychological distress, or emotional disturbances.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology concerned with looking at mental processes that underlie behavior including thinking, perception, problem-solving, decision-making, memory, and attention.

Community Psychology

Community psychology is a field of psychology devoted to understanding the individual’s relationship with his or her community as well as how that community fits in with the larger society.

Consumer Psychology

Consumer psychology is an area of psychology that centers on using psychological principles to understanding consumer behavior. Professionals who work in this branch of psychology utilize their knowledge to help businesses understand what motivated consumers to buy products and services.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology, like clinical psychology, is devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health issues. This branch of psychology takes a special focus on functioning in areas related to social, emotional, family, vocational, and developmental well-being.

Criminal Psychology

Criminal psychology focuses on understanding all aspects and influences of criminal behavior, including the myriad factors that contribute to criminal actions.

Professionals who work in this field study the thoughts, intentions, motivations, emotions, and behaviors of people who commit crimes. Those who work in this field are often called to help with criminal investigations and to testify in criminal cases.

Cross-Cultural Psychology

This area of psychology is devoted to studying both similarities and differences in cultures all over the world. Some aspects of human behavior are universal while others are unique to a culture.

By studying these things, professionals are able to better understand how human behavior is influenced by the culture at large.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology focues on the study of development over the entire course of life. This includes physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth from the earliest days of infancy into old age. Professionals who work in this field often specialize in working with a particular population such as young children, adolescents, or older adults.

Educational Psychology

This branch of psychology is concerned with the process of learning. The often involves looking at both behavioral and cognitive methods of learning as well as the motivational, intellectual, and societal factors that impact the learning process.

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Engineering Psychology

This branch of psychology is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates ergonomics and human-machine interactions. The goal of this field is often to make products and machines that people use regularly more user-friendly and safe.

Environmental Psychology

This area of psychology is about understanding how humans interact with their environments. This could include both natural settings as well as man-made environments.

Professionals who work in this field are often concerned with helping people interact better with her and firemen and creating spaces that are safe and more conducive to well-being.

Experimental Psychology

This branch of psychology is an area concerned with understanding the human condition through the use of experimental methods. Experimental psychologists conduct research on a wide range of subjects including memory, intelligence, sensation, perception, social behavior, emotions, personality, and much more.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is an area of psychology that utilizes an understanding of the human mind and behavior and applies it to the field of law. Forensic psychologists often perform tasks such as conducting child custody evaluations, assessing competency to stand trial, and testifying in criminal and civil cases.

Health Psychology

This is an area of psychology devoted to understanding the psychological and behavioral influences the impact health and well-being. Health psychologists understand that well-being is influenced by both biological factors as well as social and emotional factors.

Professionals who work in this field utilize their knowledge to help both individual patients improve their health and also work in public health programs to improve the health and wellness of communities.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology is a branch of psychology that emerged during the 1950s as a response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. In humanistic psychology, you take the approach that all people are inherently good.

This field of psychology takes a more holistic approach and focuses on helping people fulfill their individual potential and achieve self-actualization.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-Organizational Psychology is an applied branch of psychology. It involves applying psychological principles to the workplace.

I-O psychologists, as they are often called, are interested in helping organizations by improving employee selection, motivation, workplace performance, productivity, and occupational health.

Military Psychology

This branch of psychology is devoted to using psychological principles in military settings. Some professionals who work in this field treat soldiers who have served in the military, while others conduct research design to help improve military operations and increase the chances of success in combat settings.

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Personality Psychology

Personality psychology is a large area of psychology interested in the development of personality. Researchers in this field are interested in understanding the many forces that influence how personality develops and is expressed. They are also interested in learning more about how personality changes over the course of life.

Positive Psychology

This is a relatively young branch of psychology centered on helping people live better lives. One of the key goals of this area of psychology is to help people become happier.

Psychoanalysis

This area is one of the oldest branches of psychology. It grew out of the work of the famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that people were influenced by unconscious forces.

He believed that by bringing these unconscious motivations into awareness, people could find relief from psychological problems.

School Psychology

This field of psychology is devoted to helping students deal with academic, social, emotional, and behavioral issues that they face in school settings. These professionals after work with individual students as well as parents, educators, and school administrators.

Social Psychology

This branch of psychology is interested in how people’s though, behaviors, and emotions are influenced by other people. Group behavior, attitudes, aggression, conformity, obedience, persuasion, group dynamics, and attraction are just some of the major areas of interest in social psychology.

Sports Psychology

This is a branch centered on the psychology of sport and exercise. Professionals who work in this field might help people overcome injury as well as work with professional athletes to improve motivation and focus.

Why It Matters

As you can see from looking at the list above, there are many different branches and subfields of psychology to explore. But this is not all. Psychology is always growing and adapting to meet new needs.

In a shifting world, new demands for psychologists and psychological information will continue to drive the growth of new branches of psychology.

Online psychology, traffic psychology, spiritual psychology, and aviation psychology are just a few different fields that have sprung up in recent years. By learning more about these many branches of psychology, you can gain a greater understanding of the many topics that psychology tackles.