Major Fields in Psychology

Psychology is both a theoretical and an applied science with over a dozen major fields. In 2004, the American Psychological Association listed fifty-five divisions, representing psychologists working in settings as diverse as community mental health clinics and large corporations and with interests ranging from the adult development and aging to the study of peace, conflict, and violence. Academic and research psychologists use observational and experimental methods to reach a greater understanding of the human mind and human behavior. Psychologists in the clinical specialties then use this knowledge to help people in their daily lives.

For example, children who are abused or neglected, or who suffer as a result ofbeing members ofdysfunctional families, require the services ofchild psychologists, who evaluate, diagnose, and treat youngsters. This usually occurs in a clinical setting. Thus, child psychologist are considered clinical practitioners. More than one-half of the Ph.D.'s awarded in 1999 were in either clinical or counseling psychology.

Many psychologists also work in the area of education. Educational psychologists develop and analyze materials and strategies for effective educational curricula. School psychologists design instructive programs, consult with teachers, and assist students with problems.

Genetic psychologists study the activities of the human organism in relation to the hereditary and evolutionary factors involved; functions and origin play a central role. Physiological psychologists examine the biological bases of behavior. They are often interested in the biochemical reactions underlying memory and learning. Engineering psychologists design and evaluate equipment, training devices, and systems. The goal is to facilitate relationships between people and their environment. Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists research and develop programs that promote on-the-job efficiency, effectiveness, challenge, and positive disposition. They study ability and personality factors, special training and experience, and work and environment variables as well as organizational changes.

Personality psychologists study the many ways in which people differ from one another; they are instrumental in analyzing how those differences

Degree Fields of Psychology Ph.D.'s

Arranged in descending order by number of degrees awarded in 1999:

• Counseling

• Developmental

• All other subfields (such as community psychology, sport psychology)

• Experimental/Physiological

• Social and Personality

• Industrial/Organizational

• Educational may be assessed and what their impact is. Criminal psychologists study the complexities of a perpetrator's thought process. They are keenly interested in a criminal's habits, idiosyncrasies, and possible motives. Developmental psychologists study changes in people as they age and mature. Their work may be protracted over the span of an individual's life; their theories may be advanced several years after they were first conceived.

Social psychologists study how people influence one another. They may be interested, for example, in the concept of leaders and followers. Environmental psychologists monitor the physical and social effects of the environment on behavior. They are interested in how elements such as heat, noise, health, and activity affect the human condition. Their contributions are in the areas of urban planning, architecture, and transportation.

Consumer psychologists determine factors that influence consumer decisions, exploring such issues as the effect of advertising on purchasing decisions, brand loyalty, and the rejection or acceptance of new products. Experimental psychologists design and conduct basic and applied research in a variety of areas, including learning, sensation, attention and memory, language, motivation, and the physiological and neural bases of behavior. Comparative psychologists study the behavior, cognition, perception, and social relationships of diverse animal species. Their research can be descriptive as well as experimental and is conducted in the field orwith animals in captivity.

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