This page provide definitions of psychology and its academic disciplines.Psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes. It emerged from two classical disciplines, - philosophy and physiology. The German scientist and philosopher, Wihelm Wundt (1832-1920), is considered as the father of psychology Wundt advocated the forming of psychology as a separate discipline, more empirical than philosophy and more focused on the mind than physiology.  Wundt built the first experimental psychology laboratory and he wrote the big book, Principles of Physiological Psychology in 1870s. American philosopher William James (1842-1910) is also considered a founding father of modern psychology. In James's words, psychology "is the science of mental life." 

Abnormal Psychology

“Abnormal psychology is the application of psychological science to the study of mental disorders. It includes investigation of the causes and treatment of psychopathological conditions” (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012, p. 499). As the scientific study of abnormal behavior, Abnormal Psychology describes, predicts, explains, and changes abnormal patterns of functioning.  Psychologists working in this field are usually clinical scientists who gather information systematically so that they may describe, predict, and explain the phenomena they study. Clinical practitioners also work in this field to use the acquired knowledge “to detect, assess, and treat abnormal patterns of functioning” (Comer, 2010, p. 2).

Clinical Psychology

“Clinical psychology is essentially the branch of psychology that studies, assesses, and treats people with psychological problems or disorders. Clinical psychology involves rigorous study and applied practice directed toward understanding and improving the psychological facets of the human experience, including but not limited to issues or problems of behavior, emotions, or intellect” (Pomerantz, 2011, p. 3). American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that the field of Clinical Psychology integrates science, theory, and practice to understand, predict, and alleviate maladjustment, disability, and discomfort as well as to promote human adaptation, adjustment, and personal development. Clinical Psychology focuses on the intellectual, emotional, biological, psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of human functioning across the life span, in varying cultures, and at all socioeconomic levels. Clinical psychologists administer tests, provide psychotherapy, manage a mental health program, or do research and training, but they do not diagnose physical causes of psychological disorders and they do not prescribe drugs.

Industrial/organizational Psychology

“Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology is the application of psychological principles and theories to the workplace. I/O psychologists study, among other things, the attitudes and behaviors of employees and employers; interpersonal relationships at work; the structure of organizations and organizational policies; the complex processes of motivation and leadership; both individual and organizational performance; the context, culture, and climate of organizations; and the match between people and jobs” (Levy, 2010, p. 2). The purpose of I/O psychology is “to enhance the dignity and performance of human beings, and the organizations they work in, by advancing the science and knowledge of human behavior” (Rucci as cited in Aamodt, 2010, p. 2).  The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) defines I/O psychology as the scientific study of the workplace, for which rigor and methods of psychology are applied to issues of critical relevance to business, including talent management, coaching, assessment, selection, training, organizational development, performance, and work-life balance in the business and work environments.

Social Psychology

Baron and Branscombe (2012) define social psychology as “the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior, feelings, and thought in social situations” (p. 5). Another way to put this is to say that “social psychology investigates the ways in which our thoughts, feelings, and actions are influenced by the social environments in which we live – by other people or our thoughts about them” (Baron & Branscombe, 2012, p. 5).

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is the study of optimism and happiness in personal growth.  Positive psychology focuses on subjective wellbeing, happiness, flow, personal strengths, wisdom, creativity, imagination and characteristics of positive groups and institutions. Furthermore, the focus is not just on how to make individuals happy, thereby perpetuating a self-centred, narcissistic approach, but on happiness and flourishing at a group level as well (Hefferon & Boniwell, 2011, p. 2).

Mental Disorders

In the United States and developed countries in Europe, mental disorders are the second leading cause of disease related disability and mortality, ranking slightly behind cardiovascular conditions and slightly ahead of cancer (Lopez et al., 2006). Mental disorders touch every realm of human experience; they are part of the human experience. They can disrupt the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we behave. They also affect relationships with other people. These problems often have a devastating impact on people’s lives. (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012, p. 1).  Watching movies featuring mental disorders may help psychology students become familiar with the nature of these disorders.  These movies may raise interests for student to learn and discover the various ways in which psychologists and other mental health professionals are advancing knowledge of their causes and treatment.