Psychology Essays (Examples)


Pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology is a fantastic way to gain general insight into human beings and can provide a foundation for graduate coursework in psychology as well as a launching pad for other careers with intensive human interaction, such as legal studies, education, or counseling. It is important for aspiring psychology students to realize that a bachelor’s level degree in psychology is not generally going to be sufficient to do actual field work as a psychologist, because research, clinical, and counseling positions all require additional education. In fact, a psychologist must have a doctoral degree. However, the knowledge and skills acquired in a psychology undergraduate program are critical for pursuing that additional education.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental healthcare services, ‘the understanding of behavior’ is the enterprise of psychologists.” In other words, while many people think of psychology as focusing on abnormal psychology and psychopathology, the reality is that much of psychology focuses on normal human behavior. This approach is logical, since it is impossible to identify whether behavior is abnormal without knowing what normal human behavior is. Moreover, psychologists and other mental health professionals cannot help clients identify whether behaviors are adaptive or maladaptive without knowing the range of human behavior.

Understanding normal versus abnormal psychology requires an understanding of the normal curve, a term used to describe the distribution of the particular construct being described in the population at large. In fact, while many people think of psychology as a “soft science,” much of modern psychological theory has developed through very specific testing. As a result, an understanding of statistics and the scientific method are both critical for anyone studying psychology. The scientific method is used in psychology not only to help describe behaviors, but also with the goal of predicting those behaviors. Important components of the scientific method are: the hypothesis; independent and dependent variables; and operational definitions. Psychology students must also understand: univariate and multivariate research designs; data analysis; and qualitative and quantitative designs.

In addition, most people who study psychology spend time learning about the history of psychology. While not all psychologists endorse the theories of those who are considered founders of the field, there is no denying the important role that these men and women played in describing human behavior. Some important figures in psychology include: Franz Mesmer, Philippe Pinel, Charles Darwin, G. Stanley Hall, Wilhelm Wundt, Sigmund Freud, Sir Francis Galton, William James, Alfred Binet, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, John Watson, Rosalie Rayner, Carl Rogers, Jean Piaget, Karen Horney, Erik Erikson, and B.F. Skinner. Studying these figures highlights several factors about psychology. First, a psychology student needs to understand history and sociology, because historical attitudes influenced controversial psychological theories like eugenics. Second, there is no single accepted psychological theory that can be said to describe any aspect of human growth and development or functioning. Instead, there are competing theories put forth by advocates of different approaches to human behavior, which influenced by: culture, society, morals, ethics, and genetics.