Variously defined as the science of behaviour or the science of mind, psychology emerged as a distinct discipline in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the work of researchers such as Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) who founded the first experimental laboratory of psychology in Leipzig. Much of the focus of the discipline has been on identifying the general mechanisms involved in processes such as perception , learning, motivation, and memory, although there has been some attention to individual differences, especially in relation to intelligence and personality .
Academic psychology has tended to be strongly positivist in orientation and the experimental method has been widely used-characteristics reflected in the strong support for behaviourism which became the dominant approach in Anglo-American psychology from early in the twentieth century through to the 1960s. The major focus of behaviourism was on learning and the approach was associated with a strong emphasis on environment and a rejection of the importance of innate factors in the development of human behaviour. Since the 1960s there has been a shift towards more cognitive approaches and acceptance of some innate capacities, with considerable attention paid to the way in which information is handled and processed. There has also been a renewed interest in neuropsychology. The experimental, positivist orientation remains, as does the long-standing hostility to psychoanalysis and other psycho-dynamic psychologies, although some psychologists and some departments are more eclectic than others. Certainly, both humanist and feminist psychology now usually find a place within the terrain of academic psychology.
As with other disciplines the delineation of fields changes over time. The older terrains of abnormal psychology or psychopathology have now been transformed and broadened into the field of health psychology. An important and long-standing area that has developed since the first decade of this century is that of social psychology. William McDougall published hisIntroduction to Social Psychology in 1908, though its terrain is ill-defined. Within the framework of psychology, social psychology focuses especially on the study of face-to-face social interaction, making considerable use of experimental studies of small groups . There is, however, a more sociological social psychology, particularly influenced by symbolic interactionism , and employing methods such as participant observation .
There is a large selection of introductory psychology texts from which to choose., A Survey of Social Psychology (3rd edn., 1986) and, Social Psychology (1986) are both fairly comprehensive in their coverage.

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  • Psychology — (from Greek gr. ψῡχή, psȳkhē , breath, life, soul ; and gr. λογία, logia ) is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. Psychologists study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion …   Wikipedia

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  • psychology — [sī käl′ə jē] n. pl. psychologies [ModL psychologia: see PSYCHO & LOGY] 1. a) the science dealing with the mind and with mental and emotional processes b) the science of human and animal behavior 2. the sum of the actions, traits, attitudes,… …   English World dictionary

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