How to Learn the Basics of Psychology

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Psychology is one of the most popular majors on college and university campuses all over the world, but that does not mean that you have to earn a degree in psychology to learn more about the human mind and behavior.

Today, there are plenty of great ways to learn more about the human mind and behavior such as taking a college course, signing up for a free online class, or self-studying using online resources. Explore the links below to find the tools, resources, quizzes, and information you need to learn more about the wide world of psychology.

Introduction to Psychology

When learning something new, it's always a good idea to start out with the basics. Learn more about what psychology is and its history.

As you begin your investigation into this subject, spend some time learning more about what psychology is as well as the early history of the subject. Another major topic also covered at the beginning of almost every introductory psychology class is an overview of the many different branches of psychology

Research Methods In Psychology

How do researchers study human behavior? Any student of psychology must have a basic understanding of the research methods used by psychologists to learn more about how and why people behave as they do.

Even if you do not plan on becoming a research psychologist, learning more about how scientists approach the study of human behavior can give you a greater appreciation of the findings you will encounter during your studies.

The scientific method and the process of conducting a psychology experiment are important aspects of building an understanding of how researchers study the mind and behavior.

Developmental Psychology

Not so long ago in human history, many people believed that children were simply small versions of adults. Not until fairly recently did researchers begin to realize that childhood is a unique and important part of life. Developmental psychology is one of the largest subfields within psychology, and looks at all aspects of development and change over the course of the entire lifespan.

The study of developmental psychology may seem simple, after all, it's something that we have all gone through. As you begin your exploration of the topic, you'll quickly learn that there is more to the study of development than you might have imagined.

In addition to learning about some of the major theories of child development, it is also essential to understand some of the important questions and issues that concern developmental psychologists. This includes the age-old nature versus nurture debate, which centers on the relative contributions of genetics and the environment. 

Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, was a major school of thought during the 20th-century that continues to be influential today. Many behavioral principles are still widely used today in areas including therapy, education, and animal training.

Behaviorism may not be as dominant as it once was, but it is still essential to understand the basic behavioral principles if you want to learn more about psychology.

Start by learning more about important concepts such as classical conditioning and operant conditioning. In addition to knowing about these behavioral learning approaches, learn more about the different types of reinforcement and punishment. 

Psychology Theories and Thinkers

Some of the most famous thinkers in psychology including Freud, Erikson, and Piaget have proposed theories to explain various aspects of development, behavior, and other topics. While some theories are no longer popular, it is still important to study the effect that these ideas had on psychology.

Some of the basic theories that you should study include:

  • The Big 5 Theory of Personality
  • Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
  • Freud's Theory of Psychosexual Development
  • Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development
  • Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
  • Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Personality Psychology

Personality psychology is another major topic of interest in psychology. As you learn more about psychology, you will discover that some of the psychologists' best-known theories are centered on understanding how personality develops.

Our personality makes us who we are. What factors influence how our personalities form? Is personality fixed or can it change? In order to study personality, it is helpful to focus on some of the key topics such as traits and different personality disorders.

Social Psychology

Why do people sometimes act differently in large groups? Social psychologists seek to understand social behavior, including how we interact with others and how other people influence our own behavior. Social psychology is a fascinating field that looks at a wide variety of social behaviors including topics such as the bystander effect, attitudes, and person perception.

A Word From Verywell

Learning more about the field of psychology can be helpful to anyone who has an interest in learning more about why people do the things they do. Whether you are interested in earning a degree in psychology or simply have an interest in the subject, there are plenty of great ways to discover more information about the basics of psychology.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.