Meaning And Definition Of Psychology: Goals And Practical Use

The literal meaning of Psychology is derived from two greek words:

i. Psyche…. Soul or Mind
ii. Logos…. Study, Knowledge or Understanding.

Literally therefore, the earliest psychologists defined psychology as the study of the soul which then referred to as a “being within an individual that directs his activities and leaves the individual’s body when he dies”. But since the soul could not be explained and studied scientifically, it made Psychology appear mystic in scope.

Later, Psychology was defined as the study of the mind, but attempts to interpret the concept of the mind scientifically or intelligently failed.

The above definitions given to Psychology was based on the ideas of the ancient Greek Philosophers who considered the soul, and (later) the mind, as the centre and source of human behaviours.

At relatively later stages when Psychology began to emerge as an independent science, specifically at the instrospectionist/structuralist stage, Psychology was defined as the “Science of conscious experience” (By Wilhelm Wundt).

However, for better understanding of our subject, we may simply define Psychology as the “Scientific or systematic study and explanation of behaviours or activities of living organisms, specifically human beings and animals”. Its chief purpose is to know about human nature and activities in relation to his environment and how to use the principles of developed from such knowledge to solve human and societal problems.

The Main Goals Of Psychology Concerning Behaviour Are As Follows

1. Description: Description of behaviour by careful and objective observation of the behaviour of the individual or animal organism under study is one of the major goals of psychology.

2. Understanding: The understanding of behaviour is another major goal of Psychology. The basic aim of objectively observing and describing behaviour is to properly understand it by closely studying the principles underlying it.

3. Definition: With the description and understanding of behaviour, Psychology aim at giving it a specific interpretation or definition. Thus, one other goal of Psychology is to define specific activities or behaviours of human or animal organisms as they occur. That is whether such behaviour is normal or abnormal, learned or innate, conscious or unconscious, etc,.

4. Explanation: The goal of Psychology goes beyond understanding and defining behaviour. It also explains various aspects of behaviour, their causes and outcome.

5. Prediction: On the basis of the understanding and explanation of the principles underlying behaviour. Psychology aims at predicting future occurrence of such behaviours. For instance, a mother who has closely observed and understod the feeding habit of her children can afford to say what time of the day they normally feel hungry and even the type of food they would prefer at a particular time. In like manner, a teacher who objectively observes and understands the intelligence levels and working habits of his students can predict with some degree of accuracy, the performance of such students in any given examination.

5. Control Of Behaviour: The control of the behaviour of living organisms forms one of the ultimate goals of psychology. By understanding the cause – effect relationships of behaviour and the underlying principles of such behaviours, psychologists aim to control or manipulate certain circumstances and factors that lead to specific behaviours. Thus, the knowledge of the principles underlying anxiety, telling lies, stammering, etc; can be used to control their occurences in individuals.

Practical Use/Utility Of Psychology

The goal of psychology does not end mere theorizing and establishing principles for explaining, predicting and controlling behaviour. The utmost goal or object of any scientific discipline is to apply its principles and findings to practical use. In the same vein, too, the practical use or utility of Psychology is found in the application of various Psychological Principles and techniques in finding practical solutions to human and societal problems. For instance, how can we apply psychological principles and techniques in solving mental problems and other personality disorders? How can psychological findings and techniques be applied in solving educational, industrual and other such problems as cultism, juvenile delinquency, corruption, crime and other related social vices in our society?. These are some of the practical utilities of psychology.

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