Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Psychology, originally the science of the nature and functions of the human soul, now refers to the study of the human mind.

explanatory context

Psychology tends to concentrate on the individual rather than the social.

Social psychology is an attempt to link individual psychology to the sociological study of the social world.

analytical review

New World Encyclopedia contributors (2017):

Psychology both an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychologists attempt to understand the role of mental functions in individual and social behavior, while also exploring the physiological and neurobiological processes that underlie certain functions and behaviors. To do this, they study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Some, especially depth psychologists, also consider the unconscious mind and the spiritual nature of human beings.

Psychology is generally classified within the social sciences, although, since it overlaps with the natural sciences it is also considered one of the behavioral sciences—a broad field that spans the social and natural sciences. It attempts to understand the role human behavior plays in social dynamics while incorporating physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of mental functioning. Psychology includes many sub-fields of study concerned with such areas as human development, sports, health, industry, law, and spirituality. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including issues related to daily life—such as family, education, and work—and the treatment of mental health problems.

While psychological knowledge is often applied to the assessment and treatment of mental health problems, it is also applied to understanding and solving problems in many different spheres of human activity. Many psychologists are involved in some kind of therapeutic role, practicing in clinical, counseling, or school settings. Others do scientific research on a wide range of topics related to mental processes and behavior, and typically work in university psychology departments or teach in other academic settings. Some are employed in industrial and organizational settings, or in other areas such as human development and aging, sports, health, and the media, as well as in criminal justice and other aspects of law.

For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit human society through understanding human nature. This is a challenging enterprise since psychologists are also human beings, the same as their objects of study—psychology is the study of human beings by human beings. The complexity of the human being makes this even more difficult, and has led to numerous debates and splits within the discipline.

associated issues


related areas

See also




New World Encyclopedia contributors, 2017, 'Psychology', New World Encyclopedia, last updated 29 December 2017, available at:, accessed 13 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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