Subjects Studied in Psychology 101

  • History of Psychology
  • Scientific Methods in Psychology
  • The Human Brain
  • Psychology Subfields
  • Psychological Disorders

Because it is the first course taken by psychology students and the only psychology course ever taken for others, many different topics are covered in an introductory psychology course. These five are among the major foundational topics that a student in a beginning psychology class will learn about.

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1. History of Psychology

It was not until the 19th century that psychology became a formal discipline, but philosophy has been dealing with psychological topics for thousands of years. Among the topics covered in an introductory psychology course will be how psychology developed as a discipline out of philosophy and the early theorists, practitioners, and approaches. This will include a look at such people as William James, author of the foundational The Principles of Psychology; Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis; and Pavlov and other behaviorists. Typically, humanistic psychology, including the work of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, as well as cognitive psychology will also be discussed as part of the field’s history.

2. Scientific Methods in Psychology

Once psychology began to move out of the realm of philosophy and into that of psychology, the use of the scientific method became important in psychology research. An introductory course will probably discuss the basics of designing a psychological research project, including how a researcher might formulate and test a hypothesis. This part of the course would also look at creating experimental and control groups, gathering data, accounting for variables and how a psychologist would then use statistics to reach a conclusion about the research.

3. The Human Brain

Psychology and neuroscience are not the same fields, but it is important for psychologists to have a good understanding of how the human brain works. There is no broad agreement in the field of psychology about how much influence physical processes in the brain have on human psychology, but it is clear that there is a relationship. As an article in Psychology Today explains, neuroscience may eventually eclipse psychology altogether or it may simply become another subfield, but it will generally always be one of the topics covered in an introductory psychology course.

4. Psychology Subfields

As the American Psychological Association notes, there are many different concentrations within the broader field of psychology. There is not time to delve deeply into any of these concentrations in an introductory course, but it will usually briefly examine such subfields as developmental psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and many other specialties. This helps give students a sense of the scope of the field.

5. Psychological Disorders

Another topic covered in an introductory psychology course is psychological disorders. This might include a discussion of what is considered abnormal psychology, how disorders are diagnosed, how they are treated and how that diagnosis and treatment have changed over time. The disorders covered may include personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. There will also be a look at schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

The purpose of an introductory psychology course is to prepare psychology students for a full course of study in the topic and to give other students a good grounding in the basics of the field. The topics covered in an introductory psychology course give a sense of the history, scope, and methods used in the field.