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University of Rhode Island — Psychology
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The Field
What is Psychology?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), psychology is the scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes. Psychology embraces all aspects of the human experience, from the functions of an individual's brain to the actions of entire nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every imaginable setting from hospitals, clinics, mental health centers, and private practices to schools, government, industry, businesses, and academic settings, understanding people is the enterprise of this exciting field. Because human behavior is so varied, the number of subfields and specializations in psychology is constantly growing and evolving. And, since psychology touches many other subjects, including biology, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, new areas of research and practice are continually forming.

Here at URI, the mission of the undergraduate psychology program is to:

  • generate knowledge of basic psychological processes and contextual influences on psychological and physical functioning;
  • apply knowledge to promote health and welfare in our society by enhancing the functioning of individuals and social systems;
  • translate knowledge into science-based programs, policies, and professional practices that respond to the needs of our society; and
  • transmit knowledge through programs that inform individual development, provide understanding of human behavior, and prepare students to become leaders and innovators.

Important Topics and Issues

There's never been a better time to study psychology, thanks to the field's breadth and adaptability to our ever-changing times! According to one professor, "Most of the problems in the world are problems of behavior-how people treat others, how they treat the environment, and how they treat themselves." By studying psychology, we come to understand such behavior and discover methods to address these important issues. What's more, psychology is a "hub" science that connects nearly all of the social, behavioral, mathematical, and biological sciences. Thus, those who study psychology are empowered to be leaders in the trend toward multidisciplinary research and applications. Because psychology is both an academic and an applied discipline, we can generally divide the field into two classifications: research and practice. Research in psychology seeks to increase our knowledge base by scientifically examining human thought, emotion, and behavior. That knowledge can then be applied to solving problems in the real world. Practical applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, and other areas affecting health and well-being.