Developmental psychology is primarily concerned with the changes that occur during childhood and adolescence. Topics studied range from the control of movements, the acquisition of language, math and musical abilities, the formation of the self and the identity, the formation of emotional attachments, moral judgments and the development of problem solving and reasoning skills. More recently, the time span examined and compared within developmental psychology has expanded across the lifespan and now includes in some cases the changes associated with aging, even into the elderly years. Social psychology focuses on interpersonal behavior, how people (alone or in groups) think, act, feel, believe or behave based on social situations. This includes situations where they are actually being observed and interacting with others as well as when they are isolated and the observation and interaction with others is imagined or implied. Experimental psychology traditionally encompasses a wide variety of both human and animal research concerned with the general processes of sensation, perception, learning and memory. It does not necessarily concern itself with any underlying biological, chemical or neural mechanisms which support those processes and may not address those mechanisms. Physiological psychology, however, is concerned with the underlying biologically and chemically based mechanisms underlying psychological phenomena. The emphasis on function of the nervous system and hormones is so great that the term behavioral neuroscience has largely replaced the term physiological psychology. However, there is a difference between a strict neuroscientist and a behavioral neuroscientist/physiological psychologist. A neuroscientist's primary interest in the biological or chemical mechanisms of brain function at a cellular or molecular level with often little direct interest in how these cellular or molecular functions influence larger scale phenomena such as memory or emotion or behavior. A behavioral neuroscientist/physiological psychologist's primary interest is in such things as memory or emotion or behavior and they may use cellular or molecular techniques as tools to specifically study those larger scale phenomena. Cognitive psychology studies more complex psychological phenomena such as reasoning, problem solving and creativity. There is much more of an emphasis on how any sensory input is processed, transformed, or elaborated upon rather than the more basic processes involved in basic sensation and perception. Personality psychology examines the consistency in individual's (not groups, like social psychology) beliefs, attitudes and behaviors across a variety of times, places, situations and conditions. Psychometrics is perhaps the least visible and glamorous focus of research but without it most psychology research in other areas would be greatly hampered. Psychometrics studies and develops the theory, techniques and tools of psychological measurements. Without psychometrics, almost every other field within psychology would struggle to do their research without reliable and valid tests, questionnaires, surveys and diagnostic measures to assess the psychological phenomena which they examine.
B. Some Dominant Research Perspectives
While we have mentioned several major foci of research in psychology, within those foci there are also different perspectives which also guide research. We can look at the perspectives as the particular points of view or positions that psychologists within a larger research focus subscribe to. The focus can be seen as, say, a career like being a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant and the perspective can be seen as a political affiliation like Democrat or Republican or Libertarian. They are not mutually exclusive. But just like political affiliation might influence how one functions within their career, research perspective influences how a psychologist thinks about their research...
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