Münsterberg began the interventional forms of this scientific discipline.
Although today psychology is known primarily for its applications, the truth is that this science has not always been so interested in practice.
The appearance of what we know as “applied psychology” was key in the development of current psychology. In this article we will analyze what applied psychology is and what its objectives and its most important aspects are.
Applied psychology: definition and objectives
Applied psychology consists of the use of the knowledge obtained and the methods developed by basic psychology with the aim of solving everyday problems, increasing the quality of life or making groups of people function more adequately.
Although applied psychology is a very broad discipline, we can say that this concept refers to the practical aspect of psychology. Unlike applied psychology, psychological science in general is not necessarily concerned with intervention but studies behavior and mental processes.
Thus, while basic psychology includes disciplines such as social, experimental, evolutionary or developmental psychology, applied psychology puts into practice the knowledge obtained by the aforementioned branches, as in the cases of clinical and educational psychology . or that of human resources.
However, the distinction between applied psychology and other aspects of psychology is not always clear since theory and practice feed each other in a lively and constant way.
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Münsterberg and the foundation of this discipline
The main pioneer of applied psychology is considered to have been the German psychophysiologist Hugo Münsterberg. After studying with Wilhelm Wundt and founding a psychological laboratory in Freiburg, Münsterberg met William James, who invited him to work at Harvard University. It was in the United States where he gained more recognition and fame.
Münsterberg’s works contributed to the development of many of the future fields of applied psychology, including clinical, forensic, and organizational psychology.
Münsterberg’s work would be a fundamental reference for the application of psychological knowledge during the following decades, particularly after the creation of the International Association for Applied Psychology and after World War II, when the US government began to hire public psychologists to increase your chances of being victorious in the conflict.
Slopes of applied psychology
The concept of “applied psychology” is very broad and therefore includes a large number of sub-disciplines. We are going to focus on briefly describing the objectives of the most well-known and defining branches of applied psychology.
1. Community psychology
Community psychologists mainly use the knowledge obtained by social psychology with the aim of improving the quality of life of broad groups, such as residents of slums. The greatest peculiarity of community psychology is that it focuses on macrosocial aspects starting from a territorial perspective.
2. Organizational and human resources
The psychology of organizations focuses on preventing and solving problems that arise in the context of the company. For its part, the concept of “human resources” refers more specifically to the selection, training and management of personnel based on the objectives of the organization.
Educational psychology is the application of scientific psychology to learning, fundamentally that carried out by children and adolescents during basic education. Educational psychology drinks from theoretical branches such as developmental or cognitive psychology.
Clinical psychology, probably the best-known branch of psychological science, is concerned with studying, preventing, and treating dysfunctional behavior and with improving mental well-being. Within clinical psychology, behavior modification therapy is the closest theoretical orientation to the objective of applying the knowledge obtained through scientific research.
This discipline applies the knowledge of psychology to the relationship of people with their environment, understanding the term in a broad sense; thus, environmental psychology would include both the provision of furniture to enhance work performance and the applications of psychology in nature conservation, among many other examples.
6. Of health
Health psychology looks at the relationship between behavior and physical disorders, particularly chronic ones, such as cardiovascular problems or asthma. This branch of psychology partially overlaps with the clinic and focuses on both prevention and treatment and management of diseases.
Sports psychology works on the factors that affect sports performance in order to enhance it. Among others, sport psychology deals with the management of group conflicts in team sports and with the reduction of anxiety in high-performance competitions.
Forensic psychology focuses on applying scientific psychology to legal processes. In addition to contributing to the investigation of crimes, forensic psychology can be used to resolve child custody conflicts or analyze the validity of witness testimony, among other utilities.
The application of psychological knowledge to advertising is one of the oldest forms of applied psychology given its economic potential for private companies. The well-known subliminal images, for example, arose in the context of applied psychology to advertising.