University & Degrees

Cognitive and social psychology explained

5 mins
March 29, 2022
Psychology focuses on understanding a person's emotions, personality and mind through scientific studies, experiments, observation and research. Psychology is considered a social science; this branch of science covers the entire span of human behaviour. It looks at how society works and how we react and adapt to changes.‍In this article, we're going to touch on some two of the most popular branches of psychology and explain what they're all about! 

First up... why study psychology?

Psychology is everywhere, and we mean EVERYWHERE. It explains how 

we make friends, what music we listen to, and what (and how) we buy. We've already explained that psychology looks at human behaviour, but why is this helpful? 

Well, psychology can help you better understand people around you and it can also help you better understand yourself. Through understanding outcomes and behaviours, we are able to adjust and adapt to reach better outcomes for all. This sounds like a lot of active thinking, but in reality, at some point we've all adapted our communication to try and get a better outcome; whether it's taking a different approach with either parent or speaking differently to a friend than you would a sibling. 

How can psychology help you?

Psychology can help in a million ways, ever heard the term knowledge is power? Well, with psychology you'll be able to grow your communication skills so you can get through to whoever you're talking to and ensure you make meaningful long-lasting relationships. You'll be able to refine your critical thinking, using the mistakes of others to ensure you succeed. You'll also learn empathy, being able to put yourself in others' shoes is helpful, personally and professionally and will help you find contentment when others are getting frustrated! 

Is psychology a good career? 

As our world becomes faster, more digitalised, and competitive, people can struggle to set time for themselves and maintain relationships with the people and things that matter the most. Unfortunately, these behaviours can result in depression, sleep loss, irritability, anxiety, troubled relationships and more. However, there is some good news, with mental health happiness at the top of our agenda, people are more willing to overcome challenges and seek professional help. Psychology is a growing field for individuals who want more healthy lives and for governments and corporations that want to ensure people are looked after. So it's a great time to get into the field. 

What are the subspecialties in psychology?

A subspecialty is a smaller field of study within a broader subject, in this case psychology is the broader subject and an example of a subspecialty is cognitive psychology. In this article we’re going to give you an overview of two of the most popular specialisms within psychology, if these two don’t float your boat, no worries! We have loads more articles that explain the different branches of psychology, so you’re bound to find something you fancy.  

What is cognitive psychology?

Cognitive psychology is the study of human thought processes, including attention, memory, perception, decision-making, problem-solving, and language acquisition. Interestingly cognitive psychologists tend to work outside of a clinical setting, as they don't tend to treat patients but instead understand how behaviours and habits are formed. 

Where do cognitive psychologists work?

Cognitive psychologists are found in a variety of settings, from aiding the government to develop policies and in the commercial world as consultants. Cognitive psychologists can also be found in labs trying to understand how thought processes are affected by external environments. 

What do cognitive psychologists do?

As a cognitive psychologist, you'll:

  • Conduct research on the human thought process, including how languages are stored and memories are formed
  • Teach at colleges and universities
  • Work within the government to develop policies
  • Work as human factors consultants or industrial-organizational managers
  • Work with pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments
  • Work in the legal system and study the mental processes of criminals

What is social psychology?

Social psychology is about understanding how each person's behaviour is influenced by the social environment in which that behaviour takes place.

You probably already realise that other people can significantly impact your actions and choices. But you might be surprised by what extent. Social psychology looks at how human behaviours are influenced, and it can explain a lot, from the personal like why and how we make friends, to the global, like why countries go to war. 

What does a social psychologist do? 

Social psychologists study interpersonal and group dynamics and social challenges, such as prejudice, bullying, criminal activity and substance abuse. They research and attempt to understand social interactions and the factors that influence them, such as group behaviour, attitudes, public perceptions and leadership.

What topics are looked at in social psychology?

Social psychology looks at a wide variety of social topics, including: 

  • Group behaviour
  • Social perception
  • Leadership
  • Nonverbal behaviour
  • Conformity
  • Aggression
  • Prejudice

How can I gain psychology work experience?

We hope this article has been useful and you’re one step further to understanding whether a career in psychology is right for you! It’s a competitive field, so the first thing you can do to smash the door wide open is to take part in our psychology virtual work experience programme. You’ll get to learn more about the routes into psychology and different subspecialties, plus it will look great on your CV! What are you waiting for?

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