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8 Types of Psychology to Know

Written by: East Carolina University®   •  Dec 7, 2023

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8 Types of Psychology to Know

The soft science of psychology examines human behavior, social dynamics, and how we process thoughts and emotions. Although the origins of psychology can be traced back to ancient cultures, most of the major advancements in the field have happened in the past 150 years.

In the beginning, historical figures such as Plato and Socrates emphasized the philosophical aspect of psychology. Now, psychology is quite different, with several areas and types of psychology devoted to addressing specific issues or that focus on certain demographics.

To best understand psychology and its modern-day applications, it’s helpful to get familiar with its many disciplines, what scenarios they’re best used for, and who they’re intended to study or treat. Those who aspire to turn their passion for psychology into a profession will benefit greatly from a psychology degree program .

What’s Psychology?

The American Psychological Association (APA) broadly defines psychology as the scientific study of human behavior and the mind. However, as the field has advanced over the past century, it’s become multifaceted to account for the many areas of psychology. For example, psychology can be applied to areas such as physical health, human development, and social behavior, but the approach to each is different to account for what’s being studied.

Regardless of the type of psychology being applied, the four main goals remain consistent:

  • To describe behavior or cognitive response
  • To explain why a behavior or cognitive response has occurred
  • To predict future behaviors and cognitive responses using empirical research
  • To change specific behaviors or responses

What Are the Different Types of Psychology?

Several types of psychology study various facets of human behavior and the mind. Here’s a breakdown of the eight main types of psychology and how they are applied.

1. Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology studies the major functions of the brain, including how it learns, remembers, and processes thoughts. By applying psychological science, cognitive psychologists can better understand how humans make decisions and perceive events.

2. Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology takes a more holistic approach to psychology by factoring in a person’s experiences and intersecting aspects of identity, such as religion, race, sexual orientation, and gender. In counseling psychology, it’s believed that human behavior is the result of many influencing variables, including individual traits and external factors. Ultimately, the goal of counseling psychology is to help patients realize what their proficiencies and strengths are so that they may find the resolve to overcome their problems.

3. Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology is one of the few types of psychology that’s specifically focused on workplace dynamics. In most cases, those who specialize in I/O psychology are tasked with developing a solution to a workplace problem, for example, how to improve team collaboration. By studying and assessing individuals, teams, or the entire organization, useful data is gleaned that’s used to develop solutions to workplace challenges.

4. Social Psychology

Social psychology is the study of social dynamics, human relationships, and the factors that influence human behavior. For example, the quality of in-person relationships compared with those that are conducted exclusively online. Social psychology is also interested in how the opinions of others are formed and how those opinions may influence a person’s behavior.

5. Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology is primarily concerned with understanding human behavior and how specific behavior can be positively or negatively reinforced. For example, a person who regularly shoplifts is demonstrating an unwanted behavior; however, the driving motivation behind it may be compulsory rather than premeditated. By applying the principles of behavioral psychology, new behaviors are encouraged to replace unwanted ones.

6. Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is used in counseling and clinical settings to treat behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. Conditions treated using clinical psychology include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse issues, gender identity issues, chronic stress and anxiety, and issues pertaining to relationships.

7. Consumer Psychology

What draws a person’s interest to a particular product or service? What motivates them to purchase it? If there’s one type of psychology that CEOs and business owners are concerned with, it’s consumer psychology. By studying consumers and what motivates their shopping behaviors, marketers and business owners can adjust their advertising tactics to better appeal to their target audience.

8. Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology studies how behavior, emotion, and cognition relate to brain function and the central nervous system. Typically, neuropsychology treats patients who are afflicted with a neurological or mental disorder, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or a traumatic injury that impacts brain function. Neuropsychology research also helps professionals better understand the brain and the central nervous system as they relate to neurological disorders.

Join the Growing Field of Psychology

Psychology is a field with several areas of focus and opportunities to engage in rewarding work. Considering the many types of psychology that make up the discipline, a curious mind with a passion for research is bound to find an area that interests them.

Those who are ready to pursue a career that uses principles of psychology should explore their educational options, such as the online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program offered at East Carolina University®. Taught by knowledgeable instructors, students will learn about the main concepts and applications of the different types of psychology. Graduates can then use their knowledge of these principles across a wide array of careers.

Learn about ECU’s psychology program, so you can see how it supports your aspirations and career goals.


American Psychological Association, A Career in Counseling Psychology

American Psychological Association, Clinical Psychology Solves Complex Human Problems

American Psychological Association, Cognitive Psychology Explores Our Mental Processes

American Psychological Association, I/O Psychology Provides Workplace Solutions

American Psychological Association, Science of Psychology

American Psychological Association, Social Psychology Studies Human Interactions

Indeed, “Biological Psychologist: What They Are and What They Do”

Indeed, “How to Become a Consumer Psychologist”

Indeed, “24 Types of Psychology (With Definitions and Explanations)”

Indeed, “What Is Behavioral Psychology? (With Duties and Specialties)”

Simply Psychology, “What Is Psychology?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists