Applied Psychology: Definition and Meaning

If psychology were a huge tree with innumerable branches, each branch would be studying a different aspect of human behavior. One sticks out among the tangle of leaves and branches. We're discussing applied psychology here. The goal of applied psychology is to identify real-world issues and provide practical solutions.

What is Applied Psychology?

The application of fundamental psychological principles to real-world issues is typically thought of as the defining characteristic of applied psychology. However, many significant contributors to the field have disregarded the distinction between the basic and the applied, believing it to be unhelpful and possibly non-existent

It is crucial to emphasize that, in addition to basic psychology's significant contributions to the resolution of these numerous societal problems, the attempts to find answers also raise questions for basic psychology to investigate.

The scientist-practitioner model, which is prevalent in clinical psychology (Raimy, 1950) but also very important to all of the other areas under applied psychology, clearly has numerous implications for applied psychology. It's likely that some of these other fields, like industrial psychology, have done a better job of integrating research and practice than clinical psychology, despite the fact that clinical psychology has had some trouble putting the model into practice in a meaningful fashion (Stricker, 2000).

Hugo Munsterberg: A Founder of Applied Psychology

Kant was a favorite author of Hugo Munsterberg. William James, with whom he enjoyed a cordial connection, gave him the opportunity to work in his psychology lab at Harvard University. However, there was a poor outcome in their relationship. According to reports, William James was interested in studying paranormal events. Munsterberg, a devotee of Wilhelm Wundt and a staunch advocate of objectivity and pragmatism, was unable to comprehend or embrace that aspect of James. Everything that Munsterberg categorized as being illogical and illusory was known as "the psychology of abracadabra." At the time, increasing corporate productivity was his top priority. He could have had some conflict with his academic peers because of this. They had a limited understanding of psychology outside of the laboratory. Their viewpoint was constrained to testing and observation, with the intention of writing a paper and maybe refuting a colleague's thesis. Hugo Munsterberg created the groundwork for applied psychology for a very particular reason. At a period when the workforce was in need of new skills due to industry and scientific management (also known as Taylorism), he sought to increase workers' talents. For a more complicated working environment, the system desired people who were more capable and prepared. Consequently, Munsterberg made a substantial contribution to the science of psychology despite dying at the young age of 50. His development of industrial psychology and the several tests used to gauge professional aptitude are of particular interest.

Branches of Applied Psychology

Here are a few examples of such specialties and fields where psychologists use their diverse expertise and talents to varied life problems

Clinical Psychology

In the practical application of psychological concepts to human issues, this area of applied psychology stands out significantly. Clinical psychologists often work in mental hospitals, community health centers, and similar healthcare facilities where they identify emotional and behavioral issues and treat them with psychological treatments referred to as "psychotherapy." Some of them work as consultants in private practice in developed nations like Germany, the United States, and Britain. A clinical psychologist is not licensed to provide medication. He just makes use of psychological approaches and processes. Psychiatrists, who specialize in psychiatry after studying general medicine, are the only medical professionals qualified to prescribe and administer medication.

Counselling Psychology

Clinical and counselling psychologists have extremely similar backgrounds and lines of practice, and occasionally their responsibilities overlap. Counseling psychologists deal with relatively minor emotional issues and personality disorders, whilst clinical psychologists deal with more severe ones. This is the main distinction between their roles. Counseling psychologists serve students who have specific psychological issues in vocational schools, as well as at colleges, universities, and schools.

Industrial Psychology

This is a subfield of applied psychology where practical workplace issues in businesses and other organizational work contexts are addressed using psychological approaches and ideas. Industrial psychology is the application or extension of psychological facts and principles to issues involving human connections in business and industry, according to Prof. M.L. Blum. The earliest application of psychological concepts to workplace issues began with the introduction of aptitude tests for employee selection and placement. The updated and upgraded versions of these aptitude tests are used by many contemporary businesses today to choose employees and place them in positions that will maximize efficiency and productivity. The majority of the time, job and workers analysis approaches are used to determine the needs of a certain job, the people who are qualified to execute the job, and those who satisfy those requirements. Organizational psychology is another name for this area of applied psychology.

Educational and School Psychology

These two separate but connected subfields of applied psychology focus on issues relating to how people's personalities change as a result of learning. Their main goal in this situation is to use psychological approaches and research to help young people build balanced personalities. There is no clear distinction between the two specialties. However, the main focus of educational psychology is on issues related to young people's personality development, learning, and teaching issues. The majority of psychologists in this sector are employed by university departments of education or psychology, where they create educational assessments and assess curricula created for various standards and student groups. On the other hand, school psychologists administer and grade test questions as well as conduct psychological assessments. They also give pupils educational planning advice and identify and handle learning problems. They aim to motivate students to study better in educational environments. Additionally, they help pupils with emotional issues that could have an impact on their academic performance. In order to assist mentally handicapped people to learn and grow in accordance with their own level of intellectual capacity, both educational and school psychologists organize and implement customized programs for these individuals.

Social Psychology

Social psychologists are particularly interested in researching how group membership affects people's behavior. In certain cases, like in the study of leadership and group dynamic, their focus may be on how a particular person impacts or influences the behavior of other group members. Social psychology thus encompasses the study of how our families, peer groups, and other social groupings affect our personalities. Social psychologists may examine the morale of military personnel, the impact of propaganda, the spread of rumors, and the public's perception of the government's war efforts during times of conflict.

Development Psychology

The psychologists who work in this area of applied psychology do both pure and applied research on aging, adult developmental patterns, and child development. Additionally, they work with troubled children clinically, serve as consultants for preschools, run programs for the elderly, etc. Developmental psychologists study how people's behavior and thought processes evolve throughout the course of their lives, from conception through adulthood and death. Due to its focus on the kinds of changes that occur over time as an individual grows, this branch of psychology is the oldest since it encompasses all other fundamental topics including perception, physiology, learning, and cognition.

Medical Psychology

Applied psychology's subfield of medical psychology is relatively new. The association between stress, personality, and illnesses like heart attacks, high blood pressure, ulcers, etc. is studied by medical psychologists. They deal with the emotional issues brought on by disease and (or) in capacity

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists do practical research on issues related to criminal behavior and prevention, jail rehabilitation programs, courtroom dynamics, psychology, and law. They assist in choosing the best applicants for police work and are also employed by the police.

Experimental and Physiological Psychology

To comprehend the underlying reasons for behavior, psychologists in various subfields of psychology do research. They do what is occasionally referred to as "basic or pure research," in which they examine basic psychological functions including motivation, sensation and perception, learning, and memory. The research of experimental psychologists focuses on the modification and maintenance of behavior, the functioning of human sensory systems that enable individuals to observe their surroundings, and the variables that influence, motivate, or guide a person's behavior. The link between the brain and other bodily processes and behaviors and behavior is a topic of interest for physiological psychologists. Controlled experiments are a research strategy used by experimental and physiological psychologists.


In psychology, new subfields and subdivisions are always developing. It's critical to keep in mind that no one area of psychology is more significant or superior than any other. Each focus area advances our knowledge of the numerous psychological elements that affect our identity, behavior, and thought processes.

Updated on: 09-Jan-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started