Last updated on November 7th, 2023.
Learning a new subject on your own is always challenging, and psychology is no different. It requires a specific mindset and a willingness to experiment. Fortunately, a beginner can learn the basics of psychology with the right information. You just need to know where to start.
Luckily, there are several ways to begin your journey through psychology, including:
- Read psychology textbooks.
- Take online psychology courses.
- Listen to psychology podcasts.
- Read books on psychology.
- Listen to lectures from famous psychologists.
- Follow and read social media posts from psychologists.
- Attend in-person psychology classes.
However, they all require a basic understanding of psychology and its various subtopics, but you can go quite far without a formal education. By reading further, you will learn these fundamental concepts as well as how you can easily implement each study method to get the most out of them.
What is the Study of Psychology?
While people studied the mind for millennia, it was only formalized in the late 1800s. At which point, people began studying consciousness with earnest, analyzing feelings and sensations to form introspective descriptions of the human mind.
The practice was quickly replaced with the study of observed overt behavior. This behaviorism remained the primary discipline until the 1960s, when the field expanded to include all mental events or cognitive processes. The field now includes all aspects of the human mind, behavior, and experience.
Something as broad and multifaceted as the mind is too varied for a single discipline. Therefore, psychology is divided into several subfields or categories. Some of the more notable ones include:
- Clinical Psychology diagnoses the causes and treatments of mental disorders.
- Experimental Psychology studies basic psychological processes like learning, perception, and motivation.
- Biopsychology studies the biological causes of behaviors.
- Developmental Psychology examines how the mind changes over a lifespan.
- Educational Psychology studies how people learn.
- Social Psychology studies collective social behaviors and social thought.
- Cognitive Psychology studies cognitive processes such as decision making, memory, and reasoning.
- Industrial Psychology examines behavior in the workplace.
- Counseling Psychology helps people solve personal problems unrelated to mental disorders.
Why is Studying Psychology So Interesting?
Psychology offers a rich and fascinating look into who we are. By studying it, you gain a better understanding of yourself as an individual through your development, thoughts, personality, and behavior. It then lets you extend that understanding to other people, making you a better leader, communicator, and even a better friend.
How Can a Beginner Study Psychology?
While nothing beats a formal college course on the subject, there are some things a beginner can do to develop a basic grasp of psychological concepts and methodologies. Regardless of your path, you want to start with some general psychology. That will give you a basis you can use to dive deeper into the subfields.
Beyond formal classes, you can learn psychology by being observant, reading books on psychology, and joining various discussions on the topic. Regardless of how you go about learning the field, always heed the following advice:
- Take decent notes: It is always a good idea to take notes while learning something new, and decent notes will make reviewing easier.
- Keep a study schedule: A schedule will reduce distractions while keeping your lessons consistent.
7 Ways for a Beginner to Study Psychology
The best way to study psychology is to learn enough so you can join the conversations. To that end, the following 7 methods will give you a solid grasp of the basic concepts that will serve you well as you dive deeper into the subject.
Read Introductory Psychology Textbooks
Any Introduction to Psychology textbook will give you an overview of the history, founding pioneers, and the field’s basic concepts. Hergenhahn’s An Introduction to the History of Psychology is a popular choice, but any introductory textbook will do. You can purchase these books through Amazon or a local college bookstore. You can also borrow them from public libraries.
Take an Online Psychology Course
Many online courses in psychology are open to the public. These courses will give you access to learning tools and information that can enhance your studying. Some of these courses are even offered free of charge, letting you start your journey through various subfields with little or no commitment.
Watch Psychology YouTube Videos and Podcasts
Podcasts are another free and often overlooked valuable resource. You can find these podcasts as either videos on YouTube or as science-based shows from your favorite podcast app. Either way, these podcasts offer insights into modern psychology along with the latest advancements in the field. While most podcasts focus on social psychology, you can find shows concerning any subfield you desire.
Read Popular Psychology Books
While not as good as a textbook, you can gain a lot of insight by reading some of the many popular psychology books published every year. You will find hundreds of books about any psychological topic and subfield. Therefore, you may want to narrow your search to a few topics, but they will always be available to you at your local library. Just make sure you pick the ones written for beginners.
Listen to Psychology Lectures and Interviews
A great way to begin studying psychology is to listen to lectures and interviews of professors and esteemed practitioners from the world’s top universities. You can find recordings of past lectures from respected professors from Cambridge, Yale, or Edinburgh through various online channels. You can also attend live lectures that may be occurring in your area or streamed online.
Follow Renown Psychologists on Social Media
With a little luck, you can follow these highly respected professors via social media. Many of them will post snippets of mental health advice, the latest developments in the field, and any future lecture you may want to attend. In some cases, you can even discuss various psychological topics with them in real-time.
Take an In-Person Psychology Course
As mentioned earlier, nothing beats a formal education in psychology. If you are serious about learning psychology, your best bet is to attend an introductory psychology course at a local college or university. With these courses, you will get access to a professor who can help guide you through the subject in a way that works best for you.
Psychology is one of the few fields of science where you can understand the basic concepts quickly on your own. While you need a full college program to master it, the preceding ways allow beginning students to learn the fundamentals of psychology at their own pace. They also leave you in a good spot if you ever decide to take your understanding to the next level.