Friday, 26 April 2013


It was almost 1 ‘o clock in the afternoon. Everyone had had their fill at Sunday lunch and was settling down for idle chat and some post lunch belly-rubbing in the living room. Kiran plopped on to his habitual perch, his purple squishy beanbag and lazily looked over at his family. There was Aunty G fretting over the extra salt she had added to the sambhar which had long since been polished off by everyone. Incessant worrier, this one! There was Grandmother R, forever patient and compassionate, listening to the woes of the extra-salt-adder, supplying reassuring comments. She always said the right things! Then there was Uncle A, making inappropriate jokes and provoking others. Moving on, we have Amma and Aunty S talking loudly over the other interspersing conversations, in their own world and so completely relaxed than they have been during the week!

     To Kiran, there was something at once puzzling yet arresting about watching a bunch of people he knew so dearly. People- watching was akin to reading a riddle to him! He loved trying to make-up hypotheses to predict others’ behaviour based on whatever he already knew about them. He enjoyed pondering over why people say the kind of things they said and why they did the kind of things they did!One of the most puzzling questions in his mind was related to what emotions were! Where do they come from and how come the same situation lead to varied emotional responses in different people?!

     Where could an inquisitive young person turn to find an answer to these questions relating to people’s minds? The immensely intriguing field of Psychology would be a great first stop!

     If you were to observe what words come to mind when you hear “Psychology”, you would probably say “human mind”, “behaviour”, “mental wellbeing” and “mental abnormality”! The last response is a particularly frequent association that people make with this field. Sure, studying in depth as to the abnormalities of the mind is a key focus of the subject but it would be completely remiss to make statements about what “abnormal” is without knowing the “normal”, wouldn’t you agree?

     Psychology concerns itself with the scientific study of mental processes (thinking, emotions) and behaviours in both humans and animals. There are some fascinating branches which concern themselves with specific aspects of the mind. Here’s a list of a few of the branches:

  1. Experimental psychology for designing research studies to prove or disprove theories of behaviour
  2. Physiological psychology to study the role of the brain and other bodily processes on our mental lives
  3. Social psychology to study the behaviour of individuals in a group setting
  4. Evolutionary psychology to understand how memory, emotions, language and other processes developed as an adaptation to our changing environments
  5. Abnormal psychology to study mental disorders, their causes and treatment!
  6. Cognitive psychology that exclusively studies higher mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, reasoning, language etc.
  7. Developmental psychology to study the psychological development and changes a person goes through from infancy to old age!
  8. Neuropsychology to understand the structure and function of the brain in relation to behaviour
     Psychology is not an mysterious subject that is far removed from our everyday lives. We are all psychological beings and the very capacities that we enjoy such as our attention, perception, memory, emotions, social and intimate relationships, motivation and what else have you, falls within the ambit of Psychology!

     If we can open our minds and other senses to observe our personal and social worlds, we can recognize the relevance of psychological principles in our own lives and you could well be on your way to becoming a beanbag psychologist!