If you happen to mention to someone who has never studied psychology that you are taking the subject as part of your nursing studies, you are likely to be met with two responses. The first is ‘Psychology, eh? Bet you’re analysing me then’, and then, after you’ve explained a bit about the subject, the second response is ‘Well, that sounds like common sense to me. Surely you don’t have to be taught that?’ The first response reflects the all too common view of psychology as a form of therapy used to make people better. Whilst some therapies are based on psychological principles, psychology has a much broader remit and can be defined as the ‘science of human behaviour’. Psychology is similar to other sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology in that it also is based on a general set of methods, focusing on systematic observation and direct experimentation. We tend to be most familiar with the image of the scientist bending over his microscope and taking notes, yet the scientific method has been used to study other topics such as geography and archaeology as well. Just as the geographer would use a scientific approach to investigate the relationship of climate and natural resources with human culture, the same basic methods of science can be used by the psychologist to study many aspects of human behaviour.
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