Top 20 Subfields/Branches of Psychology [Explained]

Branches of Psychology

Psychology is a fascinating discipline that has been evolving at a faster pace than it was in its initial development. As such, due to its complex depth and breadth, various different branches of psychology emerging in these modern days.

Branches of psychology are commonly known as subfields of psychology, disciplines of psychology, areas of psychology, as well as types of psychology. A list of the 20 most common branches is mentioned below:

  1. Cognitive Psychology
  2. Clinical Psychology
  3. Abnormal Psychology
  4. Developmental Psychology
  5. Evolutionary Psychology
  6. Forensic Psychology
  7. Health Psychology
  8. Behavioral Psychology
  9. Biopsychology
  10. Comparative Psychology
  11. Counseling Psychology
  12. Cross-Cultural Psychology
  13. Educational Psychology
  14. Experimental Psychology
  15. Industrial-Organizational Psychology (IO Psychology)
  16. Personality Psychology
  17. School Psychology
  18. Social Psychology
  19. Sports Psychology
  20. Child Psychology

20 Branches of Psychology: Defining

Each branch of psychology is different from other branches. And, each branch of psychology has its means, focus, and end. Let’s discover what are those branches and how they helped psychology to become an ever-growing field of study.

Cognitive Psychology

On our list of 20 branches of psychology, cognitive psychology is the 1st one. Cognitive psychology, often referred to as the study of brain science, examines the internal mental processes that occur within the human brain, such as perception, memory, thinking, problem-solving, and learning.

It seeks to understand how people think, remember, and learn by investigating the complexities of the human mind. Cognitive psychologists aim to develop models that explain these cognitive processes, shedding light on how individuals receive, interpret, and make sense of information from the world around them.

By understanding the functioning of the mind, cognitive psychology contributes to our ability to help individuals overcome psychological difficulties and improve their lives.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a specialized field within psychology that focuses on providing comprehensive mental and behavioral healthcare. It involves assessing, diagnosing, and treating various mental health conditions and abnormal behaviors.

Clinical psychologists work with individuals, couples, families, and groups of diverse populations and backgrounds. They integrate knowledge from different disciplines to understand and address complex human problems. Clinical psychologists apply scientific principles and evidence-based techniques in their practice to help individuals overcome psychological difficulties.

Prominent figures in the history of clinical psychology include Sigmund Freud and Lightner Witmer. The field encompasses approaches such as psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, biological, and eclectic.

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal psychology is one of the branches of psychology that focuses on studying patterns of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that deviate from the norm and may indicate a mental health condition. It explores behaviors and experiences that cause distress, impairs functioning, and deviate from societal norms.

Instead of relying solely on societal norms, abnormal psychology emphasizes the level of distress and impairment caused by certain behaviors, thoughts, or emotions. It seeks to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for various mental health conditions.

Influential contributors to abnormal psychology include Emil Kraepelin, who developed a classification system for mental disorders, and Sigmund Freud, whose psychoanalytic theories provided insights into abnormal behavior. The field continues to evolve, aiming for a more comprehensive and culturally sensitive approach to understanding and addressing mental health concerns.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is the study of how and why individuals grow, adapt, and change throughout their lives. It explores physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development from infancy to old age.

Notable contributors include Darwin, Preyer, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bowlby. Topics studied include language acquisition, moral understanding, and personality development. Debates focus on continuity versus discontinuity, nature versus nurture, and stability versus change.

Developmental stages include prenatal development, childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and older adulthood. Developmental psychologists examine cognitive, emotional, and social development, as well as aging-related issues. To become a developmental psychologist, higher education, including a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree, is typically pursued.

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology is a scientific field that explores human behavior by considering the influence of evolution. It combines psychology and biology to uncover the underlying reasons behind our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Just as physical features are explained by natural selection, evolutionary psychologists apply Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to understand how our minds have developed. By studying this field, we gain insights into the fundamental drivers of our behavior, tracing it back to our ancestors’ need to survive and reproduce.

Notable contributors include Darwin, Cosmides, Tooby, Hamilton, and Trivers. Evolutionary psychology offers a unique perspective on human behavior, revealing the deep evolutionary forces that shape our minds and actions.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology merges psychology and the law, examining human behavior in legal contexts. It applies psychological knowledge to understand behaviors, improve justice, and prevent crime.

Forensic psychologists assess individuals, offer expert testimony, and design interventions. Notable contributors include Wundt, Cattell, Binet, Munsterberg, and Marston. Their work on eyewitness testimony and deception laid the foundation.

Forensic psychology prevents crime, ensures justice, aids rehabilitation, enhances witness testimony, and supports victims. By bridging psychology and the legal system, forensic psychology promotes a deeper understanding of human behavior within a legal framework.

Health Psychology

Health psychology is a specialized branch of psychology that explores the complex relationships between social, psychological, and biological factors and their influence on human health. It emphasizes the promotion of well-being, prevention, and treatment of illnesses, and understanding individuals’ responses to health challenges.

Pioneers in this field include Joseph Matarazzo, who emphasized the role of psychology in health, and Aaron Antonovsky, who highlighted the importance of personal resources in promoting well-being. Health psychologists work in clinical settings, conduct research, and collaborate with healthcare teams to develop effective interventions and improve overall healthcare.

Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology, or behaviorism, is a branch of psychology that focuses on understanding the connection between observable behavior and the environment. It emphasizes the study of behavior rather than internal mental states and believes that behavior is shaped by external stimuli.

Pioneers of behavioral psychology include Ivan Pavlov, known for classical conditioning, and John B. Watson, considered the father of behaviorism. Behavioral psychology has practical applications in habit formation, education, research, and mental health treatment. However, critics argue that it neglects subjective experiences and other influences on behavior.


Biopsychology, also known as physiological psychology or behavioral neuroscience, is the study of the complex relationship between biology and psychology. It explores how biological factors such as the brain, neurotransmitters, hormones, and genetics influence behavior, thoughts, and emotions. This field encompasses various subfields, including neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral neuroscience.

Notable pioneers in biopsychology include Franz Gall, who introduced the theory of phrenology, and numerous contemporary researchers advancing our understanding of the biological basis of behavior. By integrating biology and psychology, biopsychology offers valuable insights into the complex interplay between our biological makeup and our mental processes.

Comparative Psychology

Comparative psychology is also one of the notable branches of psychology that explores the similarities and differences in behavior among various living beings, aiming to understand human psychology in relation to other animals. It examines animal behavior through controlled experiments, shedding light on topics such as learning, motivation, and brain function.

Notable pioneers in this field include Pierre Flourens, Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, and Konrad Lorenz. Comparative psychology provides valuable insights into human behavior, but it has also faced criticism regarding the ethical treatment of animals. Nonetheless, it contributes to our understanding of behavior and cognition, highlighting evolutionary patterns and developmental processes.

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is a branch of professional psychology that focuses on improving individuals’ well-being, helping them overcome distress, and enhancing their ability to function effectively in various areas of life. It utilizes culturally-informed practices to address emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, and developmental concerns.

Counseling psychologists work with individuals of all ages, providing therapeutic interventions to manage behavioral issues, cope with stress, alleviate anxiety, and address psychological disorders. Pioneers in this field include Carl Rogers, Viktor Frankl, and Albert Ellis. They have shaped counseling psychology with their influential perspectives and therapeutic approaches.

Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural psychology is a field that explores how cultural factors shape human behavior. It focuses on understanding the similarities and differences in psychological processes across different cultures, challenging Western bias in psychology research.

The International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP) was founded in 1972 to promote the field’s growth. Researchers in this field study the impact of culture on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, aiming to foster intercultural understanding and enhance psychological well-being in diverse populations.

Prominent contributors to the field of cross-cultural psychology include Harry Triandis, Geert Hofstede, and John Berry.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology is a field focused on understanding how people learn and develop in different educational settings. It explores the cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral aspects of learning to improve educational outcomes. Educational psychologists study effective teaching methods, design interventions for individuals with learning challenges, and consider various factors that influence learning.

Prominent pioneers in this field include Johann Herbart, William James, Alfred Binet, John Dewey, Benjamin Bloom, and Edward Lee Thorndike. Educational psychologists contribute to curriculum design, teacher training, research, and evaluation to enhance the learning experience for students of all ages.

Experimental Psychology

Experimental psychology is a scientific branch that investigates the mind and behavior using empirical methods. It seeks to understand why people behave the way they do and how various factors influence their thoughts and actions.

Pioneers in this field include Gustav Fechner and Wilhelm Wundt, who established the first experimental psychology laboratory in the late 19th century.

Experimental psychologists conduct controlled experiments, measure responses, and compare them to control conditions. They explore topics such as sensation, perception, attention, memory, cognition, and emotion. Experimental psychology contributes to various applied areas and continues to advance our understanding of human behavior.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology (IO Psychology)

Industrial-Organizational Psychology (IO Psychology) is a specialized field that applies psychological principles to improve individual and group behavior within the workplace. It focuses on enhancing employee satisfaction, productivity, communication, leadership, and problem-solving.

Pioneers in this field include Frederick W. Taylor, Hugo Münsterberg, James McKeen Cattell, Kurt Lewin, and Robert Yerkes. IO psychologists analyze workplace behavior, design assessments, and training programs, assist with recruitment, and address organizational issues.

They contribute to creating a positive work environment and optimizing organizational effectiveness. IO psychology is a dynamic field that continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of modern workplaces.

Personality Psychology

Personality psychology is one of the branches of psychology. It examines the unique characteristics, traits, and behaviors that shape individuals. It explores the development, structure, and dynamics of personality, as well as its impact on various aspects of life.

Pioneers in this field include Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Albert Bandura, and B.F. Skinner. Personality psychologists aim to understand individual differences, predict behavior, enhance interpersonal relationships, diagnose and treat personality disorders, and promote personal growth.

By unraveling the complexities of human nature, personality psychology provides valuable insights into who we are and how we interact with the world.

School Psychology

School psychology is one of the psychology branches that combines knowledge from various fields to support the educational and psychological needs of children and youth. School psychologists work to create inclusive and supportive learning environments, addressing individual and system-level interventions.

Pioneers in the field include Lightner Witmer, Francis Galton, James Catell, Alfred Binet, and others. Their responsibilities include improving academic achievement, promoting positive behavior and mental health, supporting diverse learners, creating safe school climates, strengthening family-school partnerships, and enhancing school-wide assessment and accountability.

A career in school psychology offers an opportunity to make a positive impact on student’s lives, requiring a graduate degree in the field.

Social Psychology

Social psychology is the study of how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the presence and actions of others. It examines topics such as self-concept, social cognition, group dynamics, prejudice, aggression, and attitudes.

Pioneers in this field include Norman Triplett, who explored social facilitation, and Stanley Milgram, known for his obedience experiments. Social psychology helps us understand how our behavior and experiences are shaped by the social environment and offer insights into improving relationships and promoting positive change.

Sports Psychology

Sports psychology is a field that examines the connection between the mind and athletic performance. It explores the psychological factors that impact an individual’s ability to excel in sports and physical activities. By utilizing techniques such as goal-setting, imagery, and self-talk, sports psychologists help individuals optimize their mental processes for peak performance.

The discipline also investigates how participating in sports and exercise influences mental well-being and overall physical health. Sports psychology has evolved significantly since its inception, with notable pioneers contributing to its development. Today, it offers support not only to athletes but also to coaches, parents, administrators, and anyone seeking to enhance their psychological and physical well-being through sports and exercise.

Child Psychology

Child psychology is the last of our list of 20 branches of psychology. It also known as child development, is a field that focuses on how children’s minds and behaviors develop from birth through adolescence. It explores the unique psychological processes of children, including their cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Child psychologists study how children learn, think, interact, and respond emotionally to their surroundings. They also examine the formation of friendships, understanding emotions, and the development of personality traits. Child psychologists assess and treat issues and disorders that affect children and their families.

Key contributors in this field include Charles Darwin, G. Stanley Hall, Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, and Jean Piaget.

Branches of Psychology: Conclusion

The abovementioned 20 are the main branches of psychology. But be aware that, these 20 are not all branches of psychology, new research, and experiments are taking place day by day and in the future there will much more psychology branches. Regularly visit our website to get more updates on the branches of psychology.

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