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There is a saying that goes “the mind is a terrible thing to waste.” It implies that people should always use their minds to the fullest, otherwise it will go to waste. While using the mind is a good thing, understanding the mind is even better.

Figuring out how the human mind operates is what the field of psychology deals with. It’s important to make a distinction between the mind and the brain here: in psychology, the focus is on the mind, not so much the brain. Studying the latter is under the subject of biology.

So what is the mind? It comprises many things, including personality, behavior, intelligence, emotions… even values and morality. The human mind is not something that can be seen under the microscope or in a CT scan; it’s a more abstract thing.

Since the human mind is not a concrete thing that can be dissected, sampled, and studied in a lab, psychology is not quite a “hard science” unlike biology. It is classified instead as a social science, as it deals with people and their behavior anyway.

Speaking of behavior, this is one main thing being studied in the field. Psychologists gain clues into the workings of the mind by studying how people behave in different situations. Psychological research often involves setting people up to do certain things without them knowing they are part of a study. Data gathering is subtle so as not to reveal the research to the test subjects.

This is one thing that makes psychology challenging: making the test subjects unaware that they are being observed. It becomes a problem when they know they’re part of a study: it will change their behavior. Therefore, the results of that experiment would no longer be reliable. The test subjects must be kept unaware for psychological studies to be reliable.

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