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Psychology vs Physiology: Difference Between Psychology and Physiology

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10th Feb, 2021
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Psychology vs Physiology: Difference Between Psychology and Physiology

As someone new to psychology, navigating the realm of the human mind can be daunting, especially when faced with similar-sounding terms. While psychology and physiology share a resemblance in spelling, they diverge in meaning. 

If you’ve contemplated studying psychology or physiology but find it challenging to distinguish between the two, fear not. This article aims to clarify the disparities and similarities between these fields. 

So, let’s delve into the distinctions and commonalities between psychology and physiology to provide clarity for aspiring professionals in these domains. 

Differences Between Psychology and Physiology

1. Physiology Studies the Body, Psychology Studies the Mind

Physiology as a field is all about the body – how it works, or rather, what makes it work. When looking specifically at physiology, a student understands the various functions of the body, including metabolic functions, digestion, respiration, blood circulation, movement, as well as muscle and bone structure, to mention a few things.

Physiology also looks at different animals as well and compares the structural layout of humans with that of various animals to see how certain functions stack up. Psychology on the other hand is primarily about the human mind. A psychology student spends time trying to understand what kind of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are learned by a particular person and how they are implemented through their actions.

In this sense, a psychology student primarily tries to understand all the different kinds of data that goes into the mind of a person, and how that person understands this data. This is where different schools of psychology come in, and the various approaches that psychology students learn to go into making sense of human behaviour.

2. Physiologists Primarily Help with Diagnostics, While Psychologists are Employed for Broader Purposes 

If you’ve studied as a physiologist, your primary source of employment will be in a hospital as a person who works alongside doctors to understand the source of a patient’s problem and to recommend remedies to it. In addition, you can also become a physiotherapist, or you can become a research assistant if the theoretical world interests you.

If you’re a psychologist, however, you can find employment in various areas – not only can you work in a hospital as a psychologist, you can also start your own clinic and take clients privately, you can start your own supervision group, or you can become a lecturer in a university to teach young and enthusiastic children about the wonders of psychology. In general, psychology, due to its proclivity towards other disciplines, renders well to career expansion. But this isn’t the case for physiology at all.

The reason this is the case is that physiology isn’t usually considered to be a separate school in its own right, as much as it is considered to be a part of the journey of becoming a doctor. Psychology, on the other hand, doesn’t have this problem, since it is a well-established discipline now which, even though it can function as an auxiliary to some disciplines, has a lot of merits to be studied in its own right. This doesn’t reflect anything about the inherent value of a field – only how society has viewed it for the most part.

With all this being said, we understand that there is a significant difference between the two fields. One is related solely to the body, while the other focuses hugely on the mind. However, there still remains one major similarity between the two fields, which connects them both together at their very core.

Also Read: Difference between Psychologists and Psychiatrists

A Binding Similarity Between the Two Fields

You may have heard the phrase that one needs to be healthy in both mind and body. Or that mental health is as important as physical health if not more. And this is where physiology and psychology are both connected – ultimately they are both fields that are concerned with making humans live to their fullest potential, whether it be by fixing the body or the mind. So, they take different points of inquiry and different approach points, but ultimately the larger goal remains the same!

Also, another notable fact is that, although physiology doesn’t directly look at psychology at any point, psychology does encompass certain parts of physiology, depending on the school that’s in consideration.

For instance, one of the tenets of positive psychology is that physical exercise is really important for mental health because there is a certain rush of positive hormones in the brain due to working out that immensely helps when it comes to curing depression. In this way, certain schools of psychology actually look at physiological processes as well, further connecting the two fields.

Checkout: Skills Needed to become Psychologist

What does a psychologist do?

Psychologists delve into the complexities of the human mind, studying behavior, thoughts, and emotions to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They employ various therapeutic techniques to support individuals in achieving psychological well-being.

What does a physiologist do?  

Physiologists, on the other hand, focus on the body’s functions and mechanisms, exploring how organs and systems operate to maintain health. They conduct research and clinical studies to understand physiological processes and develop interventions for health optimization. 

Choose the One that’s the Best Fit for you!

Having explored both psychology and physiology, you can now make an informed decision about which field aligns best with your interests and career goals. Remember, switching careers is always an option if you find your interests evolving over time.

It’s worth noting that transitioning from psychology to physiology offers more flexibility compared to the reverse. Whatever path you choose, I wish you success in your endeavors!


Sandeep Pereira

Blog Author
Responsible for working with the various teams and other management to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies and set up new programs at upGrad. With a demonstrated history of working in the EdTech industry.
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