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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

A lot of people who are new to psychology or are wondering how best to enter that realm in which they can learn all about the human mind can often be confused by a significant number of terms that can be very similar, both in spelling and in meaning.

Thankfully, when it comes to psychology and physiology, the similarity is only in terms of the spelling – because we will soon see that the two terms refer to completely different things altogether, even though there is a catch!

If you’ve considered studying psychology or physiology, but can’t make head or tail or what refers to which idea or concept exactly, then don’t worry – this is the article for you! Here we will discuss the differences between the two fields to some degree of detail, but we will make sure to mention the similarities as well since there are many.

So, without further ado then, let’s get started.

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

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

Now that you’ve read about the two fields in detail, you can choose the one that’s the right fit for you. Also, of course, if you ever want to change careers, it’s always possible to do that. But keep in mind that there’s a way to extend one career into another as well – and psychology definitely provides greater leeway to make that happen than physiology. All the best with whatever you decide to take up!


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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