Basic Concepts in Psychology

Unravel the fundamental concepts of psychology, from constructs and variables to theories and research methods, in this informative scholarly primer.

Basic Concepts in Psychology

Psychology, the scientific study of the mind and behaviour, offers valuable insights into human nature and provides tools to comprehend and address various aspects of our lives. However, diving into the world of psychology can feel overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with its fundamental concepts.

In this article, I will introduce you to the key concepts used in psychology, offering a clear understanding of scientific constructs, variables, theories, models, frameworks, hypotheses, and research methods. So, let's embark on this enlightening journey!

Scientific Constructs

Scientific constructs are theoretical concepts that researchers use to explain and understand phenomena. They are abstract ideas or mental representations that cannot be directly observed or measured. For example, "intelligence" is a construct used in psychology to describe a person's cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, and knowledge. Constructs provide a framework for scientific investigation and help researchers develop theories.


In psychology, variables are elements or factors that can vary and are studied to understand their relationship with other variables. There are two primary types of variables: dependent and independent variables.

Dependent variables (DV) are the outcomes or behaviours that researchers measure or observe. Independent variables (IV) are the factors manipulated by the researcher to examine their influence on the dependent variable. That is, the independent variable is manipulated or controlled by the researcher to observe its effects on the dependent variable, which is the outcome or behaviour being measured. For example, in a study examining the effects of caffeine on attention, caffeine intake (IV) is manipulated, while attention performance (DV) is measured. Researchers often compare different levels of the independent variable to determine its impact on the dependent variable.


A theory in psychology is a well-substantiated explanation or framework that organizes and predicts observable phenomena. Theories are based on empirical evidence and provide a comprehensive understanding of a specific aspect of human behaviour or mental processes. For example, Bandura's Social Learning Theory posits that people learn through observation and imitation of others.


Models are simplified representations or frameworks derived from theories that aim to explain specific aspects of behaviour. Models provide a visual or conceptual framework for understanding specific aspects of human behaviour or mental processes. For instance, the dual-process model of decision-making suggests that people use two cognitive systems, one fast and intuitive, and the other slow and deliberative, to make decisions.


A framework is a broader structure that guides the overall understanding and organization of a particular field or topic within psychology. It offers a conceptual roadmap that helps researchers and practitioners approach and investigate complex psychological phenomena. One example is the biopsychosocial framework, which integrates biological, psychological, and social factors to explain human health and illness.


A hypothesis is a testable prediction or statement that researchers make based on existing knowledge and theories. It provides a specific and falsifiable explanation for a phenomenon. In research, hypotheses guide the investigation of relationships between variables. For instance, a hypothesis could state that individuals who engage in regular exercise will experience reduced symptoms of anxiety compared to those who do not exercise.

Research Methods

Research is a systematic process of investigation that aims to answer questions and generate knowledge to help us arrive at a better understanding of human behaviour and mental processes. Two primary approaches in psychology are quantitative research and qualitative research.

Quantitative research utilizes numerical data and statistical analyses to investigate relationships, patterns, and cause-and-effect relationships between variables to explain and generalize results. This type of research often involves surveys, experiments, and statistical analysis of data. For example, a quantitative study might examine the correlation between hours of sleep and academic performance by collecting data from a large sample of students. Another example would be to conduct a study which uses surveys to assess the correlation between smartphone usage and levels of self-esteem.

Qualitative research involves exploring and understanding subjective experiences, meanings, and social contexts through methods such as interviews, observations, and analysis of textual or visual data. It aims to gain in-depth insights into individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. An example of qualitative research would be conducting interviews to explore the lived experiences of individuals who have undergone trauma.


Psychology encompasses a rich tapestry of theories, research methods, and practical applications that continue to shape our understanding of human behaviour and mental processes.

By grasping the basic concepts of scientific constructs, variables, theories, models, frameworks, hypotheses, and research methods, you are equipped to explore the fascinating world of psychology. Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and psychology has much more to offer. So, embrace the knowledge, keep exploring, and delve deeper into the intricate workings of the human psyche!