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Chapter 14: Frontiers of Psychology

Part One: Psychology and Medicine

Part Two: Stress

Part Three: Addiction

Part Four: Psychology and Law

Part Five: Sport Psychology

Overview of Chapter 14: Frontiers of Psychology

This chapter discusses areas where psychology overlaps other disciplines. These areas are frontiers in two ways: (1) they are relatively recent developments in the 150 year history of psychology, and (2) they are at the intersection of psychology and some other field.

We start with Psychology and Medicine. Several related disciplines are at this intersection: Psychosomatic Medicine, Behavioral Medicine, and Health Psychology. They share a common goal: improving health outcomes.

Next we consider stress. This concept turns up frequently as a psychological factor in health and subject well-being. We will examine the original concepts of Selye and how they changed over time. For example, there may be good forms of stress ("eustress") unless stress is defined as involving negative emotions, which is the suggestion of one prominent psychologist, Arnold Lazarus.

After stress we address another concept that turns up frequently in discussions of health, psychology, and individual well-being: addiction. Addictions have been variously presented as diseases or learned preferences, brain processes or motivational states, and are likely a combination of those things.

Psychology and Law is a relatively new area ("new" being a relative term in psychology: a sub-discipline that has emerged in the previous half century). Psychologists have been key in bringing the problems of false memory and inaccurate eyewitness testimony to the attention of the legal system.

Sport Psychology is another area where psychology overlaps other disciplines. Psychologists study how powers of visualization and mental control (relaxation and intense concentration) affect optimal performance of athletes.

We discuss problems such as choking under pressure. Techniques for enhancing peak performance encourage the flow state in which performance is at its best.

How this chapter is organized

Starting with Psychology and Medicine, we review the topics covered under the name of psychosomatic medicine, then the functions a psychologist can serve in a hospital setting. Behavioral medicine and health psychology both contribute psychological perspectives on promoting health.

Next come separate sections devoted to stress and addiction. Both have been areas of intense research activity for decades. Both relate to dominating issues in the health professions.

Psychology and Law includes topics such as forensic psychology and profiling, as well as the use of psychology in court to support or invalidate forms of evidence. Prison counseling is an area where innovative programs are showing promise for actually helping prisoners instead of merely warehousing them.

Finally, we discuss sport psychology. Here we emphasize the techniques and advice sports psychologists use to try to give athletes an edge in competition, plus the psychology of coachin.

Related topics in other chapters

Neuropsychology, the study of brain injury and its effects, is covered in Chapter 2 (The Human Nervous System). Biological properties of addictive drugs are mentioned in Chapter 3 (States of Consciousness). Meditation, which can act as a stress reducer, is also discussed in that chapter.

Psychological factors in pain were discussed in Chapter 4. The role of classical conditioning in drug tolerance and immune system functioning was included in Chapter 5 (Conditioning).

The use of correlations to enable predictions was discussed in Chapter 1 (Psychology and Science). Here, in the section on Psychology and Law, it is the technique used for profiling criminal suspects.

Confabulation and leading questions, influences affecting the reliability of evidence in courts, were mentioned in Chapter 3 (States of Consciousness). The fallibility of human memory comes up in Chapter 6 (Memory).

The controversy over recovered memories is discussed in Chapter 13 (Therapies) in the context of cathartic therapy. The reluctance of eyewitnesses to get involved in reactions to a crime is related to bystander apathy in Chapter 15 (Social Psychology).

The role of automaticity in highly skilled athletic performance (playing unconscious) is mentioned in Chapter 7 (Cognition). The role of external pressure in "turning play into work" is discussed in Chapter 9 (Motivation).

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