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Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience vs. Psychology?

What's the difference between majoring in CBNU vs. Psychology?

#psychology #neuroscience

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Reshyra,


The essential task of cognitive neuroscience is to understand how the brain creates the mind. What are the neural substrates of mental processes such as attention, memory, language, learning, reasoning and decision making? Behavioural neuroscience also overlaps with psychology in seeking to understand the biological basis of an animals actions, and typically these investigations are carried out at the level of brain circuitry, neurons and neurotransmitters. Cognitive and behavioural neuroscience also help us understand human pathology and behaviours such as addiction.


Because human behavior is so varied, the number of subfields in psychology is also constantly growing and evolving. Some of these subfields have been firmly established as areas of interest, and many colleges and universities offer courses and degree programs in these topics. 

Each field of psychology represents a specific area of study focused on a particular topic. Oftentimes, psychologists specialize in one of these areas as a career. The following are just some of the major branches of psychology:


Abnormal psychology is the area that looks at psychopathology and abnormal behavior. Mental health professionals help assess, diagnose, and treat a wide variety of psychological disorders including anxiety and depression. Counselors, clinical psychologists, and psychotherapists often work directly in this field.


Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. For example, a teacher might use a system of rewards in order to teach students to behave during class. When students are good, they receive gold stars which can then be turned in for some sort of special privilege.


Biopsychology is a branch of psychology is focused on how the brain, neurons, and nervous system influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This field draws on many different disciplines including basic psychology, experimental psychology, biology, physiology, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience.


Clinical psychology is the branch of psychology concerned with the assessment and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behavior, and psychiatric disorders. Clinicians often work in private practices, but many also work in community centers or at universities and colleges. Others work in hospital settings or mental health clinics as part of a collaborative team that may include physicians, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals.


Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that focuses on internal mental states. This area of psychology is centered on the science of how people think, learn, and remember.


The other areas of work you can see in:


https://www.verywellmind.com/major-branches-of-psychology-4139786 http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sussexneuroscience/research/cognition

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Vince’s Answer

I would check first to see if either major is a bachelor of science (B.S.) or a bachelor of the arts (B.A.). A B.S. is typically intended for people going on to medical school, and coupled with psychology, is typically for those going on to psychiatry or medical research. It involves more natural science courses like general biology and chemistry.

Programs will vary by college, but neuroscience programs I would imagine offer more courses on the functional and structural architecture of the brain--what the brain is, how it acts, how the different parts interact with one another. A lot of modern neuroscience research goes into scanning the brain to identify its structures and their activity, as well as even neurochemistry (neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine) and how they influence behavior.

A general psychology major typically encompasses a lot of topics in psychology. It can be good if you're interested in psychology but not quite sure of a career path or your specific interests in psych. I majored in general psychology and enjoyed it.

If you are interested in becoming a therapist, I would not recommend neuroscience. Otherwise, I think it is up to you dependent upon your interests. Since some of the requirements may overlap, you might be able to add a general psychology degree and later switch to a neuroscience track.

Best of luck!

Vince recommends the following next steps:

Identify what interests you about psychology
Talk with a college advisor, if you can, about the types of courses you would take for either degree track
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