This is the first post in a series I am creating for undergraduates just starting on their academic adventure in psychology. The wealth of information you are exposed to at college/university in a short time frame, can at times be an information overload.
This introductory to psych series of posts aims to “chunk” information that you are being exposed to in class to provide a summary review, links to test your understanding of topics and a platform for further discussion with like-minded colleagues.
Firstly, how to come up with a concise and all embracing definition of the science of psychology… hmm? I have heard psychology described as “the science of mental life” but this does not seem sufficient for me, as it doesn’t mention behaviour, the inner psyche or reflexes and heredity and influences of the social and physical environment.
It is clear that it is an applied and an academic area of professional practice which focuses on understanding of the human mind and behaviour. A surprise to many undergrads in their first year of psych (as it was to me) the expectation to understand research methods and critical reading of journals is crucial to the ongoing growth of the science. Becoming a practitioner-researcher is a must for any area of psychology that you choose to align your career path with.
Because it is through research that opinions can be explored, discussed, validated and communicated to share knowledge and to build on prior understandings. We wouldn’t be at uni learning about psychology theories and practical applications if it were not for research in the area. Self-help counselors and life coaches, educational and human resources performance enhancement, ergonomics, sports support, government health work, childcare and an assortment of other industries that draw on psychologists, require evidence based practices.
You are a part of this research cycle, both now as a student (e.g., participation in studies at your uni, questioning research findings you are exposed to in class) and most certainly when you graduate (report writing, planning interventions or strategies for better systems and policies).
You are a scientist~ You research ~:-)
Thus, psychology can be defined as the science of human behaviour and the mind, though again, for some of us, this definition continues to leave out the fundamental basis of the word psychology~ psyche, our essence of being, often termed soul-spirit, though this label is loaded with religious meaning, which is not how I and others use it.
It is unlikely in the 21st century classroom that you will be expected to be aware of psyche, let alone explore it. All programs of depth and archetypal psychology in Australia have been halted due to a lack of funding. I am an avid student of this school of psychology, and there is a category link in the left margin or click here, if you would like to learn along with me as to how to extend our understanding of psychology by including more psyche study (this includes research ~:-)
As it is, much of your psychology studies as an undergraduate will focus on behaviour, and what can be observed from the outside. Indeed, psychology research has developed instruments, such as surveys and psychometrics, to reveal the mind to the external observer, so that indirectly thoughts, feelings, private sensations and internal processes can be observed. Thus, data gathered about human behaviour and the mind tends to be based on observations of behaviour, as the mind, at this time, cannot be observed, at least not directly.
Why does the discipline exist? An overall goal of psychology is to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the wider community. Being aware of how we learn, what motivates us or what triggers inhibit our daily functioning, for example, can help us to set and achieve goals, navigate challenges and to live our lives fully, according to our own definitions of success and health.
Awesome, yes? And you’re a part of making this happen, for yourself and for others.
Being a scientist is not so boring now I hope ~:-)
And adding to this exciting adventure that being a psych undergrad entails are the various and comprehensive avenues available for a career with a degree in psychology. The field itself, in the new millennium, is interdisciplinary and eclectic, in that you may wear many hats and be a part of numerous teams as part of your job path. At first, students may be resistant to learning the numerous theories that abound for each area of psychology, but it is this eclectic approach that allows us as practitioner-researchers to look at a phenomenon from a variety of points of view. It broadens our vision and decision making abilities. And, as part of multidisciplinary teams, you will learn from others and they from you. This makes psychology an edgy dynamic fusion of knowledge, skills and competencies.
Tasks during your first few weeks as a psychology undergrad…
- Create your own learning journal for critical reflective writing.
- Construct a Weekly Schedule.
- Come join us at the PSI Tutor:Mentor Facebook group
- Sign up to the free newsletter PSST! (Psycho-Social Student Tribe) and receive my free download study support handbook, Everything is Going to Be Ok.
How do you answer the question: What is Psychology?