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The Many Faces of Psychology

Psychology has proven to be highly relevant in today’s world. It is a multi-faceted social science that finds itself useful in all human situations. It involves the study of the mind and behavior and covers many aspects worthy of study. Its broad scope encompasses all areas of human behaviors in the fields of Education, Family Life and Human Development, Health, Personality, Industry, among others.

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Well-being does not only constitute physical health but also involves mental and emotional health. Psychological balance is one mark of individual success. Being able to think clearly and make sound decisions despite the distractions of everyday stress, conflicts in personal and professional relationships and long-term issues is one mark of a psychologically sound person.

The voluminous research on various aspects of Psychology is a sign that many scholars continue to take interest in gaining knowledge on how people think and behave in different situations. I aim to partake of this wealth of information in Psychology as I endeavor to take the necessary courses in preparation for a career in this field.

“One of the most consistent attacks on psychology as a social science by laypersons is that it is all “common sense.” Thus, to the critical layperson, many psychological findings, if they sound unsurprising, are dismissed as common sense; if they are not understood they are thought not to be really part of the discipline of psychology; and if they are counter-intuitive in that they contradict a widely-held model of human psychology, they are thought to be simply wrong” (Furnham, 1983 as qtd. in Furnham, Callahan, and Rawles, 2003, p. 101). However, it is justified to think of psychological findings as common sense, as researchers actually use this as a basis for forming theories that need validation with scientific research. Kelley (1992) noted the interplay between common sense psychology and scientific psychology as involving social processes of common culture affecting scientific thoughts and activities and vice versa. Many ideas for psychological experiments have sprouted from common, everyday situations. Results from such experiments become the basis for understanding human behavior and how people think in different circumstances.

Nowadays, the study of psychology is considerably more comprehensive than test-based psychodiagnostic or evocative psychotherapy. Thus, it is increasingly important to maintain integrity and substance in the content areas as the appropriate disciplinary base. The range of necessary disciplines extends from physiological psychology to learning theory to the study of individual differences along with developmental, cognitive-affective, and social bases of interpersonal behavior as well as research design, methodology, data analysis, and psychometrics (Hartman, 1981). Hebb (1974) claims: “Psychology is not clinical psychology; it is not physiological psychology; it is not social or comparative or developmental or human experimental psychology. It is something more comprising all these lines of approach to the central mystery” (p.71).

The many subfields under the umbrella of General Psychology offer a cornucopia of choices for specialization. Psychology is a very flexible and adaptable course that enables a graduate to pursue many options in careers after graduation: Education, Training and Development, Counseling, Social Service, Human Resources work in corporations, and even go on to study Medicine. Just about any career would make use of knowledge in Psychology, because of its wide scope of the study.

Many educational theories are based on psychological reasoning. Many psychologists have been raised on a pedestal for coming up with a solid foundation for educational philosophies and approaches. Jean Piaget for one, a noted Swiss psychologist, has been hailed for his cognitive theories that explain how children come to learn to think and learn about their world. Psychology has also been responsible for studying the holistic development of a person from birth onwards by coming up with theories such as Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development and Freud’s Psychosexual Development. Others have chosen to study the many avenues of learning such as Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory, Dunn’s Learning Style theory, Costa and Kallick’s “Habits of Mind” theory. These theories are attempts to give light on how a person learns best, so educators and parents are appropriately led to help their students and children think more effectively.

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In work environments, Psychology is greatly influential in determining the productivity, morale, and motivation of workers. Applied psychologists have become saving factors when it comes to organizational problems. Managers and supervisors having difficulty in effecting changes in their departments call on psychologists for advice, who in turn serve as organizational development consultants.

“Organizational development draws on psychology as a basic discipline, particularly social psychology (group dynamics and small group theory), clinical and counseling psychology (diagnostic and counseling methods, personality theory), and industrial psychology (attitudes and motivation).” (Friedlander, 1980).

Mostly, applied psychologists help out in facilitating change in organizations, as most workers find change intimidating after settling into a comfortable work pace. Psychologists also become instrumental in resolving employer-employee conflicts that usually ensue from stressful conditions in the work environment. They draw from their knowledge and experiences in stress management, behavior modification, and psychological interventions.

The close relationship between physical and psychological health has likewise spurred psychologists to delve deeper into the issues. For instance, Friedman and Booth-Kewley (1987) wanted to investigate if indeed there was a “disease-prone personality”, so they conducted a study by selecting five widespread chronic diseases with undetermined etiologies namely: Asthma, Headaches, Ulcers, Arthritis, and Heart disease. These diseases were matched with five selected personality variables such as anxiety, depression, anger/hostility/aggression, anger/hostility, and extraversion. What they found out was that different diseases were not necessarily linked with corresponding traits. However, it appeared that a certain type of personality played a big role across research domains, diseases, and a wide variety of methods.

Because of the encouraging findings that personality affects the health of a person, psychologists have developed psychotherapy that seems to reshape personality enough to prevent the onset of diseases and to prevent them from getting worse. (Eysenck & Grossareth-Maticek, 1991). The psychological intervention consisted of “extensive instruction in progressive muscle relaxation, modification of exaggerated emotional reactions, self-management, and establishment of new values and goals, all of which Friedman and Booth-Kewley (1987) note, would also have been effective in dealing with anxiety, hostility, and depression”(Ferzen, Midyat-Zilan, 2004). Many counseling approaches have emerged in an attempt to help people besieged with psychological and emotional burdens. Although these approaches vary in terms of principle and methodology, the common goal is to alleviate and eventually help heal such psychological and emotional illnesses.

The newest addition in the subfields of Psychology has surfaced. The realization that Psychology has had more emphasis on the negative than on more positive topics like character-building; happiness; implications of a pleasant childhood; well-being; achievement, etc has paved the way for the emergence of Positive Psychology founded by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Positive psychology is the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions.” (Gable & Haidt, 2005) It “focuses on cultivating personality strengths and honing an optimistic approach to life rather than on cataloging human frailty and disease.” (Lawson, 2004). It offers a brighter view of reality and encourages and empowers people to take more proactive steps in maximizing their strengths when life throws them problems.

Positive Psychology may very well change how a person behaves and views life. Anyone in his right mind wants to possess positive personality traits and dispel negative ones. This new science provides concrete strategies in bringing such a desire to fruition. “No longer do the dominant theories view the individual as a passive vessel responding to stimuli, rather, individuals are now seen as decision-makers, with choices, preferences and the possibility of becoming masterful, efficacious, or in malignant circumstances, helpless and hopeless” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

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A comprehensive course in Psychology equips a Psychology major with concepts and skills to understand human behavior deeper than what common sense can summon. Dissecting psychological theories borne of great minds is just part of the rigorous training expected of a graduate of Psychology. A certain degree of objectivity is essential in getting to the bottom of psychological issues and conflicts.

The overwhelming information on Psychology may not be thoroughly summarized in this paper. However, despite the mounting challenges, I am determined to learn more about this social science which I believe offers the world many contributions to help make it a better place to live in.

References

Eysenck, H.J., & Grossarth-Maticek, R. (1991) “Creative novation behaviour therapy as a prophylactic treatment for cancer and coronary heart disease: Part II – Effects of treatment.” Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 17-31.

Ferzen, A. & Midyat-Zilan, F.R. (2004) Dirty links: Stress, personality, and coronary heart disease. 2008. Web.

Friedlander, F.,(1980) “The facilitation of change in organizations”, Professional Psychology Vol. 11, No. 3.

Friedman, H.S., & Booth-Kewley, S. (1987). “The ‘disease-prone personality’: A meta-analytic view of the construct.” American Psychologist, 42, 539-555.

Furnham, A., Callahan, I. and Rawles, R. (2003) “Adults’ Knowledge of General Psychology”, European Psychologist, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 101–116.

Gable, S. & Haidt, J., (2005) What (and why) is positive psychology?, Review of General Psychology, 9: 2, 103-110.

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Hartman, L.M. (1981) “Clinical Psychology: Emergent Trends And Future Applications”, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 37, No. 2.

Hebb, D.O. (1974) “What Psychology is About.” American Psychologist, Vol. 29, pp.71-79.

Kelley, H.K. (1992). Common sense psychology and scientific psychology. Annual Review Psychology, 43, 1–23.

Lawson, W. (2004) The glee club: positive psychologists want to teach you to be happier. can they succeed?. Psychology Today. 37.: 1.

Seligman, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000) Positive psychology, an introduction, American Psychologist, 55.

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