What You Need To Know Before Studying Psychology



Two years back while I was still in my pre-university program and having a great time with psychology as one of my electives, I was really convinced that, as an academic pathway, Psychology is a go-to option for those who are interested in truly helping others. I actually thought that even hard science majors should commit some time into understanding psychology. I mean, how is a field dedicated to understanding human beings not important to anyone as a human being?

Then I quickly mellowed down and learnt a couple things after joining a psychology degree program.

Everyone thinks their academic major is more important than others.

Not trying to make factual comparisons between fields but look at it this way, replace “psychology” with “finance”, “economics”, “engineering”, “law” and then I get “how is learning to manage money/about the dynamics of wealth/how to figure out the parameters you can safely ignore/about the law not important?” as they are all “part of life”.  I still think the path of psychology is a notch more important than most majors, but I digress. If anyone tells you to pick up psychology academically, remember the above block-quoted statement, because…

Psychology really isn’t for everyone and anyone. 

One of my first books on psychology is by Dr Christian Jarret, who wrote that “We are all psychologists at heart” in the first page. We all wish to understand ourselves better, understand others better, and using knowledge to improve our social ties with others. Psychology is built on the foundations of these desires.

Then why isn’t it for everyone? Simple, because psychology, in the eyes of academia, is seen as a science. Not everyone can be a scientist.

Everyone can be fascinated with scientific derived knowledge and benefit from them, but not everyone is ready to actually derive these knowledge scientifically. 

For instance, some of us are fascinated with the stars and the cosmos we are part of, but not everyone has the virtue and rigor needed to reach the stars and understand more or justify their guess with (highly) mathematical proof. Another example is that anyone can be interested in learning more about our own health and biological functioning, but not everyone is ready to actually learn to prove why is aspartame isn’t/is cancerous and is okay/shouldn’t be consumed. Most of us are either passionate about justifying drinking Coke Zero or criticizing it, or justifying sticking to regular Coke, or hating on the entire soda industry as a whole.

If things can be this problematic and controversial in a supposedly “hard science”, what about psychology, a field that includes dealing with our subjective experiences?  Psychology cover topics such as emotions, beliefs, intelligence, gender, sexual behaviors, fears, behavior in crowds, and requires students to take them in with a straight face and straight mind.

Are you all ready to be part of this enigmatic field of science that deals with human phenomenon from various complicated perspectives? Are you all ready to be wrong about what you thought was common sense?

Two years back I would have willingly answered “yes!” for all of my peers, but today I find me mostly speaking for myself. I really hope you share my answer.

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Jia Yue Tan
JY is a counselling trainee at Monash University Malaysia under the Master of Professional Counselling program and writes psychology articles to procrastinate from his counselling paperwork and assignments. His interests are in individual differences, psychotherapy, and helping the public understand psychology(s) as a profession. Occasionally reviews books and promote person-centered psychotherapy.

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