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Kendra Cherry

Psychology

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Have You Considered Becoming a Criminal Psychologist?

Thursday April 17, 2014
criminal psychologist

Criminal psychology is often described as a "hot" specialty area right now, largely thanks to the depictions of the job on a number of television dramas. Related to the field of forensic psychology, criminal psychologists perform a number of important tasks including assessing suspected criminals, evaluating the likelihood that a convicted criminal may become a repeat offender, and making education guesses about the actions that a suspect may have taken after committing a crime.

But is being a criminal psychologist really as dramatic and exciting as it seems on TV? According to Marc T. Zucker, chair of the undergraduate School of Criminal Justice at Kaplan University, such fictionalized portrayals usually exaggerate the role that criminal psychologists play in solving crimes. "We all love the thrill of the chase and arrest, however, psychologists don't typically accompany officers in the apprehension of suspects," he explained in one article.

While this job might not be exactly like what you see on TV, it's far from boring. Other experts point out that the field continues to evolve, which means that criminal psychologists can always find new challenges to test their skills. For example, some professionals now specialize in computer-related crimes such as online fraud and sex crimes.

If you've ever wondered about whether this field might be right for you, be sure to check out this criminal psychologist career profile to learn more about the duties, work settings, salaries and training needed to enter this profession.

Image: Julie Elliott

Why You Should Take a Psychology Class

Tuesday April 15, 2014
Why take psychology classes

Every semester I get several emails asking one basic question: "I'm not a psychology major but my university is requiring me to take a psych class for a general education requirement. Why?"

Many universities require students to take a psychology class, usually to fulfill a social science requirement. In many cases, students can select from a number of different classes that can fulfill the requirement. Such classes might include psychology, government, sociology, or anthropology. In other cases, a psychology class might be the only option available for that element of the general education requirement.

Even if you are not a psychology major, there are plenty of great reasons to take a psychology class. Having a better understand of how people think and why they behave the way they do can be helpful no matter what profession you pursue. For example, if you are going into marketing or advertising, psychology can help you better understand things like consumer behavior and persuasion. A nursing major might benefit by gaining a better understanding of how people respond to stress and illness, while an education major might benefit from learning more about topics such as cognition, learning, development, and behavior.

Learn more about some of the many reasons why you should take a psychology class (even if you are not a psychology major).

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Confirmation Bias - Psychology Definition of the Week

Friday April 11, 2014
confirmation bias

Definition: When we are making a decision about an issue, we often like to believe that we carefully balance the existing evidence and formulate an opinion that is balanced, logical, and impartial. The reality is that we often fall victim to a problem known as the confirmation bias. This involves only paying attention to information that supports our current point of view, or even interpreting information in such as way that it upholds our existing beliefs. In other words, we look for evidence that supports our opinions and ignore information that conflicts with what we already believe to be true.

Learn more about about how this works in this overview of the confirmation bias.

Image: Piotr Bizior

The Words of Jean Piaget

Thursday April 10, 2014
piaget quotes

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his famous theory of cognitive development. His work helped transform the study of child development and contributed greatly to our understanding of how kids grow and change over the course of childhood.

Piaget outlined his thoughts and theories in several texts including The Moral Judgement of the Child (1932) and Genetic Epistemology (1970). Explore his thoughts on topics ranging from education to intelligence in this collection of selected quotations by Jean Piaget.

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I-O Psychologists: How Much Do They Make?

Tuesday April 8, 2014
i-o salary info

Ever since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified industrial-organizational psychology (aka I-O psychology) as their number one fastest-growing career of the next decade, I've been getting a lot of questions from students interested in this specialty area. Many of the questions center on educational requirements, but the number one query relates to how much money I-O psychologists make.

First and foremost, I'd like to stress that students should never let a hypothetical salary serve as the deciding factor in choosing a career. Sure it's great to pick a profession that allows you to be well compensated for your time and expertise, but other factors such as job satisfaction should really play the greatest role in picking a job path.

Salaries for I-O psychologists can vary a great deal depending on a lot of factors including educational background, geographic location, and years of experience. Whenever I post salary figures for various careers, I invariably receive several emails from readers insisting that the data is wrong because they either make much more or much less that the average salary listed.

But that's the key thing to remember - these figures are averages. An I-O psychologist with 15 years of experience living in a major metropolitan area is clearly going to command a much higher salary than a fresh-out-of-college professional living in a smaller town.

Keep these things in mind as you explore these different figures for typical earnings for I-O psychologists.

More About I-O Psychology:

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Personal Construct Theory - Psychology Definition of the Week

Friday April 4, 2014
personal construct theory

Definition: George Kelly's personal construct theory suggests that the individual differences between people arise from our unique and highly personal interpretations of the world around us. Kelly believed that people form ideas about how the world works and then perform "experiments" to put these perceptions and beliefs to the test.

This point of view differed from the two prevailing schools of thought that dominated psychology at that time. Behaviorism suggested that people were controlled by associations, reinforcements, and punishments. Psychoanalysis implied that people were at the mercy of their childhood experiences and unconscious wishes. Unlike these two viewpoints, Kelly's theory suggested that people take a much more active approach in understanding and learning about the world around them.

Learn more about this personal construct theory.

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What Can You Do With a Graduate Degree in Psychology?

Thursday April 3, 2014

While there are a lot of entry-level job options available for people with an undergraduate degree in psychology, most people will find that there are greater opportunities available with a graduate degree. As the demand for mental health services increases, the need for trained individuals with a strong psychological background rises as well.

Some graduate students focus on a general psychology degree, but most choose to focus on a particular specialty area within psychology such as school psychology, clinical psychology, or counseling psychology. The field of psychology you choose to focus on may depend on a number of different factors including your interests, how long you want to spend in school and your career goals.

Learn more about some of the job options with a graduate degree in psychology.

More About Psychology Careers

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Quest for Happiness Might Backfire for Some

Tuesday April 1, 2014
happiness challenge

There has been a trend in recent years to focus on so-called happiness projects or challenges. The goal of these challenges (such as the 100 Happy Days challenge) is to get people to think about things that make them happy every day for a set number of days. The thinking behind this is that by highlighting the things in your life that are sources of joy, happiness, or gratitude you will become a happier person in general.

Sounds like a great idea, right?

Unfortunately, psychologists caution that such happiness challenges can sometimes backfire, at least for some individuals.

Why?

According to experts, such activities can often be helpful, but attempting to do this over an extended period of time can create a paradoxical situation. Researchers have found that for people with low self-esteem, repeating affirmations ("I'm good enough! I'm strong enough!") can actually have a negative impact and result in lower self-image or increased sadness.

For other people, trying to stay on task and committed to tracking daily happiness for such an extended period of time can actually create stress and decrease overall happiness.

In an article for CBS News Health, psychologist Jamie Gruman, chair of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association explains, "I think the main reason it's probably not going to be as effective for a whole bunch of people is because it's a hundred days, and that's a long time to be focus and disciplined. I think that people can fall off the wagon and feel bad about that, and so maybe cutting back on the number of days might be an effective thing to try."

So what are some things that you can do to increase your happiness? Experts suggest that making a commitment to become happier is much like any other goal. You must:

  • Be willing to put in the effort
  • Understand that it will take time
  • Have realistic expectations

If you are interested in taking on your own version of a happiness challenge, consider modifying it to fit your own life. Reflecting on the things that make you happy can be a useful activity when you are writing in your journal, or you could try taking on the challenge for a shorter period of time.

Related Reading:

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Nature vs Nurture - Psychology Definition of the Week

Friday March 28, 2014
nature or nurture

Definition: Is your behavior more influenced by genetics or environmental influences? Is your personality the result of traits you inherited or has it been shaped by your life experiences? These questions relate to one of the oldest issues in psychology known as the nature versus nurture debate. When looking at different aspects of human behavior, researchers often question the relative contributions of both genetics and environmental factors.

Some thinkers such as Plato and Descartes suggested that certain things are inborn and occur naturally regardless of environmental influences and life experiences. Other thinkers have suggested that the human mind is like a blank slate at birth and that all behaviors and knowledge are the result of experience.

Learn more about the nature versus nurture debate.

Related Reading:

Image courtesy Piotr Bizior

What Exactly Is Psychology, Anyway?

Thursday March 27, 2014
what is psychology?

What exactly is psychology? While it may seem like a very basic question, it is one of the most common questions asked by students new to the study of psychology. During your first lecture of an introductory psychology class, your instructor might spend some time going around the room asking students to explain what they think psychology involves. During my first psychology class, one girl made a dramatic point of waving her fingers over another student's head and pretending to read his thoughts. Unfortunately, such misconceptions about psychology abound and part of the confusion stems from stereotyped portrayals of psychologists in popular media as well as the diverse careers paths of those holding psychology degrees.

The simplest definition of psychology is that it is the study of the mind and behavior. Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion and behavior. Applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, ergonomics, and many other areas affecting health and daily life. It's difficult to capture everything that psychology encompasses in just a brief definition, but topics such as development, personality, thoughts, feelings, emotions, motivations, and social behaviors represent just a portion of what psychology seeks to understand and explain.

Learn more about some of the basics of psychology in this definition of psychology.

Related Reading

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