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Kendra Cherry

Psychology

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A Demonstration of the Blind Spot

Thursday April 24, 2014

At the back of your eye is a tiny spot where the optic nerve and approximately one million ganglion cells extend out of the eye. In order to allow the cells to leave the eye, there is a very small spot that lacks visual receptors. Because of this gap in the receptors, we have what is known as a blind spot.

Usually, we are completely unaware of this blind spot. Why? Partly because it is located slightly off to the side of our visual field, an area where objects lack sharp focus. Our brains also "fill in" the missing information, allowing us to see without gaps in our vision.

While you don't normally notice the blind spot, there is a quick and easy demonstration can allow you to experience this phenomenon. Click the following link and follow the instructions for completing the blind spot demonstration.

Image by ZStardust/Wikimedia Commons

Personality Traits: Just How Many Are There?

Tuesday April 22, 2014
personality traits

Quick, how many personality traits can you list just off the top of your head? Outgoing, friendly, kind, cranky, lazy, mean. You can probably rattle off a lot of different descriptions that apply to personality, but do each of these really represent a specific personality trait?

Psychologists have also tried to determine just how many personality trait there might be, and the numbers vary dramatically from one expert to the next. For example, Gordon Allport suggested that there were more than 4,000 different personality traits while Hans Eysenck proposed that there were just three.

Today, the most popular theory suggests that there are five broad dimensions of personality. Many of the terms that we might use to describe a person's personality would fall under one of these five core dimensions.

Learn more about how many personality traits psychologists have suggested people possess.

Image: Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

Random Selection - Psychology Definition of the Week

Friday April 18, 2014
random selection

Definition: Random selection refers to a selection process used by researchers to draw participants from a larger population. When random selection is used, each member of the group has an equal chance of being chosen. It is also important to note that random selection is not the same as random assignment. Random selection involves how a sample is drawn while random assignment involves how participants are then assigned to groups.

Learn more about random selection.

Image: Piotr Bizior

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).

Image: Tiffany Szerpicki

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.

Public Domain Image via Wikimedia Commons

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:

Image: Alexander Kalina

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.

Image: Piotr Bizior

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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