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Myths About Psychology Majors

Three Common Misconceptions

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psychology student myths
Image by greenasian, Creative Commons

On my first day of college, I sat in a huge auditorium-sized classroom and waited for my first psychology course to begin. Psychology 101 is a required general education class for thousands of students, and like many people, I had a number of preconceived notions about what to expect from the class.

I wasn't the only one.

A tall girl with shockingly red curly hair sat down beside me and we began to talk. She was a sophomore, but this was also her first introduction to psychology.

"I think it will be fun," she announced. "I've always wanted to 'shrink' people's brains!" she said as she waggled her fingers over my head and arched her eyebrows like a cartoon villain.

Within the first hour of the class, I quickly learned that psychology is about a lot more than psychotherapy. And there's certainly no "head shrinking" involved! Unfortunately, there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about psychology students and psychology majors.

I recently asked readers on our Facebook page to share some of the biggest misconceptions people have about psychology majors. Not surprisingly, many people reported hearing the same type of reactions when they tell other people that they are a psychology student. Here are just a few of the biggest myths that our readers face on a regular basis.

"Are you going to read my mind?"

Psychology is certainly the study of the mind and behavior, but this hardly gives psychology students the ability to "read" someone's mind. Yes, a psychologist or even a person with a strong background in the study of human behavior might be able to make some fairly accurate assessments about you. They might be able to understand why you do certain things. They might be able to make accurate predictions about your future behavior. This certainly does not make them psychic. It just means that they have a strong knowledge of human psychology and excellent observational skills.

"Are you going to psychoanalyze me?"

Yes, the famed Viennese psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is still very much one of the most famous figures in the history of psychology. While almost all students learn about Freud's theories, it's mostly for the purposes of historical perspective. Few students are exposed to Freudian training today without enrolling in a psychoanalytic institute. The person most likely to psychoanalyze you is the so-called "arm-chair psychologist" who has little to no background in psychology.

"Are you going to hypnotize me?"

There are certainly psychologists who are skilled in the therapeutic use of hypnosis. Research has demonstrated that hypnosis can be effectively used for a range of purposes, from the management of pain to the reduction of nausea resulting from chemotherapy. However, hypnosis is a specialized skill and not all psychologists are trained in its use. Most importantly, being hypnotized requires voluntary participation, and despite depictions in popular stage acts, you cannot be hypnotized against your will.

What do you think are the biggest myths about psychology students?

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