habits of the average psychology student.

Next week, I will receive my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, an achievement that I take enormous pride in earning. This degree encompasses years of growth and learning in many disciplines, dozens of research papers and textbooks, and lectures on every topic from Sigmund Freud to Barack Obama, to arranged marriages to sexual fetishes, to infant behavior to the process of death. Psychology is a popular college major, and it seems like everyone has taken at least an introductory class, simply because, hello, the subject is exciting! So, if you want to become a psychology major or are just curious what we actually learn/do, I will recap!

1. YOU SELF-DIAGNOSE: Just like any other trade, psychology students often take on the role of an indirect psychologist. When you start learning about all the mental disorders and symptoms, it’s very easy to automatically assume you have A,B or C. Then, bam, you’ve suddenly diagnosed yourself as clinically depressed or anorexic. Moreover, you may start doing this with your family and friends, because you began noticing their habits and behaviors with a scientifically trained mind. This can be dangerous, because, as a student, you are just learning the fundamentals of mental illness, and you are not adequately prepared to diagnose or treat such adversities.

2. YOU CHALLENGE ANYTHING THAT SAYS “ACCORDING TO ONE STUDY“: Most, if not all, undergraduate psychology programs require several statistic and research-based methods courses. This is to help train students to understand how clinical data is obtained and interpreted. This clinical data is vital for understanding EVERYTHING, from how cocaine affects the brain structure to how a new reading program works at a school. This data IS NOT easy to analyze, because there is SO much to take into consideration, such as the type of people in the sample, the environment, other unaccounted variables, how long the study has taken, and the list goes on and on. That’s why when we open a magazine that says, “75% of women agree that buying new clothes makes them feel happy,” our minds tend to wander to: what kinds of women did they survey, what were their social classes, their race, etc.!

3. YOU REALIZE THAT THERAPY ENCOMPASSES FAR MORE THAN LYING ON THE COUCH AND TALKING ABOUT YOUR MOTHER: That’s because therapy takes place EVERYWHERE. There are therapists who will fly with people who are terrified of airplanes, therapists in schools to help with students facing academic or mental challenges, therapists in corporate offices to assist with personnel analysis, therapists on football fields who focus on exercise science and well-being. You may NEVER have to talk about your mother! In fact, most of the popular therapeutic techniques today focus less on your childhood and parents and more on your current events and lifestyle.

4. YOU WILL STUDY SOMETHING THAT HITS HOME…HARD: Maybe it’s the lecture on Alzheimer’s. Maybe learning about alcoholism. We’ve ALL been impacted by mental illness at some point in our lives, whether it be indirectly with family and friends or directly with ourselves. In fact, at any given time in your life, you likely know SOMEONE suffering from SOMETHING that you are studying. In a way, this reality-check can be good. For some, it creates a sense of purpose. They realize that they have chosen this path for a reason, and that is to perhaps, focus on this type of problem in research/therapy/etc. Just like when people lose others to a physical illness (cancer, heart disease, etc.) and set up a charity foundation in their honor, psychology students often take a keen interest in a topic related to something that they’ve suffered from or have had someone close to them suffer from.

5. YOU WILLCONCLUDE THAT THE HUMAN POPULATION IS BLESSED, COMPLEX, SIMPLE, OR COMPLETELY SCREWED UP (OFTEN ALL OF THE ABOVE, AT DIFFERENT TIMES, DEPENDING ON TIME OF DAY/CLASS/ETC.): Psychology is a fascinating science because it teaches the dynamic of human behavior related to our genes and biological mechanisms, while at the same time, demonstrating our vast differences from one another. It doesn’t take a college degree to understand that humans act differently, but it is interesting to note just how much the SAME we actually are, too. In fact, addiction is a key example. Whether it’s cigarettes, gambling, or pornography, addiction “feels” the same, in regards to the preoccupation, guilt, shame, bingeing affects, anxiety, and withdrawal symptoms. Yet, obviously, people are addicted to many different things! It is also common for students to either feel blessed (especially when learning about all the abnormal disorders there are out there are!) or extremely jaded (where did the human race go wrong?!!)

 

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“I just love myself”- tweeted @ 1pm. Is narcissism on the rise?

There is low self-esteem and people who critically analyze everything wrong with them.

There are people who naturally work a room with their heads held up high and their confidence glowing.

Then, there are narcissists.

What is narcissism? According to the DSM, narcissism embodies a tremendous need for approval and admiration with little to no regard for others. Greek legend has it that Narcissus died as a result of gazing at his own reflection.

So, while most of us often scrutinize the tiny flaws about us that nobody else seems to notice, narcissists are often manipulative, look down on other people, and believe they should be valued at the highest regard.

Various theories about narcissism stem from experiences in early life. Explanations vary from problems with harsh, rejecting parents, early abuse, lack of nurture. Other theories propose overcompensation in childhood, in that parents or guardians went overboard with compliments or feedback to their children.

Around 1% of adults meet the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

But, is narcissism on the rise? In the US, we have the highest rates of narcissism. Why? Few reasons.

Our society highly values individualization, meaning that you work hard and achieve great things to benefit and promote yourself. We also emphasize competitiveness, in all walks of life, from organized sports to college admissions to the corporate job world. A combination of hard work + high praise may generate feelings of “being the best” or being “unstoppable,” similar to that of narcissism. Moreover, competitiveness often shifts the focus on the individual, therefore devaluing the opponents, possibly making for a hostile environment. Hence, the lack of regard for others.

So, is our society invariably promoting narcissism? Social media outlets allow us to update the world with our locations, pictures, videos, thoughts, and rants. Yes, social networking allows us to connect with others and build relationships, but something else is clearly happening. We are essentially given free permission to brag about ourselves and wait for a consequential stream of “likes” and compliments. Think about it. Would you feel slightly ridiculous bragging about your “bomb” lunch to a friend in the middle of a conversation? But, online, people have few qualms about not only bragging about the lunch, but also attaching a picture, linking a restaurant website, and even offering a personalized review.

And, remember Myspace? Those hours you spent taking pictures of yourself to secure a flawless pose?

What about our obsession with appearance? Plastic surgery hassoaredin recent years, and not just among celebrities or the highly elite. Americans are known for having materialistic desires. From owning the largest house to the fastest car, “showing off” is often a major drive for finding a high-paying career.

Reality TV? There are shows featuring aspiring musicians, athletes, dancers, models, chefs, designers, comedians! There are shows about “ordinary people” building houses, living in mansions, trying to lose weight, undergoing pregnancy, planning weddings, selling items, etc. And we gobble it right up! Reality television provides a chance for people to exhibit their “authentic” selves to mainstream society. Is this really healthy for us to watch?

References:

DSM-IV-TR: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Abnormal Psychology 7th Edition: Ronald J. Comer, apa.org

Who’s Bachelor-Degree Bound? Predictors in pursuing post-secondary education in the US.

Without looking at the cold statistics, most of us realize that college enrollment rates have soared. Today, most jobs require if not highly recommend advanced education beyond the high school diploma, and our current youth has taken note! According to the current 2012 census bureau figure , over 30% of people now hold at least a Bachelor Degree, and that number is expected to climb!

While 3/10 adults is impressive, it still represents a minority figure. So, who exactly IS pursuing post-secondary education?

1. White people.

Despite slight increases in minority enrollment and a slight fall in white enrollment, the overall research on racial differences on college campuses has not significantly changed. 62% of white students attend college, compared to 12% of Hispanics, 7% of Asians/Pacific Islanders, 14% of Blacks, and 3% non-resident aliens. 

2. Women.

Females currently exceed males. 37% of women over age 25 currently hold a degree compared to 35% of men. While this may not seem like a huge difference, keep in mind that men have been attending universities for much longer than women! Moreover, women are also outnumbering men with graduate school enrollment.

3. Children of College-Educated Parents

One study indicated that the number of years parents attended school was strongly associated with the number of years they expected their child to go to school. In other words, mothers holding a doctorate degree are more likely to expect their child to pursue the same level of education than mothers with a high school education. These parents “pressure” their children to attend college. Furthermore, because they can speak about their own collegiate experiences, these parents are often more likely to be able to assist with homework, the application process, etc.

4. Bookworms

Children who claim to like or love reading are more likely to apply to college. This can be attributed to an overall enjoyment of learning, higher cognitive and critical thinking skills, or maybe the confidence in knowing they can tackle those intensive textbooks! Self-proclaimed bookworms are also more likely to achieve academic success throughout primary and secondary school.

5. Socioeconomic Status

Money may not buy intelligence, but it can pay for an education. The richer you are, the more likely you are to attend college. High socioeconomic status is associated with high-achieving school districts, college-educated parents holding careers that require advanced education, and financial security. Student often have access to private tutoring, SAT and ACT-prep classes, college visits, and meetings with recruiters and representatives.On the other hand, lower-socioeconomic school districts are often cash-strapped, plagued by poverty with an overcrowded student population. The school cannot necessarily provide ample resources, parents may be unable to help with homework due to long work hours or an inability to understand the material, and financial woes often make the college price-tag appear out-of-reach.

So, if you do happen to run into a wealthy, white, 10-year-old bookworm female with college-educated parents, you can bank on her applying to college!

 

 

 

References:

Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The Influence of Parent Education and Family Income on Child Achievement: The Indirect Role of Parental Expectations and the Home Environment. Journal Of Family Psychology, 19(2), 294-304. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.19.2.294.

Holland, N. E. (2010). Postsecondary education preparation of traditionally underrepresented college students: A social capital perspective. Journal Of Diversity In Higher Education, 3(2), 111-125. doi:10.1037/a0019249

National Center for Education Statistics, 2012

U.S Census Bureau, 2012