Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A great surprise in my education



One of the great surprises of my education was how much I liked psychology. This would have surprised me in my younger days, as I thought of psychology in terms of counseling and clinical psychology - things I would not have been good at. To be sure, those things are a part of psychology, but psychology was so much more than that, something I little suspected in my youth.



It took me a long time to even realize that there was such a thing as social science. One of my first introductions to this concept was at an elementary school science fair. One or more girls at the school did their science project on what kind of hair care products most people preferred. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I am not much interested in hair care products (or fashion of any kind), and I remember an initial reaction of "That's not really science. Science is things like biology and astronomy, not social stuff." But then I thought to myself that this did seem like a real science project, and a part of me wished that I had done my science project on something like this. I had little interest in hair care, to be sure, but the idea of finding out what people liked and wanted was appealing to me.

I will quickly add that I have no regrets about my own science project, as my dad helped me with it, and used his science training to help me do well. But natural science was never as appealing to me as social science, and it would be a long time before I discovered I had a strong interest in social science.


Scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound"

Another of my introductions to the idea of psychology as a science was when I watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie called "Spellbound," in which Freudian psychology is a part of the plot. This definitely portrayed psychology in terms of counseling and treating psychological disorders, and some of the Freudian stuff is a little farfetched to say the least. Nonetheless, it showed me the idea that there could be scientific study of the human mind, and that there was a real social science studying these things. I still didn't know that there was more to psychology than just the counseling and clinical side, but I did gain a respect for the discipline's scientific basis.

But it was not until college that I took a class in it. I was planning on transferring to the business school at ASU, and discovered that at that time, they required one class each in sociology and psychology. So I took the intro to psychology class at Yavapai College, and learned what a fascinating subject it could be. One of the most fascinating chapters in the book was social psychology. I enjoyed it a lot, although I didn't think it was very useful. Later, I would discover that it had some practical applications.

The other chapter that fascinated me most was a chapter called "Careers and Work," in which they talked about industrial-organizational psychology. I had never heard of the subject, but soon discovered that it had strong applications to business, particularly management. Though my teacher did not assign us to read this chapter (I read it voluntarily), he did mention in class that industrial-organizational psychologists often solved problems in management and marketing. I knew that this was a subject that interested me, and wished I could take a class in it.

I took another class that semester called business statistics, which would later help me as I studied social science in more detail. But I did not think of psychology much again, until I transferred to Northern Arizona University. It was then that I took two classes with a fair amount of psychology in them. One was my management class, and the other was marketing. Marketing interested me far more than management; although I enjoyed the psychological aspects of both. I even thought about majoring in marketing; and by the next semester, my mind was made up - I would major in marketing, with the intent of going into marketing research (a social science).

One of my marketing classes - consumer behavior - was basically a psychology class by another name. It was a fascinating class, where we talked about everything from how customers make buying decisions to the unique aspects of selling to children. I took another class that semester which was relevant to my social science ambitions, which was a second statistics class, and I enjoyed this class as well.

In my last semester, I took a marketing research class, which had a lot of statistics in it. This is similar to the research methods class that psychology majors have to take. I learned in this class about the relevance of social psychology to marketing research, and decided that later on, I would have to learn about that subject as well.


By the end of the semester, I had a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing, and I had an internship with a market research firm shortly after graduation. But for various reasons, the internship did not work out, as it was a telecommuting arrangement with a company in Phoenix, and I did not gain any further experience in the market research industry.

I did, however, learn about psychology on my own in my spare time. I borrowed a textbook about social psychology from my sister Katie, who was a psychology major at ASU; and about six months later, I had finished reading it. A year later, I requested and received a textbook about industrial-organizational psychology for Christmas, and finished reading it within six months. I was able to satisfy my curiosity about the areas of psychology relevant to marketing research (and business generally), and was glad I had learned about these subjects.

I've not taken any more classes or read any more textbooks about psychology since that time, but I have been greatly enriched by the education I've had in this fascinating social science. I don't know if others will enjoy this post, but I hope this has given some a new angle on the great diversity of topics within the field of psychology. I hope someone has found this interesting.

My personality post

Why I majored in marketing


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