They say that knowledge is power, and indeed it is true that certain different subjects can give you a big edge over others and in life in general. We respect people with a lot of knowledge and know-how and we never know when a seemingly random piece of knowledge or an unusual skill or talent will come in handy.
But of course certain types of knowledge are more useful to us than others, and this is particularly the case when you are thinking of your career and what you want to do with your life, and when you are thinking of how best to progress through your career and succeed in the business world, or when you are trying to manage your relationships and meet people and get on with them. One subject that is particularly useful in all of these cases is psychology, and that is something that will help you to find employment if you learn it properly as your main area of study, but that can also have countless advantages in the world of work, in relationships and even in sales if you should just learn and apply its principles. Here we will look at the advantages of learning psychology and why it’s so useful.
Why Is Psychology So Useful?
Every time you interact with someone this means that you will be using psychology. Psychology is essentially the study of how people think, so if you study this you will learn better to second guess what people are thinking at any time and you will have the skills that you need in order to be able to change what they are thinking and how they feel.
This means that your psychology skills will be highly useful in a range of different situations. Here are just some situations where you will benefit from being able to read other people, second guess them and steer their thought patterns in the direction you want:
When you’re selling something psychology will come in very handy – by understanding how people think it’s possible to second guess what will appeal to them, and to calculate how you can make something more interesting. Many salesmen and women will go on courses in psychology, body language and ‘neuro linguistic programming’ to learn how to make something sell even if the other person doesn’t initially think they want it.
Advertising is also something that can benefit from psychology and this is because you are essentially using your sales techniques on a mass scale – grabbing attention, creating positive associations and more. Marketing is similarly a psychological practice where you must use your knowledge of how people think to create deals and incentives and to reach the maximum number possible with your message.
If you are a manager then this is a highly psychological job role. Here you are required to get a group working as a team. That means working with you and it means working alongside each other. You need to make them as happy as possible, and essentially get them to obey and to work as efficiently as they can. Everything right down to the layout of the office to your policies on dress down Fridays and lateness will affect this.
If you study psychology properly and at a high level then you will also learn statistics. This is because you will use statistics in order to carry out studies – statistical software helping you to calculate whether or not the results of your study are significant or more likely to be a fluke. This can help you in many businesses and is an example of why a psychology degree is so diverse.
You can learn a lot about relationships from psychology and understanding various things about people and our interactions can help you to find partners and to get on well with family and friends.
Design takes many things into account, but as any design is intended to appeal to people this includes a heavy dose of psychology. Think about designing a website for instance – the design is intended to help visitors navigate intuitively around the site, and to direct their attention in certain ways. Moreover something simple like a Point of Sale display in a shop is designed with our psychology in mind.
Understanding How Things Work
So many processes can be better understood with a comprehension of psychology. For instance, optical illusions are based entirely on the way the brain processes visual information.
Understanding how the brain works also enables you to keep healthy and to look out for potential symptoms of various illnesses. For instance you will learn about dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and the risk factors, causes and symptoms of these. You will also learn about how medication passes through the blood brain barrier, how addictions are based on dopamine releases, how internal pacemakers and external zeitgebers regulate our body clock, how alcohol damages the brain in the short and long term and can lead to Korsakof’s syndrome etc etc. All this can help you to look after your own brain and to help others with theirs.
Likewise you will also understand more about psychological health and the competing views on the matter from psychodynamic theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, behaviorism etc. All of this will help you to deal with your own mental issues and those of others. It will help you to be more understanding of the issues other people have, and it will help you to deal with your own issues. For instance you’ll be better at handling grief, you’ll be able to spot defense mechanisms, you’ll be able to eradicate damaging thoughts with mindfulness from CBT, you will be able to better understand and control panic attacks and you will be able to use your understanding of classical conditioning to eradicate phobias.
If you study psychology properly then you will find that a big bulk of what you do is reading the studies and theories of other psychologists and then point out flaws in their experiments. This means that you will be doing a lot of essay writing and learning that, and that you will become better at critical thinking and finding flaws in people’s arguments.
Critical thinking, leadership, management, design, people skills, sales technique and statistics are just some of the things you will learn in psychology. For this reason it is a highly sought after and diverse course that many employers respect. In fact, psychology has been identified as the degree that is most sought after by employers. On top of this you will also find that the people skills you’ve learned will help you to impress in your interviews. Of course it will also help you to find a lot of very specific jobs – and if you want to become a counselor or a therapist or a sports psychologist then experience in psychology is of course a must.
In psychology you will have to learn a lot of names and dates of psychologists and researchers, and you will have to learn a lot about parts of the brains, developmental conditions and more. This is great practice for learning and retrieving information and it will help you when you need to learn other things. At the same time though the course will also involve a lot of information on how to do this for you – you will learn how the memory system works – about the long term and short term memory, that the maximum capacity of the STM is 7 +/- 2, how to improve this with chunking and how the brain physically alters as we learn (brain plasticity is a particularly fascinating area of psychology). You’ll be asked to learn and given the tools to do so.
For all the same reasons that psychology is so good for learning, so too is it good when it comes to teaching.
Psychology has a large element of philosophy involved. In particular you will find that there are many discussions on consciousness and free will, and on whether our thoughts affect our brain state or our brain state affects our thoughts. Are we just a computer or is there more to us?
You will learn how to explore your own mind, retrieve repressed memories, and to come to terms with your own thoughts. At the same time you will know how the different schools of psychology work and what the different therapists do so you will be better informed when it comes to speaking to a therapist yourself.
Psychology helps greatly with parenting because you will be learning teaching and leadership skills and because you will be learning about your child’s development. You will know about the developmental stages they’re going through, how to look out for potential developmental disorders and what you can do to help them develop. It also makes watching them grow even more interesting in some ways as you will be able to identify the various stages.
The Reality of Studying Psychology
This is only a selection of what you will learn in psychology and the different areas it can help you in and there are many more times and places where you will find that it comes in handy. However there are downsides too, and it may be that learning psychology is not entirely as you imagine it.
Depending on where and how you learn psychology it will be very different. A bit of self taught psychology from books can be fascinating, engaging and fun and will benefit you in several ways – but it won’t be as in-depth or as thorough as doing a degree or another course. It will also vary greatly depending on the books you use and you need to be careful and look out for ‘pop psychology’ books as these tend to contain very fluffy and over-simplified information. You also need to be careful not to take any one book as verbatim and to take everything you read with a pinch of salt. There are many competing views of psychology and different schools and as a rule there is no one right answer for any of the many questions there are on the topic. NLP stands for ‘Neuro Linguistic Programming’ and this is not a school of psychology as such, but rather a tool based on some of the principles of psychology that is used by many corporations and businesses to improve the sales technique of their staff. If you want just a practical form of psychology you can use in the office then NLP represents a good starting point, but know that this won’t be a full grounding in psychology, and that not all of the views are supported by the main schools of psychology.
If you should do psychology as a degree however then you will get a far broader and more in-depth view of psychology and you will learn all about the various schools of psychology, how they differ and what the evidence for and against them is. This then equips you far better to go into jobs that will require psychology and also to apply what you learn to your every day life. However it also means that you will be reading a lot about a lot of very dry subjects and you will come away confused often as to what the right answer actually is (all too often no one knows). For these reasons a fun and interesting sounding topic can in fact be quite dull and you can find that studying it takes away the interest. When you’ve spent months doing statistics and learning about why behaviorism is wrong, then you can feel a bit as though you aren’t really learning about the human condition at all and this can get disheartening.
Psychology is something everyone should look into, and that can benefit people from all walks of life. At the very least you should look into specific relevant areas of psychology (learn developmental when raising children for instance). If you want to have a more in depth knowledge though then you’ll need to do psychology as a degree – just be prepared for some dry sections and some seemingly-off topic subjects. It is a highly diverse subject and some parts are obviously more interesting than others.