1. There’s always a different perspective
Unlike maths where 2+2 is always 4, in psychology that 4 could in fact be a 3, or a 5 or a 25.
OK, so not literally – but if a developmental psychologist looks at a problem then they’ll delve into that persons past and try to work out what may have gone wrong, a bio-psychologist will get into the genetics and an neuro psychologist will be wrapped up in the brain wiring.
The thing is, when you become hyper-focused on one specific school of thought you’ll undoubtedly miss something.
2. We’re not easily ‘classified’
It’s not just our fingerprints which make us unique, we’re all different.
Every single person on this planet has a unique DNA structure and has experienced life in a completely unique way.
Even identical twins, growing up in the same household will be different.
By trying to classify people into tiny little boxes using check lists then you’ll always miss the most fundamental part of what it is to be human – our idiosyncrasies.
3. Psychologists need to make a name for themselves
I know, I know – this one seems a little harsh but hear me out.
In order to be granted the title Dr. you have to conduct your own independent thought up research.
This is on the surface a great idea because it enables people to delve into new, uncharted territory & enables us as psychologists to be much more helpful.
The problem is – there really isn’t an awful lot of ‘new’ things out there waiting to be discovered.
While, yes psychology can be seen as a relatively new science, we as humans have been watching, interpreting and reacting to each other since we first stood up on two legs.
It’s how we’ve managed to survive for so long.
The sad thing for all those budding psychologists out there - most people manage to instinctually manoeuvre in society quite successfully without a title in front of their name, or a gazillion letters after their name.
4. Many psychologists fiddle the data
It’s a harsh but very true statement.
In fact a group of researchers tested 100 psychological studies & found that less than 50% were replicatable (Maldarelli, C., 2015).
This means that if you were to recreate the study exactly as it was first carried out, less than half of all studies would show the same results…
There’s no way you’ll be granted your shiny new certificate and title if your research ends up showing ‘oops this hypothesis was complete baloney’ or ‘oh, I was way off the mark with that idea’.
So, what happens?
Participants get scrubbed out, data gets skewed and all the results point to the ‘wow that’s amazing’ ‘I can’t believe we never knew that before’ hypothesis.
There are some VERY famous experiments (which now form the basis of many different psychological theories) which have been completely ripped to shreds in the past few years.
Here’s the most shocking 2:
5. Psychology is just common sense
I absolutely had to put this in here because behind ‘can you tell what I’m thinking’, this is the second most heard line when you tell someone you’re a psychologist.
Actually, this ones a little bit of a yes and no.
Yes, certain bits of psychology is common sense - e.g., growing up in an area of low socioeconomic standing means you’re more likely to develop criminal tendencies.
No, before the research I doubt many people would have truly believed that changing your behaviour rewires the way your brain works at a fundamental level.
Also, you have to remember that not everyone has had the same experiences in life and therefore, what’s common sense to me may seem almost magical to you (and vice versa).
6. Most psychologists have no idea what the ‘p’ value really means
Apologies in advance but this is going to get a little technical…
The ‘p’ value is the most fundamental part of any psychological experiment.
It depicts the probability that the results found did/did not happen by chance.
A result below 0.05 is the ‘holy grail’ in psychology because this is classed as statistically significant and can therefore be theorised that the study shows it was not chance and expanded out across the wider population.
Basically, if I ran an experiment which pitted 100 boys against 100 girls and out of these 70% of the girls could jump up and down for 5 minutes and only 7% of boys could, then ran this through a statistical test which then showed a p value of 0.05 (or less (usually reported like this: p < .05)). I could then argue that 70% of all girls and 7% of all boys are able to jump up and down for 5 minutes.
‘P’ is literally the probability that what you found happened by chance.
P < .05 means there’s 5% chance everything you found was by a happy accident but 95% chance it is a true characteristic of the population (girls & boys) that you tested.
There’s no specific reason why it’s 0.05 (5%).
It just is…
But, now that you know what a p value is – here’s why it’s not always helpful…
Say we go back to the test above (girls & boys jumping) and I choose not to disclose that the girls were wearing trainers & the boy’s high heels, or the boys were weighted down and the girls.
Or we do a different experiment and look at whether ice cream sales are affected by weather. We find that on hot days there are more ice creams sold. But, we forget to report that the hot days were also a weekend…
‘P’ values have become so controversial in recent years some scientific journals have banned them and the APA (American Psychological Association) had to issue clear guidance on what they are…
In a nutshell the p value is only ever one part of the story when it comes to reporting research.
7. Psychology is in itself ambiguous…
Psychology means different things to different people.
Myself, I believe psychology is about understanding why people do what they do (whether influenced by internal factors or external ones).
Others believe it’s about understanding how the mind works in informing behaviour.
Other still believe it is far more specific and relates to understanding the mind and mental processes such as thinking or learning…
For some psychology is just about mental illness.
Even the definitions across the internet are different.
If we the ‘psychologists’ don’t have a definitive definition then how the heck are people outside the field going to know!
& on that note I’ll finish for today I think!
Catch you soon, Katie
p.s., just in case you wondered I truly do love psychology!
Jarrett, C. (2014). What the textbooks don’t tell you – one of psychology’s most famous experiments was seriously flawed. The British Psychological Society: Research Digest. Retrieved 17th September 2017 from: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2014/07/23/what-the-textbooks-dont-tell-you-one-of-psychologys-most-famous-experiments-was-seriously-flawed/
Maldarelli., C. (2015). Of 100 Published Psychology Studies, Less Than Half Could Be Reproduced Successfully. PopScience.com Retrieved 17th September 2017 from: https://www.popsci.com/scientists-attempted-reproduce-100-psychology-studies-and-succeeded-less-half-time
Macmilan, M., (2008). Phineas Gage -Unravelling the myth. The Psychologist. The British Psychological Society. Retrieved 17th September 2017 from: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-21/edition-9/phineas-gage-unravelling-myth
Whitbourne, S.K. (2013). The Secrets Behind Psychology’s Most Famous Experiment. Psychology Today. Retrieved 17th September 2017 from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201301/the-secrets-behind-psychology-s-most-famous-experiment