Why study psychology? I get asked this question a lot. After 20 years of creatively trying to inspire the asker of the question to see how amazing and far-reaching experience in the field of psychology can be, I have some pretty nifty answers.
Do you ever have contact with any other humans (or pets!) in your life? Have you ever disagreed with someone but failed to help them see the validity of your side of the argument? Have you ever struggled to make yourself heard by others? Ever wonder why leadership seems to come easily to some but not to others? Have you ever tried to teach someone something but couldn’t understand why they couldn’t learn from you? Are you curious about how to tweak your study skills to learn more information…and learn that information faster?
The psychologist in me just can’t imagine that anyone wouldn’t love to learn about psychology. It’s an entire science devoted to understanding people! My daughter recently asked if she should study psychology before going to college. Actually, her exact words were, “I mean, I know it’s important to you, but can I really use it now?” Rather than spouting off a tried and true retort from years of defending my field to others, my daughter and I sat down to talk about her dreams and aspirations. We had a long discussion of what she wants to do with her life in order to answer what she should and should not do to achieve those goals. Here’s a glimpse into the list we came up with:
Teach. Study. Preach. Love. Grow. Inspire. Pray. Raise a family. Earn a degree. Get a job. Keep a job. Own a business. Have a career. Have friends. Resolve conflicts. Bring people closer to Jesus.
All such goals can benefit from an understanding of psychology. Psychology offers keys to understanding ourselves and our thoughts and our actions as well as understanding the thoughts and actions of others. It offers opportunities to learn how to study effectively (to understand how best to learn material for life and not just for a test), and it offers insight into how our memories are formed. It offers research on our physical and cognitive development so we can fine-tune our communication to inspire others and be most effective in discipleship. It offers the opportunity to spend time analyzing the self and motivations to ensure goals are reached by the behaviors one engages in. It offers a concrete understanding of why we should always listen so we can respond to the words being spoken and not the tone of voice being used in order to defuse conflicts.
During the conversation with my daughter, I was struggling to think of an area of my life where I have not found my background in psychology to be most useful. Marriage, homeschooling, and parenting seem obvious applications. But what about leaving a good impression on a job interview, knowing when to self-censor, maintaining good friendships and letting toxic ones go, finding ways to forgive and pray for others (not just friends and family, but for the people who have intentionally caused harm), always remembering to try and see the situation from another’s perspective, and even deciding the priority of home improvements (accounting for the emotional/physical side-effects of stress that HOAs and neighbors can inspire if the unessential/aesthetic projects are not given priority)?
Why study psychology? Why walk through life without a set of tools for effective communication and confrontation, self-monitoring and personal well-being, healthy relationship creation and maintenance, and understanding how social situations can affect both your behaviors and thoughts as well as the behaviors and thoughts of others?
The only question I would like an answer to is why would anyone ever choose not to study psychology?
Jenn Buonincontri believes that every person that crosses her path has something to teach her and vice versa. Learning is life-long, and she embraces the opportunity to share with others her love of learning while challenging those around her to expand their understanding. Jenn graduated from Hartwick College with a B.A. in Psychology in 1998 and continued on to her first M.A. in Psychology focusing on Statistics and Neuropsychology in 1999. From there, she proceeded to the City University of New York and studied Developmental Psychology. Earning another M.A. in Developmental Psychology and a Masters in the Philosophy of Psychology in 2002, she then transitioned from her own studies to teaching others.