Michael S. Ofsowitz
Associate Professor, Psychology



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Author:   Michael Ofsowitz  
Posted: 7/29/2011; 4:26:32 PM
Topic: Introducing Psychology
Msg #: 80 (top msg in thread)
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Reads: 1748

Why Psy?

Or Why Study Psychology At All?

This page is for beginners.

Psychology studies people. It discovers why we act and think the way we do. It also applies our knowledge about people to situations where we want to change people. It is, therefore, both a science and a professional practice.

Is it worth taking psychology courses? Absolutely. I'll explain why below.

Is it worth majoring in psychology? Maybe. I'll discuss this below, too.

The single biggest misconception about psychology is that it only deals with crazy and nearly crazy people. A distant second on the misconception list is that psychologists are always analyzing people. There follow a lot more misconceptions, but those two top the list. Let's put an end to it here: when you take undergraduate psychology courses in college you will seldom discuss psychological disorders ("crazinesses"); and you will never work on analyzing regular people.

Psychology is an "-ology", a "study of," indeed, a scientific study of. Psyche comes from the Greek goddess of the soul; it basically means the human mind or soul. Notice that it does not mean the demented soul. Modern psychology is the scientific study of human action and mental processes. (The word "soul" is too vague.) The bulk of psychology is an attempt to understand human action and mind.

Here's where the confusion comes from: Although only a small portion of the field of psychology is devoted to examining disorders of action and mind, over half of all the people who work in the field of psychology work with people who have problems. That seems to be where the money is.

During your college career you can decide to take courses that focus on psychological disorders. But they are not the "meat" of psychology at the undergraduate level. (If you go to graduate school you will choose a program that specializes in whatever you find interesting or valuable, but as a beginner reading this page, that comes years later.)