It is SO easy to make fun of psychology majors and people trained in psychology. There’s all the jargon of the academic researchers and the apparent obviousness of some of our findings. Then there’s the stereotype (and sometimes reality) of the touchy-feely clinicians. And it is not as if we typically walk into jobs paying the big bucks.
A funny thing happened, though, when I served on a university promotion and tenure committee many years ago. On this very high-powered committee of scholars from all different departments, evaluating the scholarship of academics from across the university, I felt proud of my training in psychology.
It was true that I could not write as well as some of the people from the humanities, and I wasn’t nearly as well-read as most of them were, either. I couldn’t understand the specifics of the articles from the candidates from chemistry or physics. But as I psychologist, I could appreciate both approaches.
When I thought about what I wanted to know as I decided what research to pursue, I felt an affinity with scholars from the humanities. When I went on to determine how to design my studies, I was using the scientific method – much as the scholars in all the other sciences were doing.
Sometimes when I read a paper from a colleague from the humanities – let’s say, a philosopher – I’d get to the end and realize that the entire article would count only as an introduction to an empirical journal article in psychology. In our reports, we make our best case for what we are predicting in the introduction. But then we have to do the study, analyze it, and make sense of it. If our brilliant idea results in a study that thumbs its nose at us in the findings it produces, we may never get to publish that introduction.
Sure, I wish I could have all of the wisdom and training from across the intellectual spectrum, but since I was never going to pursue more than one Ph.D., I’m glad the one I chose was psychology.