“Please don’t try to psychoanalyze me.”
“You probably think I’m crazy!”
“Wow, I better not tell you too much about myself.”
“Maybe you can figure out why my family members act the way they do!”
I hear these light-hearted, half-joking comments on a regular basis as a fourth year psychological sciences major. It seems that the layman’s understanding of a bachelor’s degree in psychology involves learning how to “psychoanalyze” every person one comes into contact with. People expect me to know how a person with schizophrenia may behave. What they do not realize is that psychoanalysis and the fascinating psychotic disorders only make up a small portion of what psychology students actually learn.
Psychology can be simply defined as the study of behavior, and, while almost always interesting, it is not always what one might expect. The variety of information a psychology student learns and the amount of personal growth they can achieve make the psychological sciences a competitive option when choosing a major or minor.
My level of curiosity has skyrocketed over the past three and a half years. I have learned to be discontent with the unknown. The foundation of psychology is research. Want to know why some college students seem to breeze through their classes while others struggle just to pass? Need to know the best strategy to convince a child to eat their broccoli? Curious about brain activity during sleep? The answer to all of these questions can be found in research!
Psychology students are programmed very early on to seek out these kinds of questions and are given the tools to research them for themselves. I can often be heard “nerding out” over a possible research topic that someone without a background in psychology may not even consider.
I have also done more introspection during my few years as a psychology major than I ever did before. Every day, classes like Psychology of Personality, Social Psychology, and Behavioral Analysis leave me in amazement, teaching me that the reasons for people’s everyday behaviors may not be as simple as they seem. So many factors affect the decisions that I make on a daily basis. I’ve learned so much about my own personality and habits, how they may have formed, and how to change them.
Moreover, I can use this newfound information to understand my friends and family a little deeper. Now I am not so quick to become frustrated when my sister leaves her shoes in the living room since I understand that not everyone is as concerned about minor details as I am. I am more understanding of my friend’s meltdown about an awkward social situation since I more fully understand that it’s against some people’s make up to be the center of attention, and they may not have the tools or desire to change that. I have learned that every person is unique, and it is unfair to expect someone to perceive every single detail just like I do.
Psychology heavily emphasizes LaGrange College’s pillar of diversity. Psychology students learn not to suppress their opinions to maintain peace, but to instead express their opinions while maintaining respect for their peers. We learn to identify and actively avoid stereotypes. While our brains need to place people, objects, and situations into categories in order to create some kind of order in the world’s chaos, psychology students are taught to challenge certain judgements that may cause mental, emotional, or even physical harm to another human being and to have an open mind in each new situation.
The psychology department itself is more than just offices and classrooms. It is a tight knit community. It is often lively with the noise of students walking in and out of their advisor’s or research mentor’s office. You may hear the patter of Parker, Dr. Thomas’s dog, searching the hallways for attention from anyone willing to give it. You may see Dr. Hu frustratedly trying everything she can think of to get rid of the crow that sits in the lobby windows. You may notice the sound of marching band music coming from Dr. Kraemer’s office, and if you stop by, he’ll be sure to share stories about his kids or his parrot. You may see a lobby full of stressed seniors working tirelessly on their Capstone projects, excited to have such a huge chance to put all their knowledge to use. You may get to meet a group of nervous freshmen as they frantically prepare for an Intro to Psychology exam. But the one thing every student is sure to find in that hallway is someone who is rooting for them.
I may be biased, but some of the best professors at LaGrange College can be found on the 3rd floor of the Callaway Academic Building. Dr. Hu, Dr. Thomas, and Dr. Kraemer have been some of my biggest cheerleaders, calming my irrational fears about graduate school and celebrating each and every success as if it is their own. Even though they can be hard on us, we know that it is only because they see our potential and want the absolute best for us.
If you are considering a major or minor in psychology, I highly recommend that you go for it! I am sure that it will prove to be an environment in which you can thrive and grow just as much as I have.
Katie is a senior from Roanoke, Alabama. She is a psychology major with a music minor and is a tutor in the Writing Center. After graduating, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy.