Psychology: It straddles both science & arts streams
Many years ago when I joined psychology and everyone asked me “Why?” I said, “I’d like to study about people as people interest me”. When asked if it was because with my knowledge I would be equipped to help them, I would answer, “No, I’m just nosy!” On a more serious note, psychology is indeed one discipline that can provide both a better understanding of others’ behavior as well as a pathway to self-understanding. In a globalized world, where individual well-being is the key driver for promoting sustainable development, psychology becomes an extremely pertinent subject.
But first, what is psychology? Psychology (literally, the study of the psyche, soul or mind) is both an academic and applied field involving the study of the mind, brain and behaviour, both human and nonhuman. Psychology is a relatively new discipline. As such, it may be envisaged more as a series of fundamental questions about ourselves, trying to unravel the forces that are shaping the subjectivity and uniqueness of every individual.
What psychology is not?
Psychology is definitely not about mind/face reading. The most common question you will encounter when you tell people that you are studying psychology, to your utter chagrin is, “So what dose my face tell you about me?” Believe you me, seventeen years later, I am still trying! Beware of pseudo-psychologists, self-styled “experts” and “cyber shrinks” who claim to make you better adjusted and happier by learning secrets that psychologists allegedly have revealed. Are we better off than them? Certainly. The use of scientific methods allows psychologists to find answers that are far more valid and legitimate.
What kind of background helps?
Psychology till date deals with the question of whether it could be given a status of a science or an arts discipline. These two different traditions take psychology to two different trajectories, namely, one working on the model of natural sciences and the other taking it forward as a humanities discipline. Students, therefore, can come from either a science or humanities background. As for those who come from accounts stream or who may not even have studied psychology, you are still eligible to apply (LSR treats students from all backgrounds at par).
Skills of introspection, critical thinking, empathy, coping with stress, and awareness about psychosocial realities will help you understand and appreciate psychology better. Psychology needs sensitive, thinking individuals, those who think outside the box and go beyond and look at an issue from different standpoints.
Lectures, experiments and psychological testing in laboratory settings, research-based projects, case-studies, film analysis, textual analysis, experiential analysis, group discussions, role play, psychosocial exposure as a part of field trips to NGOs and psychiatric settings are common pedagogical practices employed in everyday teaching.
The course embraces all major subfields like General Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Social Psychology, Systems & Theories in Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Research Methodology, Statistics, and Practicum (Experiments, Psychological Testing, and Research Projects).
Psychologists are employed in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, mental health centres, counseling centres, government human-service organisations, NGOs, universities, colleges, schools, HRD departments in corporate, consulting firms, defense, to name a few. Many psychologists are self-employed, usually working as private practitioners. Major streams in which you could be working are biopsychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, sports psychology, child psychology, etc. So whether you are genuinely interested in people or plain nosy, psychology beckons you.