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So You Want to Study Psychology

Sep 1, 2007
3,786
15
This comes up every now and again. A fresh-faced young guy comes in wanting to learn more about psychology thinking that it's the key to mental superpowers, especially so if he's interested in becoming a mentalist. Well I've been studying psychology in formal education and on my own for about 10 years now (seriously so in the last 5 give or take) and I'm here to tell you that's not going to happen. Here are four truths you need to understand.

1. Psychology is not the same thing as the physical sciences. In chemistry and physics, there is a right answer and a wrong answer. Either the math checks out or it doesn't. In psychology it's nowhere near so clean cut. Everything exists on a spectrum. Some people have an easier time getting their head around that than others, but the fact remains that it's a lot of data, number crunching and decidedly unsexy academic work.

2. Psychology is a very, very diverse field with many different applications in the real world. Narrowing it down to only the stuff that is applicable to what we do such as the psychology of persuasion requires a lot of research in order to isolate specific studies and even then you're going to research a lot of unrelated stuff anyway in order to provide the context necessary to make sense of it all. Get ready for a lot of medical jargon.

3. Most information about psychology is available only in academic journals, which are very hard to read because they're dry, impersonal, loaded with jargon, and frankly boring. You read this stuff because you want to learn, not because it's inherently engaging. Tests and experiments are rarely so dramatic as the famous Milgram or Zimbardo experiments.

4. Psychology is not a superpower. You are not going to turn yourself into a smooth-talking mesmerist just because you bought a Robert Cialdini book. You can use your knowledge to tip the scales slightly in your favor, but it does not have a 100% success rate. It's going to take years of work incorporating practical knowledge into your work to see noticeable results.

Any questions?
 

S.G

Feb 9, 2010
664
1
Yes. I have wanted to get into psychology, not to dupe people and make millions, but more so out of interest in how people can be persuaded and how people generally interact.

Where would you recommend starting? I have no problem with actually reading and doing work. Few things are as simple as TV shows seem to make them.
 
Sep 1, 2007
3,786
15
Where would you recommend starting? I have no problem with actually reading and doing work. Few things are as simple as TV shows seem to make them.

The trouble is that you need to narrow that question down. Psychology is a very broad field like I said. It has specializations in influence, persuasion, pop culture, media theory, workplace, relationships, habits... the list goes on.

If you're interested in the psychology of persuasion (as myself and most magicians/mentalists are) then Robert B Cialdini's book "Influence" is a good place to start. Amazon also gives helpful recommendations on similar books, but you're also going to want to look into all of the studies and journals listed in the endnotes/footnotes of all these books. As previously said, they can be hard to read just like any academic journal. That's why most people give up on trying to learn this sort of thing.
 
Im going to school for school psychology. I dont learn anything about controlling people, but out of all my psychology schooling i have not learned much of that kind of topic. The best way to learn all of that is to go out and learn in actual situations.
With school psychology we test children to determine their performance. Not as glamorous.
 
Sep 16, 2012
38
0
30
Israel
I've been studying Psychology for 9 years now (formal education and on my own) and I totally agree with you.
I believe that it's NOT the amount of material that counts, but the understanding that matters. knowing "something" in this field is equal to "nothing" if you don't know it's true and full meaning, purpose and relations to other aspects in the field. In the end, your comprehension and awareness to specific details will be the ones to determine if you "know something" or don't in Psychology.

My thoughts on Psychology and all........
 
Dec 18, 2007
1,610
14
62
Northampton, MA - USA
Im going to school for school psychology. I dont learn anything about controlling people, but out of all my psychology schooling i have not learned much of that kind of topic. The best way to learn all of that is to go out and learn in actual situations.
With school psychology we test children to determine their performance. Not as glamorous.

That line was worthy or being repeated, it's always the best school!
 
The best way to learn all of that is to go out and learn in actual situations. There ya go Craig haha. But honestly, studying Psychology will not help you with influence or control or whatever you think it will help with. Reading a book on reading people or on how to get people to like you in 5 seconds will not help you in the real world.
 
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