Saturday, November 12, 2011

What makes a Psychology student more sensitive?

Consider this: a person who does not practice what he preaches is called a Hypocrite.
But my social psychology books tell me that the connection between our attitude and our actions is actually very small. For instance, this classic study by La Pierre(1934): he accompanied a Chinese couple on a three month, 10,000 mile trip, stopping at some 250 hotels and restaurants and in every establishment but one, he and the couple received service. a few months later, La Pierre sent a letter to every place they had stopped, asking whether the establishment would serve patrons of Asian ancestry. About 50% of the establishments didn't even bother to respond. Of those who did reply, almost 92% flatly said 'no' and the rest said 'maybe'.  And why just this one study, social psychologist Allan Wicker(1969) tells us that his review of several dozen research studies covering a wide range of attitudes, behaviors and people and subsequent correlation calculation offers a shocking conclusion: People's expressed attitudes hardly predicted their varying behaviors.
Now I know that people who non nonchalantly call others hypocrites may themselves act so in certain situations, in fact many many situations lol. Power of the situation, anyone?

I don't know whether studying psychology has made me more sorted or more confused...kidding.

Or actually, not. Yeah, seriously. Ever heard of defense mechanisms? Projection, Sublimation...etc. They give you several interesting explanations for why a person is acting the way he is. Heard of errors in social cognition? They tell you how the conclusions you jump to regarding events and the attributions you make out of observing others' behavior are not as accurate all the time as you take them to be. Fundamental Attribution Error, for example, is an error of attribution which makes us attribute dispositional causes to others' behavior and situational causes to our own behavior. And research shows it is very, very prevalent!

I could give you a hundred other examples to show how as a Psychology student now I have several options to answer the question of why a certain person acted the way he did. Earlier it was like, "ok, he did such a thing, he must be like this only." But now I am wary of jumping to any such conclusion. For now I know it very well that human beings are multi layered and much depends on the context as well, not just the person's dispositions.

Hence, I don't think I will ever repeat my earlier-often-made conclusion of ill-breeding or no proper grooming when I come across guys whom girls love to call 'lafanga' lol. On a serious note, this is how a psychology student is more sensitive. Yes, my subject has poured on me a bucketful of choices to answer every seemingly simple question of human behavior but these choices only have made me more sensitive, more open. I might leave the subject sooner than most of my friends, for my destiny lies somewhere else but I am glad I took up psychology as it will stay with me in all spheres of life, be it in administration or family.

P.S. This was written in response to the query of a friend who had expressed doubts on the prevalent notion that psychologists are more sensitive, putting across her own theory of the psychologists actually being more 'suspicious'.

P.S. 2- Psychology Rocks!


  1. its such a complicated and sophisticated subject to deal with.....nice attempt!!...a lil weird..;)


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