5 Facts About Psychology

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There are a number of misconceptions about the field of psychology. This is likely because people often have very little direct knowledge and experience with the science of psychology.

For many people, their first (and usually only) experience with psychology happens when they take an introductory course on the topic to fulfill a high school or university general education requirement. No wonder there are so many different misunderstandings about exactly what psychology is and is not. Here are the facts behind a few of the most common misconceptions.

Psychology Classes Can Be Tough

Many students may realize this as they struggle through their general psychology courses. Why do some people mistakenly believe that psychology is simple and easy? One reason might be because many tend to assume that since they have so much personal experience with human behavior, they will naturally be experts on the subject.

Obviously, no one would suggest that an English class should be an easy A simply because you speak English. Just like English can be a challenging subject for any native speaker, psychology classes can be equally tough, particularly for students who have little experience with the subject or who have a limited background in subjects such as science and math.

Fortunately, just because psychology is challenging doesn't mean that it isn't accessible to anyone who might take an interest in it. While there might be a learning curve, you can definitely succeed in your psychology classes with effort and determination.

Psychology Isn't Just Common Sense

After hearing about the latest psychological research, people may tend to have an "Of course!" type of response. But what seems like common sense isn't necessarily the case. Pick up any book outlining some of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology and what you will quickly realize is that much of this research refutes what was believed to be common sense at the time.

Would you deliver potentially fatal electrical shocks to a stranger just because an authority figure told you to? Common sense might have you emphatically saying no, but psychologist Stanley Milgram famously demonstrated in an obedience experiment that the majority of people would do exactly such a thing.

That's the thing about common sense—just because something seems like it should be true doesn't necessarily mean that it is.

Researchers are able to take some of these questions and presumptions about human behavior and test them scientifically, assessing the truth or falsehood in some of our commonly held beliefs about ourselves. By using scientific methods, experimenters can investigate human issues objectively and fairly.

You May Need More Than a Bachelor's Degree

In order to become a practicing therapist, you will need at least a master's degree in a field such as psychology, counseling, social work, or advanced psychiatric nursing. There are many opportunities to work in the field of mental health at the bachelor's level, but these positions tend to be considered entry-level. You cannot open your own private therapy practice with just a bachelor's degree.

It is also important to be aware that the professional title "psychologist" is a regulated term. In order to call yourself a psychologist, you need to earn a doctorate degree in psychology, complete a supervised internship, and pass state licensing exams.

Psychologists Don't Just Get Paid to Listen

Certainly, some psychologists are very well compensated for their work. But the notion that they are just passively sitting back, doodling on a yellow notepad while their clients ramble on could not be further from the truth.

Traditional talk therapy is only one technique that a therapist might use, and it's certainly not a passive process. Throughout these sessions, therapists are actively engaged in listening to the client, asking questions, providing advice, and helping clients develop solutions to put into daily practice.

Psychologists actually work in a wide number of professions and perform an enormous range of different duties. Salaries can vary just as dramatically. Some work in the field of mental health and focus on helping people who experience psychological distress, but other professionals work in areas such as business, education, government, and research.

Some of the lowest paying psychology jobs start out in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, while the highest paying jobs can reach up in the $100,000 to $250,000 range. Factors such as specialty area, educational background, and years of experience are what determine salary.

Psychology Is a Real Science

Some may think that psychology is not a real science. First, let's examine exactly what science is and is not.

Some key characteristics of a science:

  • Allows for hypothesis testing
  • Findings allow researchers to predict future occurrences
  • Objective
  • Researchers control and manipulate variables
  • Results can be replicated
  • Uses empirical methods

Psychology relies on all of these methods in order to investigate human and animal behavior. Researchers utilize the scientific method to conduct research, which means that variables are controlled and operationally defined.

Experimenters are able to test different hypotheses and use statistical analysis to determine the likelihood that such results are due merely to chance. Psychologists also present their findings in a way that makes it possible for other researchers to replicate their experiments and methods in the future.

Psychology might be a relatively young science in the grand scheme of sciences, but it is indeed a real science. However, it's important to note that scientific psychology does have some limitations. Human behavior can vary and change over time, so what is true in one particular time and place might not necessarily apply in different situations, settings, cultures, or societies.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.