How People React When I Tell Them I’m a Psychology Student.

psychology badge 2

Having been a psychology student for three years now, I’ve noticed a somewhat amusing and at times frustrating trend to how people react when I tell them what I study. It’s gotten to the point where I can predict people’s responses pretty easily because the same ones pop up over and over again! The funny thing is, people’s immediate thoughts usually involve some kind of a common misconception about psychology, and other times they’re just down right ridiculous! After a recent stint of these reactions recently, I felt it was about time I vented my frustrations. It normally starts something like this:

Green Banner psychoanalysing

This is by far the most popular response and oh how it gets old quickly. Yes, psychology is about the study of human behaviours, but that does not mean I have a roadmap to the inside of your head! Plus, just because I study psychology, doesn’t mean I always have my psychology hat on, a girl needs a break you know! It’s not like I’m analysing everything you do. If you tell me that you don’t like cheese, I’m not silently contemplating whether you had a traumatic cheese incident in your childhood.

The Cheese Man Buffy

After so many years of getting this response and politely saying no, I’ve gotten bored and now often answer with a resounding yes. It’s hilarious to watch people’s as the realization dawns on their face and they begin to squirm and get all paranoid, mwuhuhuuu.

This is normally closely followed by….

Green Banner what am I thinking

Why yes oh clever question maker, I see that you are currently thinking about how cute cat memes are and whether anyone noticed if you took the last slice of chocolate cake.

I CANNOT READ YOUR MIND, I AM NOT A WIZARD YOU IMBECILE. I ALSO HAVE NO RELATION TO EDWARD CULLEN.

exasperated-dumbledore

Green Banner counselling

Watson No gif

Urrmm…. no. A psychology degree does not give you the qualifications to counsel someone professionally, I wish it did because that would be a cool added bonus as it’s a topic that interests me! This is what we would call, a common misnomer. A psychology degree would be an excellent basis to go on and specialise in counselling later if you wanted to, but specific skills, knowledge and training are needed to do that career which we don’t learn. Psychology is much more about using theories and scientific evidence to explain behaviours, and about creating your own theories, designing experiments to test them and then carrying them out (and analysing your results). Contrary to popular belief, us psychology students don’t go around asking ‘how does that make you feel?’

Green Banner Freud

Sheldon gif

If I could have a new book for every time someone said this to me, I’D HAVE MY DREAM LIBRARY RIGHT NOW. Freud and his obsession with sex and childhood experiences are to put it politely, somewhat of a joke to people in psychology. He came up with theories that mostly couldn’t be proved right or wrong with scientific evidence so he could basically just make up whatever the heck he wanted to and no one would be able to dispute it. While Freud did make some contributions to the topic that led to others developing better theories, everything he said is considered by most to be absolute rubbish. Any mention of his name is usually followed by eye rolling and laughter.

Finally, last but by no means least…

Green Banner why

Buffy fake smile

This one’s a real kicker.
Sure psychology’s an easy subject, if you call reading hundreds of scientific journals, completing heavy essay based modules, analysing statistics and learning the names of the regions, sub-regions, and sub, sub, sub-regions of the brain that are LITERALLY Latin easy. And that’s just for starters! When you really get into it, it’s almost like learning a whole different language because there are so many technical terms. Some of my lecturers have been studying the subject for years and still struggle to understand many of the academic journals. I remember when I first started the subject for A Levels a lot of people chose it because they thought it was easy…ohh how they got a shock! Most of them hated it by the end of the year, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t one of them. 😉

I’m not sure why people have this misconception that psychology is easy. Because it’s such a popular topic to study? Maybe. Because a lot of people think it’s just common sense? Probably more likely. Either way, this is by far the most irritating reaction I get because a) it’s not true, and b) I WORK MY FREAKIN’ BUTT OFF.

So I just smile politely while silently screaming inside my head. 🙂

~ * ~

So, I hope this post was vaguely amusing! Either because it was interesting and you learnt some new things about psychology or because you were secretly chuckling to yourself about other people’s lack of knowledge about psychology!

Now I ask you dear readers, have you ever come across people that make annoying statements about a subject you’ve studied or a job that you’ve had that are total misconceptions or downright annoying? The weirder the better!

Image Sources:
Banner my own. // Cheese Man gif // Dumbledore gif // Sheldon gif // Watson gif // Buffy gif.

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45 thoughts on “How People React When I Tell Them I’m a Psychology Student.

  1. Regarding the counselling, besides the fact that you need an advanced degree to become a therapist (in SA it’s a Master’s)… Free? Will a mechanic fix your car for free? Do dentists fill cavities for free? At the moment my only work is volunteer work, as that’s the only way to get the practical hours I need to become an accredited counsellor, but eventually the plan is that it will actually put food on the table. I’ll never stop volunteering, but once I’m allowed to start taking paying clients I’m definitely not providing free counselling to people who can pay for it.

    My first degree was in Youth Work. The most common question was, “So, what are you going to do after that?” or much worse, “…when you grow up?” My reaction (on the inside – psychoanalyse that if you want 😉 ) was pretty much the same as your last one. I did not spend four years getting an honours degree for a job I’m not planning on sticking with for a while. Ironically, I have now been forced to embark on a new career path as churches (I specifically trained in church-based youth work) around here believe the idiotic myth that only people under thirty can work with young people (seriously, the last job advertisement I looked at specifically said only applicants under 28 will be considered). And the implication that my desire to work with young people is a sign of my own lingering immaturity is just insulting. I wonder if that applies to teachers as well.

    Speaking of teachers, I did that also. The “You only work half day and get four holidays a year” comments got old very quickly. I reckon I had to become a teacher so I could find out what hard work looks like. I don’t think I’ll ever charge teachers for counselling once I’m qualified.

    • Exactly! Counselling takes a lot of work and is basically its own subject all on its own. While some elements of psychology overlap, you really don’t learn anything that would give you even close to the knowledge needed to counsel someone. And yes, SINCE WHEN DOES A PROFESSION GIVE OUT FREE THINGS. This is the real world people. It’s really interesting that you’re learning to become an accredited counsellor! It’s a profession I’m quite interested but I’m not really sure if I’m cut out for it, or that I want go into yet more years of education! Do you find it difficult to emotionally disengage yourself from other people’s problems at the end of the day?

      Wow, I can’t believe that! They seriously don’t employ anyone older unofficially? That’s ridiculous. I mean, I get that they want people in youth work to be in touch with youth… but surely it’s good to have a mixture of different ages that can bring different skills and perspectives? I never even would have considered that youth work was linked to ‘immaturity’, I can’t believe people would think that! I would more associate with someone that wanted to pass on their wisdom to new generations and make peoples lives better. Immature? phaaa!

      Agh I bet that one was really irritating. I have to say, I wouldn’t go near teaching if someone begged me, there’s so much marking and work that goes on after you get home from work! People underestimate that I think.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • I should perhaps just clarify that we also have different types of counselling here. In Psychology, you can register as a Psychological Counsellor with an honours degree, and you can become a therapist once you have your Master’s (though I think you also need supervised practical hours in addition to the academic qualification). The counselling/therapy aspects form part of psychology training here.

        I’m studying Pastoral or Spiritual Counselling, which is a theological degree. Basically the type of counselling any minister or priest already does, but with specialised training, and also supervised practical hours and ongoing training. We don’t have recognition yet with the health professions’ council, but our professional body is working on it.

        It is tough not to get too emotionally involved, even while offering empathetic and compassionate care. But with practice and discipline it’s a skill you can learn like any other. Having a mentor/supervisor to whom you can go for debriefing is also helpful; I would argue crucial.

        There are churches with older youth workers, but mostly it’s because those youth workers had been working there for many years already. For a new appointment your chances get worse the older you get. The other day I actually saw a job advert stating only people under 28 need apply. Of course, it’s against the law in SA to discriminate on the basis of age (among other criteria) when appointing people, but I’ve a feeling that taking them to court will have a negative impact on the working relationship if the court forces them to employ me 😉

        I know of youth workers in the US an UK, church and community-based, who are over fifty and still excellent at their jobs, precisely because youth work is about guiding young people and you need wisdom for that. Unfortunately people here don’t understand that. Here they believe a youth worker must be young enough to stay up all night entertaining the kids by acting like a clown (so, introverts like me have that stacked against us as well). It’s much easier to act according to one’s assumptions than to do proper research on a subject…

      • Yepp we have different types of counselling here too, although I haven’t looked into the specifics and how they differ or anything because I have yet to decide if I’m interested in doing it myself! I think you need supervised practical experience for any type of counselling, at least here, as far as I’m aware. What you can do is a course called psychology and counselling which combines the two subjects, so I guess it’s not surprising that some people think one equates to the other!

        Oooh, I’ve never heard of that one before. I’d be interested in hearing about what sort of thing you have to study for that. Good luck with getting the recognition! I say if you take the time to learn the skills and you can make a difference it should definitely count. 🙂

        You see that’s one of the things that makes me hesitate about considering it as a job – I’m a very empathy filled person and I think I might struggle with it. But it’s good to hear that you’ve found that as time has gone on you’ve developed the skills to deal with it better!

        Haha, you’ve got a point there!

        Wow, that’s interesting that there’s such a big contrast. I’m with you, I think you need more life experience and ‘wisdom’ to guide people and in that way, age can be a huge asset. 🙂

        Thanks for the long comments, this was really interesting!

  2. This was so funny to read, because I know exactly what you are talking about. When I first started my apprenticeship as an IT every one was like “so can you fix my computer?”.. yeah sure, I’ll search your computer with my mind and see what it is doing AT HOME! Now that I switched jobs to a nurse, my colleagues were like “euww so you can care for me once I am old, and you’re gonna wipe my ***** and stuff?”.. yeah, because that’s all I do. What the heck? People are weird sometimes 😀

    • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it!
      Ahahaaa, I can so imagine that happening as well because people always have computer problems. Plus, IT is about more than just fixing computers, like coding and website design for starters. I can see how annoying that would be.
      As for nurses, I think they are so underappreciated!

      Yepp, people are definitely weird. Thanks for stopping by and good luck battling the stereotypes. 🙂

  3. My boyfriend is a psychology major and it’s so funny that he gets so many of the same reactions you do! He ends up usually serving as the “counselor role” in his group of friends, and I think he defaults to that because people expect him too because of what he studies! His experience too has been that a lot of people in the “hard” sciences (like bio, chemistry, etc) look down on psychology on being a “soft” science, but he’s had to take a LOT of intense courses (like neuro-anatomy!)

    • No way, I didn’t realise that. It’s so funny to hear that he’s gotten similar reactions, good to know it’s universal!
      That’s interesting, so it’s almost like he is subconsciously altering his behaviour to live up to his stereotype and others expectations of him. I can relate to that a bit too actually, I’m definitely considered the listener in my group and my friends often say they like talking to me about difficult things because I’m an impartial/judgement free zone, kind of like a counsellor! Maybe I’m living up to my incorrect stereotypes too. 😉 Having said that, I think that was part of my personality before I started studying psychology.
      Ahh yes, the age old is psychology a science debate. Having taken those intense courses myself, I have to err on the side of yes!

  4. Great post Becky, and so true 🙂 I did English Lit at uni and we covered a couple of really interesting psychology modules, with a view to analysing behaviour in characters and the authors, they were some of my favourite classes – if you end up in management, some things turn up again, individual behaviours, team behaviour and dysfunctions, organisational behaviour…there are so many applications to psychology, people just don’t seem to realise it if they don’t have much experience of the subject.

    In relation to people putting down my subject, I got a fair amount of “so, a degree in reading, eh?” Obviously, being well read you could have tongue-lashed them in multiple ways for being so narrow-minded, but then, what would be the point?

    It was usually science-types that were the worst, in terms of dismissing the subject, without consideration: think Sheldon Cooper on geology, but make Sheldon a lot less smart most of the time 😤 but, I think a lot of ‘arts’ students get that. The worst I’ve ever had, was temp I worked with during a summer holiday. We got chatting while we filed a ridiculous amount of very boring insurance files, and discovered we were both temping having finished uni for the summer. When I told him I was studying English he literally laughed in my face and said “what’s the point in that”. I asked what he was studying and it turned out he’d just risen to the heady heights of a pass in his Physics degree (it comes below a 3rd class, if you’re interested). I was just astounded that someone who had barely scraped a degree would be so directly rude about someone else’s. Anyway, it turned out that being good with words meant I could file like a demon and so when they cut back the temp provision the following week, guess who kept a job for the summer and who didn’t?

    • Thanks, Mel, so happy you enjoyed it! So glad to hear you enjoyed your psychology modules on your course as well, I really do think it’s a fascinating subject but then, I am biased. 😉 That’s one of the reasons I love psychology, it can be applied to so many things.

      Haha, so true. Tongue lashed, love it. I’m friends with a lot of English students at my university and I don’t think people realise how intense the reading and theory is! People definitely underestimate it as a subject, unfairly so.

      Ohh no, not the sciency people! The thing is, they may be awesome at the technicalities of what they do, but I bet they couldn’t draw an amazing picture or write a critical essay on a book that well. I don’t think people recognise different types of intelligence and skill enough, or the time and effort it takes to become really good at any subject! Plus, we need all those different abilities to keep our world turning smoothly, they’re all important.
      Wow, that guy sounds like a right laugh, not to mention a hypocrite! I think I would have had trouble working with him on a regular basis…. Great anecdote and well done for showing him exactly what an English student is made of!

  5. This was a very interesting post, actually.

    I’d say that the stigma and stereotypes about psychology exist due to how completely ignorant people are about it. It’s not something that’s ever studied en masse at school, so no-one has any appreciation of what the subject involves. It’s like how many people think history is about nothing but dates and names.

    In fact I’d say that this scepticism towards the subject and study of psychology is related to society’s appalling attitudes towards mental health issues.

    • Glad it piqued your interest Mr Cargill!

      You’re right, I think that’s definitely a factor. I still find it surprising that psychology isn’t taught earlier in schools. I didn’t have the option of studying it until A Level, and some people don’t even get that! Plus, linking in with what you’ve said about mental health if more people took the subject some of that stigma may start to break down which could only be a good thing! People can be so ignorant about it which amazes me.

  6. I get MOST of these, and I’m only a year in! It’s ridiculous. I’ve never heard someone try and tell me psychology is easy, but maybe it’s the fact that psychology is considered a “soft science” rather than a hard science? Maybe it’s science professionals’ fault?

    • No way, I didn’t realise you were studying psychology too, Bec! Seems we have more in common than just our names and weirdly in sync reading choices. 😉

      I think it’s ‘social science’ status is definitely a factor. It means people immediately associate it as an easier option.

      Thanks for reading! Look forward to seeing how you get on with the subject. 🙂

      • I know! It’s like we’re the same person, just on different continents! Weird!
        I agree, I think the word social makes people think “simple”. So not the case, guys!! I love psych. I kinda wish I hadn’t taken this year off! Can’t wait to get stuck back in 🙂

      • Hahaa so true. This is the beauty of the internet!
        Ohh right I see, in that case, I hope you enjoy it when you go back. 🙂 And now I’m wondering if you appreciated the whole psychology aspect of Allegiant….because I thought it was awesome. Damn it, I really need to finish this book so I can read your review! 🙂

  7. These are so perfect! I’m in my third year studying psychology as well so I definitely know what this feels like. Especially the “easy subject” thing. My friend is in business management and she told me one of her business friends doesn’t believe psychology is hard or has anything to it… But I bet if she sat down and wrote one of my psychology exams and I wrote one of her business ones we would do equally as poorly. Also, I don’t know about you, but if we had the ability to read people’s minds I definitely wouldn’t waste it on the uniformed individuals stereotyping us!

    • Thanks Jacqueline! So glad to have come across another third year psychology student, that’s the year I’m in as well and I have to say, it’s by far the best year in my opinion, I’m loving it. 🙂
      The easy subject one is by far the most annoying to me, it’s like people have no idea how technical psychology can get and the amount of rigorous journal reading and stats analysis. Also with psychology, a lot of people seem to think you pick a behaviour and then just explain why it happens. I was chatting to someone last week who made me realise yet another misconception about psychology – the person asked me if I could sit while they were interviewing people and interpret their body language and facial expressions to see it they would be good for the job. I wish, haha!

      I had a similar chat with someone above about that, I don’t think people appreciate different skill sets and abilities enough! If a biology student tried to draw someone’s face they would be awful. We need people with a range of different skill sets to help us exist in this world! There’s no need to get stuck up with these things!

      So true. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. 😀

  8. I loved this post, and I’m thinking I’d better have Daniel read it so he knows what to expect in September when he starts his psychology course :). I find using humour (well I think it’s funny anyway) is the best way to deal with people. I am a legal assistant and I do estate work, so before people start asking me stupid questions, I just tell them I do dead people and it shuts them right up. It’s so much fun to see the looks on their faces LOL.

  9. This post earned a laugh out of me. My aunt studied psychology and I have to say… some of these questions fit her. >.> She always seemed to be trying to analyze me one way or another, to the point where I just ended up avoiding her. It was very frustrating.

    As for me… as a Translation major, I’ve had my share of irritating questions. Most people think it’s very easy to translate from one language to the other. I’ve heard things like:

    – “Oh I know two languages. I can translate too, right?”
    – “Only two languages? Isn’t that… lame?”
    – “What’s the meaning of [insert word here]?” (Just because I’m a translator doesn’t mean I’m also a walking dictionary! Sigh.)
    – “Anyone can translate.” (this one makes me sooooo mad)

    • Yay, I’m so glad! It’s so funny that you’ve found the opposite – that someone does actually fulfill some of these things! Maybe they did a different type of psychology or covered different things on their course? Either that or they just had way too much fun living up to the stereotype! I’m not surprised you ended up avoiding her. 🙂

      Ooooh, I can imagine! Because of course it’s not just speaking two languages and knowing the words, some things don’t translate word for word and then there’s the grammar to think of as well! To me, translating sounds really difficult because I was always awful at French at school, I never could get my head around it.

      I actually read a great book that had a translator as one of the main character and it has some great quotes about the job in it too. You might be interested in it, it’s called Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (it was a five-star read for me!).

  10. Oh, God, the cheese! The Cheese! {curls into a foetal ball and sobs}.

    It seems from your post that people seem to confuse psychiatry with psychology. Easy mistake to make…I looked up the difference myself recently. 🙂

    I never get any comments about my degree (computer science), perhaps because it’s quite a popular one to take. Plus, I don’t tell many people I have the right to put BSc after my name. 🙂

    However, I do get a lot of random “What’s up with my computer?” questions, including vague descriptions of “It starts up slow”. People also seem to consider me an expert on *every* piece of software ever written as well, no matter how obscure.

    • I’m so sorry to have subjected you to the cheese, Tony, BUT IT HAD TO BE DONE!

      Yepp, I think that’s definitely one of the issues. Another fun fact, psychology doesn’t involve studying mental health either! When I went into it, I expected that we might have had a whole module on it but really, it only gets brought up in the occasional lecture and usually as a side issue or something that slightly links to something else we’re doing. Sure, you definitely pick up a good rounded knowledge of it and you can pick to write essays on it if it’s a topic that specifically interests you, but it’s not a big part of the course at all! That even surprised me. You have a BSc?!?! GO TONY. You should definitely bring that up more in conversation, it’s a good title to have. Hopefully, I’ll have one of those soon too. 🙂

      Haha, I bet! People always have computer issues that need solving, but you can’t know how to solve every problem with a computer ever!

  11. Great post! I study geography at university and I frequently get:
    “So you want to be a teacher then?” (Uh, no!)
    “So all you do is colouring in?” (Genuinely wish this was the case but I have done no colouring in whatsoever)

      • Exactly! We occasionally coloured in maps at A Level to represent different things but it was only on rare occasions 🙂 it does get annoying explaining to people that geography isn’t about that 🙂

  12. This is so true! Though I don’t study psychology on degree level, I am in my second year of studying psychology for A Level. As I am the only person doing psychology in my friendship group for A Level, I often get mocked as they have a preconceived notion that it’s ‘easy’ and I always feel like I’m being judged for doing it. Psychology is actually one of the hardest subjects I study with all of the studies and experiments to memorise and the writing structures that are so hard to hammer.

    This post was well written!

    • I’m glad you could relate! I took psychology at A Level as well and I was also the only person from my friendship group who decided to do it! How funny. My other friends went for the traditional sciences, but I’m not actually that sure what their perception of psychology was because we never really talked about it. They didn’t seem interested in it full stop really. That’s such a shame that you feel like your friends judge you because they think it’s easy, if only they knew. I hope you continue to enjoy the subject. 🙂

      Awwh, thank you, thanks for stopping by!

  13. Go on, what am I thinking right now? Haha!

    Ohh what a fabulous idea for a post. Isn’t it funny how some people react to a topic they know very little about?

    Training to be a counsellor, the first (and most common) question I get is ‘Can you counsel me now?’ like it’s some sort of test/something they’re entitled to. WITHOUT FAIL. I’ve nailed the friendly smile and polite refusal, but I often get ‘Well why not? That’s shit isn’t it’. Then why you try and explain they just switch off.

    Humanity rules!

    • *Shakes fist* You had to do it! 😉
      Having said that, I bet you’ve come across people saying that one as well and have gotten equally annoyed!

      Thank you, Charl, glad you liked it! I figured if I’d come across it, many other people must have too.

      You know, I was so interested to see if you had any of the same questions because I’m sure counselling comes with plenty of its own misconceptions. It’s so ridiculous how if you learn a skill people suddenly think you’ll use it for free. When does that ever happen?!

      Humanity indeed. 😛

  14. Skitting laugh. Love your “Fuck You” Buffy gif. That was my inner reaction to everyone (and there were many) who made a similar comment regarding me doing an Arts degree (English and History)

    • Hahaa! Thought you would appreciate the Buffy one. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use the cheese man one for quite some time as well!
      Ahh yes, English and History, both topics that get accused of (unfairly) being ‘easy’ and ‘useless’, bet you got some infuriating responses to that!

  15. This was funny to read and I love the last reaction. Psychology is not easy. I haven’t studied it as a major but I’ve taken various classes and read friends’ psych textbooks because I enjoy the subject. I won’t lie though, I often thought that first one about my psychology professors.

    • Thanks, Zezee, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      I’m so happy that you like the subject too. It’s interesting but can also get very technical when you study it at the higher levels, it’s frustrating that perceive it as a coasting subject.

      Hahaa, that’s funny and a little scary. Professors that could psychoanalyse your every move? Aghhh!

  16. I get ‘cha. I live in Germany and my bachelor’s is in Interdisciplinary American Studies, so by now I just dread the question “What are you studying?” because everyone gives me a blank look when I tell them. I just say “English” now whenever someone asks me, but then of course the next questions is always “Oh, so you wanna be a teacher?” NO, I do not, thank you. THEN of course they want to know what I plan to do for a living later and, since I have no fucking clue, I just say taxi driver because why not. Someone I know who studies the same thing told me she just tells everyone she’s a law student. 😀 I actually wanted to study psychology, but I didn’t have straight As, so I went a different route (and I’m kind of glad I did, but I do still find it very interesting).

    • Wow, I must admit that I’ve never heard of it either, sorry! I can imagine how frustrating that would be to have to try and it explain it each time, so I’m not surprised you’ve reverted to saying English. Ahh, the teacher question! Why does everyone always assume that about English and Geography?! It’s like you can’t just enjoy the subject for what it is. They always assume that’s what you’ll use it for.
      Hahaaa! I love how candidly you put that because I feel the EXACT same way. When people ask me what I want to do with my future now I just make up random stuff because I’m so damn fed up with the question and I don’t have a proper answer!
      Awwh, that’s a shame that you didn’t end up doing psychology, but maybe it turned out for the better if you prefer the topic you do now. 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • It does get really frustrating when people ask you on a regular basis! I didn’t realise people’s perceptions of psychology were so incorrect until I started my degree. I think people basically get all the ‘ologies’ mixed up, and then add in a bit of counselling for good measure too!

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