In this week’s blog post we decided to take a break from COVID and from the more formal articles to offer you an insight into a relatively less known field in psychology. So, I sat with my friend Alexia Gaillard, who recently finished her master in applied psychology at Geneva’s University, to discuss about what she does and what led her to choose this master. I hope this can give you some clues that would help you out in the difficult task of choosing a master amongst all the interesting options out there.
P: Hi Alex, first I would like to thank you for accepting this socially distant safe interview to talk a bit about your field and your motivations for following this path. Maybe I would like to start by asking you to tell us a little bit about your educational background…
A: Sure, I started in post-obligatory business school, at the time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I thought that maybe with that I could end up somewhere. Then during the last year, I had to do an internship that helped me realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something a bit more meaningful and interesting so I decided to change. I went to an event at UNIGE where they presented me a profile of a psychology student and almost everything in that profile resonated with me.
P: Do you remember what the profile sounded like?
A: I just remember two words, which were organized and curious. And that is something with which I identify.
P: So, it was kind of a natural choice for you.
A: Yeah, I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking and the courses seemed so interesting that I didn’t even consider the other faculties.
P: It’s so interesting that the two words that you remember are organized and curious… it’s something that is so linked to the master you chose three years after.
A: Yeah that’s right… I don’t know, if I had to describe myself I would say organized and curious, maybe that’s why I remember it the most. I guess I also wanted to do psychology out of a desire to understand why people do certain things. I also had trouble being in social groups and the choice came from a motivation to further understand the dynamics and maybe feel more comfortable around others.
P: It’s funny because it’s quite narcissistic but I feel like it is the case for many psychologists to choose psychology in order to understand themselves first. So, at that point what was the representation you had of a psychologist?
A: Well, I think I had the stereotyped idea of a person with paper notes sited in front of a patient/client who’s sitting on a couch hoping for some advice (which was such a reductionist and wrong idea). But of course, this representation changed towards an image of a scientist too. At first I didn’t think that psychology was that scientific.
P: Yeah, I had the same feeling. Then you go to uni and realize that you have to take statistics classes, learn all about the scientific methodology and even conduct research.
A: Yeah, I liked that kind of stability that the scientific method offers to psychologists.
P: So, when you finished your bachelor did you have a clear idea of what master you wanted to choose?
A: I knew that I wanted to choose the social orientation because those were the courses I enjoyed the most and the ones where I felt that I was the most engaged with. You know, the interesting thing about those classes was the fact that when you go around your life, interacting as any human being and watching others interact, you can experience the dynamics and everything you learnt in class. I also knew I wanted to do research.
P: Definitely. So let’s get into the difficult task of defining applied psychology… what would you say it is?
A: Well, the world applied says it all. You take the knowledge that comes from research, from fundamental psychology and you apply those findings to the problem you want to solve. Let’s say, you start by defining a problem, for example, smoking behavior. You do your literature research on this behavior from A to Z and then you search for alternative solutions based on the behavior changing techniques that come precisely from research.
P: I see. So, what are some of the fields you can work on being an applied psychologist?
A: We can work on environmental, health, education and societal issues. The idea is to create intervention programs that are aimed at changing behavior. For example, recently we talk a lot about fast fashion and how consumerism behavior contributes to environmental issues and how we can create interventions to make people change that in order to adopt a more environmentally friendly behavior. To do this, it is important to know how conscious the population your intervention is aimed is about the problem. Because of course, the intervention will be much different for a person who doesn’t acknowledge the problem at all compared to someone who knows that their behavior is bad but doesn’t know how to change it. Our task is to investigate all these factors and create an intervention according to the issue, to the population and to the means you have to create this intervention. After this, the most important part in this process is to evaluate the impact of our intervention, what worked, what didn’t work and what can be done to make it better. The strength of applied psychology interventions compared to others is that it is evidenced-based, we don’t start with an intervention that “seems like a good idea” because the likelihood of it not working is much higher.
P: Thank you Alex for your time and for sharing your experience with us.
Featured image :
- 27 Social Psychology Dissertation Topics for Academic Resea, A., No Comment. Retrieved from : https://dissertationsage.co.uk/social-psychology-dissertation-topics/
Author : Paula Morales