Regan A. R. Gurung, PhD
Psi Chi President
Harry Potter World fan? Hiking enthusiast? Like to travel? When it comes to exploring fun places, there are two main ways to do it. One option is to dive straight in and find your way around without any preparation. Use trial and error. Retrace your steps if you go astray. Another way is to do your homework first. Whether it is an amusement park, a national park, or a new locale, reading up on where you are going can help you navigate better. At minimum, reading what experts have said about the place and heeding the recommendations can help you make the most of your time and ensure you do not miss important features. Following a guide can also prevent you getting lost and reduce stress.
Life is significantly more complex than a walk in the woods but there is still a resource to help you navigate it—psychological science. That is the guide book for us all!
During my year as President of Psi Chi, I have one overarching goal. I would like to get psychology to more people. My goal is to accelerate the sharing of psychology and illustrate its relevance to daily life. Psychology is everywhere, and my theme puts this front and center: #PsychEverywhere. Psychology is everywhere but not enough people fully recognize this. Just like a well-written guide helps you make the most of your experiences, years of psychological science are a guide to life. Psychological science contributes to making every aspect of our lives better. Whether in our personal relationships, work productivity and satisfaction, mental and physical health, sports, or in the legal realm, psychology is there (Gernsbacher & Pomerantz, 2014).
For too long psychology has been shrouded by a host of misperceptions. We only learn when we are taught according to our preferred learning style—a myth. An association implies causation—incorrect. Expressing your anger helps you get rid of it—wrong again. Some of the other most common misperceptions include opposites attract in relationships, older adults are lonely, and memory is like a tape recorder (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, & Beyerstein, 2009). The results of psychological research highlight the real story. But that’s not all.
Psychological scientists are sitting on secrets to a happy healthier life. Truth be told, the secrets are only secrets in that psychological research is not as widespread as it could be. I have taught psychology and done psychological research for over 25 years. I have worked on how we experience stress, what makes good teachers, what helps people learn better, automatic ways we form perceptions of others from clothes, and many other topics. That’s a good variety and that is just me. As a field, psychologists research EVERYTHING—learning, memory, language, intelligence, emotion, and motivation. You name it, psychological science has examined it. Now to get more of the research to more people.
When I tell someone I am a psychologist, the common question is “Are you reading my mind.” Then, Freud is mentioned. Psychology is a lot more than Freud, couches, and therapy. Yes, psychology does treat mental illness (and some therapy involves couches) and the majority of PhDs in psychology are clinical/counseling BUT psychology is much more. Psychology involves research in neuroscience, cognition, and personality. There are school, sports, and industrial/organization psychologists. Psych science is everywhere. Name a job. Any job. Psychology is in there. Military or police? Business? Politics? Healthcare? Psychology—it’s in there. Not only is psychology everywhere, it is also a central part of science. As John Cacioppo famously observed in his Presidential column for the Association for Psychological Science (2007), contemporary sciences no longer originate from a single source. There are seven hub sciences and psychology is one of them (the others are mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth sciences, medicine, and the social sciences). No wonder psychology is so pervasive in daily life.
Although taking a high school or college psychology course is one way to learn about how psychology is everywhere, not all who take the course fully grasp the utility of the discipline. Although over a million students take introductory psychology every year, many students have never been exposed to psychology. Furthermore, the majority of psychology majors do not go on to graduate study or have careers in psychology, but all majors go on to live lives that can be enhanced by the fruits of psychological science.
Continuing past Psi Chi initiatives, PsychEverywhere encompasses better mental health for all (Past-President Landrum’s Help Helped Me initiative). PsychEverywhere is for everyone, reminding us to be cognizant of people of different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities (Past-President Domenech Rodríguez’ Diversity Drive). PsychEverywhere provides a guide to content creation. What advice do we have to help cope with stress? How can parents raise healthier children? What will help us find meaning and satisfaction in our careers? How can we be better friends and relationship partners? What are ways to reduce unhealthy behaviors?
Psi Chi is well-positioned to lead a coordinated effort to demonstrate that psychology is everywhere. We all have a role to play. My hope is to have psychologists joining the effort to reveal the utility of psychological science. Whether a student (nonmajor or major), academic psychologist (educator and researcher), or psychologist in the workforce outside the academy, we can all do our bit. Students can share what they learn in class with peers, friends, and family, together with applying what they learn in psychology classes to their own lives. Educators can work to help students connect class content to their lives and also make sure they are using the tools of psychology to teach psychology (Chew et al., 2018). Researchers doing basic research can translate it for the lay public via blogs, podcasts, or media releases. For my part, I shall be leveraging Psi Chi’s existing resources, creating new ones, and laying the groundwork for future content development, to provide educators with an array of ready-to-use material.
My goal is to gather content around some key areas and curate resources in multiple formats (short videos, podcast, Eye on Psi Chi articles). Topics will be organized into two main series. The optimizing series will help users make the most of different arenas and will include Making the Best of College, Making the Best of Your Psych Major (careers), and Psych Tools for Life. The survival series will help users navigate difficult challenges and topics and will include Smiling Through College, Smiling Through Grad School, Smiling Through Research Methods, Smiling to Tenure, and Smiling Beyond Tenure. Our flagship journal will also have a special issue on applications of psychology to the real world (abstracts are due October 1, https://www.psichi.org/journal_callforabstracts).
If you have material on any of the topics listed above or would like to help in this drive to popularize psychology and demonstrate the everyday utility of psychology, get in touch. Do you have ways we can show psychology is everywhere? Would you like to contribute and collaborate on creating resources? E-mail me directly at Regan.Gurung@OregonState.edu.
- Students—get active with your chapters.
- Officers—challenge your chapters to spread psychology and let me highlight your work.
- Faculty members—share how you spread psychology.
- Active social media users—share psychological research and help to apply it, use the #PsychEverywhere hashtag.
The better the guidebook, the better the user experience. Over a hundred years of psychological research makes for a great guidebook. Let’s get it in more hands. #PsychEverywhere.
Cacioppo, J. (September, 2007). Psychology is a hub science. Observer, 20(9), 48–49.
Chew, S. L., Halonen, J. S., McCarthy, M. A., Gurung, R. A. R., Beers, M. J., McEntarfer, R., & Landrum, R. E. (2018). Practicing what we teach: Improving teaching and learning in psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 45, 239–245. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0098628318779264
Gernsbacher, M. A., & Pomerantz, J. (Eds.). (2014). Psychology and the real world: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society. New York, NY: Worth.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2009). Fifty great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell.