Should I study Psychology? Here are the Top 6 traits of Psychology students

Students are attracted to psychology as it aids them to acquire professional skills to understand the complex nature of human behaviour. Awareness of one’s attitude, values and personality is empowering as this will serve as a foundation to developing sense of ‘self’. Curiosity to decode causes of perplexing behaviour can trigger our innate need to meaning. Having identified any of these human tendencies can help us predict responses of people in certain situations. This would also prompt us to take some precautionary measures to avoid harming ourselves and/or others. Psychology gives us a sense of liberty to decide our own behaviour.

There are multitude of Colleges and Universities that offer psychology at the diploma, degree and postgraduate levels. In deciding education provider, students must check the curriculum and facilities of the school, professional accreditation and the stability of the institution. However, the trickiest question I have encountered in my long years of service in the academy is not about the institution, rather on the academic success of psychology students. Many times students have asked me about the profile of students who are “destined” to succeed in the study of psychology.

There are available career or aptitude tests in the market that can assess student’s competency on specific fields of study. However, these tests will never be 100% accurate. As with any field of studies, students seeking a degree in psychology should possess certain innate qualities that help them excel within the field. Here are 6 basic personality traits that a psychology student should possess or aim to develop.

1. Tolerance

This trait is closely related to the values regarding diversity. Acceptance of others with respect despite cultural differences is the most humane attribute of a psychology student. Tolerance is often mistaken as passive acceptance. This is rather a false belief as acknowledging others normally requires conscious and active effort to be in commune with others without passing judgment or criticising.

2. Patience

This is an outward display of inner self-control. One aspect of self-control is management of emotions. Control of emotions does not mean denial.It should be the directing and managing emotional experience in a way that it will not result in a negative outcome. In directing emotions, one must answer these questions – (A) am I going to hurt other people when I express the emotions? (B) Am I hurting myself? If the answer to these questions is ‘No’, it is likely that in this instance, the expression of emotion is healthy and productive.

3. Ethics

This involves professional rules developed from one’s basic morals. Ethical practice for psychology is far more than merely knowing and following a professional code of conduct. In dealing with ethical dilemmas, students will rarely find clear-cut answers. Most of the problems are complex. Making decisions ethically involves a tolerance for dealing with grey areas and for coping with ambiguity.

4. Critical Thinking

Students studying psychology must not be contented and just accept presented information. They should challenge common knowledge with the use of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking involves searching of some rule, plan or strategy to reach a certain goal that is currently out of reach. Students can increase the chances of solving a problem by learning to change their mindset, i.e., looking at the problem from many different viewpoints, perspective and even unusual angles.

5. Compassion

Empathy is a gateway to compassion, which includes sensing what other people are feeling, being able to take their perspective and cultivating rapport and attunement with a broad diversity of people. Emphatic understanding and listening skills are intimately intertwined. Here are some of the questions that you can use to test the level of your empathy – Are you interested in others? Can you be emphatic with their concerns? Can you pick up small signs of the many emotions others may have? Do you have an understanding of people different from yourself and can you see from their perspective?

6. Organisational Skills

The ability to schedule and use time efficiently during and between classroom discussions (or coursework) is vital to success in studying psychology. A personal recommendation is to form subgoals. Divide the assignment or general problem into a number of small achievable sub-goals leading to your main goal. This can be a useful strategy for any academic exercises including revisions, writing papers or preparing for exams.

I hope this would help you assess your own self and eventually assist you in deciding to study psychology. There is no need for concern if you are keen to do psychology but do not possess any of these attributes yet. Tolerance, patience, ethics, critical thinking, compassion and organisational skills are something that are not automatic to most of us. However, they can be learned and developed as you step-up and make a decision to study psychology.


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