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What I Learned from Psychology


Submitted By rocksk8tr04
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Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the behavior of individuals and their mental processes (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2010). When you take psychology in college, it is to teach you how to understand how people are different and allow you to be non-judgmental. Being in the Navy, I feel that I developed the ability to be open-minded very early on in my career. This is because the military recruits people from all over the country, from the ghetto to the country club. I deal with all walks of life (race, religion, gender) on a daily basis. What I do not get to see in the Navy is people with mental disabilities and disorders. This course has taught me that approximately half of the populations of the United States have experienced or are experiencing some type of psychiatric disorder (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2010). The average person looks down on someone with any type of disability. They usually label them as deviant when their disorder allows them to commit a crime. What people don’t understand is that some of these people cannot control what they are doing. The only way for them to satisfy an urge is to do what they are thinking about. An example of this would be a serial killer. Serial killers usually have an internal motive for killing repeatedly, whereas a murderer usually commits one crime for a very specific reason. Serial killers need to satisfy some urge, and they do that through killing. However, not all people that have unquenchable urges resort to killing. Even serial killers may stop killing by turning to some other form of “entertainment” as a substitute. A deviant person or someone with a disorder is usually just a normal as you and I. Sometimes, people with disorders have issues socializing because of the stigma attached to whatever disorder or disability that they have (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2010). Take for example people with Asperger’s Syndrome. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct and fatally shot twenty children and six adults ( As the story developed, it was made aware that Lanza had Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism. This statement makes people feel like someone with AS will just randomly start hurting people because they are not normal and it’s happened before. In reality, no research has confirmed that someone with AS is prone to violence. Freedom of choice is something that a person with a disorder may not be able to enjoy. Freedom of choice is an American right and is paramount for our lifestyle. There are many factors that affect freedom of choice, and they can come from the past, present, or future. Some people in the world might not see that they have free will; they might believe that all of their actions are committed because of some predisposition that has already been determined. These people that feel their actions are determined by some outside event would feel as if they have less responsibility for bad behavior because it has already been decided (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2010). In reality, people choose their own actions and they are based on a combination of their past, present, and future. All three time periods apply to some of my actions. For example, I am writing this paper so that I may get a passing grade from this course. I have a bad experience from my past schoolwork that makes me take this course of action. When I was in high school, I was more worried about enjoying my time out of school with my friends than doing homework. When the end of my senior year came around, I was scratched off the graduation list because I had not turned in my senior thesis. Once I realized that I would not be graduating, I worked out a deal with my teacher to turn in my thesis so that I could walk with my classmates. As for the present, I am writing this paper so that I won’t fail this course and have to pay back all the tuition assistance that I used to enroll in this course. The future is ensuring I pass Psychology because I am only two classes away from getting my BSAST and applying for Officer Candidate School. Many factors of someone’s life come into play when they are determining what course of action to take for any event that may arise. Prior to taking Intro to Psychology, I assumed that a person’s behavior was caused by their upbringing or personal beliefs. I believed that as long as a parent raises there child right, that there child would turn out to be a contribution to society. I also knew that sometimes a parent could do everything right throughout their child’s life, but sometimes that child could grow up to have behavioral issues. My brother is a great example of this. Josh is three years my junior, but sometimes he acts as if he is ten years younger. He just can’t figure it out. Every bad thing I didn’t do growing up, he did. No matter what the repercussions were of his actions, he would do what he felt like doing. After taking this class, I know that behavior is caused by many different things. As an infant, your behavior is innate, caused by survival. As you grow older, you begin to learn behaviors from your parents and others around you. Parents have a huge impact on your behaviors later in life. Studies have shown that the more a child is spanked throughout childhood, the more likely they are to show increases in aggressive behavior as they grow older (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2010). Disorders can also have an enormous effect on a person’s behavior. For example, someone who is anorexic will pretend to eat to try to hide the fact that they are starving themselves. It takes a lot of therapy to help cure them. Alcoholics and drug addicts are the same way. They know they have a problem but might not be able to control it, therefore allowing the substance to control their actions. Behavior can be modified for most people, however it becomes harder the older they get because of the imprint that the repetition of a certain behavior leaves on the brain. While behavior can be modified, can you modify what someone believes? As children grow older, they start to learn that not every person can be trusted. Some people may lead them in the direction of danger, or may just be innocently making up lies about stuff they have done in their past. Either way, kids have to develop a sense of skepticism at some point in their childhood. Skepticism is the idea of not necessarily believing what you are told until it is confirmed in some way. Some research has recently been conducted by Professor Vikram Jaswal at the University of Virginia that shows children develop skepticism at different ages. “In some recent research, my students and I showed that 3-year-olds are much more likely to trust what they are told than the same information conveyed to them through another means. Some kids heard an adult claim that a sticker was in one cup when it was actually in another; other kids saw the adult place an arrow on the empty cup. On the very first trial, all children in both situations looked in the cup indicated by the adult. This probably reflects a generic (and appropriate) expectation that adults are normally helpful in these situations. In later trials, children who saw the adult use an arrow to mark the empty cup quickly switched to searching in the opposite one. But those who heard her claim it was in the empty cup continued to look there.” ( Skepticism is important to a person because you cannot believe everything that you hear. Many beliefs contradict one another and the brain will not allow you to believe both. Even if you think you can believe two ideas covering the same item, your brain will constantly switch back and forth trying to figure out which one to believe. Let’s return to our example earlier of Adam Lanza in Newtown, Ct. A video was published to YouTube shortly after the massacre that was effectively a conspiracy theory video. It had some very valid points and contradicted everything the mass media was telling us about the horrific event. After watching that video, you have to decide whether to believe the conspiracy theory of the video, or the mass media that is using the event to push its political agenda on gun control. The issue with mass media is that it is basically run by the government, and there are definitely some things the government does not want you to know. This semester was an interesting one to say the least. I definitely do not like writing papers, but learning about what makes a person tick is something that could catch my attention. There are many things I get interested in, however I cannot see myself as a psychologist. This might be because of the amount of school that I would have to attend, especially because I have really no desire to continue schooling to attain my master’s degree. When I first registered for psychology, I thought the course would only apply to the brain and how it works. I had no idea that the world of psychology encompassed so many different fields and subjects.

Gerrig, R. & Zimbardo, P. (2010) Psychology and Life. Boston, Ma: Pearson Education, Inc.

Wikipedia. Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.

Professor Vikram Jaswal. When Do Children Develop Skepticism?.

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