As psychologists, we get excited about Psychology Month! A month to celebrate and share information about the discipline we are passionate about. In this blog post, we will share a little about what a psychologist is, where they can work, and some “fun facts” from psychology research.
What is a psychologist?
A psychologist is someone who studies how people think, feel and behave and then uses this information to help people understand themselves and make changes that improve the quality of their lives. Almost all psychologists come from what we call a “scientist-practitioner” model of learning, which means we start with foundational knowledge and practice in science (i.e., taking graduate stats and research classes, then later conducting research with participants) and then use that science to help people (i.e., therapy). Some psychologists spend most of their time on the science part (researchers) and some on the practice part (clinicians), while others do both! Regardless of the work that we do, all psychologists value both concepts and work to apply them. Basically, it means we believe research must be done in order to know how to help people AND how we help people must be influenced by the research.
Where do psychologists work?
Psychologists can work in a variety of places. Since we study how people think, feel and behave, we often find work anywhere that understanding people is important…hmmm, but couldn’t that be in most places? The answer is yes! Psychologists are becoming increasingly employed in a variety of areas as we learn more and more ways to help people, including:
- Universities (research and teaching)
- Schools (learning, emotional and behavioural support for students)
- Police Services (understanding criminal behaviour and reducing risks)
- Businesses (hiring, employee health and wellness, marketing)
- Hospitals (clinical practice, pain management, mental illness)
- Government (developing policy and making recommendations for community health)
- Private Clinics (clinical practice like therapy and assessment for children, youth and adults)
If you are still interested in knowing more about what psychologists do, we suggest looking at this list from Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). The CPA website has a wealth of information about the discipline of psychology, including numerous “Psychology Works Fact Sheets” on different issues that psychologists can help with…everything that impacts human wellness…such as palliative care, cannabis use, grief, sexuality, COVID-19, anxiety, pain management, learning disabilities….the list goes on. There are written fact sheets and video fact sheets available!
While we highly encourage you to check out the above fact sheets, it’s also fun just to learn some quick and interesting information that has come from the science of psychology, such as:
- About 15-20% of us procrastinate to an extent it affects our health, and this number can be higher in college and university students. Contrary to popular belief, difficulties with procrastination are not because of skill or motivation. Procrastination is actually related to emotion regulation. We only procrastinate on things we dislike and involve unpleasant emotions.
- Told yourself you would just quickly check TikTok, and 30 minutes later you are still scrolling? You are not alone! Part of that has to do with the infinite scroll: when you stay on a site without actually interacting and clicking, your brain doesn’t get that “stop” cue.
- Oxytocin is called the “love hormone” and is naturally produced by the brain. Researchers found that when they sprayed oxytocin up someone’s nose, they tended to become more trusting, generous, cooperative and giving. Don’t have oxytocin to spray in your nose? Lol Don’t worry, you can get the same effect naturally…try some of these ideas with someone you are close to: a 20-second hug, a 6-second kiss, cuddling, singing, or exercise!
- The Average attention span is 20 minutes, which is a decrease of 12 minutes over the last 10 years. What do you think accounts for the decrease?
- Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that gives us motivation, drive and happiness too! Scientists have found that practicing gratitude can have a powerful impact on your life by causing your brain to produce more dopamine! Try this gratitude practice experiment: Name 3 specific things you are thankful for each day for 3 weeks and notice if you have an overall boost in happiness. Researchers from Harvard would predict the answer is yes!
- Early brain growth: During the first month of life, the number of connections in the brain increases from 50 trillion to 1 quadrillion. This means that if a baby’s body grew at the same rate, its weight would increase from 8.5 pounds at birth to 170 pounds at one-month-old!
- If we have a plan B, our plan A is less likely to work. Thinking ahead is a good idea, but you might be more successful if you keep those plans vague.
- Being in love seems to be biochemically similar to having obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies have shown that your brain has a lower level of 5-HT transporters when you are in love. People who are unmedicated for OCD have a similarly low level of this transporter, indicating that your brain may treat love and obsessions very similarly.
- Our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers (roughly 12-22 years old) more tightly than anything we will hear as adults – a connection that doesn’t weaken as we age. This might explain why Candace cannot get No Doubt lyrics out of her brain!
- Our short-term memory can only hold on to so much information at once. This is why we often use chunking to remember long numbers, including telephone numbers. For instance, if you try memorizing this number: 3065537246, you probably naturally thought to change it to something like: 306 – 553 – 7246.
- Brain freeze: The technical term for this is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. This pain occurs when cold hits receptors in the brain’s outer covering, called the meninges. The cold creates dilation and contraction of arteries, causing a rapid onset headache.
We hope we were able to highlight the importance of psychology in helping individuals and communities. We are proud to be psychologists and eager to continue practicing psychology in ways that help our clients. Please reach out if you think we can help you!
Candace Tonner, M.A., Registered Psychologist (Provisional), Melissa Derow, M.Sc. Registered Psychologist, & Danielle Rozon, M.Ed., Registered Psychologist