Jacob Woods

Jacob Woods
Jacob is gay. He eats, breathes, and sleeps lgbt issues. Currently he is a rural psychology student working to educate the simpletons. Enjoy his blog and his other creative meanderings!

Thursday, June 23

Psychology Is Just a Bunch of Common Sense

This phrase and the myriad forms of this phrase is my biggest pet peeve next to people thinking that counseling is the only thing psychologists do. As psychologists can conduct research, teach,  become spokespeople,  and perform evaluations. But nothing compares to when people treat psychology as some sort of foofy profession that pulls research from its ass to make a little money.

Let me elaborate first to how much this phrase pisses me off. After that, I will enter into specific examples from psychology, which are fairly enough, not common knowledge. I will also digress into a rant about the importance of respecting various professions. I will end with saying that common sense doesn't exist in the first place because no psychology research supports such a statement.

When someone says psychology is all common sense, my blood boils like a road rage fanatic at a red light. You would think that someone with road rage would just learn to expect red lights, bad drivers, and crappy driving conditions. Yet, most people manage every single day to find something novel to get pissed off about while driving. They scream, they swear, they make irrational decisions. When someone says psychology is just a bunch of common sense, it happens that it is the same people who are  the ones that  never use psychology to their advantage. If psychology were truly common sense, you would think the simple everyday expectation of bad traffic would reduce the aggravation that comes from daily road rage. Yet, you would think I would come to expect the profession of psychology to be treated like crap. Regardless of the simple expectation, it still manages to piss me off!

The first example of psychology failing to be common sense is with children. Yesterday my brother's friend was over. When dad, my brother, left, my nephew started balling. This is what psychologists call separation anxiety. It is normal at his age of twenty months. My brother's friend said that his kid did the same thing. He said he didn't know why. I answered that it was separation anxiety. It is normal for kids my nephew's age to ball when primary caretakers exit out of the child's view or access. He sort of said, "Oh." If psychology was common sense, every one would know about separation anxiety. So therefore, psychology can not be common sense.

The second example of common sense is with animals. Specifically, dogs. My oldest brother is good with mechanics and is a successful engineer. In many cases he has poked fun at psychology. In some instances these pokes were serious aggravations as to what psychology is. Common sense. Ironically enough, many organizations that use engineers in their work hire psychologist to figure out how the organization should run to make it effective and efficient. (Sometimes there is a lack of people skills which some engineers don't contain.) With dogs, my brother will yell at his dog for jumping on the couch at my grandmother's house. In his own home, he allows his black lab, Ben, to sit on the couch. If psychology was truly common sense, everyone would know about discrimination. Not in the sense of racism, but in the sense that Grandma's couch is different than my oldest brother's couch. Most dogs do not contain the ability to discriminate the difference between couch A and B. Therefore, not allowing the dog to go on any couch is generally the best solution to this issue. Psychology here, is clearly, not common knowledge. Because my oldest brother knows everything.


My last and favorite example of psychology not being common sense is positive reinforcement. It was pounded into our heads that positive reinforcement was the most effective way to shape behavior. Positive reinforcement is when you add a stimulus, hence the positive, and increase the likely hood of the behavior, hence the reinforcement. (Positive = Addition of stimulus. Reinforcement = Increase in the likely hood of the behavior.)  For example, dog sits, dog gets treat for sitting. Positive reinforcement has been used to increase the likelihood that when you tell the dog to sit again, it will obey, in hopes that it will get a treat. Most people then say, what if you don't want the dog to be treat dependent? I try to tell them that the treat is just an example, usually they think they have pulled the wool over my eyes at this point outsmarting me. They don't grasp the concept that perhaps petting the dog is another option. If psychology was common sense, this would not be an issue.

The other things that would not be an issue in today's society if psychology was just common sense would be gambling, equality, road rage, education limitations on minorities, high suicide rate for single white rich men, television and internet addiction, the placebo effect, secrets to happiness and longevity, and etc. Notice this list includes positives and negatives in society.

It is often asked that I respect the professions the armed services, education, and mechanical engineering. Other professions are included in this list as well. I think that I have gained the respect of entering the field of psychology in my educational endeavors. I would ask that I receive  the respect for heading into the difficult and often times ambiguous field of psychology. I don't often speak up for the respect in this field, and since I took the time to write this blog post, I believe I will ask more often that psychology not be looked at as common knowledge simply because common sense does not exist.

We are humans of diverse and intriguing backgrounds. Nothing is one, two, three, in this world. Not even most fields that are considered objective are without ambiguity. If common sense existed, we would have eaten from the tree of knowledge and know everything the universe had to offer. If that were the case, Einstein would have been useless and our lives, meaningless.

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Bruno said...

I have to completely disagree with you. Common sense exists, but that's not psychology.

Common sense is the practical easy logical solution to a problem that's in all of us. Now, what you're wrong of it's to think that common sense has to be the right answer. Most of the time is the wrong answer to a problem, but because it's been culturally accepted that way or it's a genetic predisposition.

A ridiculous example would be the female spiders that eat the male, if the mean of the species is to prevail, that doesn't seem to be a good solution to it, so what's wrong? common sense evolved in the same way.

Most of the examples you give are those type of "common sense", besides common sense is a thing most people have, but not all. All of us have brains, but not all can use it in the same way, in this case is the same

What people mostly say is that a therapy can easily be made by someone just with common sense, there's their mistake, a therapy is a process beyond common sense, it has a structure and procedures that must be learned, sometimes theoretically and others by experience

I think people that diminish psychology doesn't understand it. Engineers have a particular problem (I have had to explain psychology to my father tons of times, he's a brilliant man, but can't understand this) because they work with measurable facts, their minds are concrete and don't see the different layers of the mind

You are right to ask for more respect though and be glad to know that I respect psychology in all it senses

Acepincter said...

Good article, but proofread it again (missing words)

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree a little. As a psychology major, I was able to graduate summa cum laude without studying very much. How? Because you can figure out most psychology related questions and techniques using simple logic and reasoning skills, what I consider to be common sense. But then again, I was one of very few to graduate with such honors, so I have to assume that what seems "common" to me is not as simple to others.

Growing up, we all learn very different definitions of common sense. So since the term "common sense" is relative, I would still argue that general psychology is common sense to some. I don't believe that this conclusion necessarily diminishes the field in any way.

Jacob Woods said...

Thanks for the input everyone! Greatly appreciate it!

M said...

I think you could give some better examples. For instance, for decades it was "common sense" that babies became attached to their mothers because their mothers gave them their food. Harlow's experiments with rhesus monkeys showed that this wasn't true at all.

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