5 useful life lessons from my Psychology degree.

I’m about to start my second year of university, so thought it would be fun to look back at a few interesting life-things I’ve learnt from first year.

1. Attraction & sweat.. yummy.

Why you should give your mates a whiff.. There is a certain segment of our DNA called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and it basically detects disease structures; effectively functioning as the immune system’s eyes. A slightly smelly study was conducted, where women were asked to smell the body odour on grubby tee-shirts worn by men. It was found that the women prefer smells of men whose MHC profiles were similar to their own (Wedekind, 1995). So, all you need to do is go around sniffing peoples armpits in order to find your perfect match? sorted.


2. Attributions – ‘no seriously I don’t judge..’

Why we judge people even when we say we don’t. There all sorts of different types of attributions; they are simply guesses as to why something/someone has done what they have done. I think the self-serving bias is a good’n. It’s our natural tenancy to attribute our successes to internal factors (like your dazzling personality, for example), and our failures to external factors (bad luck, or a rainy day). What’s completely savage about this, is that we do the opposite for others.

There’s also a type of attribution called the ‘just world hypothesis’. This is our natural human tendency to believe the world is fair, and that people get what they deserve. This theory gives our wee little minds security and reasons for things. Unfortunately, it also means we blame the victim for things, so we have a (false) sense of security that it won’t happen to us.



5. Gender differences don’t exist!

My fave lecturer from this last year would usually give an example of a researcher that found gender differences in whatever topic we were talking about, and follow by saying ‘ofcourse, that’s complete bullsh*t‘. As it happens, gender is continuous, as are the psychological differences.

A couple of professors did some research (that sounds professional, doesn’t it) and put it like this; “There are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.” Next time you tell someone they scream like a girl, just know that your statement is invalid. 



4. Self-fulfilling prophecies

This is the psychological reason why ‘positive thinking’ kinda works. Example; imagine a group of guys and a group of girls – all straight. Psychologists falsely told a bunch of the men that certain girls in the group liked them (the women were told nothing). They were then observed all together, interacting with one another. The women ended up chatting to the guys who believed that they were liked. This was because – regardless of whether they also liked those certain females – their disposition was possibly more friendly, chatty and open.

Long story short; our actions towards others impact their beliefs about us, which can dictate their actions towards us, which reinforces our beliefs about ourselves. This then influences our actions towards others.. so on and so forth. Get it? no? I would tell you to look up the study, but I’m a bad student and can’t remember whose it was, so just take my word for it.


5. Moral Development

This could explain why some people have messed up morals. A couple of lads (called Piaget and Kohlberg) came up with some stages of moral development. One model was based around peoples reactions to a story about a chap called Heinz (absolutely nothing to do with baked beans). Heinz had to make a decision about his dying wife; steel some drugs to make her better, or let her die. You can read about it here; it explains that we reach different levels of morality as we go through life.. or not as the case may be.

These are just some social and developmental psychology tings, this term I’m going to try and listen to my biological and stats lecturer too! I’ll report back.

EM xx