Totally Psyched

MICHELLE GORE / AGGIE

UC Davis psychology students, faculty provide insights on major

Psychology is consistently at the top of the list of UC Davis’s most popular majors. For the 2016-17 school year, 8 percent of all undergraduate students at UC Davis declared a major in psychology. But what exactly is the study of psychology, and what makes it such an attractive major?

UC Davis offers two tracks for the psychology major, a B.A. or a B.S. If the latter is chosen, students have the option of narrowing down their studies with a biology emphasis or a quantitative emphasis. Kristen Diaz, a third-year psychology B.A. major, described psychology as a multifaceted field of study that encompasses many areas of specialization. She added that, contrary to popular belief, psychology is, a science.

I think the best way to describe the study of psychology is to do so broadly, because there are various branches of psychology, including but not limited to: social psychology, personality psychology, developmental psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, cognitive psychology and clinical psychology,” Diaz said. “A general definition that would cover all areas of the science is that psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior. And yes, psychology is considered a science.”

Daniella Lara, a first-year undeclared major who plans on pursuing a B.S. in psychology with an emphasis in biology, notes that psychology is often misconstrued for its divergence away from conventional fields of science, but she says that in no way undermines the curriculum.

“There are many misconceptions about the curriculum because it strays away from traditional science courses such as biology and chemistry,” Lara said. “However, psychology is just as important because it answers more conceptual questions about why people behave [the] way they do.”

According to Diaz, psychology is not only fascinating, but it’s also highly applicable and can provide analytical insight into everyday activities.

“By studying psychology, you learn about and understand how people think, why they do what they do, and how you can use that information to influence your own and other people’s behavior,” Diaz said.

The major’s versatility makes it desirable for individuals with all different career trajectories. Those who obtain degrees in psychology can branch off into numerous career paths. Diaz plans to obtain her master’s degree before ultimately seeking a career in human resources.

“I want to pursue a career in human resources because it’s the perfect blend of psychology and business,” Diaz said. “After I graduate from UC Davis, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in organizational behavior or organizational development before I try to find a job to make myself a competitive candidate.”

Gabrielle Montiel, a second-year psychology B.A. major, wishes to attend graduate school to further immerse herself in the field of psychology post-undergrad.

“I would love to go to graduate school and get a master’s in a specific field of psychology […] and eventually I would love to do something in the [field] of mental health,” Montiel said.

Montiel encourages all students to take at least one introductory psychology course throughout their collegiate career because she says that the curriculum’s universal applicability makes it valuable to all individuals, even those who are not psychology majors.

“I believe that every student would benefit from taking an intro to psychology class because it is extremely relevant to everyday life and circumstances,” Montiel said. “It is [also] very interesting.”

Dr. Joshua Herrington, a professor of psychology, shared his own experience with the major and explained what initially intrigued him into entering the vast realm of psychology.

“I decided to major in psych because I volunteered as a research assistant as an undergraduate,” Herrington said. “At the time I was a biochemistry major, and I was just taking a couple of psych classes just out of interest. I got really interested in the research, and from there I just kind of followed what really made me happy, which was being in a lab […] and studying the biological basis of behavior.”

Herrington believes that psychology is increasing in popularity as a major because of its ability to relate to individuals on a more personal level.

“I think a lot of what draws students here to the psychology department is just an inherent fascination with the subject, based on the fact that we are all people, and we all have human experiences,” Herrington said. “A lot of people come into the major thinking ‘I want to learn more about myself,’ so anecdotally, I would assume that a lot of people choose psychology because they have a personal connection to it.”

 

Written by: Emily Nguyen — features@theaggie.org