I’m a psychologist. Well, actually, I’m a psychologist in the US, and perhaps in other countries too, but in Sweden I’m not. That kind of psychologist have trademarked that name, so I don’t quite know what I am.
But, I like calling myself a psychologist. That is what I do. I study the psyche, the mind, and not the warped kind (unless I have a need for that), but how people in general tick.
Anyway, long time in a country far far away (Los Angeles to be precise), I did not want to be a psychologist, because I thought there was only That Kind, and a head shrinker I did not want to be. Not that it is anything wrong with that.
I just would not be any good at it. So, I studied Cognitive Science. Which is kind of like psychology, but not that kind. And, finally, I realized that there was this hidden, wonderful universe of not that kind of psychology, that did not try to figure
out why someon is obsessive, or depressed, or can’t hold down a job, or not successful enough, or what have you. But, it took until graduate school, when I was pursuing a joint degree in Cognitive Science and Social Psychology.
I would tell people I studied Psychology, if they asked. Almost unvariable (well, statistically seen of course, I am a scientist after all), the person would say things like “oh, psychology? How great. You should study me. I’m Bipolar. Or that group of troubled
teenagers, or those addicts over there”. Which, well, was not what I studied at all. I usually show people emotional movies and have them do something cognitive (which is short and fun – even when the movies are scary), or let them make decisions about endless series
of faces rapidly presented, which is looooong and terribly boring (and thus I pay them).
I usually didn’t mind terribly much, though, because it made for some nice conversations.
But, i’m far from the only one that have experienced this. So, I was talking to a lab assistant some years back, when I was still smoking and we both stood outside the doors and engaged in our addictive behavior. And, he told me that at a
math psych meeting some years back the members had joked that they needed to make t-shirts that said …not that kind of psychologist.
Now I actually teach not that kind of psychology. I ask them sometimes about names they associate with psychology. Freud comes up, of course, and Jung and Skinner, and a number of other figures from the late 19ths up until just about when I was born in 1959.
If there are any names after that it is people like Dr. Phil.
No Ekman. No Zajonc. No Kahneman & Tversky or Kandel. They might have mentioned Pinker at some time. Of course, I rapidly remedy that one!