Why study psychology?

If you are interested in how the external world is internalised you want to study psychology.

Like sociologists, historians, political scientists we are interest in small groups (like families) and large groups (like communities), but specifically on how such groups impact on the human psyche.

Questions that we may ask:

  • Are mothers and fathers really to blame for everything?

  • How does community violence impact on individuals?

We are interested in biography (individual stories) and how individual stories are always embedded in larger political, cultural and economic processes. How do these processes shape individuals?

Questions that we may ask:

  • What was and is the psychological impact of apartheid?

  • How do poor people survive psychologically?

  • What are the emotional consequences of being constantly hungry as a child?

If you are interested in how the internal world is externalised, you will also be interested in psychology.

Like philosophers we are interested in how and what people think, but we are also interested in human feelings and specifically in how thinking and feeling (conscious and unconscious) shape human behaviour and the world.
Questions that we may ask:

  • How does a man become violent?

  • Why do some mothers kill their children?

  • What make people fall in love with specific people?

  • What is at the root of two-year old tantrums and teenage turbulence?

Like our colleagues in the language and art departments we are fascinated by how people express their feelings and thoughts in stories, music and art. We are interested in the role such creative processes play in people’s urge to make sense of the world and their lives.

Questions that we may ask:

  • Do you have to be a narcissist to be an artist?

  • Is acting simply a histrionic defense?

  • Is all great art about human pain?

If you are interested in having an impact on the lives of people or caring for people by paying attention (listening, watching) and trying to understand the internal and external worlds of people and how these world interact , you will be interested in psychology.

Like medical practitioners and social workers we are concerned with the pain of human beings, human groups, human communities -t he dread and hope they live with. We grapple with how to address this pain in effective ways.

Questions that we may ask:

  • Is it true that it is the therapeutic relationship rather than therapeutic techniques that really heals people?

  • What kind of community interactions are effective?

  • How can good psychological theory become policy?

Psychology is so popular, because as a discipline it is somewhere on the murky cusp of the social sciences, the languages and arts, the natural sciences – and is linked with all the disciplines in our university.

To quote American poet Tony Hoagland:

The world is Gorgon
It presents its thousand ugly heads
It displays its writhing serpent hair
Death to look at it directly for too long


Your job is not to conquer it;
not to simply provide analysis;
not to make a wry remark

Your job is to be kind
Your job is to watch and take notes

Your job is to not be turned into a stone.