They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I don’t think of myself as an “old dog” but my view of my own and other people’s daily behaviors has been pretty immutable for the past 18 years. This all changed a few months ago when I signed up for an “Introduction to Psychology” course and I was equipped with the information and the tools to change my perspective on life. I was given the opportunity to really take stock of how my mind worked and instead of operating on autopilot I am able to understand how I react to different stimuli throughout the day whether it be mental or physical.
I was given the ability to be mindful of my thoughts and behaviors throughout my daily life and it was truly shocking to watch how Introductory Psychology has changed me. Many times, in life we do things without even realizing it. For instance, being an “intuitive psychologist”, reacting to a stimulus, or having biases all happen without us consciously playing much of a role. After learning about causality versus correlation (causality is how one variable influences/effects another variable, correlation is how two factors are related and the strength of that relationship, but it doesn’t determine what causes what) I was able to accurately assess a situation that I was faced with on a nightly basis, wasting time. I became aware of this problem when thanks to my textbook I really examined my day and saw how my time was being spent. I came to the realization that the more my phone is around while I am doing work, the less work I will get done. When dealing with the results of my experiment I was able to determine causality as opposed to correlation.
This has changed me because now when I hear about or conduct an experiment I am able to truly understand it for what it really is. I am also way more productive at night. When I realized how harmful my phone could be to my workload, my phone was no longer out when I had to do work. This was thanks to being accurately able to assess my time and understand what is caused by what. It is really amazing how much changes when you begin to attempt to understand the mind. I now understand much more about how biases develop and how unaware I was before of my own prejudices.
Instead of just having prejudices which can strongly affect many of my daily encounters with different types of people, I now understand how prejudices develop. That enables me to work on myself and try to understand that my in-groups and outgroups (in-groups being a social group which I identify as being a part of versus a group with which I don’t identify) determine how I feel towards certain types of people. I understand people’s actions much better now as well.
For example, I saw someone burn their hand while cooking and I noticed that their hand instantly pulled back as they reacted to the stimulus of the hot fire. Before this course I would have continued on with my day, not giving a second thought to the complex nervous system function I had just witnessed. However, now as I saw my brother yank back his hand, I was able to visual the nervous system communicating with each other and running that message to and from the Medulla now equipped with the response to move his hand away.
Now after understanding the complex “script”, I continued on with my day with a much greater appreciation for the amazing things our bodies can do as well as thanking my parents for enabling me to take this course.As I go through my day there are countless people who help me out, the security guard protecting my school, the 10th grader holding the door open for me, my teacher answering my question after class, or the maintenance crew who keeps my school clean. I used to not be so careful about thanking everyone and showing them the proper level of gratitude that they really deserve. This course really showed me the incredible importance of showing gratitude, not just feeling grateful but actually expressing that to the one helping you. As I watched the smile on my brother’s face as I read him my letter of gratitude I realized that I have the ability to make someone feel like that every single day.
It was this that motivated me to write an additional letter of gratitude to my older sister as well. With each sentence that I read to my siblings I felt the bonds of our relationship becoming even stronger and now my relationship with my siblings is on a whole new level. It is truly amazing what a simple act of expressing gratitude can change in someone. Now aware of this, I walk back past the same people who helped me before, now equipped with many “thank-yous” to leave a trail of smiling, good feeling, and happy people behind me as I walk on with a bigger smile than all of them.
I smell my mom’s dinner as I hear the sound of the music playing in the kitchen accompanied with the sight of my niece in her carriage as I walk into my house from school. To say that I used to take this incredibly common occurrence for granted is quite the understatement. This was a moment in which at least 3 of my senses were being used; sight, hearing, and smell.
All without me needing to do anything. It used to be so easy to take this for granted and it really wasn’t until I was forced to really examine my senses and how each one of them are really so crucial to every single second of my day. Now, thanks to Introductory Psychology I understand way more about these amazing senses that I am privileged to have. How even losing the ability to feel pain would be so detrimental to my life. Instead of living a painless life, I would be forced to live a painfully careful life of making sure that I wasn’t injured. When I hear that music playing, I realize that I have the ability to hear the sound by detecting vibrations which is something many people don’t have and I need to appreciate it. When I walk into my kitchen I take a second and appreciate with much better understanding how truly complicated our senses are and how lucky I am to possess all of them. After leaving the kitchen with my senses and my appreciation for them, I take a seat at the desk in my room and crack open my US History notebook to study for my upcoming test.
Thanks to Introductory Psychology the way I study is very different than it used to be. I used to sit down to study while doing another assignment and responding to texts on my phone all the night before the exam. However, I now take a much better approach to studying and memorizing in general. I start a few nights before the exam because distributing is a much better way to study than cramming. Then in regards to the actual information, I really like to use chunking as well as imagery, because I found that both really help me to remember the information long term as opposed to just for the test. As I sit down to take my test, the different images that I assigned information to come popping into my mind making it so much easier to remember the information. I also take a second and think back to how much harder this was before I learned the proper way to remember things and study for tests from my Introductory Psychology course. There is also an added benefit, after learning how bad it is to focus on other things while studying I am able to get my studying done much more quickly with everything besides my notebook in a different room.
This really has changed me as well as many of my friends who I shared these ideas with. The ideas that I have found to change me so much. When I get my grade back from that US History test, I look at it with a sense of accomplishment. I am thankful for the motivation that I have to do well in school because it really pushes me to do my best on my assignments. The same motivation that I was able to understand on a whole new level thanks to my Introductory Psychology course.
I try to maintain intrinsic motivation as the dominant motivator since I think it will be the most helpful in the long run. I take that satisfactory feeling from receiving my grade and make sure to remember it the next night when I am feeling unmotivated. Thanks to reading about the self-determination theory I really understand the benefits of intrinsic motivation and how it can really help me for the rest of my life. While I am celebrating my grade, a classmate of mine walks up to me and shows me his grade which is higher than mine. My defense mechanisms start generating the different ways I can respond, and as I rationalize to myself that he got a better grade because he had more time to study than I did, I acknowledge the 5 different defense mechanisms I could have used to respond in that situation. The 5-different ways that I didn’t even know existed prior to taking Introductory Psychology.
Regardless of whether I am an “old” or “new” dog, I can definitely be taught new tricks. I take a look back through my days and I see countless ways I was changed by taking this course. I do my best to no longer operate on autopilot and actually, think about and understand the different things that the people in my life and I do on a daily basis.
Understanding how our bodies are so quick to react and why I feel a certain way to specific types of people has really been eye-opening for me. This has helped me incorporate into my day a moment to stop and just say thank you to Hashem for my amazing complex body and the way it works. I have really seen how showing gratitude can be life-changing and it certainly has been for me. The smile I get from my school’s security guard as I walk past and thank him has become one my favorite parts of the day. As I thank Hashem I also think about my senses which I’ve been able to learn about and see how truly amazing they are.
My eyesight which is so powerful and enables me to learn and study using the methods which I learned in this course. They really help me get that good grade I use keep motivating myself. The motivation that I now understand so much better and can use to stay motivated. Even when I am faced with adversity I can keep going, especially with the greater understanding I now have for my defense mechanisms. They allow me to respond to myself and not let anything get me down. As I share the information I learn from this course with my family and friends they agree that Introductory Psychology has really changed me and I can say pretty confidently it has been for the better.