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How does psychology help you every day?
10-Oct-2016

Psychology is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the study of the human mind and behavior. This may be the most clichéd way to begin the discussion on any topic but it certainly drives home a point. Psychology is nothing extra-ordinary. It pertains to all human beings.

People have a very strange notion of psychology. It would seem to them that psychology is only useful when something is wrong. It is certainly true that psychology and counselling are indeed very useful for anyone with any sort of illness or trauma and one should never hesitate to seek help. But that isn’t where the uses of psychology end.

While it could be argued that psychology can come to a person’s aid in an extreme situation, it can also be a very everyday thing.

So how does psychology help you in your everyday, mundane, routine life? Well, as the definition suggests, it studies the human mind and behavior. These are things that we come across and have to deal with, every single day! We aren’t islands, humans and human behavior is all around us and while we might not have to sit and observe it like the psychologists, it always helps to know a bit more about it to deal with it better.

Let’s take an interesting example to illustrate the many merits of psychology. Have you ever heard of the fundamental attribution error? It is also called correspondence bias sometimes? No? Let’s see psychology at work then.

You are on your usual commute to work when you notice someone you know and smile at them. This person, let’s call him Raj, doesn’t smile back but continues on his way. What do you think? Raj is just a rude fellow who doesn’t seem to bother himself with niceties. You see your work colleague enter late for the second day in a row. “She’s just a tardy person who thinks my time is expendable” you tend to think.

It’s another day and you are running very late. Your kids weren’t ready in time, the milkman gave your house a miss so you had to go and buy milk, your in-laws called at the last minute to discuss something, your spouse is sick. Raj tries to catch your attention on the train station but you avoid him so you can catch the last train to your place of work. You sit frazzled and annoyed throughout your entire commute. Even after all this. You arrive half an hour late and your colleagues give you a certain look. But, why don’t they understand what a bad day it has been for you? You aren’t rude or irritable or late usually. It’s just one of those days! It could not be helped.

But maybe the same was true for Raj or your colleague the other day? Maybe someone on the train thought you were a grumpy and rude person on your way to work the day you were late. Why does this happen?

This is the fundamental attribution error. The tendency to assume that the faults in other people are attributed to their character or personality whereas your own faults are due to the unique situation you are in. We often cut ourselves too much slack and judge others too harshly for the same sort of behavior.

But when we understand that this kind of error can happen, what do we do? We can be more accommodating at work and in our personal lives. We don’t need to take on more work, just understanding other people’s problems helps. And that is where understanding psychology helps to solve everyday problems!

Psychology to the rescue!

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