Jon: 3 Tips to Benefiting from Your Internship

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As the holidays approach for the universities and most of you will be embarking on internships during this period, SG Psych Stuff have decided to do some posts on this topic of internships.  This one would be looking at how best to approach your internships so as to benefit from your time with a particular organization.  Increasingly, with internships becoming the norm in one's tertiary education and everyone doing them, these will result in the reduction of the value of internships as part of your CV and the credibility and soundness of your internships may soon begin to be scrutinized by employers.  Without further ado, here are three simple tips to maximise your experience and improve your learning outcomes from your internships:

1. Choosing a suitable organization
To ensure that you gain the most out of an internship, it is essential to choose an organization that aligns with your goals.  While conventional wisdom points to internships as being experimental periods where you explore what you wish to do in the future, that isn’t the case for undergraduate internships.
As a psychology undergraduate, you should have a basic understanding of the various fields in psychology and an inkling of the area which you may want to eventually work in.  With this knowledge, you can actually leverage on your internship to help you get a foot into the respective sectors or psychological specialisations. To start off, you have to research more about the field to better understand the various organizations within it and also the various sectors in each field.  For example, if you wish to venture into clinical psychology, you may need to consider what aspect of clinical psychology suits or interests you most.  This will then lead to a list of the most suitable organisations that fits your needs  (e.g., if you’re into child psychology, KK Hospital or the Child Guidance Clinic at IMH may be better matches over an internship at the Singapore Police Force).

2. Being prepared
Now that you’ve decided where to go, it is important to start learning more about the organization.  Learn about the people within it and the work the organization does.  Specifically, check out the departments that you may end up working in and look up individuals you may be working for while on your internship.  Read up on their current and past projects to gain a better understanding of their work, which will allow you to then do more independent research and evaluation to come up with ideas on how you can add value to their work.  In addition to learning more about the field, this also will give you an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge you have gained from school in real world situations and also show your supervisors that you are keen on a career in the sector.

3. Forging networks
Last but certainly not least and perhaps the most underlooked aspect is that undergraduates do not consider are the numerous networking opportunities available during internships.  If you have completed the two tips above, you should be in an excellent position to start building your connections with individuals in the field.
Additionally, while maintaining good relationships with your fellow interns is essential, you should also consider becoming on good terms with your supervisors and other professionals working in the field.  While this can be intimidating at times, it really boils down to how prepared you are, because this will allow you to communicate with them on a more equal level.  By being updated on the pressing issues in the field, discussions on how to solve them can be done, and this will allow you to forge professional relationships with such individuals.

We wish all of you the very best in your internships and do comment below on how these tips may have benefited you! 

Xav: Applications of Positive Psychology

This is Part 2 of our March Theme of Positive Psychology.  Make sure you read the first post as well: An Introduction to Positive Psychology

As mentioned briefly in the previous post, positive psychology has been applied to other specialised psychological fields such as clinical psychology and educational psychology.  In this post, we explore how positive psychology theories and interventions have been adopted in some fields.
1.  Clinical Interventions
Clinical psychology traditionally looks on the abnormal aspects of human personality and behaviour, focusing on alleviation of these behaviours that deviate from societal norms.  However, the integration of positive psychology into clinical psychology shifts the focus beyond negative functioning onto both negative aspects and human positive flourishing.  According to Wood and Tarrier (2010), choosing to focus on positive aspects of behaviour, emotions and thoughts can improve the prediction of disorders and act as a cushion for traumatising life experiences.  Wood and Tarrier recommended that positive functioning should be integrated into clinical psychology to make it a more holistic field in treating disorders.  Their findings have been supported by earlier and recent research that found that happiness interventions lead to sustained levels of happiness and lowered depression (Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson, 2005; Germer and Neff, 2013).

2. Educational Psychology
With increased stress and competitiveness in the global world, some educational psychologists acknowledge the need to teach students happiness skills (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivish, and Linkins, 2009).  According to Seligman and colleagues, these happiness skills increase “resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning” to school children.  In Waters’ (2012) research, she reviewed 12 positive psychology interventions in schools.  Her study reflected significant relationships between these interventions and student wellbeing, interpersonal relationships and academic results.  Optimism is also more common amongst better performing students in schools (Pajares, 2010) and associated with better coping (Reschly, Huebner, Appleton, and Antaramian, 2008).
3. Workplace Wellbeing
Industrial and organisational psychologists are concerned with improving an organisation’s success through members’ job satisfaction, motivation and health. Researchers have dwelled on this and studied the use of positive psychology in the workplace. Based on Turner, Barling and Zacharatos (2002), using positive psychology in work practices can make work enjoyable for employees and cultivate greater resilience and optimism in them. Positive psychology strategies have also been adapted into I/O theories to boost productivity and motivation in the workplace (Martin, 2005).

4. Wellbeing and ageing
With ageing population growing across the world, researchers are increasingly interested in studying how to improve the wellbeing of the elderly.  Ramirez, Ortega, Chamorro and Colmenero’s (2013) programme found that using interventions that seek to strengthen support for happiness help to increase welfare and quality of life amongst the older adults.  Using mindfulness, it has been found that there is a reduction in negative affects amongst participants over the age of 55 (Banos, Etchemendy, Castilla, García-Palacios, Quero, and Botella, 2012).  Longitudinal studies found that optimism and positive emotions play a role in decreased frailty and depressive symptoms amongst the elderly (Giltay, Zitman and Kromhout, 2006).
With positive psychology’s increasing application on to other fields, it may very well pave the way for how future research is conducted.  While more research has to be done to further support the strengths of using positive interventions, one can be hopeful and anticipate more contributions from the field of positive psychology.

Xav: An Introduction to Positive Psychology

Compared to more established specialisations such as clinical psychology, positive psychology is a relatively newer field that emerged in the late 1990s.  Positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, revolving around how we can be happier and more productive (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).  With the past decades of psychological studies placing more emphasis on the more negative aspects of humanity (e.g. bias, abnormality, etc.), positive psychology offers a refreshing take on psychology, choosing to focus on well-being, without overlooking inevitable aspects of human functioning such as negative emotions.

TED Video: "The new era of positive psychology" featuring Martin Seligman

Positive psychology began as a new domain in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the then-president of American Psychological Association (APA) decided to focus on well-being and happiness as the theme of his presidency.  At that point, humanistic psychology was already established, and positive psychology served to build on the foundation of humanistic psychology.

How do humanistic psychology and positive psychology differ? (Waterman, 2013; Friedman, 2008)

Humanistic Psychology
Positive Psychology
-  Concerned with understanding human needs and meaning of life
-  Focus on fulfilling human potential
-  Concerned with merging humanistic theories with research
-  Focus on understanding factors that lead to success despite adversities
Preference for qualitative approaches
Preference for quantitative approaches

Humanistic psychology has been largely criticised for its lack of empiricism (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), offering a rose-tinted view of how every individual has free-will to pursue a better life (McMullen, 1982) and an overly optimistic yet vague view of the mind (Rowan, 2001, Ordinary Ecstasy: The Dialectics of Humanistic Psychology [Book]).

Thus, we have the birth of positive psychology.

Positive psychology adopts a more holistic approach to research  -  covering different aspects of life such as biology and relationships (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).  The main research focus are on positive emotions, positive human traits and positive institutions- all to which interact to create a wholesome life for an individual (Seligman, 2007).

Main theories in positive psychology

Theory 1.  The 3 Paths of Happiness (Seligman, 2002, Authentic Happiness [Book])
  • Pleasant life  -  How people optimally experience life through feelings and emotions.
  • Good life  -  Interactions between a person’s strengths and task he/she is engaged in.
  • Meaningful life  -  How individuals obtain meaning and positive self-conception through being part of a community.
Theory 2.  PERMA Theory (Seligman, 2011, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing [Book])
The 5 building blocks of well-being and happiness, as mentioned included:
  • Positive Emotions  -  Emotions such as excitement, jubilance are linked to happier outcomes.
    • For example, children with executive functioning difficulties who have more optimistic caretakers see more developed functioning (Ylvisaker and Feeney, 2002).
  • Engagement  -  Participation in activities that are challenging yet doable, allows us personal growth.
  • Relationships  -  Relationships strengthen our well-being and ensure healthy functioning of our brain.
    • In an interview with Dr. Mitch Printein (2015), there is more activity in our brain’s pain centres when we are at a risk of isolation. Undoubtedly, relationships are essential to humans as social creatures.
  • Meaning  -  Having a meaningful purpose in life allows us to enjoy our daily activities and increases our satisfaction levels.
  • Accomplishments  -  Setting realistic goals and having ambition allow us to obtain a sense of satisfaction when we achieve them. 
Theory 3.  Character Strengths and Virtues (Seligman and Peterson, 2004)
There are 6 virtues and 24 strengths as follows:
  • Wisdom: Creativity, curiosity, judgment, love-of-learning, perspective 
  • Courage: Bravery, honesty, perseverance, zest
  • Humanity: kindness, love, social intelligence
  • Justice: Fairness, leadership, teamwork
  • Temperance: Forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
  • Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality 
If you are interested in taking this, do click

Criticisms and Implementations
But of course, like every other field, positive psychology is not without its limitations, especially since it is still a young field with more research that can be done.  Positive psychology is criticised for its one-size-fits-all approach towards happiness (Held, 2004).  Additionally, it does not explain major historical events such as genocides and wars (Schneider, 2011).
Despite that, positive psychology has successfully complemented other psychological fields.  For example, treatment methods implementing positive psychology have been found to significantly alleviate depressive symptoms and improve well-being (Sin, 2009).  Positive psychology could also be adopted in educational curriculums to improve well-being amongst students and develop their purpose in life (Pluskota, 2014).

In conclusion:  
A young field, positive psychology has many more years of research to develop and presents itself as a promising addition to the field that traditionally revolves around human flaws and the lack of free-will.
Stay tuned to the next post on Positive Psychology!!
In the meantime, also look at our previous post which also discussed positive psychology:  SGPsychStud: Current Trends in Psychology

SGPsychStud: Psychology of having SteamBoat

This is the second Chinese New Year post! If you have yet to read Psychology Behind The Red Packets, read it now!

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Today's topic is about the Steamboat (or also know as Hotpot or 火锅 in Singapore)!!  It is a dish very commonly found and available all year round, so...
Why are we still having it for Chinese New Year reunion dinner?

Some families may choose to have a banquet dinner, but majority would still go for the all-favourite steamboat!

It seems to have a logical reason after exploring several sources.  Going back to Chinese customs and traditions, two words explains it all.  They are 围炉 (read as wei-lu; meaning "gathering around the family and hearth" as defined by National Library Board) and 团圆 (read as tuan-yuan; meaning of "reunion" and "getting together as a whole").

According to this Taiwanese Yahoo forum, it is common to have a hot stove to warm up the family during the reunion dinner (which is 围炉) during the Chinese New Year winter in China.  This has evolved to the steamboat in modern day.  With a burning fire for steamboat, it represents a prosperous family.  With the steamboat dinner, it allows the whole family to come together and reunion (which is 团圆) for this special dinner.

Why do we need to have this special reunion dinner? (From a psychological viewpoint)

Mark Banschick (in a Psychology Today post) states the benefits of having a dinner together:
  • Setting a fixed routine
  • Catching up and bonding with family
  • Reducing stress
  • Food as a connection between people
This behaviour of sitting together for a family meal could be explained using the relational models theory (Fiske & Haslam, 2005).  According to Alan Fiske,
"Relational models theory posits that people use four elementary models to generate, interpret, coordinate, contest, plan, remember, evaluate, and think about most aspects of most social interaction in all societies. These models are Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing. Scores of studies have demonstrated that people in all cultures use these models to organize much of their everyday social cognition."
With the above reasons, it highly demonstrates the model of Communal Sharing, where the family comes together once a year (or more), performing "comunal sharing" by having New Year's dinners or lunches, and hence increasing the cohesiveness and connectedness of the group.
It is not really about the steamboat dinner, but more of having a dinner with the whole family where everyone comes together on this one special evening.  Regardless of a banquet, steamboat, or even a simple family meal, it is always the company of the family that counts.

Valentine’s Day: To Buy or Not to Buy?

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Valentine’s day on February 14th is approaching soon.  Love songs, red and romance has started splashing in the air. Pink and red advertisements also start gracing the windows of retail shops complimenting the Valentine’s ambience as well as creating a high profiting festive (with CNY in the mix for 2018).  It is an opportunity for retailers to craft the gift of dreams for consumers.  Interestingly on the other hand, in America, National Retail Federation (O’Shea, 2017) reported that consumers were spending lesser in 2017, as compared to 2016, which indicates a decrease in people who plan to celebrate Valentine’s day or a tendency to spend lesser on this special day.

History of Valentine’s Day
One of the inspired history about Valentine’s Day is related to St Valentine who was a priest whom helped couples wed in secret (Romney and Mullin, 2018).  It was rumoured that when he was sent to prison for not obeying the Roman emperor Claudius II, he sent a letter to a young girl he had fallen in love with and signed it ‘From your Valentine'. Some believed that Valentine's day is celebrated on 14 February to mark the anniversary of St Valentine's death.

Reasons to celebrate Valentine’s day
There are two reasons mentioned by White (2011) in his Psychology Today post.  He commented that Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity for people who are dating but not in a committed relationship yet to “test the waters” by trying out as a couple to assess whether both parties are ready to commit in the relationship.  As for people who are crushing on someone, it is a great opportunity to express their feelings on that special day, without feeling awkward.  

Differences between gender in buying gifts
People in new relationships may felt more obligated to give gifts than those in established ones.  George Zinkhan (2003, as cited in Coghlan, 2009) found that 81% of men in new relationships felt most obliged to buy Valentine Day gifts; only 50% of females felt the need to buy the gifts.  However when they are in a more mature relationship, 44% of men and 13% of women are willing to buy the gifts. 
Gender role may also affect the expectations in the presenting of gifts. In general, women may expects the men to plan or create a day that is more lavish each year.  

Are gifts really necessary to build up a more established relationship?

The Influence of Retailers and Consumer Psychology
This special festive season is especially tied to emotions.  Since the 18th century when Valentine’s Day took off in England (Romney and Mullin, 2018), lovers start sending cards and flowers to their loved ones. That is when Valentine’s Day cards are being mass produced leading to the start of commercialism of this special day.  It has hence become a day for people to prove that they love their partner through materialistic celebrations and presents.

Marketers are trying to convince people that gifts are necessary on February 14 to prove that they love their partner (Coghlan, 2009).  This trend shows complexities of consumer psychology such as perceived obligations to buy gifts, escalating expectations by the the other special half (i.e. boyfriend or girlfriend) and ambivalence that may give in to market resistance (Scheinbaum, 2015).  If gifts are not presented or meeting the expectations, there may be feelings of dissatisfaction and hence impacting the quality of the relationship over time. 

Reactance Theory (Lessne and Venkatesan, 1989) states that:
“According to the theory, when an individual's freedom to engage in a specific behavior is threatened. the threatened behavior becomes more attractive. For reactance to occur, the individual must have an expectation of free choice and the individual must perceive the freedom in question as being important (Clee and Wicklund 1980).”
This meant that despite not wanting to give in the retailers to purchase a gift (the threatened behaviour), it seemed that buying the gift is the more “attractive” behaviour as the freedom of maintaining the relationship is more important.

In a nutshell, it seemed like there are good reasons to buy the gifts and utilising the elements of surprise and generosity to satisfy your partner’s expectations.  These are also the vital aspects used by retailers to design the marketing strategies during this season.  As much as it may be the rituals of adapting into the commercialized world of buying gifts during Valentine’s Day, it is important to understand your relationships also requires a balance of trust, love, and care to maintain it for the long run.