5 Ways to Benefit from UniPsych Symposium 2017

With the UniPsych Symposium less than 24 hours away, we hope you are as excited as us for it!  Here are five ways you can make the most out of attending the Symposium:

1.  Dress properly
You never know who you will meet.  The world is an exceedingly small place.  They say an impression is created within the first 7 seconds.

2. Come with an open mind
One of the perks about hearing from the people who are currently working in the field is that you get to hear about what it’s like.  What they share may surprise you, so abandon all your preconceptions and listen to real life experiences on the ground.  Learn about the day-to-day struggles and victories that you wouldn’t typically hear about!
Image Credit: https://media.giphy.com/media/3o7qDQNEs2CtC5AkZW/giphy.gif
3. Be prepared
While our speakers will be more than ready to share their experiences and advice with you, do come prepared beforehand in order to maximise your learning potential!  Interact with working professionals by doing a bit of research about the field/organisation you are interested in, and prepare a set of questions you want to ask them.  That way, you will get additional information on top of what the speaker has presented and also leave a positive impression.

4. Network
The majority of attendees all have come to together to learn more about the one passion we have in common:  Psychology.  Step out of your comfort zone, talk to everyone and anyone.  You never know, the person you encounter today may be your colleague, subordinate, or even superior in the near future!

5. Follow-up
The benefits of the Symposium do not just end after the event.  The Symposium will be the springboard to help you discover even more about your options in careers and future studies.  Armed with your newly learnt knowledge, continue to research on the different organisations/programmes.  With all the consolidated information, you will have greater insight into the field that you wish to pursue!

Image Credit: https://facebook.com/UniPsych-Symposium-2017-1928681934083021/
Disclaimer:  This guest post was written by the UniPsych Symposium and InPsych teams.

SGPsychStud: What’s Next? The Polytechnic Edition

Regardless of polytechnic students or university students pursuing psychology in their studies, their next move is always the same.
Image Credit: https://www.futurelmt.com/should-you-work-while-attending-massage-school/
However the strategies used by both groups of students are different.  The preferred choices may also differ.  For polytechnic graduates, more often than not, the preferred choice is most likely to proceed to university.
So what degree choices do you have?
Other than the local degrees that has already been discussed in this earlier post, there are also other degree choices that polytechnic graduates can pursue locally and overseas.  I have provided the links that the respective polytechnic students can check, based on their respective diplomas:
SP:  Advanced Standing Database
NP:  Further Studies Portal
NYP:  Upgrade (University Programmes for Graduates Enquiry) - only accessible by NYP graduates
RP:  Advancement Pathways
TP:  Diploma to Degree Pathfinder
Disclaimer: Do note that the above links are from the respective polytechnics, and do not belong to or updated or maintained by SG Psych Stuff.

As a polytechnic graduate from a psychology course, 
what work can I do and how should I proceed to find it?

The main issue with this question is that psychology is a general field of study. Psychology polytechnic graduates possess a myriad of soft skills, with some basic knowledge of psychology and other related fields.  This may not be enough to get you the coveted positions of a psychology clinic assistant, case worker, or research assistant.

It is understandable that polytechnic graduates may not possess a lot of working experience, however what Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other competencies (KSAOs) do you possess?

Through a better analysis and understanding of yourself, this understanding will give you a more informed view of the positions that may be more suitable for you, or the positions you may have a better chance of securing.  If you have yet to have that self-analysis, I would advise that you seek a consultation with your polytechnics’ ECG counsellors.  They can help you achieve that self-understanding.

To locate the ECG counsellors and their offices in the respective polytechnics:
NYP:  ECG@Central

Another thing you can do is to attend the UniPsych Symposium 2017 that is happening on 19 August! See https://unipsych2017.wixsite.com/main for more details and registration! Registration closes on 15 August 2017, 2359. Don't miss your last opportunity to grab your talks before they're all snapped up!! 

SGPsychStud: The Formula and Tips for Building Your Value

Some of you may be thinking this?
"What value do I have when I am only a fresh graduate?"

Everyone has some value. The question is from whose perception are we looking.
The Employers' or Yours?

Before we move on, I would like to ask you to read the below posts:
So what is your value?
During interviews, employers may ask this same question from another angle, with questions like:
  • Why should I employ you?
  • What can you or will you contribute to the company?
  • Have you done anything previously that may be beneficial to the company or this position?
So similarly you should ask yourself some questions:
  • What am I interested and passionate about that is part of a job position?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What skills do I have?
  • What can I do that will enhance my knowledge and experience about the positions or industry? 


So what are some suggestions that you can do?  Actually I have already previously written about them, and here they are!

SGPsychStud: Using the "COW" in Building Your Career

Image Credit: giphy.com
Why am I talking about "COW" when the theme is #PsychologyCareerTips?

"COW" = Capacity + Opportunity +Willingness 

As per the article, these three factors are the dimensions of achieving work performance.  Additionally, these can also be used for your job search process as well as self-improvement towards getting the job.  In this post, I'll uncover the questions you can ask yourself on which you can do some evaluation and reflection:


1.  Do you believe that you have the capacity / capability to do the job? 
It is very common that undergraduate students think that they do not have capability to apply for jobs that require 1 to 2 years of experience, and hence they do not apply for the jobs.

2.  Have you done your research to find more about the jobs and companies?
Sometimes, the job description as advertised is more than it looks.  Make sure to do your own research (or network with people) and find out more about the jobs, the company culture, and other matters about the jobs / companies.

3.  Have you been doing anything to increase your capacity / capability and/or to upskill yourself?
One thing you need to know:  Your diploma /  degree alone does not get you the job!  Employers do not only employ you because you graduate from a certain polytechnic or university.  They also trying to evaluate that you have the skills (and more!) to do the job.

The next post will also discuss how you can increase your capacity!


1.  What opportunities do you know?  Have you been actively seeking out opportunities?

You have to believe that opportunities are always out there.  Most job-seekers get discouraged because of job rejections and no replies from companies.  Do note that opportunities do not mean full-time jobs; they also include part-time jobs, internships, volunteer work, and even networking.

2.  What have you been doing to increase your chances and opportunities to get a job?
For most students, the answer is "Nothing"!  However, there are so many things you can actually do!

Here are some tips to help you increase your chances and possibilities to get a job!

Which door is going to open for you?
This is the third factor and may be the biggest obstacle for some.

1.  Are you willing to do the job?
With many jobs, you may have the capacity to do it and the opportunity to get the interview, but rejected the job in the end because you found out that the company is asking you to do more than what the job entails.

2.  What is your limit for willingness? 
You cannot accept every opportunity, offer and job that comes along.  You have to evaluate whether that opportunity is something that is beneficial for your future career.  This is especially important if you have more than one opportunity.

"Whatever you are doing, it is for your future career."

Majoring in Psychology in Uni: Polytechnic vs Junior College Route

Disclaimer: The invited writers are both students from NTU and may not be accurate about some claims about the other universities. This will solely be based on their perspectives and current experiences. Do scroll below for their profiles.

After receiving your 'O' levels results, one of the most commonly-asked questions is:
Junior College (JC) or Polytechnic (aka 'Poly')?

Image Credit: http://www.sgclub.com/self-improvement/studying/quiz-should-i-go-to-polytechnic-or-junior-college/
You might want to pursue Psychology in the polytechnics, but worry that it might not be the best route to get you into university. You are not that sure what you wish to do for the rest of your life, and decide that going to a JC could give you 2 extra years to ponder. You contact friends you haven’t talked to in a million years just to get their opinion. Somehow, you’re still unconvinced.

In order to ensure that O-Level graduates with a keen interest in Psychology can make a more informed decision, Min and Xavierlyn will share their experience of getting into university via the Polytechnic and Junior College routes respectively.

Min (Poly)
Xavierlyn (JC)
Getting into University
Yes, it is no secret that it is much tougher to get into university via the poly route. In fact, I’ve only seen poly mates who have gotten Diploma with Merit (or scored really really well) around school.  
About 75% of my batch were offered courses into a local university.

Statistics by MOE have reflected a higher number of Junior College students across all courses in local universities.
For a higher chance of entering local university, choose the Junior College route.
Transition into University
The transition from poly to university is not that huge of a change.

The poly curriculum is rather similar to the university curriculum, in the sense you’ll be taught to be self-disciplined and not be spoon-fed by your educators.

However, this is not to say that poly students will transition into university quite easily. My psychology course in the poly emphasized a lot on group projects, writing and applying knowledge into real world situations. There was little emphasis on exams, to the point whereby exams are just there for the sake of being there and lecturers usually explicitly tell you what chapters will be tested.

In university, I was unpleasantly required to memorise a whole textbook in 1 week and puking its contents out for a 2-hour paper.
To find out more, read my other post - From Polytechnic to University
In Junior College, timetables are created for you and practice resources are made easily available, just like in secondary school. University was thus a huge cultural change for me as you are suddenly required to be in charge of your own learning after 12 years (primary school to JC) of spoon-feeding.

Additionally, universities do not release past year papers for practice so you have to master your content well on your own.

While the JC curriculum trains application skills, most exam answers are based on memorisation or practice. This may differ from person to person but personally, I think you can afford to do a bit of last minute studying in JC.

On the other hand, in university, you have to be consistent as no one is going to remind you to hand in your assignments or check the progress of your work unlike in previous years of schooling. It may take quite some time getting used to balancing assignments and tests that may all occur in the same week.
Choosing the poly route does give you a taste of university life before it begins, but it is only a slight taste. Most poly students still need time to adapt to university life.


Choosing JC where schedules are similar to secondary schools might make it difficult to adapt to university where there is a lot of independent learning.
In recognition that the poly curriculum offers electives and knowledge outside of one’s course of study, in NTU, eligible poly students are allowed to exempt 20 MCs worth of modules. In translation, this is about 4 modules, which can also translate to one semester’s worth of exemption. NUS FASS also allows module exemptions for students from polytechnics.

This is crucial because one of the consideration for going to poly or JC is the extra year one needs to spend in poly. But hey, if done correct, you’re just spending an extra semester.
In NTU, you have to fulfil General Education Module (GERPE) requirements. JC students have to take 5 modules while poly students can choose to take 3.

If you do not mind taking an extra semester while in the pursuit of your interest, poly is a considerable route to take.

If you do not mind fulfilling more General Education modules and wish to save a semester worth of time, choose the JC route.
I’d say that poly psychology students do have a slight advantage in terms of course-related skills.

We come into university equipped with the ability to write 2000 words essay with APA citation in 1 week (some, the night before the deadline). We’ve had 3 years worth of psychology concepts drilled into us.

However, it does not put us in too much of an advantage. Coming to university, I realise that some of the things poly taught me are either wrong or insufficient.
Students have to take Project Work (PW). While this might train critical thinking, I did not learn how to write a proper research paper or the different writing formats (MLA, APA, etc). Even though there are compulsory writing modules available in NTU (I believe NUS has these as well) in Year 1, writing a proper research paper requires time, and practice which poly students already have exposure to.
If you prefer skill-based learning and/or want to have more exposure to writing proper research paper before university, poly would be a more suitable option.

While in JC, you spend 2 years learning to remember and apply concepts. This would be useful when it comes to studying for heavy content subjects in university.

Advice from Xavierlyn:
For students hoping to take Psychology through the JC route, it is important to note that JC is not a one-way ticket to university. You still have to work hard for it.

Advice from Min:
For students who are interested in taking Psychology through the poly route, be sure to research extensively (SG Psych Stuff website is a good start). On several occasions, poly students may realise that Psychology is not what they had thought it was. If you’re certain that Psychology is what you want to do for the rest of your life and you’re confident that you can score well enough to get into university, poly would be a considerable route to take.
All in all, there is no right or wrong. You might think that poly is wasting one year of your life, but that one year might just be a year of gaining more knowledge. You might think that JC students would adapt to uni life more slowly than poly students, but the truth is that we all start from square one.
This is an invited post by Xavierlyn Tan and Min Khoo. Here's their profiles:

Xavierlyn Tan, NTU Psychology major
Hi I'm Xavierlyn (Xav for short!), turning 20 this year and I'm passionate about mental health and hope to work in the mental health sector one day. I enjoy volunteering at IMH every Saturday morning. I hope more youths would actively seek to disperse their stereotypes towards the mentally ill :)

Min Khoo Ming Gui, NTU Psychology Major
Min is a psychology undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, holding an NTU Scholarship. She graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2016 with a Diploma with Merit in Psychology Studies.

An active volunteer at AWARE Singapore, she enjoys cosplaying, harajuku fashion, photography and gaming. She sees herself as well-balanced between academics, hobbies, and real-world skills and experiences.

From Polytechnic to University: For Psychology Students

Note: This is an invited post by Min Khoo, currently a NTU Psychology Major.

So, let’s say that you decide to go for the polytechnic route and made it through with a GPA high enough to qualify you for a local university (after giving up on sleep, leisure and social life).  Now, we all know how hard it is to get into university via the polytechnic route, thanks to the restriction on the number of polytechnic graduates who are allowed into local universities.  But let’s just say you did not die from all that studying.

While you wait for your university life to start, you wonder:

  • How will university be different from your old polytechnic life? 
  • Will it be a competitive environment? 
  • Would all the JC students already have someone to eat lunch with while you are stuck on your own? 
  • Will you have an advantage with that 3 years of knowledge of psychology you possess?
As a polytechnic graduate who made it through a year of university, the fact that I am still alive should qualify me enough to give you some advice.

So, let’s start with the main concern on everyone’s mind:  Academics.

You might have heard that polytechnic students have an advantage over the JC students because they possess some knowledge of psychology prior to enrolment.  You might have also heard that polytechnic students would adapt faster to the university curriculum because they are used to completing assignments on their own without being spoonfed.

But here’s what you haven’t heard.

Polytechnic lecturers tend to give you hints and let you know what chapters will come out during the exams.  University professors expect you to memorise the whole textbook in 1 week.
Majority of polytechnic lecturers still spoonfeed you whenever they can.  University professors sometimes don’t even know your name.
Polytechnic lecturers teach you a theory by a psychologist, university professors tell you that that theory has flaws and is no longer applicable.  Polytechnic stats seem like primary school’s math compared to the horror known as Level 2000 stats.

Okay, it’s not that bad.  Compared to non-polytechnic students, some aspects of university will simply feel like a revision.  But that is only for the first year or so.  Seriously, university curriculum is no joke.  Think of the worst part of polytechnic life, and the worst part of JC life.  Now combine them.  That’s university life for you.

Other than academics, the other aspects of university life is typical of the general population.

Social life:  If you’re not best friends with your diploma with merit polytechnic schoolmates (because I saw only one or two non-diploma with merit peeps in university), you might find yourself in a classroom with hardly anyone you know.  But it varies from individual to individual.  Some students have friends outside of polytechnic who then enroll into the same major as them.  Some students are really extroverted and social, and are immediately friends with everyone from day one.

Extra-curriculum activities:  At this point, extra-curriculum activities are optional.  The university is not going to turn the time and effort you put into such activities into points and rank you on a scale of bronze, silver and gold.  However, it would look good on your resume.  But on the other hand, school assignments are already making you stock up on bags and bags of coffee.  

My advice?  Concentrate on your school work during the school terms.  Busy yourself with many activities or internship during your 3 months (yes, you heard right. 3 months) holiday.

In short?  Don’t expect the transition to be easy, but do not fear that the transition would be too tough.  Keep your expectations realistic, and be prepared to do a lot of learning on your own.

This is an invited post by Min Khoo Ming Gui, a currently NTU Psychology Major.

Min is a psychology undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, holding an NTU Scholarship. She graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2016 with a Diploma with Merit in Psychology Studies.

An active volunteer at AWARE Singapore, she enjoys cosplaying, harajuku fashion, photography and gaming. She sees herself as well-balanced between academics, hobbies, and real-world skills and experiences.

Brenda: Emotional impact and Support for Cancer Patients

When people hear the word ‘cancer’, all negative thoughts will always flow into their minds.  To most people, it signifies terminal illness despite increasing numbers of real cures as well as meaningful remissions.  For many cancer patients and their families, the cancer journey is always an intensely stressful moment.  It can be rather difficult to identify and honor the feelings.  Therefore, emotional support is always important for most cancer patients during their cancer journey.  Not to be forgotten, different supports from various organizations, people and services may improve cancer patients’ mental and physical health.

Fear, sadness, anger and other emotions, with vulnerability, anxiety and even depression will surface during the cancer journey for cancer patients and their family members.  The distressed feelings of uncertainty, questions, and concerns about responsiveness to cancer treatments, life changes within family, friends, work and routines, worries about mortality as well as confusion about meaning and purpose in life can fill up cancer patients’ mind.

The mind-body connection with unresolved, painful thoughts and feelings can cultivate disconnect internally and externally.  Without the capacity to identify, and express the mental and emotional reactions, cancer patients can reject themselves and others.  Any suppressed emotions can become toxic to the physical body too.  Ongoing perceived loneliness with a sense of isolation also supports detachment, dissociation, and disconnect.

Similar to Kubler-Ross model, the five commonly recognized stages of cancer grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  However, not everyone experiences all stages or goes through them in a certain order.  Denial is a coping mechanism to help an individual survive news that is difficult to handle.  During the anger stage, people always start questioning ‘Why did this happen to me?’ or ‘What did I do to deserve this?’.  Next, people will try to bargain to prevent future losses by changing their lifestyle of even promising God that they will change their behaviour in exchange for good health.  However, sadness or depression will always attack cancer patients upon diagnosis and affecting their mood, energy levels, motivation, and daily lifestyle.  Finally, when cancer patients accept their cancer diagnosis, it may not necessary mean that they have completely let go of their grief.  They may revert to other stages again.
This is where a social worker, counsellor and doctors can help cancer patients to wade through all information and make decisions during this distressing moment.  Information is a powerful antidote to fear and anxiety. Hence, open communication serves important role between patients and caregivers during the cancer journey. 
Doctors share different available options to patients and the pros and cons of the treatments options.  This helps patients to have a better understanding of what they will go through and make a decision that best fit in to their situations.  Emotional support creates connection and kindness to cancer patients is medicine.  Talking to other cancer patients and survivors often help to alleviate stress and depression.  There are a lot of cancer support groups available these days, be it in the hospital or other welfare organizations that provide a safe place for cancer patients to share experiences with others who are dealing with or have experienced cancer.  Social workers often are the people who will work closely with patients and the family members.  They often help to collaborate and identify solutions to their problems, ranging from financial difficulties to family issues.

Learning about available resources is also needful.  Community resources provide support and assistance in order that individuals and families may better cope in the long run.  Other than community hospitals, family service centres (counselling support) and social service office (financial support), there are other organizations aim to provide support for cancer patients in various aspects.  They are:

  • Singapore Cancer Society (home care, financial, psychosocial and bereavement support, rehabilitation programme, cancer support groups, family, and youth engagement)
  • Children Cancer Foundation (back-to-school service, caregiver support, emotional and financial support, palliative and bereavement support, academic and learning support)
  • Breast Cancer Foundation (mammogram sponsorship, education, and empowerment programme, befriender, enrichment programme, wig loan, talks, prostheses and bras sponsorship)
  • 365 Cancer Prevention Society (day activity centre, emotional and financial support, nutrition assistance, gatherings and outings, lymphatic detox exercise and detox dance, health education)
  • Leukaemia and Lymphoma Foundation (treatment cost subsidy, befrienders, and emotional support)
  • Brain Tumour Society Singapore (financial and emotional support, support group, befriender) 
  • AINS Society (emotional support, financial support, enrichment programmes for patients and families)
  • Assisi Home and Hospice (in-patient care, home care, day care)
  • Bright Vision Hospital (in-patient care, rehabilitation centre, TCM clinic)
  • Dover Park Hospice (in-patient care)
  • Hospice Care Association (home care, day care)
  • Methodist Hospice Fellowship (home care, spiritual and emotional support)
  • Metta Hospice Care (home care, spiritual care, medical equipment loan)
  • St Joseph’s Home (In-patient care, spiritual support)
  • HCA Hospice Care (home care, day care) (psychosocial, bereavement support, palliative and young caregivers programme, home care equipment loan)

 To sum it up, it is challenging for cancer patients to walk through the cancer journey alone.  Many times, the diagnosis of cancer brutally reminds us of our own finality.  It may sometimes a blessing to use the time of illness to think about death and dying in terms of ourselves, regardless of whether the patient will have to meet death or get an extension of life.  Families, friends, and health professionals play different roles to support cancer patients.  As sociologist Margaret Mead once said: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world.’’  The more we support the family as a unit or the people who support the patient, the better we are at helping the patient throughout the whole process.

Challenges in the Social Work Field

Note: This is an invited post by May (pseudonym), an experienced social worker in the field.

Social workers are primarily concerned about the well-being and functioning of individuals and families, and work to empower the individuals to be better equipped to handle their issues.  In Singapore, social workers are employed in various settings, which include youth, family, prisons, hospitals, and special needs.  At the same time, they are also employed to look at shaping larger level policies, and how these policies are implemented to the ground level.  Social workers are very often associated with being volunteers - as being people with huge hearts and "give people a fish".

Societal views of the work as a social worker
However, how our society views this profession is an important perspective to think about, which is something that isn't always talked about, even in school.  Why is this so?  The people who will end up studying and aspiring to be social workers are from, well, that same society.  Acceptance of the society's views is a mindset that will challenge the student's perspective as well.

Being the "quick fix" to clients' issues
On a day-to-day basis, social workers face unreasonable demands  -  as there is an expectation that they are the "quick fix" solutions.  "Quick fix"'solutions administered for clients are almost always finite, with a stringent assessment process, and an interim solution to tie over a period of time where they are expected to still work on being more self-reliant, which inevitably frustrates people who view 'help' as an instant solution.

What social workers really do
What social workers actually do is to look at how various systems in the environment affect people, help people navigate these systems, as well as look into how systems can be improved.  This is done with a core value of empathetic and intentional listening, in a non-judgmental and objective way.  Advocacy for clients that are vulnerable or unable to access resources and systems is also an integral part of the work.  As with any other job, social workers deal with disagreements, emotional upheavals, expectations from various people, and have to always be mindful of their clinical interventions.

Staying motivated at work
Having to deal with so many concurrent issues is virtually impossible to do alone, and the concepts of individual and group supervisions and team work help to provide support to the social worker in managing dynamics, clinical interventions, and the emotions evoked when dealing with a multitude of issues.  This support from peers and supervisors is very helpful in motivating the growth of the social worker, regardless of years of seniority and experience.  It is important for social workers to keep up with positive attitudes and work hand in hand with different parties to build up a better community  -  and to constantly keep themselves motivated and purpose driven, to maintain themselves in this profession.

Jerry O.: Effect of Social Media on Suicides

The number of suicides that occur worldwide stands at almost 800,000 yearly, making it the 17th leading cause of death in 2015 (World Health Organisation, 2015) and with the increase in the publicity of suicides, it is now a major global health issue.  The relationship between suicide and the internet and in particular social media is very complex and various researchers have tried to find out if social media hinders or encourages death by suicide.  Studies have shown that even though there is no direct link between social media and suicide, there is some degree of interaction between them.

Image Credit: http://screenrant.com/suicide-squad-skrillex-rick-ross-song/
The social media is a hub of information and one can easily find information on any subject simply by typing the search words and suicide is not an exception.  There is a huge repository of information on suicide on the internet and there are many pro-suicide chat rooms and forums which provide very detailed information about suicide and even the methods that can be used.  There are so many ways by which social media can contribute to an increase in the tendency to commit suicide.

The nature of human interactions is such that the chunk of our deductions and understanding of people’s behaviour comes from things they do not say.  That is to say human communication relies more on nonverbal communication that the actual exchange of words.  The heart and soul of our interactions are the gestures, eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and posture and so on.  We are able to fully understand what a person is saying by comparing the words they use with the nonverbal signs that we observe, we can tell if a person is excited, sad, hiding something or if they are relaxed.

Image Credit: https://safeguarde.com/spy-phone-social-networking-cause-teen-suicide/
On social media however, these nonverbal signs are replaced by smileys and emoticons so they may as well be absent because you cannot actually tell that the person sending you a grinning smiley is actually grinning, for all you know they may be wearing a scowl on their face.  Social media gives people the opportunity to be anything they want to be; they may be depressed in real life and be very chatty online, they may be crying and be using all the happy emoticons and smiley.  So, unless a person opens up to you and shares their pain you will not know they have any unlike in face-to-face interactions where you can pick up that someone is being bothered by something and they are more likely to open up if someone asks them.  Likewise, there is no way to tell if a person is contemplating suicide via social media interactions unless they tell you because online interactions are grossly lacking in the nonverbal cues we already mentioned.

Social Media Influencing Suicides

Another problem with social media that can increase suicidal behaviour is cyber harassment and cyber bullying.  When various internet media are used to intentionally and continuously harass or threaten a child or teenager or even an adult, it is termed cyber bullying, cyber harassment or cyber stalking and it is a very serious problem.  The media used to perpetrate these acts include text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail and social networking sites where people get “trolled” maliciously.  These acts place negative pressure on the recipients thereby intensifying their lonely feelings, hopelessness, instability and isolation which is made worse in people who are already under intense psychological or emotional stressors and increases their risk to commit suicide.  A study by Hinduja and Patchin (2010) showed that middle school children who had been cyber bullied were two times more likely to attempt suicide that others who were not.  It also showed that offenders of cyber bullying were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who were neither targets of nor offenders of cyber bullying.

Furthermore, there have been reports of strangers who met on bulletin boards and chat rooms or forums deciding to commit suicide on the same day.  This is called "Cybersuicide pact" and the first documented case was reported in 2000 in Japan where the suicide rate is still on the increase.  This problem is a major topic for discussion on the internet and it is suspected that its impact in precipitating or encouraging suicides lie in the fact that people of like minds are able to share their stories and then push each other in the direction they want. These boards also provide information on the various methods that people can use to commit suicide thus making it much easier for people to kill themselves.

Another point worthy of note is the media contagion effect.  Suicide contagion refers to a state in which suicidal behaviour spontaneously sweeps across a particular group of people and this affects people who are less than 25 years old more than other ages.  When certain people are exposed to information about suicide through any means, this may influence their decision to kill themselves.  In some cases, chat rooms and bulletin boards create memorial pages for those who die by suicide and for the impressionable minds;  this may push them towards committing suicide.  The reason being that users also want to be idolized by those who had already committed suicide and so they get a few minutes of fame even if they are dead.  This problem has more deep seated psychological problems that are merely augmented by the social media.

Contrariwise, social media also contributes in some ways to the prevention of suicide.  There are social networking pages that provide interactions between people with similar stories to help prevent suicides, provide help lines and provide awareness about suicide prevention.  Some of these pages include the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which can both be found on Facebook.  There are also several groups on Twitter and even blogs that are dedicated to providing information vital in preventing suicides.  Also, Google and Yahoo also have features that serve as proactive suicide prevention links; when a person uses a search word that indicates suicidal intent, links are displayed at the top of the result page about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  These features can provide help to a person who is contemplating suicide.
In Singapore, Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is the main suicide prevention centre which helps people in crisis, thinking of suicide or affected by suicide. Their number is 1800-221 4444 (24 hours).

World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 (by Samaritans of Singapore)

The research into the role of social media in pro-suicide behavior does not have enough data to draw a clear-cut relationship although evidence suggests there is a link and the whole world is beginning to sit up and take notice.  Therefore, it should be the responsibility of every user of social media to ensure that they do what they can to prevent suicide by sharing information on suicide prevention help lines on their time lines and when people post contents that  may suggest that they are contemplating suicide, it should be taken seriously.

For more posts on Social Media on SG Psych Stuff:
SGPsychStud:  Networking on Social Media
Jerry O.:  The Influence of Social Media on Behaviour
Jerry O.:  Why People Are Into Social Media

Jerry O.: Why People Are Into Social Media

It is no longer news that social media has become the major means by which several people, organizations and even the government share ideas, messages and information.  The total number of users of various platforms like Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ are in their billions;  throw in the less known platforms, and the number becomes even more staggering.  This makes it clear that social media is actually everywhere (where there are no internet restrictions) and it does not look like it will be going away any time soon, if at all.
Image Credit: http://marketingland.com/wp-content/ml-loads/2014/07/social-media-mobile-apps-ss-1920.jpg
The Appeal of Social Media

The major appeal of social media is the perceived anonymity or security it offers to the users, thus they can say whatever they want to say without the risk of being judged; at least that was how it started out.  With the advent of cyber bullying, one cannot really guarantee what can be said that would not attract a backlash from other users, both the strangers and the non-strangers.  On the subject of security and anonymity, the appeal lies in the fact that all forms of interaction via social media are virtual.  This means that the intrinsic properties of a real-life experience are retained but the complexities that accompany face-to-face interactions are excluded.  Thus, the average person can connect with their friends and colleagues without having to go through the “stress” of tasking the brain while interpreting their body languages, or walking into emotional mine traps that are unavoidable at a large gathering.  Social media facilitates interactions that require less of us and so, we love it.

The sheer size of the social media platforms is another factor that has contributed to their popularity and their sustenance.  The number of users signing up on these platforms is continually on the increase and even though it consumes a lot of time and attention, users have no hang-ups coming back time and time again until it becomes integrated into their routine and they just cannot go a day without social media.  In addition, many businesses float their merchandise and services online before becoming a brick and mortar business.  Social media has given many small businesses the needed edge to compete with leading names and brands simply because it helped them to relate and connect with their customers.

Big Think:  How Online Advertising Is Tricking Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Beliefs | Tristan Harris 

Neurochemicals Involved in Social Media Usage

In an interesting twist, there is some scientific backing to the reason why social media has become ubiquitous in its reach and this can be found in hormones.  Yes!  It is very plausible that social media biopsychology exists and it is based on two chemicals produced by the brain: oxytocin and dopamine.  They are two of the many neurotransmitters produced by the brain on the go and they have very specific functions in the human brain.
Image credit: http://static.rappler.com/images/orig-dopamine-junkie-sketch.jpg
Oxytocin is quite aptly described as the “love chemical” because it has been discovered that its production increases when a person feels loved due to the actions of other people.  So, when people fall in love or on their wedding day, their oxytocin levels are usually pretty high and this same spike in oxytocin has been observed when people spend about ten minutes on social media, and they absorb all the goodwill and love being sent their way whether through the number of likes on their pictures, their number of followers or even positive comments on their posts.  In addition, they experience feelings of satisfaction, trust, love, and reduced stress levels - all features that comes with oxytocin and the social media and feelings that people love to experience.
Dopamine, when produced, stimulates the desire to find pleasure and satisfy wants.  This hormone has also been tied in with addiction based on the fact that the person or user as it were, seeks to maintain and sustain the pleasure induced when it is released.  The desire to achieve the pleasure threshold is very strong and so people will keep doing those things and the desire will keep increasing and so the cycle continues.  This scenario also applies to social media and this is why it becomes increasingly difficult for people to resist posting pictures on Instagram for likes or Tweeting for retweets.
By taking a cursory look at both hormones, it becomes very obvious that social media comes with cuddly and great feelings that everyone wants and it is next to impossible to not desire more of it.  Little wonder then that social media has permeated the very core of human existence and it is one phenomenon that will not fade away with time.
For more posts on Social Media on SG Psych Stuff:
SGPsychStud: Networking on Social Media
Jerry O.: The Influence of Social Media on Behaviour

What is a good psychometric test?

Image credit: http://www.restore.ac.uk/srme/www/fac/soc/wie/research-new/srme/modules/mod1/1/
What is a good psychometric test?  What conditions are required for a test to be considered "good"?
I asked myself the above questions when I was doing my Honours dissertation.  We have learnt in our research methods classes that a good psychometric test has validity and reliability.  This is very important as your data collection methods will affect your results collected. and within your data collection methods, the psychological test used is one of the important components to be considered.

So I went to read up on validity and reliability, and stumbled upon this website: Social Research Methods Knowledge Base.  After extensive reading and researching on this website and others, I concluded that as a student, it is very important to know the different types of validity and reliability:

Types of validity (from Social Research Methods Knowledge Base Measurement Validity Types)
  • Face validity
  • Content validity
  • Predictive validity
  • Concurrent validity
  • Convergent validity
  • Discriminant validity
Types of reliability (from Social Research Methods Knowledge Base Types of Reliability)
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Test-retest reliability
  • Parallel-forms reliability
  • Internal consistency reliability
Why do we need to know the psychometric properties of the tests that we are performing with our participants or doing to find out our own personal traits?
Remember Issues with Horoscopes and Some Personality tests??  As psychological researchers, we have to make that the tests used are measuring what they are supposed to measure and also producing consistent results over time, even before we use them.  This is to ensure that we are able to "trust" the test.
So how do we make sure that the tests used have been validated for their psychometric properties?
This can be easily done by researching on the test regarding their validity and reliability properties. One good example is the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), where different research have been done and published to demonstrate its psychometric strengths.

This way we know that we can "trust" the test, use it with confidence, and be convinced with the results produced, as we know that the test used is valid and reliable.

Issues with Horoscopes and Some Personality tests

Which horoscope are you?  Would you read the predictions for your horoscope for the upcoming week, month, or year?
Do you believe it?
Image Credit: http://www.horoscope.com/us/horoscopes/yearly/2017-horoscope-overview.aspx
When I was in my teens, I used to love reading my weekly and annual horoscopes to find out my upcoming fortunes or mishaps in the near future.  Some similar phrases include those in the below paragraph: 
You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.  You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.  You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.  While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.  Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.  At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.  You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.  You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.  You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.  At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.  Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.  Security is one of your major goals in life.
If you find most of the paragraph congruent with your life, you may be vulnerable to the Barnum / Forer effect.  According to Wikipedia, this effect is "common psychological phenomenon whereby individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them but that are, in fact, vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people."  The above paragraph is also based from the same link as the definition.

These statements about your fortune or personalities tend to be very generalised, but yet at the same time very convincing.  Along with the cognitive bias of confirmation bias (tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions), there is a high chance that the information will be perceived in a personalised manner by the reader.
Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/thewhompingwillowhitsback/photos/
To reduce these effects of these cognitive biases, you have to ask yourselves these questions:
  • How was the measurements done?  Are the source of the test or measurement a reliable one?
  • Are the measurements valid (measuring what they are supposed to measure) and/or have been tested to be valid?
  • Are the measurements reliable (producing consistent results over a period of time) and/or have been tested to be reliable?
  • Are the results reliable? Can we trust the results?
  • Are the results specific enough, such that they can be perceived/read in an accurate manner? 

My training in psychology, and especially in research, has cultivated me to critically question things and check out the "facts" if they are accurate and valid.  This has sometimes resulted in me questioning my own perceptions and reflecting on my own knowledge.  However, in the purpose of seeking knowledge, it is a must to be done.  Unfortunately our society are still very susceptible to these very common cognitive biases, resulting in these unreliable yet very marketable (easy to understand and sell to the general public) tests to flourish in the market.

To conclude, I no longer read my horoscopes, but sometimes have to do these assessments in my organisation.  As I do them, I will research on their validity and reliability so as to have a better understanding of whether they will be useful to me.  If they are not, I will take the results with a "huge pinch of salt".
The next post this month will cover what students should note to be a valid and reliable measurement/test, and the different types of validity and reliability measurements.