Psychological ideas are popular in everyday life because the subject matter of psychology is people and, hence, ourselves. Even if you have never studied any psychology before, it is likely that you will have encountered psychological ideas in the media or in discussions with other people.
Psychological research findings and their practical and professional application are regularly in the newspapers, on television, radio, and on the Internet. For example, the possible evolutionary origins of behaviour, emotions, consciousness and the brain, and the impact of various therapies, are all recurrent debates in the media in many countries.
These public debates help to make psychology a very visible part of everyday life and culture.
Yet, all this media coverage can confuse anyone wanting to find out what psychology is about because psychological knowledge is presented in a variety of ways. For example, ‘common-sense’ psychological ideas have long been presented in the media. A good illustration of this kind of common sense might be the topic of ‘leadership’, something that is commonly talked about in everyday language.
Television, radio and newspapers often raise questions or offer un-researched opinions on leadership qualities, failures of leadership, why a historical figure was a charismatic leader or why some people seem to have the power to influence cults to engage in dramatic and often self-destructive behaviours.
The media also can present rather dubious interpretations of psychology drawn upon largely to support the arguments journalists wanted to make in the first place, as when reporters contact psychologists hoping to get a ready quote about why holidays are stressful or why men hate shopping.
More recently, however, and for our purposes more usefully, in many countries there are now books, articles, radio programmes and quite substantial television scries dealing in a serious manner with psychological research and debate.
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