Archive for the ‘Psychology of Education’ Category

Work Matters!: Learn to Leverage on Your Fears

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Fear can either debilitate or motivate. And, the choice is entirely yours. As much as we want to live a life free from fear, it never seems to really happen, does it?

A 2015 article by Dr Theo Tsaousides that appeared in Psychology Today, a long-standing magazine endorsed by the US National Board for Certified Counsellors argues that a lack of fear may be a sign of serious brain damage.

Research cited in this journal says that the capacity for fear is a permanent fixture in your brain.

Neuroscientists have discovered that when the networks in our brain are electrically or chemically stimulated, fear is produced, even in the absence of a fearful stimulus. So perhaps you should start by accepting that feeling fear is neither abnormal nor a sign of weakness.

The capacity to be afraid is an integral part of your normal brain function.

The same article in Psychology Today goes on to categorise that your actions motivated by fear will usually come in four stages. You freeze, fight, take flight, or get frightened.

When you freeze, you literally stop what you are doing and just focus on the fearful stimulus to decide what to do next.

After the initial “freeze” comes to pass, you will automatically choose one of these two; fight or flight.

You will decide whether to deal with the threat directly through confrontation or you begin to work around it by seeking alternative paths, or you take an altogether different set of actions.

However, when the fear is overwhelming, you experience the fourth category, which is just pure fright. This is when you neither fight nor flee. At this emotional state, you get debilitated.

You might obsess about the situation, and you might moan, but you take no action.

And, research shows that being continuously in fright mode can lead to depression.

Yet, through my experience with entrepreneurship, and my work as a management consultant, the most successful people I meet, somehow manage to plough through this barrier of fear.

How do these people master fear, and learn to leverage on it?

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist declared: “…courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.”

And, in his autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ Nelson Mandela wrote: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

It seems that courageous people are as afraid as anyone else, and it appears that it is their fear that makes them spirited, not the lack of it. They have worked out how to manage their fear.

The first thing I have learnt from successful entrepreneurs is not to be afraid of fear. You have to be calm and acknowledge that you are afraid of something. If you understand that fear warns and protects, it helps you manage your emotions better.

Importantly it will not prevent you from taking action, because fear is not the enemy. Rather, it is a guide that supports you, as you navigate the complexities of life to meet your goals.

My interaction with leaders and business owners who are effective, has also taught me to explore where my fear comes from. This practice has aided me in managing my fear much better.

Some fears are innate or even biological. For instance, I have an irrational fear of snakes. I cannot explain this terror sensibly, except to think that perhaps I am genetically predisposed, therefore I am designed to be scared of them.

Past experience can induce fear.

Currently, I am remodelling and rebranding my restaurant, and in a few more days The Fire Grill opens its doors in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail. I have a good management team, but I am still afraid. History shows me that the opening few weeks of any venture are always fraught with dramas. But this knowledge allows me to be vigilant.

Worrying about the future is another origin of fear.

My father worries himself sick about what the future holds for my mother and him, and also for me, my brother and our spouses. He frets over our finan

cial standing, our health, and our relationships etc. But this forecasting ability has helped him make prudent decisions that has helped the family.

Having understood where your fear stems from, I reckon you need two critical skills to manage it.

The first is to increase your self-efficacy. There is no better remedy to fear than self-confidence. Your confidence grows when you increase your knowledge, learn and master skills, and gain experience.

I have always found that when I have knowledge, my fears are less intense.

The second is to continue to take action notwithstanding your fear.

People who have learnt to master fear, are excellent strategists. They plan and evaluate their actions. They know when to press, and when to lean back. They know how to assess risks, and always take appropriate action.

Do you know how to leverage on your fear?

By Shankar R. Santhiram.

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Careers in industrial psychology

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

Psychology seems to be a popular course among many Malaysian students. There are many fields within Psychology which are not known to many. One such field is Industrial Psychology.

Industrial psychology, or organisational psychology is a branch of psychology that studies and applies psychological theories to workplace environments, organisations and employees.

Professionals in the field focus on increasing workplace productivity by improving the physical and mental health of employees.

Workplace settings of every size and industry can benefit from the assistance of an industrial psychologist.

By studying employee’s attitudes and behaviours in the context of their companies, these professionals are able to identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes through new products, procedures and leadership training.

In addition to a wide variety of entry-level and advanced positions in consulting firms, government agencies and academic institutions, human resource departments in public and private sectors also offer many opportunities. Job titles and levels of responsibility vary depending on levels of education and experience.

What Industrial Psychologists Do

Industrial psychologists apply theories and principles honed through research to improve workplace dynamics.

They identify training and development needs in areas such as productivity, management and employee working styles, and help companies address problems by coaching employees, developing performance evaluation criteria and assessing market strategies.

Professionals in this field must have knowledge of ethical considerations, administrative regulations and case law relating to workplace activities.

Becoming an Industrial Psychologist

Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step in becoming an industrial psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field from a fully accredited programme.

Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology while others provide an industrial psychology specialisation as part of a general psychology degree. Related programmes include sociology, education and business management.

For students electing to complete a degree outside psychology, they should undertake foundational courses in psychological principles, research methodology, statistics, and social psychology, and take part in academic research.

Although it is possible to find jobs in marketing, business management or human resources with a bachelor’s degree, most students choose to continue their education.

Step 2. Complete a Master’s Degree Program me

A master’s degree is usually necessary to practice industrial psychology in the private sector.

Coursework focuses on the psychology of leadership and organisational structuring while teaching students how to apply these frameworks to the workplace.

Students also spend time honing their skills in research techniques and statistical analysis.

Many programmes require student to write a thesis based on original research in the field, although some mandate a comprehensive exam instead.

With a master’s degree, graduates can conduct research and provide consulting services for public and private organisations, but to perform clinical work a PhD is usually required.

Step 3. Obtain a Doctoral Degree

For students aspiring to higher-level careers in research, clinical practice or academia, a doctorate is usually necessary.

Most PhD programs include two years of coursework focused on theories and principles grounded in scientific research. Students must research and write a dissertation, which can take one to three years to complete.

Career Tips

In USA, Industrial Psychology currently has the highest growth rate of any occupation according to the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Handbook.

At 53 per cent, industrial psychology has the highest percentage of expected change amongst the top 20 fastest growing occupations for 2012 to 2022.

Earnings in this field outpace the overall job market, especially for those who have a high level of education and experience.

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Learning about psychology and management

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

PSYCHOLOGY is the science of behaviour and the mind.

It uses a variety of scientific methods to explore key areas, for instance, the influence of biology on behaviour; the ways in which we develop from early infancy to adulthood and the way we interact with each other.

All of these approaches enable theories to be developed and tested within psychology, says Dr Ke Guek Nee who is Associate Professor and Associate Head of the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia.

As Malaysia has developed a keen interest and awareness of the importance of mental health and resilience, the demand for psychology graduates for various positions in the country’s government sector, industries and non-governmenatl organisations (NGOs) has been strong.

Heriot-Watt University has a history of excellence dating back to the 1800s. Most notably, the university is recognised for its professionally relevant programmes, which have led to a host of accolades, including being ranked fifth in the United Kingdom and second in Scotland for industry income by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16.

Additionally, the National Student Survey 2015 ranked Heriot-Watt 28th in the UK with nearly nine out of 10 of the university’s final year full time degree students saying that they are satisfied with their education experience.

The university has expanded its reach and now operates out of five campuses: three in the UK, one in Dubai and one in Malaysia. Heriot-Watt University Malaysia offers a variety of programmes at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate levels in fields which include psychology.

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia offers the Bachelor of Science in Psychology as well as the Bachelor of Science in Psychology with Management programmes. The former covers main areas of the discipline, which include social, forensic and developmental psychology, while the latter incorporates a 70:30 ratio of psychology and management components.

“We do our best to instil important skills, which we believe employers value such as analytical and conceptual skills, report and essay writing as well as interpersonal skills among others,” said Dr Ke.

What’s more, students are given the option to do an industrial attachment during their summer break where they will be assigned an academic-industry supervisor.

“These industrial attachments expose psychology students to a real life work setting.

“The experiences and knowledge gained from industry are valuable for students in order to determine their career paths and specialisations for postgraduate study,” said Dr Ke.

The university also takes measures to provide students with a balanced university experience, as can be seen with its recent launch of its Psychology Society Day.

“Psychology activities and workshops such as on the Hypnosis and Psychology of Coaching were conducted in conjunction with this launch. “Heriot-Watt’s Psychology Society is run by our psychology students, and a number of activities are being lined up to enhance their university experience,” Dr Ke added.

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Mental scars can remain – even after flood waters recede

Monday, January 19th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: Natural disasters leave devastation in their wake. Lives are lost, homes are destroyed and in many cases, even when the physical damage is repaired, scars can still remain.

This is because victims often have no time to prepare, physically or mentally for the hardships natural disasters can bring, according to clinical psychologist Dr Joel Low

“This can cause significant mental distress,” said Low, who is with The Mind Psychological Services and Training.

The Star Online had asked him about the psychological impact disasters such as the recent floods that hit Malaysia’s east coast states.

Low added that those who have to start from scratch after having their entire lives swept away may be at high risk of suffering from depression.

He said that when we are confronted with physical or emotional pain, we either have the option of confronting the pain and feeling it head-on or trying to block it.

Low also added that many people have strong emotional or physical reactions following a traumatic event, with some resorting to suicide as a way to escape.

“Being forced to endure significant difficulties for extended periods makes suicide seem attractive because it acts as a way to end suffering once and for all,” said Low.

But how rough was the suffering in the recent floods? The account of Kelantan flood victim Nusrat Mohammad lends us some insight.


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Support and Criticism of Piaget’s Stage Theory

Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Piaget’s theory of cognitive develop is well-known within the fields of psychology and education, but it has also been the subject of considerable criticism. While presented in a series of progressive stages, even Piaget believed that development does not always follow such a smooth and predictable path. In spite of the criticism, the theory has had a considerable impact on our understanding of child development. Piaget’s observation that kids actually think differently than adults helped usher in a new era of research on the mental development of children.
Support for Piaget’s Theory:

The Theory’s Impact on Education

Piaget’s focus on qualitative development had an important impact on education. While Piaget did not specifically apply his theory in this way, many educational programs are now built upon the belief that children should be taught at the level for which they are developmentally prepared.

In addition to this, a number of instructional strategies have been derived from Piaget’s work. These strategies include providing a supportive environment, utilizing social interactions and peer teaching, and helping children see fallacies and inconsistencies in their thinking (Driscoll, 1994).
Criticism of Piaget:

Problems With Research Methods

Much of the criticism of Piaget’s work is in regards to his research methods. A major source of inspiration for the theory was Piaget’s observations of his own three children. In addition to this, the other children in Piaget’s small research sample were all from well-educated professionals of high socioeconomic status. Because of this unrepresentative sample, it is difficult to generalize his findings to a larger population.

Problems With Formal Operations

Research has disputed Piaget’s argument that all children will automatically move to the next stage of development as they mature. Some data suggests that environmental factors may play a role in the development of formal operations.

Underestimates Children’s Abilities

Most researchers agree that children possess many of the abilities at an earlier age than Piaget suspected. Recent theory of mind research has found that 4- and 5-year-old children have a rather sophisticated understanding of their own mental processes as well as those of other people. For example, children of this age have some ability to take the perspective of another person, meaning they are far less egocentric than Piaget believed.

Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Characteristics of the Formal Operational Stage:

The formal operational stage begins at approximately age twelve to and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this stage.


Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes important during the formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a general principle to determine a specific outcome. This type of thinking involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and mathematics.
Abstract Thought:
\While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during the formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term planning.

Concrete Operational Stage of Cognitive Development

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Characteristics of Concrete Operations:

The concrete operational stage begins around age seven and continues until approximately age eleven. During this time, children gain a better understanding of mental operations. Children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts.


Piaget determined that children in the concrete operational stage were fairly good at the use of inductive logic. Inductive logic involves going from a specific experience to a general principle. On the other hand, children at this age have difficulty using deductive logic, which involves using a general principle to determine the outcome of a specific event.

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Sensorimotor Stage of Cognitive Development

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Characteristics of the Sensorimotor Stage:

The first stage of Piaget’s theory lasts from birth to approximately age two and is centered on the infant trying to make sense of the world. During the sensorimotor stage, an infant’s knowledge of the world is limited to his or her sensory perceptions and motor activities. Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with (such as looking, sucking, grasping, and listening) to learn more about the environment.

Object Permanence:

According to Piaget, the development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments at the sensorimotor stage of development. Object permanence is a child’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though they cannot be seen or heard.

Imagine a game of peek-a-boo, for example. A very young infant will believe that the other person or object has actually vanished and will act shocked or startled when the object reappears. Older infants who understand object permanence will realize that the person or object continues to exist even when unseen.

Substages of the Sensorimotor Stage:

The sensorimotor stage can be divided into six separate substages that are characterized by the development of a new skill.

Reflexes (0 – 1 month)

During this substage, the child understands the environment purely through inborn reflexes such as sucking and looking.

Primary Circular Reactions (1 – 4 months)

This substage involves coordinating sensation and new schemas. For example, a child may such his or her thumb by accident and then later intentionally repeat the action. These actions are repeated because the infant finds them pleasurable.
Secondary Circular Reactions (4 – 8 months)

During this substage, the child becomes more focused on the world and begins to intentionally repeat an action in order to trigger a response in the environment. For example, a child will purposefully pick up a toy in order to put it in his or her mouth.

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Preoperational Stage of Cognitive Development

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Characteristics of the Preoperational Stage.

The preoperational stage occurs roughly between the ages two and seven. Language development is one of the hallmarks of this period. Piaget noted that children in this stage do not yet understand concrete logic, cannot mentally manipulate information, and are unable to take the point of view of other people, which he termed egocentrism.
During the preoperational stage, children also become increasingly adept at using symbols, as evidenced by the increase in playing and pretending. For example, a child is able to use an object to represent something else, such as pretending a broom is a horse. Role playing also becomes important during the preoperational stage. Children often play the roles of “mommy,” “daddy,” “doctor” and many other characters.
Piaget used a number of creative and clever techniques to study the mental abilities of children. One of the famous techniques to demonstrate egocentrism involved using a three-dimensional display of a mountain scene. Often referred to as the “Three Mountain Task,” children are asked to choose a picture that showed the scene they had observed. Most children are able to do this with little difficulty. Next, children are asked to select a picture showing what someone else would have observed when looking at the mountain from a different viewpoint.
Invariably, children almost always choose the scene showing their own view of the mountain scene. According to Piaget, children experience this difficulty because they are unable to take on another person’s perspective.
Another well-known experiment involves demonstrating a child’s understanding of conservation. In one conservation experiment, equal amounts of liquid are poured into two identical containers. The liquid in one container is then poured into a different shaped cup, such as a tall and thin cup or a short and wide cup. Children are then asked which cup holds the most liquid. Despite seeing that the liquid amounts were equal, children almost always choose the cup that appears fuller.
Piaget conducted a number of similar experiments on conservation of number, length, mass, weight, volume, and quantity. He found that few children showed any understanding of conservation prior to the age of five.

Jean Piaget Biography (1896-1980)

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.
-Jean Piaget

Best Known for:

Birth and Death:

  • Born August 9, 1896
  • Died September 16, 1980

Jean Piaget’s Early Life:

Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896 and began showing an interest in the natural sciences at a very early age. By age 11, he had already started his career as a researcher by writing a short paper on an albino sparrow. He continued to study the natural sciences and received his Ph.D. in Zoology from University of Neuchâtel in 1918.


Piaget identified himself as a genetic epistemologist. “What the genetic epistemology proposes is discovering the roots of the different varieties of knowledge, since its elementary forms, following to the next levels, including also the scientific knowledge,” he explained in his book Genetic Epistemology. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the origin, nature, extent, and limits of human knowledge. He was interested not only in the nature of thought, but in how it develops and understanding how genetics impact this process.

His early work with Binet’s intelligence tests had led him to conclude that children think differently than adults. It was this observation that inspired his interest in understand how knowledge grows throughout childhood.

He suggested that children sort the knowledge they acquire through their experiences and interactions into groupings known as schemas. When new information is acquired, it can either be assimilated into existing schemas or accomodated through revising and existing schema or creating an entirely new category of information.

Today, he is best known for his research on children’s cognitive development. Piaget studied the intellectual development of his own three children and created a theory that described the stages that children pass through in the development of intelligence and formal thought processes.

The theory identifies four stages; (1) the sensorimotor stage, (2) the preoperational stage, (3) the concrete operational stage, and (4) the formal operation stage.

Contributions to Psychology:

Piaget provided support for the idea that children think differently than adults and his research identified several important milestones in the mental development of children. His work also generated interest in cognitive and developmental psychology. Piaget’s theories are widely studied today by students of both psychology and education.

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