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Hello everyone, 

I'm applying to graduate schools this semester, and as the dates draw nearer and nearer I've been having a lot of anxiety about the area of psychology I've chosen to study, and I'm starting to have second thoughts. Up until now, I was set on human factors or a heavily applied cognitive program. I've spent two years working as an RA in two different human factors labs, and am doing an independent study in one of the labs. However, I'm starting to realize that I really like cognitive and human factors, but I don't know if I love cognitive and human factors. 

Going back a few years to when I was trying to figure out which area of psychology I was interested in, I came across a description of social psychology, and thought it was really interesting. However, 1.) I heard that getting into social programs is almost on par with getting into clinical programs in terms of competitiveness, and 2.) it's important to me to work in applied research that I know will have real world applications, and I was told a lot of social psych research is more basic in nature. Anywho, this semester I'm taking a course in social psychology for fun. Within the first week I've read the first few chapters and have fallen in love. There feels like a real CLICK, and I've never felt this way in the few years I've been studying cognitive and human factors. 

TLDR, I'm seriously considering changing what I want to go to graduate school for, and I'm trying to figure out how to go about it. I'm also trying to figure out if there are other areas of psychology that use social, kind of like how human factors uses cognitive. Does I/O use a lot of social? What does a competitive applicant of I/O or social psych look like? Since my only experience in research thus far has been in human factors, would anyone recommend a post-bacc?  Any help would be great!

Edited by crystalcolours

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Hi! I did my undergrad in cognitive psych and human factors, and just finished my first year in IO.

Obviously you could say I'm a bit biased, however I would highly recommend IO over social for a few reasons, and I would also argue that you should go right into it (you don't need a post-bacc) because you have the right background and you may even be able to bring more to the table than someone who was just from social or IO.

Social psych can be really exciting and fun, but the reasons you provided are very legitimate for not wanting to do a social psych program. Another reason, though quite controversial, is that all of those flashy and exciting findings in social are built on a bedrock of shaky research, sometimes with questionable methods, and always with too small sample sizes. This means a lot of that research is not as replicable as things from cognitive or personality subfields would be.

However, IO gives you the best of both words: it's basically taking social and personality psych, and applying it to practical problems (well, there's a lot of theory too, but the end goal is meant to be about the work world). As well, it's not as competitive as social, but it's much more applicable and there are specific jobs that look for a background in IO (at the masters at PhD level), in a hugely growing field that will mean your degree is in high demand.

Also, you can look into marketing or organizational behavior, both just versions of social and I/O (respectively), but in the business school. You can go into those straight from a psych background (this was something very new to me when I learned it), and learn similar things (with less of a focus on the industrial side of I/O psych though, which is important for things like data analysis and assessment/psychometrics).

A competitive applicant for IO can look like anything! In my interview day, there were people from neuro, cognitive, business, HR, social, and personality psych. I was very competitive with an above average but not super amazingly stellar GPA, and they require the GRE, but it's not impossible to get a decent score. It helps to have research experience, even if it's not in that exact area (as most schools don't offer IO anyways, how would you get that relevant experience?).

Best of luck with your decision!

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15 hours ago, eternallyephemeral said:

 

Obviously you could say I'm a bit biased

I'm in social psych and I agree with what's stated here.

@crystalcolours, while there are social psychologists who do applied social psychology, your best bet if your interest is applied work is I/O. I also wouldn't go into social psych if the primary reason is because you're enamored with the course content. While the replication crisis (and associated issues) aren't exclusive to social psych or even psychology, it is the hardest hit by it. Undergrad classes haven't exactly caught up to reflect these contemporary issues. Because of this, I wouldn't go into social psych because of its flashy findings without looking into these issues.

Edited by Oshawott

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Thank you for the advice! I think based on the information I've been given here and elsewhere, I'm going to do some serious looking into I/O psych and organizational behavior graduate programs. As awkward as it is to change your mind just as application season is about to start, it could have been a lot more awkward applying to programs based on faulty reasoning B)

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@crystalcolours I'm glad this helped you! Feel free to ask any other questions. I switched right before the application season (like right now, but two years ago), and it worked out well!

@Oshawott - I'm glad to hear you agree, I hope I didn't misrepresent social psychology, and I definitely didn't mean to say that it is the only area afflicted with this issue of replicability. What I am noticing, actually, is people in fields more distant from things like social or psych in general seem to think they don't have this problem, when they suffer from it just as much as other areas do. So they think they are better, but they are really not!

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20 hours ago, eternallyephemeral said:

 

@Oshawott - I'm glad to hear you agree, I hope I didn't misrepresent social psychology, and I definitely didn't mean to say that it is the only area afflicted with this issue of replicability. What I am noticing, actually, is people in fields more distant from things like social or psych in general seem to think they don't have this problem, when they suffer from it just as much as other areas do. So they think they are better, but they are really not!

Not to worry, I didn't interpret it as such. There's stuff in social psych that's robust, but I don't think it's good to suggest going into social psych these days without knowing about the crisis because it could be overwhelming to find out some of your "favourite" studies don't hold up. And with regards to applied research, I was reading an article talking about the paradox of doing applied research without substantial theoretical foundation so it's even worse if applied is your focus.

And yes, I agree, with your latter points. The broader issues of statistical competence (e.g., actually knowing what a p-value means) aside, it's ironic when fields that draw heavily from social psych and love flashy findings (like some subfields in business) think they're immune. But then there are also fields that have the same issues stemming from misuse of statistics and think they're fine?

Anyway so as to not sound like I'm condemning social psych, I do think that as a field, its great that it's confronting these issues of replicability and measurement and there's some evidence that it has been improving over the last 5 - 6 years (albeit slowly). Maybe it's saving grace is that once other fields afflicted from similar issues realize this, they can use social psych as a case study.

As a side note: I personally hate reading socpsy theory papers so let's just say I was mildly pleased that I don't have to feel as bad focusing on methods and philosophy of science papers so if you're like that ;)

Edited by Oshawott

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On 8/31/2017 at 0:39 PM, Oshawott said:

Not to worry, I didn't interpret it as such. There's stuff in social psych that's robust, but I don't think it's good to suggest going into social psych these days without knowing about the crisis because it could be overwhelming to find out some of your "favourite" studies don't hold up. And with regards to applied research, I was reading an article talking about the paradox of doing applied research without substantial theoretical foundation so it's even worse if applied is your focus.

And yes, I agree, with your latter points. The broader issues of statistical competence (e.g., actually knowing what a p-value means) aside, it's ironic when fields that draw heavily from social psych and love flashy findings (like some subfields in business) think they're immune. But then there are also fields that have the same issues stemming from misuse of statistics and think they're fine?

Anyway so as to not sound like I'm condemning social psych, I do think that as a field, its great that it's confronting these issues of replicability and measurement and there's some evidence that it has been improving over the last 5 - 6 years (albeit slowly). Maybe it's saving grace is that once other fields afflicted from similar issues realize this, they can use social psych as a case study.

As a side note: I personally hate reading socpsy theory papers so let's just say I was mildly pleased that I don't have to feel as bad focusing on methods and philosophy of science papers so if you're like that ;)

Absolutely, some findings are highly replicable and based on research and theory from decades of rigorous work. However, it is often the most incredulous findings, from the most implicit or briefly presented stimuli, that initially show the largest affects and then later don't replicate. A lot of this is due to small sample sizes, of course.

I agree, a lot of business areas do think they are immune to this, and that is a problem. I also know a lot of people in neuroscience/animal behaviour that don't believe they need to worry about things like power and p-hacking, but it's just as prevalent there and they also have an issue with sample sizes.

Definitely! I think it's great when people are rising to the occasion and giving everyone else a good example to follow. Not that it's only on the shoulders of people in social psych, but they can champion these issues and go above and beyond in responding to it.

Haha I also don't like theory papers, I came from cognitive psych where the intros to vision/attention papers were 1-2 paragraphs long. Now I read 40+ page papers, mostly intro-heavy, and I don't enjoy it at all. I'm focusing on measurement issues and construct validity right now, and I have a very strong interest in philosophy of science from my undergrad days.

Nice chatting with you, I'm glad to hear your perspective from the inside!

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