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Psychology After High School

Alexandra Muntianu, XII A

From a brittle age, I was able to observe the psychological impact a brain tumour had on a very important person in my life. Although he was offered the best medical support, the disease relapsed. The biggest challenge he had to face was not physical, but rather psychological. From the powerful man he used to be, he ended up trapped in a body that felt weak. This emotional shift led to a multitude of behavioural changes, his mind constantly trying to adjust to this new life.

What fascinated me was the new reality his brain tried to shape in order to accept his illness more easily. He started distancing himself from his loved ones, perpetually denying any information related to his life before the tumour.

Observing his behaviour, an eye-opening question began pounding in my head: how was this man able to slowly erase from his mind the memories gathered throughout a lifetime? Searching for an answer, I discovered the concept of framing, researched by Elizabeth Loftus, stating that ideas and repeated suggestions can create false memories. Frequently telling himself that his present life is better in the absence of family and friends, and pretending that all his previous memories didn’t exist, he ended up creating a whole new reality for himself. Another interesting phenomenon I discovered while studying his condition is the repression of memories, a frequently encountered defense mechanism. Correlating this information with his behavior I was able to understand the reason why he couldn’t remember finding out about the tumor or other traumatic events that occurred after.

This experience helped me realize the intricacy of our minds and the complexity of the mind-body interaction. I discovered my desire to study human behaviour and its biological basis, combining them all in a single science: Psychology.

Participating in extra-curricular activities represented an essential contribution to my well-rounded personality. During high school, I was part of various activities from a multitude of domains, which eventually led to me finding my passion. The catalyst for my interest in psychology is constituted by my participation in the National Public Speaking contest and the local debate club, where I discussed psychology-related topics while also enhancing my critical thinking skills. I started to research activities which could help me expand my knowledge in this field, hence participating in the Psychology Winter School, in Timisoara. I was able to attend 14 hours of workshops and presentations regarding several psychology branches. Since then I have continued in this academic pursuit. The most important aspect of acquiring solid theoretical foundations was studying for the AP Psychology exam, administered in our school only, as I was able to attend online courses and learn the fundamentals of psychology, passing the exam with a maximum grade. During this time I discovered a multitude of fascinating concepts and explanations for human behavior. One of these was priming, a phenomenon also approached in Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, fast and slow”. Realizing how repeated exposure to a stimulus can influence our response to a subsequent stimulus, I understood its role in psychology, behavioural economics, and marketing. The compensatory need for practical experience determined me to participate in a shadowing program at a Psychology Clinic in my town, where I learned psychodiagnosis and understood the foundations of clinical work.

However, I consider that these experiences are just the beginning of my journey in this domain that never ceases to amaze me. After all, what is this world without the science that studies the imperfectly perfect way in which we function?

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