September 20, 2011

The Lighter Side of Psych: Bluffing It

Ever wanted to act like you're a real psychologist, even if you have absolutely no training? Then you might like to take a look at The Bluffer's Guide to Psychology by Warren Mansell!

Here are some tips they give:

  • Develop an air.
"Psychologists manage to foster an unnerving air of aloofness, self-sacrifice and absent-mindedness which, in combination, will thoroughly perplex their opposition. Their general attitude is of the kind: 'I forgot your birthday because I have been very busy thinking of clever ways of how I might advance science and/or help people.'

The budding psychologist needs a semblance of social skills, but will focus them solely on turning the topic of conversation round to his own limited area of expertise. When he has his victim in sight, he launches his secret weapon — the rambling explanation. For instance, "Your cat sounds very intelligent. Tell me, how does Tiddles respond to moving objects in his peripheral vision? You don't know? Well let me explain with a little example..."

  •  Acquire impressive curios.
"Many a psychologist's office will contain the ubiquitous Phrenology Head — a mock ivory model of a bald sexless human from the neck up, with personality traits mapped on different areas of the skull. It was most likely bought in a peak of excitement by the psychologist's mother as a graduation present. Of course, any self-respecting psychologist realises that this model provides no genuine information and is absolutely useless. But the fact that it demonstrates the thrill of discovery of the Victorian era gives it a certain charm...The icing on the cake is a well-placed cartoon that gently ridicules psychology. It helps to give visitors the impressiong that the psychologists do not take their work too seriously (which of course they do)."

A cartoon like this, perhaps.

Or this.
  • Fend off tricky questions.
 "In any ordinary social event, the average psychologist will encounter many apparently intelligent people who seem to lose all command of logic when faced with a psychologist, and endow this individual with what can only be described as special powers.

'So, can you tell what I'm thinking?' is the most common response. You can answer in two ways, essentially "No" or "Yes". "No" is the truth, not only because mind-reading is impossible, but because most psychologists are below average at reading social signals. Why else would they have to study theories of human behaviour when to other people it comes naturally? "Yes" is an outright lie, but leads to a far more interesting conversation."

I can vouch for the third tip, certainly: you will have to know how to respond to all kinds of questions even if you've just got a Bachelor's in Psychology. And yes, "So you can read my mind?" is indeed one of the most common, along with, in my experience, "So are you analyzing me right now? You are, aren't you?!" I have a T-shirt from my university psychology department that reads on the back, "I am analyzing you and quite frankly, I am disturbed."

So, what do you think? Is this really how psychologists act? How easily could someone convince you they were an actual psychologist? :P

And for those of you curious about what the quote in the last "Lighter Side of Psych" post was referring to, the answer is....



  1. "I know a website that can help you" - LOL!

  2. Lol, no one's ever asked me if I can read their mind. Either I need to develop an air or people are too amazed by the fact that I'm taking neuroscience and ignore the psych part.

  3. :D Love these posts! I knew a bunch of psychologists who owned one of those phrenology heads. The "Are you analyzing me right now?" question is probably the one I've heard the most.


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