Elaborating Cognitive Psychology Through Linkages to Psychology as a Helping Profession Robert J. Sternberg Martin J. Dennis Yale University
Many psychology students are interested in psychology as a helping profession. Teachers of cognitive psychology can establish links from the cognitive course to psychology as a helping profession that will motivate students both to take the course and to learn more effectively in the course because of personal meaningfulness. Teachers of cognitive psychology can establish at least 6 major links throughout the course.
All of us feel like fish out of water from time to time. Many students feel this way when they take a course in cognitive psychology because what they are really interested in studying is psychology as a helping profession by taking clinical, consulting, counseling, community, or school-based courses. Some students never take the cognitive course, despite the importance of cognitive psychology for almost all areas of contemporary psychological inquiry.
To students interested in psychology as a helping profession, cognitive psychology may seem far removed from their areas of interest. Often, cognitive psychology seems alien to them, having no obvious links to psychology as a helping profession. Cognitive psychology textbooks typically do not provide enough scaffolding that would enable these students to understand how closely intertwined cognitive psychology is with psychology as a helping profession.
This absence of scaffolding is in marked contrast to emphases in many other psychology courses. Abnormal and other clinical psychology courses, of course, deal with the behaviors that most interest many of those students interested in psychology as a helping profession. Social psychology courses deal with the kinds of person-to-person interactions that motivate students interested in the helping professions. Developmental and educational psychology courses are often directly relevant to future teachers and parents. Indeed, many such courses require students to work directly with one or more children. In contrast, cognitive psychology fails to link to the helping profession.
With relatively little effort, cognitive psychology teachers can provide links that will motivate students to become more interested in cognitive psychology and to learn the content of the course better. The key is to help students see the relevance of the field of cognitive psychology for the helping professions and therefore, to some extent, their own lives. In the remainder of the article, we discuss six major links that teachers of cognitive psychology can establish throughout the course.