Journal Entry 3: Users & Misusers of Psychology

Amy Amezquita
History & Systems
Journal Entry 3: Users & Misusers of Psychology


This chapter highlights the complications of (mis)using psychology outside of the scientific realm in "improving" the lives of others by presenting the positives and negatives of psychology's influence. The author explains the many branches of study psychology that can be applied to such as education, human engineering, the workplace and so on and further gives examples of studies that were conducted to support/disapprove the use of psychology. From the 20th century to the present day, we can see how psychology has been adapted to every aspect of our lives, even without being aware of it, which actually can either frighten or amaze people. But, make note that the field of psychology we know today is more understood and ethically practiced and monitored compare to the deceiving events of the past, something that will forever be engrained in its history.


The title for this chapter fits well with the type of questions the author proposed throughout the readings. Some questions are direct like "... how can testing be used to determine schooling and job placement without unfairly benefitting privileged middle-class persons" while others are more critical in their subjects such as the social impact of subliminal messaging in early advertisements and the reliability of psychological intervention in the courtroom. When one thinks about psychology, the individual may not fully understand the impact it has on our daily lives from the research and applications all around us. Behavior and developmental psychology especially were hugely popular in the realms of education and parenting as developments and behaviorists were spitting out all this information that could help "poorly behaved" children reach their full potential. However, most who used psychological knowledge did not carefully think about the future consequences it would have on our youths in labeling their academic and intellectual performance and unfairly not distributing the same treatment across all backgrounds. This is why educators today are heavily monitored of their teaching in their classrooms to ensure that the past mistakes don't repeat as well as standardized and performance testing are measuring what their intent aims to do so.


Certain information I found the author to heavily put careful attention to was the use of psychology in advertising and sales during the early 20th century. If most of us aren't familiar with subliminal messaging, many now think of it as a form of brainwashing by TV ads to get you to buy their products. What subliminal messaging means is "a technique used in marketing and other media to influence people without their being aware of what the messenger is dong. This may involve the use of split-second flashes of texthidden images, or subtle cues that affect the audience at a level below conscious awareness". Psychologist Ernest Ditcher would sell his psychological consultations to American sales companies and advertisers to help them reach their audience more effectively. The increase in sales of cigarettes is credited thanks to Ditcher's psychological knowledge of what people truly desired and thought, thus using their unconscious motivations and fears to drive their consumerism. This is why subliminal messaging is banned in the United States and most parts of the world now because of its unethical, manipulative, and deceptive practices onto the citizens' decisions without having any consent or awareness.

Check out how subliminal messages are in popular media without you knowing! 

Watch Michael's Subliminal Messages to Donna - The Office US


Overall, the author has done a great job presenting both sides of the argument about the application of psychology by explaining about the positives and negatives studies, findings, and uses to support his reasoning. He didn't sugarcoat anything when going into the drastic effects certain psychological practices had on the public (like the integrity testings for employment) and what measures were done to fix the issue (although I assume it should be better now with labor unions and government intervention). The content presented in chapter 18 goes into a century's worth of mistakes and achievements psychology has given to us, with or without being aware of, and the great potential for future research in improving these practices for better use. The paradoxes about the (mis)uses of psychology to help others' well-being when it has equally done much harm to them in the process may confuse many about the complications this area of science holds, but they cannot argue how completely different their lives could be without them.


  1. I think subliminal messaging in advertising is very interesting and I am surprised that it has been banned because some companies still use subliminal messages in their advertisements. Some advertisements are very subtle, like the white arrow between the E and the X in Fedex. This message was used because it indicates efficiency.


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