STEM is an acronym referring to the academic discipline of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is significant in that it recognizes the importance of these disciplines to economic competitiveness and, accordingly, stresses their importance to educational policy, Psychology is recognized as a STEM discipline by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These STEM disciplines affect immigration policy.
Unfortunately, there are people who confuse psychology with psychiatry, a medical specialty. Although clinical psychology does deal with mental illness, and clinical psychologists do work with psychiatrists, it is but one branch of psychology, as is counseling psychology. Psychology is concerned with how humans and animals behave. This interest extends beyond just behavior and is heavily involved with cognitive processes and neuroscience. This includes the behavior and interactions of groups of people. There is a branch known as industrial and organizational psychology that deals with businesses and organizations. One of the divisions of the American Psychological Association (APA) is the Division of Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology. I have had the honor of serving as president of this division.
Although psychology is an important discipline and deserves recognition as a STEM discipline, I had long thought that it was best to postpone psychology courses until college. However, my thinking has changed. I have long advocated that statistics and experimental design be taught in high school. The reason for this is that it is difficult to be a responsible citizen, or to make informed decisions about medical care, without a fundamental understanding of statistics. However, I think all adults should have some understanding about how human cognition works, and the information processing shortcomings and biases we are all prey to. People need to learn how we understand and come into contact with our environment and our fellow human beings. People need to understand that we are conscious of only a small percentage of our cognitive processes. And we all need to learn about mindfulness so we can deal better not only with our own cognitive processes, but also with our interactions with our fellow human beings.
I have also found that psychology, that is scientifically based psychology, provides an expert platform for learning about science. Psychology involves more than neuroimaging. There are psychologists who use biological assays in their research. Cognitive psychology is concerned with how cognition works to include memory, perception, concept formation, problem solving, language, and creativity. Educational psychology studies the best ways to learn including teaching and computer assisted instruction. Social psychology is concerned with how groups of humans act, how opinions are formed, and the best ways to persuade. Industrial organizational psychology is concerned with how organizations work, and how their functioning can be performed. This includes the performance of teams. Different areas of research require different techniques, so a wide variety of experimental methods and statistical approaches are used.
It has been my experience that many, certainly not all, but many, from the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering, know well the methods and techniques needed for their disciplines. But they still lack a general ability to apply the scientific method. The function more as technicians in their disciplines, rather than as broadly trained scientists.
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