A good teacher makes all the difference. I signed up for an Introduction to Psychology class to meet a course requirement and fill a gap in my schedule. I’d taken a psychology class in high school and found it interesting but lacking in substance. I wasn’t expecting to get much more out of this one.
To my pleasant surprise, the class was fascinating. My professor was a no-nonsense skeptic. Where I was anticipating an indoctrination of Sigmund Freud’s methodology, I instead found a professor who delighted in telling us how nearly everything Freud posited was absolutely wrong.
He spent each class systematically debunking all of my preconceived notions about what psychology was—subliminal messaging, hypnosis, the bystander effect… It was like watching James Randi in action. The professor opened my eyes to the fascinating work being conducted in modern cognitive psychology.
For a time I was consumed with the study of the mind. What is déjà vu, really? What’s happening in your brain when you can’t find the word that’s on the tip of your tongue? What is the physiological process of forming and recalling a memory? These questions didn’t have definitive answers at the time, but there was so much to learn, and so many interesting avenues of research. I was hooked.
After graduation I had the privilege of working at a psychiatric research hospital where I had the extraordinary opportunity to collect MRI brain scans to examine the anatomy of bipolar and schizophrenic patients.