Psychology department renamed to reflect scientific nature

The former Department of Psychology has been newly christened the Department of Psychological Science. This change of title is a reflection of a nationwide trend in the field of psychological research. What once was The American Psychological Society (APS) is now the Association for Psychological Science. The APS adjusted the name to emphasize the fact that they are more internationally inclusive and that they are first and foremost a scientific organization. The Department of Psychological Sciences here at Gustavus felt the need to make such a change for a very similar reason. The name change was decided by a unanimous vote of faculty within the department last spring, and the new name went into effect at the beginning of the current academic year.

“The public first thinks [about psychology as] psychoanalysis, counseling and therapy, and while that is a slice of what we do, it’s not all,” Psychological Science Professor Jennifer Ackil said.

Ackil reassured that no changes have been made to the department’s available courses or to the major.

“It’s more to reflect the fact that we are a science. Everything we do from teaching to research has a clinical application. None of that would be possible if it wasn’t founded in the science of behavior and thinking,” Ackil said.

Ackil went on to say that the national trend of emphasizing the science aspect of psychological studies is due to the desire to correct a common misconception that psychology isn’t a valid science. Ackil expressed that this “misconception also exists on this campus.”

“I have to defend my major and validate its difficulty,” Junior Psychology Major Madison Heckel said. “People think that biology and chemistry are much more scientific majors. People think that psychology is an easy major because it’s ‘common sense.’ These are the same people who aren’t as familiar with psychology and don’t understand the research that we have to know,” Heckel said.

Heckel also said that she personally really likes the renaming of the department because there is a clear emphasis on the scientific aspect of psychology.

“The word psychology means the study of the mind, but people’s previous thoughts override the actual meaning of the word. It sounds cheesy (i.e. the “Department of Psychological Science”), but we’re making a point of the science to emphasize the overall goal of psychology,” Heckel said.

Ackil had a similar sentiment: “In some ways it is crazy that we need to make it more explicit.”

Colleges and universities throughout the country have changed the names of their psychology departments, and Gustavus has followed suit to emphasize a strong basis in science in hopes of challenging people’s preconceived ideas as to the validity of psychology and the resulting misconceptions.

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