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The amazing superpowers of psychologists

July 20th, 2005

Dr Petra

I’m occasionally amazed how much faith journalists; television and PR companies have in psychologists. Or perhaps it’s more likely that anyone who’ll call themselves a psychologist will do when it comes to getting a quote.

Today I was happily engrossed in data analysis (or rather trying to get myself to be interested in data analysis) when the phone rang.

It was someone from a PR company wanting a psychologist to endorse a forthcoming film. Predictably they’d completed a survey that they wanted the psychologist to promote to various print and broadcast media outlets.

The call went something like this….

“Hi I’m ____________ from _____________PR and I’m after a psychologist to be a spokesperson for the film ________________. We want the psychologist to talk about compulsions”.

“Why contact me?” I asked.

“Well, because you’re a psychologist”
they said perkily.

“Yes, I am a psychologist but I can’t talk about compulsive behaviour”

“Why not, you’re a psychologist”

“Yes I am a psychologist but it isn’t my area”

“How come it isn’t your area, isn’t it psychology?”
They replied, somewhat puzzled.

“Do you know what I do?”
I sighed.

“Yes of course”
they snapped, “you’re a psychologist”.

“Yes, I know that but do you know what my area of interest is?”

They guessed.

So I took a deep breath and explained that whilst I was a psychologist, that didn’t mean I could cover all aspects of psychology and for their promotional activity they’d need to find a clinical or counselling psychologist or someone who had researched compulsive behaviour.

I was feeling as though I’d been a bit mean teasing them about the whole psychology thing, but then stopped feeling quite so sympathetic when they hit me with the ‘well you’ll do’ approach.

they asserted, “you can’t do the compulsions bit, but you can promote the survey”.

“How come?”
I asked.

“Because you’re a psychologist”

By now I was ready to give my discipline a very bad name by showing them how a sweary social psychologist sounded. To be fair it was now getting confusing because I had to admit that I was a psychologist who did know a lot about surveys.

Unfortunately this meant I also couldn’t endorse someone else’s survey, particularly since it sounded like the usual cobbled together effort most companies now use to get their products into the papers.

But even then it didn’t put them off.

“So you’re a psychologist that studies surveys?”
They questioned.

“No, I’m a psychologist who uses surveys and teaches other people how to do the same”

“You’re a teacher? Well why didn’t you say? I need to talk to a proper psychologist, not a survey teacher!”

So now I know how to get rid of any of those media calls I just don’t want to tackle. I’ll just tell them they’re talking to a ‘survey teacher’ and that’ll see ‘em off!

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