Do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?

‘’Psychology is super easy! You don’t need math.’’ Is it true?

If you’re thinking of studying psychology but don’t know what level of mathematics you need.

In this brief guide we’re going to answer the question ‘‘Do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?’’ We will detail the importance of mathematics in psychology and why you shouldn’t be afraid.

Do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?

Yes and no. To study psychology you need to have basic knowledge about mathematics, you must be trained in basic operations of arithmetic and algebra, because you will need it for statistics

The psychology career is one of the most demanding in terms of level of studies, so if you really want to study psychology you should be aware of it, knowing in advance how demanding it will be to achieve your goals and graduate.

As you already know, psychology is the discipline that studies the behavior and mental processes of the human being.

There’s a very popular myth about studying psychology: ”Studying psychology is easy, you don’t see math’.’

There’s a subject that tends to attract the attention of those who are starting a degree in psychology. It’s about statistics. You’re there thinking that the numbers have been left behind, suddenly this disturbing subject appears.

But what is statistics for? Why is it useful for a psychologist or someone who is interested in psychology?

What are the general subjects of psychology?

At the beginning of the degree you will find introductory subjects, among them are:

  • Psychology: the subject develops a brief history of Psychology, its fields of action and its different theoretical-practical approaches. …
  • Sociology: understand the historical nature of social phenomena.
  • Anthropology: study the diversity of cultural expressions that characterize humanity.
  • Philosophy of science: Reflect on the problems that involve science
  • Statistics Applied to Psychology: Probability, distribution of variables, and the design of experiments.
  • History of Psychology.
  • Psychology and Professional Ethics.

Uhm, no math for now, right? Let’s Ttake a closer look.

Are mathematics and psychology related?

Psychology is the scientific study of the relationships between mental processes, emotions, and behavior. Mathematics and psychology are linked in three main ways:

  1. The first is that psychologists study mathematical cognition, that is, the development of the brain, the acquisition and application of mathematical knowledge.
  2. The second that they investigate feelings and attitudes in relation to mathematics.
  3. And the third is that they use mathematics, particularly statistics, as a professional tool to quantify and analyze their scientific results.

Statistics 

Statistics is defined as a branch of mathematics that aims to study the data collection achieved through a technique called survey, using instruments like the questionnaire.

According to APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major, the graduate in psychology must present quantitative literacy. Applying basic concepts and measurements. And interpret their results successfully.

Once collected the information data is ordered accordingly by techniques such as stem-leaf diagram, up or down, with these data, an analysis of central tendency, dispersion, position estimation, all for the purpose to see how people behave at certain phenomenon.

Studying the degree in psychology we will find subjects such as: “Fundamentals of research”, “Data analysis”, “Research designs”, “Psychometrics” or similar.

We are talking about topics whose plan is based directly on statistics. On the other hand, these types of subjects are not usually the most appreciated of the career since no student begins it with the motivation to take them.

In this article we will try to answer those questions that many students and curious people ask themselves when they meet them. To develop these answers, we will talk about Psychology as a science and the usefulness of statistics in Psychology.

Research in psychology and its methodology

Remember that psychology is a science. All the conclusions that are derived from this discipline come (or should come) from the application of a comprehensive and reliable system called the scientific method. This method is based on the progressive accumulation of evidence using different mathematical resources.

Psychology is a broad discipline with applications in different fields: clinical, educational, sport, social, business, etc.

Psychology requires statistics as an instrument. When drawing accurate conclusions about observable reality, we need mathematics to assess the significance of the results obtained from experiments and investigations.

If statistics didn’t exist in psychology, we couldn’t know if the results we are observing are valid and reliable. A correct methodology and mathematical study gives us the security that the data we have obtained in our research; which will be useful when we want to apply them to real situations.

Psychometry

Psychometry is the discipline that deals with the development of psychological tests, in order to measure aspects such as intelligence, skills, interests and personality.

Mathematics provides great help to psychometrics for the measurement of behavior, specifically in the establishment of tests, and in the scores established for those tests. This is an area where the measurement of variables is extremely important.  

Objectives of statistics in psychometrics 

  • Locate, use and assess the different instruments for obtaining psychometric data.
  • Know the techniques of the construction of psychometric instruments as well as the requirements that must be kept according to the chosen approach (Classical Theory of Tests, or Item Response Theory).
  • Adequately evaluate the items of the psychometric tests.
  • Build psychometric tests in any field.

Psychophysics

Psychophysics is an area of psychology whose objective is the study of physical aspects related to psychological functions such as perception. It seeks to determine the physical processes of the sensory and perceptual systems. 

Psychophysics establishes the quantitative relationships between the presentation of the stimulus (sensory input) and the magnitude of the reaction (output) by the affected organism, developing a precise methodology, which experimentally addresses the aspects involved in the perceptual process.

Mathematical models

In general, there are two main types of theories in psychology: those that are expressed only verbally (for example, the traditional formulations of the theories of social comparison, or those of cognitive dissonance), and those that allow a certain degree of formalization, that is, they can be expressed in the language of mathematics.

Psychology of Learning is an area that uses mathematical methods to measure its variables such as: response rate and time. This has allowed the establishment of mathematical models of behavior where algebraic functions play a very important role.

To cite just one example, we can see a model of Classical Conditioning, where they try to formalize learning before a stimulus through a mathematical equation.

The equation is:

Overwhelming, don’t you think? However, it’s easier than it seems, it only remains to substitute values from your experiment and voila!

Why is statistics important to psychology?

From outside or just beginning the study of the discipline, it may seem that statistics in psychology have no immediate utility. But soon any student of Psychology will realize that they need these mathematical resources to fully understand the subject.

We will continually find data and statistics from various studies, with the validity and reliability coefficients of tests used in therapies, with mathematical models of cognitive processes, etc.

For obvious reasons, if you want to dedicate yourself to research in psychology,  methodology and statistics are essential so you can really assess the weight of the conclusions obtained in your research.

Both in clinical psychology and in other applied fields require permanent training; which means being aware of new changes in the discipline.

If we want to know and interpret the conclusions of academic psychology, it’s necessary to have a minimum knowledge of statistics and methodology. So even in the most remote fields of research, any psychologist is “forced” to have knowledge of statistics and data analysis. 

The application of mathematics in psychology is an undoubted fact, mathematics is precisely one of the causes that most contribute to the enrichment of all the sciences and, in general, the multitude of disciplines.

Do you feel like you are bad at math? 

We will give you 5 tips to be better at math:

Trust is the key

50% of being a mathematician is believing that you can solve a problem. Somehow you have to be able to overcome that fear that you feel when you are presented with an exercise.

Learning math is like learning to play an instrument

You cannot pretend that you will learn to play it in one day. You have to practice the scales and then you will be able to play a piece of music. You need to spend a little time on it before you can understand and use it.

It’s okay to get stuck

It’s normal to be stuck in math problems. But that’s what makes it fun – that wonderful moment where you suddenly realize how you can solve the problem. If everything were easy, it would be boring!

Practice

In class the problems raised by your math teacher are corrected. To be sure of acquiring all the necessary skills to improve in Mathematics, you have to practice and do them over and over again at home.

Are you ready?

So, do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?

Mathematics is an important part of science and psychology, as a science that it is, makes use of it to achieve its objectives of predicting and controlling human behavior. The use of probability is important, which allows scientists to have greater certainty when predicting how people act.

Now, let ‘s see. You don’t need to be a math crack if you want to study psychology. Of course, if you come from a previous education, it’s recommended that you have at least a notion of basic operations, as well as equations, graphs, etc.

No, in the psychology career you will not be in charge of solving the mathematical problems of the millennium. Nor will you come across integral functions, geometry, etc. But you will come across pure and heavy statistics.

Statistics in psychology is a subject that causes a lot of fear and sometimes a headache. But it’s highly rewarding and useful to know how to use the resources that your study gives you. For this reason, it’s important that students and those interested in psychology immerse themselves enthusiastically in the study of methodology and data analysis. 

Many people freeze when faced with statistics. A good teacher should get you out of your doubts and give you good training. If you’re a bit weak at math, don’t worry, it’s not something they won’t teach you in college.

So don’t be discouraged, work very hard to reinforce your skills.

FAQS: Do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?

What kind of math do you need for psychology?

For psychology, you’ll need algebra and statistics. 

Do you have to be good at math to be a psychologist?

Statistics is important to become a psychologist. Since you will need it in your career and in your research. You will take math classes to reinforce your knowledge and many statistics classes.

Do you need to be good at science to study psychology?

Yes, you must have an interest and basic notions of science to study psychology, especially in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.

What do you need to be good at to be a psychologist?

Comunicación.
Research.
Ethic.
Patience.
Problem-Solving.

Is math in Psychology hard?

The most difficult thing about the mathematics of psychology is statistics, especially the subjects of psychometry. But it’s nothing you can’t take.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘‘Do you need to be good at maths to study psychology?’’ and detailed the importance of mathematics in psychology and why you shouldn’t be afraid.

References

Bech, P. (2012). Clinical psychometrics. John Wiley & Sons.

Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2012). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior with concept maps and reviews. Cengage Learning.

Coolican, H. (2018). Research methods and statistics in psychology. Routledge.

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