Society in need for psychology?

According to 7722 students study psychology at our Flemish universities. That is about 10% of all students. Why keeps psychology being so attractive for young people?

Pessimists see this as yet another symptom of a sick Western society. With more and more young people who look for answers for personal questions and who ignore the  alfa sciences. And who, after graduation, show other people the way in companies, hospitals or on their own as coach or therapist. I imagine that the ratio alfa – beta students is different in China or India.

You can also look at the bright side of this phenomenon. Technology makes an increasingly complex world possible. Maybe too complex for our current brain. Learning and change is essential to take part in that new society. And that’s exactly the  field of expertise of psychologists. Together with neurologists they succeed in getting better at explaining how humans function and behavior changes.

It is also the argument of David De Cremer, top scientist and recently chosen as #1 economist of the Netherlands ( He sets psychology on the agenda of societal and business leaders with interviews e.g. in Humo, De Standaard and now with his book “When good people do bad things”. He advocates a more realistic assessment of human capacity. I agree with him. Psychology as antidote for the often pernicious magical thinking of managers and politicians.

As if people become morally courageous with code of conducts and poster on the wall. As if people keep up with change after yet another information session about the “need for change ‘. As if people become leaders by attending a leadership training of 3 days. Nobody believes that anymore. But “we” continue to do so. As a kind of ritual. Then “they” can not say that “we” have done nothing.

A good start would be to stop bad habits. The first step in change is to let go.

Any comment?


About Koen Marichal

Director Future Leadership Initiative at Antwerp Management School
This entry was posted in Comments & events, English and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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