• Olivia Halsall

OLEA Coffee Chats (5) with Lucy, OLEA Psychology Mentor

The fifth of our OLEA Coffee Chats 2022 is with Lucy, our brilliant Psychology Mentor here at OLEA Education Ltd! IQ, AQ, CQ, SQ and EQ are the core pillars of OLEA Education Ltd., Through these, we enhance students’ 21st century skills so as to equip them for the ever-changing landscape of this new world we now live in. In this 12-month series of OLEA Coffee Chats, we will be disseminating the ambitions, habits and passions of our OLEA Mentors, as well as those we find particularly inspiring. OLEA Mentors have designed and delivered their own OLEA Masterclasses, which bring a school subject into real-life application. 智商 (IQ)、逆商 (AQ)、创商 (CQ)、灵商 (SQ) 和情商 (EQ) 是 OLEA Education Ltd. 的核心支柱。以这些支柱为依托,我们增强学生的 21 世纪英语技能,使其能够适应不断变化的世界格局。在这个为期 12 个月的《OLEA 咖啡访谈》系列栏目中,我们将介绍非常成功的 OLEA 导师和我们认为特别励志的人物志向、习惯和爱好。

Good morning Lucy! Thanks so much for participating in our May edition of OLEA Coffee Chats. First up, what is your favourite coffee and why?

It’s very standard but I tend to go for a cappuccino! I like the frothy milk and the chocolate on top, but it’s still plenty of actual coffee too.

Your Masterclass “Approaching Crime and Forensic Science as a Psychologist” has been hugely popular with our year 12 and 13 students who are interested in pursuing psychology at university (in particular those looking at Experimental Psychology at Oxford, which you studied yourself). What specifically do you find so fascinating about Crime and Forensic Science? Why do you think it is an important subject for students to learn about in terms of preparing them for the real-world?

I have always thought Psychology is predominantly about understanding why people do the things they do, and crime is one of the most intriguing aspects of this. Why do some of us go through life, never feeling a single violent or criminal urge, whilst others end up committing these acts? Without understanding this, we can’t even begin to think about crime prevention.

In terms of real-life application, Crime and Forensic Science is an interesting one because even if you don’t go directly into the industry, there are a huge range of lessons we can learn from it. I think we assume that forensic science is infallible, and can show us the truth in any situation, but that’s really not the case. It’s as prone to psychological bias as any other cognitive process, and learning not to take it at face value can teach us a lot about always questioning and learning further.

What was the most interesting module you studied as part of your BA in Experimental Psychology at Oxford? Can you share some books, YouTube videos, documentaries, museum exhibitions, communities or otherwise that our students could read into? What resources did you use to prepare for your interview, for example? Where can students go to really dive deep into psychology, beyond what the curriculum has to offer?

I think my favourite module during my BA in Experimental Psychology was called How To Build A Brain From Scratch. It was focused on how an understanding of how the brain and cognitive processes work can contribute towards the development of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and I found it absolutely fascinating. It’s an area which is constantly developing, and is so exciting to learn about and contribute ideas towards. As for content, I really enjoy the videos from VSauce’s Mind Field series, which cover a range of topics from how electricity works in the brain to truth serums and false confessions.

In general, however, I find that reading is the best way to prepare for an interview and really get your teeth into Psychology. I would just go to a bookshop and browse the Psychology section, picking out anything which was vaguely interesting regardless of how well I understood the topic! This list of 25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2022 is also really comprehensive, so it would be a good place to start for budding future psychologists looking for a place to start!

How does studying psychology prepare students for the real world beyond school (and indeed university)? Was there anything in your A Level, for example, that you felt broaden your perspective of the world before you got to university? If you could design your own Psychology A Level, for example, what would you include to help students pick up 21st century skills ?

When it comes to how Psychology prepares students for the real world beyond school, I think it is one of the best subjects to show us how to test hypotheses and collect evidence for theories. Psychology should be studied empirically, meaning we need to prove something is true. The skills required for this, such as designing valid and reliable experiments, recruiting participants, and data analysis, are all so relevant to many aspects of adult life. As mentioned earlier, learning not to take things at face value and constantly question them is one of the best skills anyone can learn.

If I could design my own A Level, I would include more human interaction in it. A huge part of both being a psychologist and dealing with life in general involves an understanding of the intricacies of human behaviour, especially when coping with difficult topics and indeed life circumstances. I think this is somewhere which requires further emphasis in the future.

If you are interested in academic mentorship with Lucy, and/or taking her OLEA Masterclass, please get in touch with us at olivia@oleaeducation.com or +44 7563414137

To finish, I thought it would be fun to throw some Oxbridge Psychology interview questions your way to demonstrate to our students (and anyone else reading this) what a well-developed answer looks like!

What is ‘normal’ for humans?

What is ‘normal’ for humans depends significantly on how we define the term ‘normal’. Is it something statistically normal? Or something we think is normal in our culture and our time era, but may not be elsewhere or in previous years? If the idea of ‘normal’ changes, does that still make it normal? These are all questions anyone considering this question should be asking themselves, whilst also considering how we might measure normality – and why it even matters!

How would you conceptualise an emotion?

Conceptualising an emotion is something which psychologists have struggled with for decades. Some might take a more biological approach, and argue emotions are driven by the limbic system, in particular, the amygdala. This suggests all individuals should experience emotions similarly. Others may say we need to take a more individual approach, where our emotions are not just physically driven, but also by experience and context. Any answer to this question requires a strong definition of emotion – and of the term conceptualise!

If I told you that first born siblings have higher IQs than siblings, how would you discuss an explanation for this finding?

Some people argue that it is due to the elder sibling having their parents undivided attention during crucial developmental years, whilst others claim it is the benefit that comes from having to teach a younger sibling, developing their own cognitive skills at the same time. However, order of birth effects are extremely difficult to study due to a huge number of extraneous variables, and this is worth considering.

Is colour real?

Do we class real as something we can see with our eyes? Or something that is physically present? The items we see around us do not have colour. They are absorbing some of the light hitting them, and reflecting the rest of it back into our eyes. Different wavelengths of light are processed by the rods and cones in our eyes as different colours - but just because our brain is processing it in that way might not make it real!

- Interview by Olivia A. Halsall

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