Back to Psychology

The new school year is under way for everyone. MC headed off yesterday to fifth grade, and Daniela started her sophomore year this morning. Denisa’s teaching her second day of classes today, and I’ve already been back on the reference desk, visiting classes, and scheduling research appointments. (Note: the work never ends for me. It’s not like I’ve got a summer vacation. I’ve got more of a “summer of doing something else for part of the time.”)

This year, I’m also going back to another psychology class. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I basically audited Intro to Psychology a few semesters ago. It was a great experience. I learned a ton, and it helped give me some insights into how I can help Psychology majors do their research more effectively. So I’m giving another class a shot. This time, it’s Personality: Theory and Research. If the past is any predictor of the future, then I’ll probably have a number of thoughts to share.

Like this one, from last class.

Dr. Maybury went around the room taking attendance, and asking people to talk about the traits they look for when they’re trying to tell what someone’s personality is like. There were soooo many. (So many) What people wear, how they talk, what they do with their eyes, how they stand, what their sense of humor is like, what their pets are like, who their friends are, what movies or books they like to watch or read.

As an author, I sometimes really struggle with coming up with blocking for how characters should act in a scene, and I think this helped me realize why. I just don’t pay attention to so many of those things. What people wear? I don’t think it even crosses my mind usually to notice. Actually, as I write about it, I think that’s not quite right. It’s not that I don’t pay attention to all of those traits, because I generally think I’m a pretty good judge of character. However, I approach it the same way I approach how I fix computers. I barrel through it to get to the end result, and then I have no real memory of the steps I took to get there.

In other words, I’ll walk away from an interaction with some insight into the person. I can talk about my conclusions, and maybe I can remember why I had those for the first bit, but a day or two later? All that I’m left with is the memory of what I thought about them.

But the students were so right. So many of the things we do can show people what sort of person we are. The next time I’m writing a scene, I’m going to try to not just think, “Okay, what does the character do with their arms now?” Instead, I’m going to focus on trying to think “How does the character show their personality?”

I think that might end up with much better results.

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