SG Psych Stuff @ SPS Psych Week 2018: Why should you be coming to the SPS Psych Week 2018

It is now 2 weeks to Singapore Psychological Society’s (SPS) annual flagship event – SPS Psych Week.  Many should have registered for some talks for this event, regardless of whether you are a SPS or non-SPS member.  Each talk has their own dedicated sign up page.  For those who are interested and yet to sign up, you can sign up individually for all talks that you wish to attend on the respective event pages at  There will be a total of 6 speakers spread across from 18 June 2018 – 22 June 2018.
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So why should we attend the SPS Psych Week?
As one of our team members once shared:
Understanding an individual is through the words people use with the nonverbal signs so we could observe and being able to tell if a person is excited, sad, hiding something or if they are relaxed.  However, with constant advancement of technology, people start relying a lot on social media which the nonverbal signs are replaced by smileys and emoticons which we cannot actually tell whether people meant the smileys or emoticons that they sent.
Modern technology has been constantly becoming more advanced these days.  Despite the fact that technology may make our lives easier, it may also bring disruptions to our lives, work as well as psychological practices.  We may not be conscious about the impact of the modern technologies; hence, professionals are here to share their views and knowledge on the impact and the possible coping strategies with application of psychology knowledge we could consider to enhance our lives, work environment and even the World of Psychology.
This is a great platform where all aspiring psychologists, psychology students or even any individuals who are interested in psychology to gain more information on how modern disruptions affect our world of psychology.  The amazing part is that we will have a collection of insightful thoughts from different professionals including psychologist practitioners, a education professional and a psychology student.  Fruitful discussions may surface during the talk as well to further enhance the knowledge with regards to the topic.

In conclusion, it is always good to be prepared on the area that you have interest in, come and learn about different perspectives from different professionals and how they come together to value add the modern society with their knowledge.  Being open minded always works wonder for you to maximize your learning potential as well as meeting new friends who share the same passion.

Xav: Why do an overseas internship?

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It’s the summer holidays once again as the next batch of Year 3 students prepare for their internships and exchanges.  As a soon-to-be Year 2 or even soon-to-be Year 1 student, you might be starting to dwell on the possible countries you wish to head to for your exchange - a quintessential part of the university experience.  After all, it is prudent to seize your summer holidays to decide on the countries to apply for the following semesters.  Yet, more universities are offering increasingly interesting global programmes such as overseas internships.  While going on an overseas exchange freezes your GPA and allows you to immerse in another country’s culture, an overseas internship might be more beneficial to your future career path while doing the same.  If you’re seeking reasons for doing an overseas internship, this post is for you.
1. Better understanding of a country’s Psychology field
If you intend to pursue a career out of Singapore after graduation, an overseas internship would arguably be more beneficial for you.  While both overseas internships and overseas student exchanges offer the opportunity for you to immerse in another culture, it may be challenging to understand a country’s work culture, especially in a specific field unless you work in it.  Doing an overseas internship allows you to understand and adapt to the country’s work culture better when you work there in the future.  For example, if you wish to venture into I/O Psychology in another country, the work environment in Singapore is likely to be distinct from that of the other country.  Reading up or hearing from someone may be informative; however, the experience is not quite the same as being there yourself.

2. Forging global connections
When you’re interning overseas, you gain the opportunity to make connections from professionals all over the world.  As mentioned in many of our previous posts, forging professional relationships is a long-term investment and offers you greater insights to the gaps in the field, and even facilitates discussion of possible solutions within your interested field with these professionals.
Through networking, you gain greater appreciation for the field and may even open more channels for overseas career advancements.
As fresh graduates, you may also wish to further pursue your studies and obtain a Masters’ degree or a Doctorate.  Having a professional relationship with foreign experts opens more opportunities for you to getting connected with relevant parties vital to your academic advancements.

3. Standing out to future employers
Even if you do not intend to work overseas in the future, many employers value international experience.  This is pertinent to the psychology field, especially in the work of research.  Imagine being a fresh graduate and already having international work experience on your resume?  While most university students have done internships during their 3 to 4 years in university, seldom do you come across students with overseas work experience.
Having overseas work experience portrays yourself as an individual who is determined to pursue personal growth out of your comfort zone, as well as your commitment and passion towards your desired field.
4. Honing your language skills
How else can you best improve a language unless you are in the country speaking the language?
There are few corporate advantages in learning a foreign language.   One would be better communication with others from different cultures.  People generally trust you more if you speak their language.  As a student, while you may have the time to take language modules or learn a language at your own time and pace, it is definitely more conducive to your learning if you are immersed in a day-to-day environment where everyone speaks the language.  Having fluency in another language elevates your professional relationship with potential foreign colleagues and foreign clients.
You may ask, how is this relevant to Psychology?
As a psychologist, it is inevitable that you would meet into foreign clients.  Having a harmonious psychologist-client relationship is undeniably important in the process of generating results.  Who knows, the foreign language you know may aid you in bridging a gap between you and your client in the future?
5. Improving your self-confidence
Working overseas trains your social skills.  Having to interact with foreigners requires adaptability and cultural sensitivity which can best be trained when you communicate with foreigners.  Overtime, these skills become of second nature to you since you have been practicing it for a period of time every day.  Additionally, being alone in another country forces you to be independent, as well as teach you to handle your problems.  In turn, you become more confident with making decisions, which can be useful in your future work environment and day-to-day problem solving.
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How do I find overseas internship?
1. Through your educational institutions (Polytechnics/Universities)
The easiest way to find overseas internships is through your school’s career office or relevant internship application officers. Through them, you will be able to get to know the various internship opportunities relating to your area of interest better, as well as obtain the school’s help in the process of applying.

Are there any funding available?
There are available funding available. Do contact your school’s representatives for more information. One such funding example for overseas work experience is the Young Talent Programme (YTP) - see

2. Through internship/job portal websites offering oversea internships
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One good example would be Glints, where you are able to indicate your country of interest.  These websites allow you to match your skill sets with the positions available, cutting down time in your search for an overseas internship. The main downside to using these portals are that not all academic disciplines are covered due to the demand in respective countries, hence opportunities are rare and precious.

While overseas exchange programs are still the norm, you can consider overseas internships if you hope to have a competitive edge over others in your field of interest.  However, do remember that every university has different requirements and programs.  Be sure to figure out if there are any academic requirements and speak to your university’s career office when in doubt.
All the best!

Jon: 3 Tips to Benefiting from Your Internship

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As the holidays approach for the universities and most of you will be embarking on internships during this period, SG Psych Stuff have decided to do some posts on this topic of internships.  This one would be looking at how best to approach your internships so as to benefit from your time with a particular organization.  Increasingly, with internships becoming the norm in one's tertiary education and everyone doing them, these will result in the reduction of the value of internships as part of your CV and the credibility and soundness of your internships may soon begin to be scrutinized by employers.  Without further ado, here are three simple tips to maximise your experience and improve your learning outcomes from your internships:

1. Choosing a suitable organization
To ensure that you gain the most out of an internship, it is essential to choose an organization that aligns with your goals.  While conventional wisdom points to internships as being experimental periods where you explore what you wish to do in the future, that isn’t the case for undergraduate internships.
As a psychology undergraduate, you should have a basic understanding of the various fields in psychology and an inkling of the area which you may want to eventually work in.  With this knowledge, you can actually leverage on your internship to help you get a foot into the respective sectors or psychological specialisations. To start off, you have to research more about the field to better understand the various organizations within it and also the various sectors in each field.  For example, if you wish to venture into clinical psychology, you may need to consider what aspect of clinical psychology suits or interests you most.  This will then lead to a list of the most suitable organisations that fits your needs  (e.g., if you’re into child psychology, KK Hospital or the Child Guidance Clinic at IMH may be better matches over an internship at the Singapore Police Force).

2. Being prepared
Now that you’ve decided where to go, it is important to start learning more about the organization.  Learn about the people within it and the work the organization does.  Specifically, check out the departments that you may end up working in and look up individuals you may be working for while on your internship.  Read up on their current and past projects to gain a better understanding of their work, which will allow you to then do more independent research and evaluation to come up with ideas on how you can add value to their work.  In addition to learning more about the field, this also will give you an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge you have gained from school in real world situations and also show your supervisors that you are keen on a career in the sector.

3. Forging networks
Last but certainly not least and perhaps the most underlooked aspect is that undergraduates do not consider are the numerous networking opportunities available during internships.  If you have completed the two tips above, you should be in an excellent position to start building your connections with individuals in the field.
Additionally, while maintaining good relationships with your fellow interns is essential, you should also consider becoming on good terms with your supervisors and other professionals working in the field.  While this can be intimidating at times, it really boils down to how prepared you are, because this will allow you to communicate with them on a more equal level.  By being updated on the pressing issues in the field, discussions on how to solve them can be done, and this will allow you to forge professional relationships with such individuals.

We wish all of you the very best in your internships and do comment below on how these tips may have benefited you! 

Xav: Applications of Positive Psychology

This is Part 2 of our March Theme of Positive Psychology.  Make sure you read the first post as well: An Introduction to Positive Psychology

As mentioned briefly in the previous post, positive psychology has been applied to other specialised psychological fields such as clinical psychology and educational psychology.  In this post, we explore how positive psychology theories and interventions have been adopted in some fields.
1.  Clinical Interventions
Clinical psychology traditionally looks on the abnormal aspects of human personality and behaviour, focusing on alleviation of these behaviours that deviate from societal norms.  However, the integration of positive psychology into clinical psychology shifts the focus beyond negative functioning onto both negative aspects and human positive flourishing.  According to Wood and Tarrier (2010), choosing to focus on positive aspects of behaviour, emotions and thoughts can improve the prediction of disorders and act as a cushion for traumatising life experiences.  Wood and Tarrier recommended that positive functioning should be integrated into clinical psychology to make it a more holistic field in treating disorders.  Their findings have been supported by earlier and recent research that found that happiness interventions lead to sustained levels of happiness and lowered depression (Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson, 2005; Germer and Neff, 2013).

2. Educational Psychology
With increased stress and competitiveness in the global world, some educational psychologists acknowledge the need to teach students happiness skills (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivish, and Linkins, 2009).  According to Seligman and colleagues, these happiness skills increase “resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning” to school children.  In Waters’ (2012) research, she reviewed 12 positive psychology interventions in schools.  Her study reflected significant relationships between these interventions and student wellbeing, interpersonal relationships and academic results.  Optimism is also more common amongst better performing students in schools (Pajares, 2010) and associated with better coping (Reschly, Huebner, Appleton, and Antaramian, 2008).
3. Workplace Wellbeing
Industrial and organisational psychologists are concerned with improving an organisation’s success through members’ job satisfaction, motivation and health. Researchers have dwelled on this and studied the use of positive psychology in the workplace. Based on Turner, Barling and Zacharatos (2002), using positive psychology in work practices can make work enjoyable for employees and cultivate greater resilience and optimism in them. Positive psychology strategies have also been adapted into I/O theories to boost productivity and motivation in the workplace (Martin, 2005).

4. Wellbeing and ageing
With ageing population growing across the world, researchers are increasingly interested in studying how to improve the wellbeing of the elderly.  Ramirez, Ortega, Chamorro and Colmenero’s (2013) programme found that using interventions that seek to strengthen support for happiness help to increase welfare and quality of life amongst the older adults.  Using mindfulness, it has been found that there is a reduction in negative affects amongst participants over the age of 55 (Banos, Etchemendy, Castilla, GarcĂ­a-Palacios, Quero, and Botella, 2012).  Longitudinal studies found that optimism and positive emotions play a role in decreased frailty and depressive symptoms amongst the elderly (Giltay, Zitman and Kromhout, 2006).
With positive psychology’s increasing application on to other fields, it may very well pave the way for how future research is conducted.  While more research has to be done to further support the strengths of using positive interventions, one can be hopeful and anticipate more contributions from the field of positive psychology.

Xav: An Introduction to Positive Psychology

Compared to more established specialisations such as clinical psychology, positive psychology is a relatively newer field that emerged in the late 1990s.  Positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing, revolving around how we can be happier and more productive (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).  With the past decades of psychological studies placing more emphasis on the more negative aspects of humanity (e.g. bias, abnormality, etc.), positive psychology offers a refreshing take on psychology, choosing to focus on well-being, without overlooking inevitable aspects of human functioning such as negative emotions.

TED Video: "The new era of positive psychology" featuring Martin Seligman

Positive psychology began as a new domain in 1998 when Martin Seligman, the then-president of American Psychological Association (APA) decided to focus on well-being and happiness as the theme of his presidency.  At that point, humanistic psychology was already established, and positive psychology served to build on the foundation of humanistic psychology.

How do humanistic psychology and positive psychology differ? (Waterman, 2013; Friedman, 2008)

Humanistic Psychology
Positive Psychology
-  Concerned with understanding human needs and meaning of life
-  Focus on fulfilling human potential
-  Concerned with merging humanistic theories with research
-  Focus on understanding factors that lead to success despite adversities
Preference for qualitative approaches
Preference for quantitative approaches

Humanistic psychology has been largely criticised for its lack of empiricism (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), offering a rose-tinted view of how every individual has free-will to pursue a better life (McMullen, 1982) and an overly optimistic yet vague view of the mind (Rowan, 2001, Ordinary Ecstasy: The Dialectics of Humanistic Psychology [Book]).

Thus, we have the birth of positive psychology.

Positive psychology adopts a more holistic approach to research  -  covering different aspects of life such as biology and relationships (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).  The main research focus are on positive emotions, positive human traits and positive institutions- all to which interact to create a wholesome life for an individual (Seligman, 2007).

Main theories in positive psychology

Theory 1.  The 3 Paths of Happiness (Seligman, 2002, Authentic Happiness [Book])
  • Pleasant life  -  How people optimally experience life through feelings and emotions.
  • Good life  -  Interactions between a person’s strengths and task he/she is engaged in.
  • Meaningful life  -  How individuals obtain meaning and positive self-conception through being part of a community.
Theory 2.  PERMA Theory (Seligman, 2011, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing [Book])
The 5 building blocks of well-being and happiness, as mentioned included:
  • Positive Emotions  -  Emotions such as excitement, jubilance are linked to happier outcomes.
    • For example, children with executive functioning difficulties who have more optimistic caretakers see more developed functioning (Ylvisaker and Feeney, 2002).
  • Engagement  -  Participation in activities that are challenging yet doable, allows us personal growth.
  • Relationships  -  Relationships strengthen our well-being and ensure healthy functioning of our brain.
    • In an interview with Dr. Mitch Printein (2015), there is more activity in our brain’s pain centres when we are at a risk of isolation. Undoubtedly, relationships are essential to humans as social creatures.
  • Meaning  -  Having a meaningful purpose in life allows us to enjoy our daily activities and increases our satisfaction levels.
  • Accomplishments  -  Setting realistic goals and having ambition allow us to obtain a sense of satisfaction when we achieve them. 
Theory 3.  Character Strengths and Virtues (Seligman and Peterson, 2004)
There are 6 virtues and 24 strengths as follows:
  • Wisdom: Creativity, curiosity, judgment, love-of-learning, perspective 
  • Courage: Bravery, honesty, perseverance, zest
  • Humanity: kindness, love, social intelligence
  • Justice: Fairness, leadership, teamwork
  • Temperance: Forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
  • Transcendence: Appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality 
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Criticisms and Implementations
But of course, like every other field, positive psychology is not without its limitations, especially since it is still a young field with more research that can be done.  Positive psychology is criticised for its one-size-fits-all approach towards happiness (Held, 2004).  Additionally, it does not explain major historical events such as genocides and wars (Schneider, 2011).
Despite that, positive psychology has successfully complemented other psychological fields.  For example, treatment methods implementing positive psychology have been found to significantly alleviate depressive symptoms and improve well-being (Sin, 2009).  Positive psychology could also be adopted in educational curriculums to improve well-being amongst students and develop their purpose in life (Pluskota, 2014).

In conclusion:  
A young field, positive psychology has many more years of research to develop and presents itself as a promising addition to the field that traditionally revolves around human flaws and the lack of free-will.
Stay tuned to the next post on Positive Psychology!!
In the meantime, also look at our previous post which also discussed positive psychology:  SGPsychStud: Current Trends in Psychology