Tawny Tsang, Leah Lessard & Stacy Shaw

Psychology Blog Author

President, Blogmaster, Outreach Coordinator

Interview with Psychology in Action and Authors Tawny Tsang, Leah Lessard & Stacy Shaw

About Tawny, Leah & Stacy: Tawny Tsang is the President of Psychology in Action and a Ph.D. candidate in Developmental Psychology at UCLA.

Leah Lessard is the outreach coordinator for Psychology in Action and a 4th year graduate student in developmental psychology at UCLA. Her work focuses on peer relationship processes during adolescence. She is particularly interested in understanding how peers can serve as a protective factor to promote adaptive social, academic and behavioral development.

Stacy Shaw is the blogmaster of Psychology in Action and a 3rd year graduate student in developmental psychology at UCLA.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When, why, and by whom was Psychology in Action initially launched?

[All] Psychology in Action (PIA) was the idea of Adi Jaffe, a graduate student at UCLA in 2007 who wanted to create a platform for UCLA graduate students to disseminate research to the public. With the help of numerous other graduate students across the years, this small blog grew into Psychologyinaction.org as we know today, where current graduate students continue to write for PIA about current research findings.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining the blog?

[All] As a science communication group, our primary goal is to share important research findings in psychological science and write articles that anyone, no matter their scientific background, can read and understand. Apart from continuing on this important mission, another goal is to not only help increase public understanding, but also to increase science communication skills on our side as well. Having the opportunity to engage in science communication as graduate students is invaluable, and PIA allows us to connect to the public and develop these skills before graduating.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] In response to your post, “The Role of Mind Wandering in Education,” how can school counselors and psychologists promote mind wandering and big-picture thinking to support the new common core standards in education?

[Stacy Shaw] It’s an interesting question because what we certainly don’t want is a class where everyone’s mind wanders but the teacher! We know that not all mind wandering is beneficial (i.e. rumination can be harmful), and even mind wandering about how concepts relate to one another can come at the cost of not attending to the teacher’s current lesson and missing out on information. However, it’s only natural for our attention to wander, and estimates of mind wandering have found that we do it up to 50% of the time.

With this in mind, I do think is important is that educators start to realize that when a student looks like they are daydreaming and not paying attention, they might very well be making connections to concepts and ideas that promote learning and problem solving. Put simply, the face of learning might look completely different than we initially thought. School counselors and psychologists can help educate teachers and administrators that mind wandering during class is not necessarily poor behavior. To increase big-picture thinking, it might be helpful to encourage schools to keep standard schedules (as opposed to block schedules) for most days as incubation can be bolstered by switching between subjects to utilize unconscious processing and make connections between subjects.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Psychology in Action has also engaged in multiple community outreach events in the past. What has their impact been in advancing your mission to spread awareness about psychological research?

[Leah Lessard] Our outreach events provide us with another platform to bring psychology to life. We have partnered with other national and LA programs including Brain Awareness Week, Project Literacy, American Psychological Association (APA) and the Latino Resource Organization to reach a wide range of demographic groups. For example, our “Psychology and the Brain” exhibit was part of UCLA’s Explore Your Universe science fair with over 7,000 attendees. Making psychology come alive for all ages, our outreach members engage community members in hands-on activities, lively presentations and interactive games. At almost every outreach event the feedback is always, “Wow, I never knew this was psychology!” Our goal is to demystify what psychological research is and to inspire others to recognize how psychology is a part of their lives each and every day.

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] As part of your outreach initiatives you’ve also hosted annual interdisciplinary symposia on various interesting subjects. Do you have any plans to host more symposia in 2017 and/or 2018? If so, what will their focus be, and why?

[Tawny Tsang] One of the goals of PIA’s annual interdisciplinary symposia is to provide multiple perspectives and have discussions on a relevant contemporary topic. For instance, our 2016 Symposia, “Ballot and Behavior” focused on politics and psychology in light of the presidential election. Professors from disciplines including psychology, political science, and communication studies presented research from their respective fields on the psychology of politics. Planning for the annual spring symposia typically begin at the start of the academic school term where a group of psychology graduate students brainstorm topics that would be of most interest to the larger campus community. Stay tuned for this year’s topic!

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What firsthand advice can you offer from your personal experience as a UCLA doctoral student to those considering higher education in psychology?

[Leah Lessard] Statistics is everything!

[Tawny Tsang] Having a big picture perspective of your research endeavors helps maintain motivation during some of the troughs in research.

[Stacy Shaw] Know what you want to do and the degree you need to do it. I’ve talked to many undergraduates wanting to pursue a Ph.D. or Psy.D. to become a counselor when all they really need is a MFT or MSW. Doctorate degrees can be very expensive both in terms of time, energy, and money so you need to be 100% committed. For those unsure of what degree they should seek, I recommend looking at job listings you might want to pursue one day and review the education requirements!

[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[All] Thank you for including us!

Thank you, Tawny, Stacy & Leah. Learn more about Psychology in Action on our Top Psychology Blogs list.