The Profession of Psychology Scale: Sophisticated and Naive Students' Responses

Article excerpt

The Profession of Psychology Scale (Rosenthal, McKnight & Price, 2001) was used to investigate whether taking more psychology courses results in a more accurate understanding of what is required to become a psychologist. Data indicate that though misconceptions exist in both Naive students (those who had not completed any psychology courses) and Sophisticated students (those who had completed five to fourteen psychology courses), the concepts that most define what a psychologist is and what they do (e.g. minimal qualifications, lack of prescription privileges) were mastered better by Sophisticated than Naive students.

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The public harbors misconceptions about who psychologists are and what they do. Accurate information concerning the profession is fairly obscure. Even psychology majors are prone to erroneous beliefs (Nauta, 2000), which can result in inappropriate career choices (Nauta, 2000).

Rosenthal, McKnight, and Price, (2001) assessed perceptions of the profession of psychology with the Profession of Psychology Scale (PPS). Responses of Introductory Psychology students on the PPS indicated that most did not recognize the doctorate as the standard level of training for psychologists. Further, respondents significantly overestimated the number of psychologists who were health care providers (clinicians, counseling and school specialists), as well as the number who are members of a minority group.

The current study examined the effect that the number of undergraduate psychology courses completed had on students' perceptions of the profession of psychology. The study specifically focused on whether or not taking more psychology courses relates to more accurate understandings of the profession, such as: training requirements, demographics, and job roles and functions. It was hypothesized that the more psychology courses students completed the more knowledgeable they would be of the profession.

Method

Participants

One hundred fifty-four undergraduate students at a small rural southern university completed the Profession of Psychology Scale. All participants were volunteers and registered for one of six undergraduate psychology classes (Introductory Psychology, Psychological Measurement, Abnormal Psychology, Research Designs and Methods, Psychology of Personality or Senior Research Seminar). From this sample, "Naive" and "Sophisticated" comparison groups were created based on self-reports of the number of psychology courses completed. The 36 students (14 males and 22 females) in the Naive group reported that they had not completed any psychology courses (high school or college), their mean age was 20.1 (SD = 5.5). All Naive participants were enrolled in an Introductory Psychology class. The 38 students (4 males and 34 females) in the Sophisticated group reported they had completed from five to greater than fourteen courses (Mode = 5, Md = 7); their mean age was 23.2 (SD = 4.6).

Materials

The Profession of Psychology Scale (PPS). The Profession of Psychology Scale is a self-report measure of perceptions of the profession of psychology and psychologists (e.g. qualifications, characteristics, and workplaces). The scale begins with a demographic section. The majority of items that follow require estimating a percentage, the remainder consist of Likert-type, one-choice, choose all that apply, and yes/no items.

Procedure

All participants completed the PPS scale on the first day of class before listening to any lecture material or reading the text (presumably). Students were encouraged to take as much time as necessary and to be truthful. They were assured that their responses would be anonymous and not affect their grades. Some participants received extra-credit for completing the survey.

Analyses

Where appropriate, responses were compared to available factual data; then responses of Naive and Sophisticated groups were compared using a variety of parametric and nonparametric tests for the significance of a difference. …

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