What is psychological literacy? Put simply, it is the adaptive application of psychological science to meet personal and societal needs. But of course, it is not that simple—see the Background section for further information.
You will find on this site some of the contributors to the development of the concept (People), and useful learning and teaching Resources. We strongly believe that psychological literacy should be the primary outcome of undergraduate psychology education. Examples of applications beyond the ivory tower are contained in the Real World section. Concepts such as adaptive cognition, resilience and self-determination are covered in Related Concepts. The 'mountain top' in the development of psychological literacy is Global Citizenship, which, put simply, is the capacity to think and behave as if the whole world is one’s home, to be shared with all people who care about the world’s future.
Psychological Literacy in the News (see right column) provides a catalogue of media reporting/ illustrations of the concept.
Psychological Literacy Illustrated
Here we provide links to video examples of psychological literacy. We especially invite your contributions to this catalogue as 'seeing is believing'.
The ‘prediction’ video if followed correctly results in the ‘magician’ predicting which grid you will end up on. The secret behind this prediction is that by the magician telling you how many moves you can make, he knows which squares you will not end up on (based on odd-even mathematical calculations), and omits one after each move. In doing so, he guides you to end up on the final square, which due to your sense of control (by picking your moves), will appear as though he has read your mind.
Click here to see how it works.
The bystander effect refers to the phenomenon whereby individuals do not offer help to a victim in an emergency situation when other people are present. Counter-intuitively it would be thought that the more individuals present would increase the amount of help offered. Instead individuals are more likely to ignore, which is explained by various factors such as (a) diffusion of responsibility – as the number of people increase, the responsibility to help is divided between them, (b) pluralistic ignorance – whereby most individuals privately reject the norm of not helping, but assume (incorrectly) that everyone else accepts it, (c) conformity – individuals don’t want to break the social norm of not helping. Understanding how most people behave in an emergency can empower you to behave in ways that have a significant positive outcome in an emergency. One suggestion is to assign particular individuals to roles (responsibilities), for example, “you call an ambulance”, rather than saying “someone call an ambulance”, otherwise the responsibility is still diffused amongst many.
Social conformity refers to individuals matching their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours to what would be considered the norm of a particular social group or society. Showing how people conform can be fun, as in this video, and conformity is also positive in many ways as it is necessary for society to function effectively (e.g., following road rules). Failure to conform can result in negative consequences for an individual, such as being socially rejected. Awareness of when you are conforming, at least on critical issues, is important as you may otherwise find yourself agreeing on things or behaving in ways that you would not like. Deciding on whether and how to act is something that also needs to be considered for each situation. For example, imagine you and five others witness a crime, however, the five other witnesses select the wrong offender from a line-up. Would you go with your hunch or theirs?
This book extends the concepts of psychological literacy and the psychologically literate citizen. More
This e-book on the application of psychological science to sustainability issues does not mention psychological literacy, but is a good example of it! More
Chapter 1 in this book operationalizes psychological literacy and coins the term “Psychologically literate citizen”. More
In the News
Psychological Literacy in the News
March 2010, Observer
Ryan Goldstein on “Major Developments in Undergraduate Psychology”
September 21, 2009, Psychology Today (in “Head of the Class”).
Dana Dunn on “Thinking About Psychological Literacy: How psychologically literate are you?”
February 14, 2009, Psychology Today
Art Markman on “Promoting Psychological Literacy I: The Need: Five reasons we should teach Psychology in schools”
November 2008, Monitor on Psychology
Cynthia Belar on “Increasing psychological literacy”