What is the difference between MA in psychology and MA in applied psychology? What should I do if I want to get into the clinical psychology field?

MA psych is general, MA applied psych is the practical, useful bits of psych – so no farting about with the psychology of dreaming, or Freud/Jung.

The “MA” bit is worrying. Typically, BA and MA psych contain no statistical or methodological content, and they are a poor entry into the science of psychology.

If you want to get into clinical psych, don’t waste your time on either MA. You need to get onto a PhD-level degree in clinical psych.


I wanted to become a psychologist but I’m scared about finding work and the salary as I want to make decent money to help my family in the future. Should I lean more towards psychiatry if both fields interest me?

If money is your main concern, then neither psychiatry nor psychology is a good fit for you. You should probably consider accountancy or tax law, which both attract excellent compensation.

Here in the UK, there’s not a vast difference in salary between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. The basic training is roughly the same length – 6 years’ medical school plus specialist training for psychiatry, 3 years BSc + 3–6 years PhD and ongoing CPD for clinical psychologists. The opportunities for private practice, academic research and lecturing and so on are not dissimilar, either. I’m not sure what the situation is where you are, but you should check for yourself.

I went into psychology intending to be a clinical psychologist, but went off the idea and wound up an experimental psychophysicist. Even at the start, though, I had zero interest in psychiatry, partly because I saw it as extremely limiting, partly because slogging through medical school and all the pointless and irrelevant medical training to get there seemed, well, pointless and irrelevant. YMMV.

But if money is more important than career satisfaction to you, there are better, and less potentially damaging, routes to wealth than working with vulnerable individuals.

If someone uses the “cry-it-out” method of sleep training, leaves a baby in a room at night, and doesn’t come back until the morning, is this just as bad as leaving a baby home alone overnight?

If someone uses the “cry-it-out” method of sleep training, leaves a baby in a room at night, and doesn’t come back until the morning…

… they are not using the “cry-it-out” method of sleep training.

The cry-it-out method means you sit outside the infant’s room (which is probably your own bedroom, since it’s an infant), and, AS SOON AS THE BABY CRIES, you go in, comfort the baby, settle it down according to your routine, and leave. You do this over and over and over again, until the baby realises that you are not abandoning it, and will always come if they cry.

The process might take an hour a night, for a week. That was certainly my experience. My routine involved a bath, a fresh nappy, singing songs that I’d sung while pregnant, a feed, and watching In The Night Garden, bed, signing “sleep”, more singing, kiss, Night-Night. When he cried, I went in and spoke quietly to him, signing and singing again until he settled, kiss, Night-Night.

He was a very placid baby, though.

What is the psychology of not being good at writing novels?

Congratulations! You’ve won my first Idiotic Quora Question of 2022!

Astonishingly enough, in my decades of being a psychologist, I have never come across The Psychology Of Not Being Good At Writing Novels.

It must be in the same book as The Psychology Of Not Being Good At Making Soup, The Psychology Of Not Being Good At Left-Handed Wanking, and The Psychology Of Not Being Good At Writing Sincere Quora Questions.

How can I like math?

You need to break the negative connection. This takes time, but one way to kickstart the break is to lie to yourself.

  • Every time you think of maths, SMILE.
  • Remember something awesome that happened to you (it doesn’t need to be related to maths)
  • When you’re brushing your teeth, look into the mirror and say “I LOVE maths”, like it’s your biggest crush.
  • Before you go into maths class, take a big deep breath and SMILE. Think of something funny – a joke, or whatever.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? How can you change your feelings just by smiling and thinking about happy things?

Actually, we don’t know whether our feelings are the result of our experiences, or if our feelings create the experiences. Say you’re in an accident, and you feel frightened. Are you feeling frightened because your heart is racing (a normal result of hormonal activity under the circumstances), or is your heart racing because you’re frightened?

Do you dislike maths because it’s hard – or is it hard because you dislike it?

If you can trick yourself into feeling happy and confident around maths, you will be much more relaxed and open to new experiences.

Happiness + Confidence = Success.


Are people who live in rural areas make more fleeting connections with people they meet?

Each encounter might in and of itself be fleeting, but the connections are generations deep.

Here in Ireland, much is made of ‘signing’ to oncoming drivers while driving. There is a vast, mystical significance to the finger(s) you hold up, the hand you use, whether you raise your hand from the steering wheel and/or nod (and how deeply/long/to which side), how long you hold up the finger/hand, etc. It is a language of its own which I’ve never quite fathomed, and can sometimes be your only interaction with another human for days at a time. And the whole ritual is determined by what that driver’s great-great-great-uncle said to your great-great-great-great-grandmother at the county fair the year the new queen was crowned (Anne, or possibly Mary).

Interactions do take place regularly, either in social circumstances (in local pubs, or after Mass), or in people’s homes (sometimes called ‘rambling’). They can be very short and intense with fast-paced speech from several people at once, or they could go on through the night and may include music, poetry recitations, and re-tellings of tales of local interest (like what their GGGU really said to your GGGGGM at the county fair).

However, all of these interactions are informed by generations of communication and knowledge. There’s a huge subtext that outside observers don’t see, and can’t appreciate. You don’t just know your neighbours well, you know their ancestors too.


How does someone with a hostile appearance appear friendly to strangers? My default facial expression looks like I’m pissed off I have a ‘posh’ accent and naturally speak in a sharp and ‘clipped’ manner. A stranger complimented my clothes in the doctor’s office this morning, my reaction as unintentionally rude and the poor chap appeared crestfallen and anxious afterwards.


Gloria Hunniford, the tv presenter, once said that her trick to appearing personable was, as the camera countdown got to 1, to breathe in and SMILE. This gave the appearance that she was spontaneously smiling on ‘seeing’ the television viewer.

There are very few pictures of her not smiling, but the few that do show that her normal facial expression is Resting Bitch-Teacher Face – that terrifying teacher who could flay you alive with a raised eyebrow.

Why do some people retain childish behavior (e.g., pretending to be a plane)?

To further clarify, I don’t mean childish as rude or immature, but more as playful, silly, or nonsensical. Other examples could be making animal noise, pretending everyday items are magical/weapons/etc, and running like a ninja.

An answer from a psychological point of view would be preferable

I think the behaviour you describe falls under the psychology of playfulness. There’s considerably more research on playfulness in children, so the link directs to research on adults.

There are indications that playfulness correlates positively with the personality dimensions of extraversion, openness, and agreeableness, and negatively with conscientiousness*. Other positive correlations are found with psychological functioning variables (coping skills, intrinsic motivation/internal locus of control) and with creativity and spontaneity.

So, if you’re a playful person, it’s good all round, but if you’re not, sucks to be you, huh? Well, not exactly. These are correlations. Maybe a person becomes playful because they’re already extravert, spontaneous and have good coping skills. Or maybe they become extravert, spontaneous, etc., because they were playful to begin with. So let your hair down, make like a ninja on a motorbike and run around making fart noises.

It’s very liberating.

* – NB: this refers to the psychological definition of conscientiousness – ditto other terms: be sure you know the psychological definition!. A negative correlation between playfulness and conscientiousness doesn’t mean playful people are a bunch of psychopaths, it means they’re easy-going.