3 things Indian psychology professors should tell their students but don’t

Officially, psychology in India is more than a century old. Developmentally, it is still an infant. Why? Because the discipline has not grown and made an impact on the Indian societies. Individually, many psychologists have made a name for themselves, but institutionally, one cannot find a single psychology association in India which can claim to have done something significant for the advancement of the profession and taking it to the masses. In the area of policy making, psychology is virtually non-existent. An individual may touch millions of people, but to transform entire societies, we need strong institutions and organizations. That’s why Indian psychology professors should tell their students the three things listed below:

  1. Become a member of a psychology association: According to an estimate (Manickam, 2016), there are about 1,00,000 psychologists in India. But three major psychology associations — National Academy of Psychology (NAoP), Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (IACP) and Indian Academy of Applied Psychology (IAAP) — combined have only around 4,000 members. This is a huge gap. This gap is reflected in the stunted growth of the profession. For the development of a discipline, the progress of its professional associations is necessary. Therefore, it is vital that more and more students join these associations, take part in their activities and help grow the profession.
  2. Attend the Annual General Meeting of the association: Many Masters and Doctoral students attend annual conferences of one or another association. Some of them happen to be members of those associations also. However, they are hardly involved in decision making processes of their organizations. A psychology association usually holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the venue of the conference. But despite hundreds of its members being present at the venue, only some dozen of them turn up at the AGM. The participants are usually the people who either are/were part of the leadership or aspire to join it. As a result, the associations become cliques and the “outsiders” have little information about their workings. An AGM is a place where key decisions are made and the leaderships are elected. So, to actually know your association and influence its decisions, it is important that you take part in the AGM.
  3. The whole is different from the sum of its parts: It is rather an error of commission than omission. This Gestalt principle is generally taught as ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts’ which is wrong. In the words of Kurt Koffka (1935), “It is more correct to say that the whole is something else than the sum of its parts, because summing is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful.” The relationship between whole-part is qualitative, not quantitative. Quantitatively, there are one hundred thousand psychologists in India. Qualitatively, those psychologists have had little impact.

Therefore, it is crucial that our psychology professors tell the students to become members of associations, attend their Annual General Meetings and that the whole is something else — not greater— than the sum of its parts.

Koffka, K. (1935). Principles of Gestalt Psychology. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
Manickam, L.S.S. (2016). Towards Formation of Indian Federation of Psychology Associations: Let us Wake Up for Our Causes. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 42(1), 40–52.

Psychology. Policy. Law. Poetry. LAMP Fellow, 2015–16. Alumnus: JNV, University of Delhi, IIT Bombay.

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Ajay Gulzar

Psychology. Policy. Law. Poetry. LAMP Fellow, 2015–16. Alumnus: JNV, University of Delhi, IIT Bombay.