Professional intention and anxiety relating to the science of psychology: preliminary data in an Australian context

Document Type

Book chapter

Publication details

Wilson, P, Dennis, K, & Provost, S 2007, ‘Professional intention and anxiety relating to the science of psychology: preliminary data in an Australian context’, in S McCarthy, S Newstead, V Karandashev, C Prandini, C Hutz, & W Gomes (eds.), Teaching psychology around the world, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 358-370.


Australian psychology programs are influenced by the scientist-professional model of psychological training described by the accreditation guidelines of the Australian Psychological Society. A common complaint from students is that this leads to teaching focussed on “rats and stats”, and it is possible that students who are not confident with respect to mathematics, computing and statistics may be less likely to progress through the degree. We are in the process of developing an instrument to examine the validity of these claims, in addition to collecting information about our students’ career aspirations with respect to psychology. Some of the preliminary results from this survey indicate that a small proportion of students (between 10 and 20%) describe themselves as being quite anxious about computing, mathematics and statistics. Anxiety is higher among female students. Interestingly, the proportion of anxious students does not appear to vary across years of study. Forensic and clinical psychology are the most popular intended fields of employment, and sports psychology and teaching in higher education are the least popular. Small but highly significant correlations exist between mathematics and statistics anxiety and preferences for fields of employment. This information has implications for how psychology is portrayed to students both prior to and during the course of their degree, their likely vocational choices, and ways in which it might be possible to reduce attrition and improve satisfaction.