Hear My Voice

This creative project explored new ways to communicate psychology. Professor Richard Wiseman worked with several students to discover how the written word, poetry, art, sculpture and audio can be used to share the teachings of psychology in an engaging and accessible way.

Student Showcase

Learn about the work our students produced. More examples will be shared over the coming weeks, so please check back.

Sarah Sutton smiles to camera
Sarah shares her experience of learning the saxophone from a fixed and growth mindset...
Greta smiles to camera
Greta creates a poem about key moments in the last 50 years of psychology...

Sarah Sutton

My name is Sarah Sutton, I am on the MSc Psychology conversion course. In this essay I talk about how playing the saxophone taught me the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone, and to never stop learning and growing.

Saxophones, psychology and the growth mindset

I can play the saxophone. I should point out that I wasn’t a child prodigy who picked up the instrument when I was 4 years old. Neither was I one of those adults who discover a miraculous ability to make beautiful music that has the power to inspire the world. Instead, I have spent lockdown practicing scales and stuttering through sections. In doing so, I have been unwittingly demonstrating the power of an idea first identified by psychologist Carol Dweck.

Dweck theorised that people navigate the world with a either a Fixed or a Growth Mindset. Holders of the Fixed Mindset view their abilities as static and, as a result, tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, ignore helpful negative feedback and ultimately reduce their chances of reaching their full potential. In contrast, Growth Mindsetters believe that their abilities can grow and so they embrace challenges, persist despite setbacks and learn from criticism. After decades of studies with thousands of students, Dweck concluded that a Growth Mindset was key to success in life.

This simple idea has the power to transform life. Yet the world has been slow to embrace it, with society acknowledging the achievement of a goal, not the journey to reach it. Similarly, schools and universities categorise students based on grades, not potential. Existing in a society that values talent over effort naturally gives rise to the existence of a Fixed Mindset in the majority of people. This was certainly the case for me.

I first began playing the saxophone at age 14. I quickly found out that the road to musicianship was paved with thousands of hours of hard work and not, as I had first assumed, something that I could easily pick up. The Fixed Mindset won and I gave up.

In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I understood the power of the Growth Mindset. Bored and browsing the internet one day pre-Covid, I came across a website that served to match potential players with musical tutors. I found a local woman who taught Alto Sax and entered my details in a message. I didn’t expect my enquiry to be answered, but within 5 minutes, I had a reply. Before I knew it, I was heading to her house with my saxophone. It was its first journey out of my house in 10 years.

Patient and accepting of my abilities, or lack thereof, my tutor calmly guided me through each note and piece of sheet music. For the first time in my adult life, I was trying to learn something difficult. I didn’t feel useless, but rather empowered. Shortly afterwards the pandemic hit and my lessons became more digital but no less helpful. In fact, they really helped to get me through the dark days of isolation and uncertainty. Today I continue to practice every other day and meet for lessons once a fortnight. I am working on Grade 5, which makes me an intermediate player.

I now have focus and ambition like I have never known before. Inspired to continue growing and learning, I applied for a psychology conversion course. Despite being at an age when society expected me to be finished with formal learning, my life has been transformed for the better by it. So while I may not be a great saxophone player yet, I know, as Carol Dweck did, that with perseverance it is only a matter of time.

Greta Mazeikaite

My ever first poem was written in one of my English classes. I cannot remember the given topic, but I remember what that poem meant for me and how it made me feel once it was complete. I chose to write from my heart, and it made me feel liberated- to be able to put my complex, fifteen-year-old emotions into even more complex words. It made sense since English was all about ambiguity and interpreting blue curtains as an indication of sadness. Sometimes blue curtains are just that. Blue. But I digress…poetry is therapeutic for me.

A couple years ago, in my second year of studying psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, my life was very much chaotic, uncertain and all the other negative words that are associated with an unhealthy relationship. However, as time went by and I slowly started getting back on my feet, I was drawn to writing down how I felt. I guess it was a way to place internal emotions onto paper and give it purpose. Or place them onto paper as if they were not mine and of some made up character in my head. Whatever the reasoning behind it, I wrote to make myself feel better. A type of escapism.

I, therefore, kindly present to you a poem that I have been given an opportunity to write in celebration of fifty years of psychology at University of Hertfordshire. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Journey

Conscious, preconscious, unconscious,
Freud has taught us the importance of being self-conscious.
He showed us that our decisions lie deep below the surface,
That childhood experiences can shape a person.

Let’s not forget about John Watson’s unconventional meddling,
After which Little Albert was left suffering,
Whereby classical conditioning offered a reasoning
Behind why we fear certain stimuli.

Even Piaget attempted to clarify,
The development of cognition nationwide.
By classifying human intelligence with reverence,
In only four stages we now understand the difference.

What about Skinner’s operant conditioning,
Where behaviour starts crippling
Once rewards or punishments begin diminishing,
And learning turns into something interesting.

George Miller introduced us to the magic number seven,
Where plus or minus two is an expression
For our short-term memory’s transgression,
Because it can hold five to nine items without any discretion.

Let’s also talk about prisoners
That obeyed authority figures
In Zimbardo’s prison experiment
Where good everyday people could also turn evil.