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Meet Guðrún Rut Guðmundsdóttir!

Why did you decide to do the IDA Master?

For many reasons. It allowed me to postpone the decision of what subfield I wanted to specialise in 🙂 …whilst still gaining valuable insights and skills applicable to a range of fields. Out of the programs I was considering, IDA stood out because the subject overlaps with literally every subfield of psychology and even extends into related areas as different as neuroscience and human resources. This, combined with all the traineeships and two research projects where we have pretty much complete freedom to choose our own topics (!!), is just ideal, whether it’s to explore different things or to tailor the program to a specific path you have in mind for yourself. I was also attracted to the small cohort and the personal, character-building approach. It was clear from the outset that the program aims to help you develop as a person and as a scientist.

What has been your favourite course and why?

Hmmm, it’s a difficult one. I really liked the Dynamics course, where we looked at individual differences in personality and cognition from a developmental perspective. This is one of my main interests, but what actually made the course so great was its structure and the teachers’ enthusiasm. It was very engaging and stimulating.

Do you experience stress/pressure in your studies? How do you deal with it?

Oh, for sure! But it’s a good thing. It’s a challenging program, combine that with a drive to improve and make the most of the experience and you’ve got quite a bit of stress. Growth hurts, eh? So, I know I’m in the right place, and it helps me to think of it that way. I also make sure to take time off to decompress and keep perspective: exercise, meditate, sleep well… all the usual things.

How can your knowledge from the IDA Master be useful for the real world?

Well, IDA has all the benefits of a research master; it equips you with a lot of useful research tools and the skill to use them correctly (and dare I say, ethically), and it teaches you a certain way of thinking that allows you to better analyse, criticise and filter out information in general. It really helps make sense of all the conflicting information “out there”, or at least realising if more evidence is needed to get to the bottom of things (which is usually the case…). What is special about IDA is the interdisciplinary focus on individual differences and development, such as in character traits, cognitive abilities, and the underlying physiology. It provides insights that are relevant across many different fields. And at the end of the day, this knowledge is bound to make you more intuitive and open-minded towards people in general and less likely to think in simple labels and stereotypes.

Why do you think it is important to study what you study?

Because I think it’s just very enlightening about how general principles are incredibly limited in understanding and predicting people’s behaviour. There is just sooooo much variability in how we think, act, feel, behave… and if we can better map out these differences, it can really help break away from the “one-size-fits-all” sort of thinking that we are all too comfortable with. For example, it could help for designing more person-centred therapies and identifying who would benefit from what sort of approach, optimising person-work fit and guiding tailored approaches to upbringing and education.

What is the most fascinating thing you have learned?

A real eye-opener for me was discovering just how advanced statistical methods and psychometrics have become, allowing you to infer much more from data and collect and analyse increasingly complex data. What is sometimes frustrating (yet fascinating) in psychology is how so many things seem to hang together. Making sense of paths, causes and effects is never straightforward and usually has to be accompanied by a big warning label (“take with a grain of salt!”). These statistical models make it possible to ask exciting and novel questions. Huge respect to people who have contributed to this development!

What motivates you to keep studying?

Usually, it’s my interest and curiosity. But when the going gets tough, I keep motivated by the prospect of the skills and insights I am gaining. I am sure they will be very useful in the future, both in my personal and professional life.

How are you experiencing the relationship with your teachers?

Very pleasant! The teachers and supervisors I’ve met are great. There’s a really friendly, supportive and non-hierarchic vibe going on. I feel like the IDA staff are especially open-minded and flexible, always willing to adapt the courses to better meet students’ needs.

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