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Exploring the inner mind from the outer world

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Written By

Hannah Gray

College

College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

4 May 2021

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It’s all connected

As an alumni, researcher, and lecturer in the discipline, Dr Hollie Baxter is an expert on what JCU Psychology is all about. From the importance of critical thinking to the interconnection of social theories and experiences, Hollie gives us a look into what it’s like to explore the inner mind from the outer world.

Looking back at her time as a student, Hollie can see how her degree set her up for success.

“One of the most important things that I learned in my undergraduate degree was the ability to think critically about the things we see, hear, and read about people’s behaviours and attitudes,” Hollie says. “It taught me to carefully evaluate the social structures that shape the way we interact and the information that informs our opinions and decisions.”

Throughout her studies, Hollie discovered that everything that makes up our personal worlds and communities as well as our greater societies are all connected.

“I was really drawn to the interconnection between many of the theories and concepts we study in each subject area,” Hollie says. “My understanding of the world now takes into account all of the different biological, psychological, and social factors that interact to shape human phenomena.”

Her interest in the interconnection of our world has led Hollie to pursue postgraduate study. As a lecturer and researcher, she now teaches others how to navigate that interconnection.

A strong foundation

It wasn’t just the subjects of Hollie’s undergraduate degree that prepared her for her future career. Perseverance, transferable skills, and critical thinking were all valuable things that have laid a foundation for her current work.

“There are so many transferrable skills in a psych degree, from developing critical thinking skills to formulating theories about the world around us and determining the best ways to test our theories,” Hollie says. “This has helped me as a researcher as well as in the classroom as I learn about my students’ backgrounds, beliefs, and learning requirements.”

The main areas of psychology that have been the basis for Hollie’s research and teaching include social, personality, and environmental psychology.

Social psychology is focused on learning about groups and individuals in the social world, while  personality psychology is concerned with the individual differences in all of us that make us unique. Both personal and social influences occur within our various environments, and so these three areas are quite intertwined.

“Personality psychology is my favourite area of study,” Hollie says. “We look at all the major theories that have been put forth over time to try to describe and explain individual differences in the way people approach their personal and professional lives. These theories then try to predict people’s behaviour according to their personality traits and dispositions.”

These theories include historical ones such as psychodynamic and humanistic theories as well as more contemporary theories such as trait theory. More recent approaches to personality also include positive psychology, which focuses on people’s strengths and virtues, and how these can be harnessed to facilitate human growth and flourishing.

Contributing to her passion

Hollie’s own research looks into traditional gender norms that have shaped men’s and women’s behaviours, and how these norms have changed over time. She also supervises Honours and Graduate Diploma students as they conduct their own research projects.

“A recent research project that I supervised studied dating applications,” Hollie says. “We explored dating apps as ‘the new norm’ when it comes to relationship-seeking to determine whether traditional values and gendered norms influence women’s experiences with dating apps.

“Another interesting research project that I supervised recently was a study conducted by my Honours student critiquing current climate change communication, which uses abstract, fear-based messages. The result of the research was a proposal that climate action communication might be more effective if it targets specific behaviours at the individual level and provides instructions and plans for action that the consumer can implement in their daily lives.”

What drives Hollie’s research, and what she works to share with students conducting their own research, is curiosity. Hollie says that her curiosity embraces every part of her life. “Curiosity means observing my environment and the world around me, and trying to understand why people are the way they are and do the things they do,” she says. “Then thinking about what this means for us as psychologists, teachers, students, friends, partners, parents, and so on!”

Psychology has given Hollie’s curiosity the perfect place to flourish and discover new things about the world and about herself. “Psychology is an introduction to understanding human behaviours, attitudes, relationships, mental health and illness, neurological structures and functions, and cognitive process,” Hollie says. “We look at models for explaining behaviour and promoting behaviour change. We look at health behaviours, environmental behaviours, group and organisation behaviours. And opportunities for self-analysis and growth come as we learn more about ourselves and our own experiences."

So, what can you learn in JCU Psychology? The answer depends on your interests. As Hollie says: “With such a broad scope, there is something for everyone!”

Discover JCU Psychology

Gain an understanding of human behaviour as you explore the inner workings of the human mind

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Featured researcher

Dr Hollie Baxter

Senior Lecturer

Hollie Baxter is a lecturer in psychology and an early career researcher at JCU. Hollie’s research areas focus on health and wellbeing in relationships, exploring the emotions, thoughts, and motivations which guide our most intimate relationships. In the past she has worked on projects looking at dating in the digital age, and she is currently supervising a project exploring the role of intimacy and identity within romantic relationships in relation to commitment and relational satisfaction.

Hollie is especially passionate about studying women’s sexuality and how this has been shaped by traditional social and gender norms, and how changes in recent years have created a more open and accepting environment for women to explore their sexuality. Hollie is also interested in community health and wellbeing. At the moment she is excited to be supervising a research project looking at the social, environmental, and individual determinants of community wellbeing in Townsville.