In sync with the human psyche

JCU graduate Lydia Tow empowers her creativity with psychological insights into human behaviour

JCU's psychology graduate Ms Lydia Tow, now a creative copywriter and content developer at creative agency, Mills Design. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Writing stimulating copy, developing creative concepts for campaigns and acting as brand custodian - not some of the job descriptions one would imagine a psychology graduate would undertake as a full-time job.

For Ms Lydia Tow, 25, the insights gleaned on human behaviour when she was a bachelor of psychological science student at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) prove to be a boon for her as a creative copywriter and content developer at creative agency, Mills Design.

She says: "I've always been naturally curious and interested in the why - why people perceive, think and act a certain way - so when I got the idea in my head that I wanted to study psych, it was going to happen, one way or another. Psychology is about perception, persuasion and cognition, among many other things. It's actually extremely intertwined with advertising, marketing and the creative industry as a whole."

"Human psychology and data influence our creative strategy, which in turn, influences our ideas and collaterals developed within the creative studio at Mills."

The 2018 graduate says that being able to understand the motivations of her clients' target audiences allows her to broadly predict how they are likely to react to certain ideas, making it easier for her to strategically relay the key objectives of her client's messages for their campaigns.

The agency she works at handles notable clients from various industries such as Google, Merz Aesthetics, Airbus and BASF.

She says: "Many have asked me why I chose to do something completely different from my course of study but I simply see it as different seasons of life and an extension of my interests. You will take the lessons and theories learnt with you and apply them in whatever you do, that's bringing more to the table!"

Ms Tow says that her insights into human behaviours help her to better understand the motivations of her clients' target audiences. PHOTO: TED CHEN

Reading between the lines

In part, Ms Tow credits her flair for the creative to her love of the literary works and creative storytelling of Disney films she watched growing up.

She says: "As to exactly why I chose to pursue a career as a creative, I suppose this harks back to my love of books, creative storytelling and Disney films. So somewhere during the course of my undergraduate studies, I got lured by this siren call of wanting to create something just as engaging and capable of moving people."

As a psychology student at JCU, she even wrote a thematic analysis on Disney princesses. Going beyond the romantic storyline, she examined the media's influence on the formation of gender identity in children, as well as the changing role of women as seen through the lens of the Disney princesses, both classic and contemporary.

Just like the miraculous transformation that Disney princesses underwent in those films, she imbues her work with a touch of magic - in the form of psychological insights - to make it spectacular.

"Concepts, ideas, experiential events, products - there's nothing like being able to take something that's very plain Jane and design an entire storyline around it that changes the game," she adds.

An easy choice

While the opportunity to study at an international university right here on our shores was appealing to Ms Tow, the accreditation from the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) on JCU's psychology programme sealed the choice of university.

Students enrolled in JCU's psychological degree will stand to benefit from the university's accreditation/recognition by the relevant professional bodies in Singapore and Australia, which allows psychology graduates to practise in both countries.

Ms Tow says: "I chose JCU as it was important to me that my degree in psychology be recognised and accredited even at the bachelor's level. Should I have pursued psychology under the American system, my bachelor's wouldn't be accredited as the American Psychological Association doesn't accredit programs at the bachelor's or master's levels - the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council does."

Overcoming challenges

The road to graduating from her psychology programme at JCU was not without its hurdles.

As someone who is not mathematically inclined, she took time adjusting to three compulsory statistics modules that are core components of the syllabus.

She says: "This was a subject I struggled with in junior college, keeping in mind that at the tertiary level, it was a lot harder in terms of grasping the concepts. This time, it was about really grasping the whys - why this data set was fit to be run, and whether or not an academic paper was even sound."

She cited her batchmates as a fantastic source of support.

She also credits Dr Peter Chew, a senior lecturer in psychology at JCU, for helping her cross that last hurdle of her final and most difficult statistics module.

"Dr Peter Chew was my lecturer for two modules, I actually started and concluded my undergraduate studies with him! There are lecturers who are passionate about what they do, and then there they are lecturers who are both passionate and stellar educators - Dr Chew is one of them, and he is incredibly funny to boot," she adds.

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