Joan Rullan: «In the dissemination, YouTube and Twitch are an opportunity»
Sep 14, 2021
Science is a fundamental activity for the development of societies and the possibilities of well-being of the human being in general; Thanks to it, a good part of the discoveries have emerged that allow us to live as we do and increase our life expectancy.
However, it is one thing to generate knowledge through scientific means, and another thing is for that knowledge to be integrated and assimilated into popular culture. Science takes care of the first, but not necessarily the second.
That is why scientific dissemination is so relevant; It helps us make the most of scientific advances and prevents us from falling into myths and misconceptions that can be very problematic. In this case, we interview a psychologist who dedicates part of his work to this informative task, focusing on the science of behavior: Joan Rullan, from Activital Psicólogos, who is behind the video series "Taming the Troll", available on YouTube.
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Interview with Joan Rullan: How is adolescent psychology popularized today?
Joan Rullan Pou is a psychologist, member of the Activital Psicólogos team and co-creator of Domando al Troll, a scientific dissemination project through YouTube and based on Psychology Contextual. In this interview, she talks to us about the ideas on which this communication proposal is based, aimed especially at young people and adolescents.
Does the importance of disseminating topics related to psychology tends to be underestimated, going beyond academic contexts?
I think that the dissemination of psychology is something that affects us all, that there are more and more, and of course, we should not spare efforts and resources in this direction.
Psychological problems in general have a lot to do with how we have learned to behave and relate to ourselves, especially with our thoughts and emotions. If today we have the rates that we have of this type of problems in society, it is because something is teaching badly, or it is not being taught: the messages that reach the great majority of the population are not being the more useful.
In consultation we see daily how people have a conception of what happiness is, of how their behavior works, of trying to control their thoughts and emotions... that clearly hurts them.
And this they have learned in a concrete social context; in large part that is why we have created Taming the Troll: A Youtuber that aims to reach the young people a vision of the psychological that may be more useful to them, based on Psychology Contextual.
Do you think that, compared to members of previous generations, the youth of Gen Z and millennials are more predisposed to give value to the knowledge generated through science against the beliefs arising from pseudosciences and para-science?
I'm not sure... On the one hand, I think we are in this post-truth era in which scientific rigor It is not what has the most impact on the population, not only in psychology, but in many others scopes.
On the other hand, it is true that evidence-based therapies are gaining more and more presence and relevance. We are seeing it in the rise of Contextual Therapies. I think this happens among professionals when it comes to training, and in the population when looking for where to be treated.
I also understand that someone who enters the Internet and wants to find out about psychology, does not have the context or perhaps the time to be able to contrast which information is more valid than another.
What should be done so that, through dissemination, the idea that "scientific psychology" is a redundancy is reinforced?
I remember a debate in the first year of my degree about whether psychology was and / or should be a science or not. From my point of view the answer is resoundingly yes, no matter how complex the object of study, that is the way to develop reliable knowledge.
Obviously there are people who think otherwise, but the more people believe that they do, and the better we communicate it, the more useful we are... More attention will be paid to us.
I also believe that science allows for more concrete and effective solutions, and in the end people can see which sources and which guidelines are the ones that work best for them. That is why our motto at the end of each video is this, "Don't do it because I said so, try it and see the results."
In your opinion, what factors should be taken into account when disseminating psychology to the younger audience?
It is something we are exploring. First of all, I would tell you to be flexible and adapt to our interlocutor. I think that, in general, when we have been adolescents, no one has liked being released "badges" neither too serious nor too long.
We are in the age of immediacy, and it is something that also has to be dealt with. Small pills with short, clear content may be a good option, but in doing so we we can be left with the feeling that the content is too superficial, or many nuances ...
We must also try to be original to see how to give an explanation that may be attractive to them and that fulfills the same function as an explanation in more theoretical terms.
Lastly, you have to be where they speak, in the language they speak, and on the issues they speak about. Now I remember the music classes at school... If we want a teenager to learn to play an instrument, we can put him a song of his favorite group, or a theme that he does not know, and the implication is probably very different.
What are the ideological frameworks with the greatest capacity to infiltrate popularization in psychology and spread harmful myths and beliefs among society?
In general terms, I see that the way of understanding the psychology of the unspecialized population is an inheritance of the psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology. It is what comes out in the movies and in our everyday speech: we talk about the unconscious or we give mentalistic explanations of our behavior, for example.
I would like to see what impact it would have if the contextual vision were the most ingrained in our way of speaking, I think it could be well, and that is why we have created Taming the Troll, trying to do our bit and change the social discourse of what psychological. Obviously many more steps are required.
On the other hand, about harmful myths and beliefs, I would say that it reassures people to think that we are in control. As much as the evidence shows that we are people in context, the messages that say that you only have to think positive, that it is a matter of attitude, the easy recipes... They can generate very attractive short-term hope, even if they don't work out later.
I also see people who are struck by the alternative, more mystical or romantic explanations... And many unhelpful messages can slip through there.
To what extent is there a legitimacy struggle between scientists and communicators when it comes to disseminating? It is not uncommon for certain disseminators to be “looked down upon” for not having a university or Master's degree in the field. scientific field that they disclose, but on the other hand, experts specialized in the subject may not have the skills to reach many people.
It is a reality that the vast majority choose this type of communicator to hear about psychology, and that is for something that they do very well. If the message they give is useful and evidence-based, there should be no problem.
In the end they are two different professions, some generate knowledge, others disseminate it. The problem is the disconnection that may exist between one and the other, and I think that the criticism does not come from the training that someone has or not, but by messages that they can transmit that do not conform to what the evidence.
In the field of outreach through “influencers”, what sources of positive potential and risks do you see on platforms such as YouTube or Twitch?
As in all other media, the rigor of the information that is given. But I don't think it's something exclusive to these platforms. The main shelves of bookstores are full of self-help books, and if the information that is given is not useful, the problem is the same.
What is certain is that on YouTube or Twitch anyone can say theirs, in the end we all have an idea of how we function psychologically speaking. There is no filter possible to separate quality content from quackery, and the audience may not have a basis for differentiating one from the other.
On the other side of the coin, within the scope of outreach, YouTube and Twitch are where a large part of the youth and the teenagers, and they are an opportunity to get science-based messages that can be useful to many people. Together with Instagram, they are probably the only means of access we have when it comes to making the subject known to a good part of the population.
With Taming the Troll we are creating content for young people trying to get information rigorous and at the same time speak through their channels, in their language... With a packaging that is family.