by Joseph Ssenyonga
Many people have questioned the relevance of behavioural sciences including psychology, sociology and social science to developing countries. They focus their argument on the fact that developing countries are collectivistic societies with strong values and cultural norms. On the other side there is an interesting focus on science and technology. These areas must be the focus of any country if development is achievable. With that in mind one may wonder whether Psychology as a discipline has anything to offer to Uganda.
Most of the important issue and concerns in our society are linked to human behaviour, thinking, values and attitudes. Uganda has been hit hard by the death of young and energetic personalities as a result of behavioural problems or lifestyle related problems. Life style compromising behaviours include abuse of psychoactive drugs especially alcohol, marijuana, khat, and smoking.
Uganda is facing personal and social problems involving human sexuality such as rape, sexual problems, STDs, extra marital affairs, prostitution, pornography, unwanted pregnancies, incest, sexual coercion, sexual abuse of children and sexual harassment. All these concern related to sexuality are a concern to our society.
The Ugandans are particularly concerned about the increasing crime and violence (child sacrifice), poverty, prejudice and discrimination, proper child and adolescent development and unsafe environments where people work and stay. These are issues that are related to human thoughts and behaviours.
With regard to health, many people no longer seek the services of the health workers when they are sick. The brave ones who go to hospitals don’t follow the recommendations of the health workers. There are people who are suffering from terminal illnesses. The patients, health workers and significant others will respond to illness and diseases from various angles.
Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour, the human mind (thoughts), and human emotions (feelings). Psychology as a science attempts to describe, predict, modify and explain human thought, emotions and behaviour.
Psychology can describe people’s behaviours, thoughts and feelings in various situations. The focus here is on the description of the psychological phenomena that is a concern to the Ugandan community.
Psychology can explain the faulty behaviours, thoughts and feelings that have been noted. Take an example why are the cases of child sacrifice on the rise? What factors are motivating people toward this bad vice? Who are the people behind this problem? In answering these questions psychologists try to explain in totality the observed faulty behaviour.
Psychology theories and principles can help psychologists to predict how people will behave and act later on. In the case of human sexuality, it’s easy to assume that people who have sexual knowledge and personal values may easily make informed decisions about preventing and responding to sexuality related concerns. This highlights the issue of learning as a way of helping people to make informed decisions later on in life based on facts.
Psychologists help people to modify their behaviour, thoughts and feelings. People at all levels can be helped “keep off drugs”. For those people who have not started the habit of using drugs they can be informed constantly of the dangers of drug use. In case there are people who have been using drugs and they are willing to stop then therapy session can help them. At the national level policies like no advertising of drugs can be effective.
Psychology as a behavioural science contributes to understanding of societal problems and to their solutions. Psychology aims at changing people’s behaviours, thoughts and emotions.