Industrial Visit to Karunasai Psychopark, Thiruvananthapuram

The students of first-year BSc Applied Psychology (Hons) and first-year MSc Applied Psychology had the golden opportunity to visit a Psychopark as a part of their industrial visit. Psychopark, located in Vellanad, Trivandrum, is a unique park with psychology as its core theme. The eager students left early on the morning of 20 December 2022. The trip was organised by the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Heritage (PPSH). Dr. Satheesh Varma (Head, School of PPSH), Dr. Susan Varghese and Ms. Gayathri Suresh Babu (Assistant Professors, School of PPSH) accompanied the students.

The Psychopark is one of the first psychology-themed parks in the country and is a treasure trove of knowledge and entertainment. It is an interactive park with sculptures, paintings, instruments and portraits which narrate stories related to the evolution of psychology and its various other aspects. The students were guided by curators who spoke in depth about each display. They spoke eloquently and clarified the doubts raised by the students. Helen Babu (MSc Applied Psychology) stepped in and took up the responsibility of translating the information for non-Malayalam speaking students.

The first room in the park was dedicated to the history of psychology and ancient practices. The painting ‘The extraction of the stone of madness’ was sculpted beautifully. The procedure of trephination using a t-shaped tool was depicted in the sculpture. The next part of the room depicted ancient Indian, especially Hindu methods of dealing with mental illnesses. The Atharva Veda contains verses and hymns which talk about cures for mental illnesses. The curators explained the difference between belief and blind belief and how the benefits of the placebo effect can be seen in everyday instances.

The next sculpture was that of a totem which consisted of a bird, an animal and a human being. The totem was a representation of the story of Nangeli and the Malayalam poem, Poothapaatu. The poem is a moving piece of literature that talks about the beliefs of people in Kerala and how traditions have been passed down from generation to generation.

The folklore of Narayana Branthan was the next sculpture. The story depicts insecurities and how people cope with their insecurities. This folklore is related to Maslow’s theory of needs. To reach the level of self-actualisation, it is important that one gets over small and trivial insecurities and look at the bigger picture.

The next room was the ‘Dopamine House’, which was dedicated to the motor functions of the neurotransmitter. The room contained information regarding the disorders that follow high or low levels of dopamine. There were 25,000 dopamine representations and four major dopamine pathways. The importance of dopamine was described in detail.

A model with the hierarchy of needs given by Maslow was next. Although this theory has been revised multiple times by different researchers, the park consisted of the original hierarchy proposed by Maslow himself.

The next piece of art was about the evolution of mankind. The development of the human brain and the further evolution of the brain and specifically the cranial capacity was explained by the curators. A huge model of a tree was built which represented a family tree. The scientific way of drawing a family tree was taught.

The next part of the Psychopark consisted of various tests and measurements. There were apparatus on display for tests like constant stimulus difference, mapping of retinal zones, colour deficiency test, human maze learning, depth perception, etc.

The evening session consisted of a session on CBT and its presence in ancient Indian culture. Another painting was dedicated to the second important function of dopamine, pleasure. The role of dopamine in ADHD, addictions and other disorders was depicted in the painting as well as explained by the curators.

The next was a brain museum. The students had the opportunity to look at various regions of the human brain and learn about its functions. The museum consisted of various other objects on display which have contributed to the development of psychology globally.

The students were extremely lucky to have a question-answer session with a psychologist after visiting the museum. Many interesting questions were raised and the psychologist took time to answer all the questions patiently and diligently. Finally, the students were taken to a theatre where they saw clips from different movies that spoke about various mental disorders and a small discussion was raised about the importance of mental health and psychology.

The students had a small gathering around a campfire where they danced to songs and had a blast. 

The next morning, the students visited the Aruvikkara dam nearby, built across the Karamana river in 1972. This was especially useful to the BSc students who studied the same topic in a subject called Environmental Sciences. The water from this dam is used for irrigation and as drinking water for the entire district of Thiruvananthapuram. The students were excited to see the functioning of something they had only read about in their textbooks.

After a long, tiring journey, the students returned home on 21 December 2022 with loads of sweet memories and tons of new information about the vast world of psychology.

Reported by Swasthika Suresh (first year, MSc Applied Psychology)