Understanding the power of perspective
ASU psychology, family and human development graduate driven to understand people and their values
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.
Daniella Peinado’s journey to understanding human nature began early in life. The more she learned about people and history, the more questions she had about how humans made decisions and justified their actions. Why did people behave the way they did and choose certain courses of action? Questions like this drove Peinado’s interests as she graduated high school and began planning her college career.
Unexpected circumstances initially brought Peinado to ASU, as her grandfather became ill and she needed to stay in her hometown of Guadalupe, Arizona. Attending ASU allowed her to stay near her family while she pursued her dreams. It was also the best option financially, as she qualified for several grants, including the President Barack Obama Scholars Program.
Peinado began as a psychology major but added a second degree in family and human development after taking a particularly impactful class from Professor Tracy Spinrad of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. As a dual major, she loved learning about social development, human personalities and differing perspectives. She was also able to study abroad in the Dominican Republic, an experience that changed the way she saw truth and human values.
With graduation soon approaching, we caught up with Peinado to learn more about the lessons she learned.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: As a student who is double majoring, I was lucky enough to have two “aha” movements. The first degree I chose to pursue was a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Truthfully, it’s a little difficult to recall the exact “aha” moment of when I decided to major in psychology — it seemed to have happened gradually. Kids go through this development phase of curiosity and will ask “why?” more times than a person can count, and I just never grew out of that. My questions became more complex and people-focused. I wanted to know why people make the choices they do and behave in certain ways. I also wanted to understand myself better. I had so many questions that needed answers.
During my second semester, I took a human development course with Professor Tracy Spinrad; I learned so much about the mind and body intertwining and nature vs. nurture. I left that class with many questions — the craving to learn more. I spoke to Spinrad about her field of study and just knew I needed to meet with my academic advisor. Pursuing that concurrent major actually fit really well with the psychology major map. Although my credit hours per semester did rise a bit, it was so very worth it.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I learned about perspective itself. I found that the study of people, psychology, sociology and everything in between is all based on theories; simply perspectives. We learn and view things in this world through lenses and that is how we justify our answers and actions. It then becomes important, in all aspects of life, to be mindful of the other possible lenses people may be viewing through. Not one theory is correct, not one lens sees everything, and it is OK for perspectives to change, but all call for critical thinking. One of my favorite theories and conversations surrounds behavior change theory: one of the ideas being that behaviors do not change, but environments do. Essentially, better environments lead to better human behaviors. It is our job to create those better environments for one another.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Professor Laura Hanish. I first met Hanish in the first semester of my junior year in her Research Methods course, where I fell in love with research. At the end of my junior year, she asked me if I was interested in being an undergraduate teaching assistant for her fall 2022 Research Methods class. I spent that summer break meeting with Hanish almost once a week as she would teach me something new about the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software and then send me off on my own to practice with sample data.
Hanish taught me that learning comes from our mistakes and that it can take time. I was so insecure about being wrong or needing to make corrections that I would doubt myself and the knowledge that I had. I am much more comfortable with learning and trying new things without the fear of failing. I have learned to take my time, accept mistakes and grow from them.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?
A: Don’t cheat yourself out of an education. We live in an era where we can access almost anything on the internet. Unfortunately, this can include coursework or answers. Under stress, this can be tempting, but college is so much more than getting the highest grades possible. This is where we can explore and choose what we do and do not enjoy learning about. Someone cannot find what piques their interest by simply learning on a surface level. Read the books, build the model, solve the math, and ask all the questions you can. What you find will amaze you.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I currently work as a program aide for subject area tutoring in University College for University Academic Success Programs, or UASP. After graduation, I will still be part of UASP, but I will be moving up to program coordinator for supplemental instruction and be located on the Polytechnic campus.
Education-wise, I would like to continue learning, so I am applying to the Master's of Sociology program here at ASU. Learning through data and conducting research are some of my favorite things I have done while in college. I plan to continue my education surrounding human behavior and interactions, eventually obtaining a PhD in Sociology.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I am incredibly passionate about children and adolescents, particularly how they develop and who they become in the world. I would create a nonprofit child/adolescent prevention and support program. This would be done through systematic reviews of existing programs, taking what works, and eventually conducting research as it is implemented in communities and altering it as it continues to develop. This would be an integrated program that teaches young people emotional regulation skills, foundational life skills, how to survive when the world is against them, and how to minimize risk factors in their lives.
Children and adolescents are the future of the world; they should not be seen as burdens or problems. Too many teenagers and children are thrown into society with no knowledge and turn to substance use, self-harm and prostitution to survive. This program would not just be providing clothes and food but teaching them how to apply for jobs, obtain an education, advocate for themselves, and so much more in collaboration with social workers, psychologists, educators, physicians, artists, business owners and others who can offer something to youths.