Introductory Psychology – Fall, 2011

Tentative Syllabus and Reading Assignments

I.  Background in Psychology


(1) August 25.  Lecture: Psychology: What makes us tick?

         1.  Perspectives in psychology (up to Research Methods section)


(2) August 30.  Lecture: Philosophy and correlations

         1.  Perspectives in psychology (Research Methods to the end)

2.  Basic correlation

3.  Correlation vs. Causation


(3) September 1. Lecture:  Experimental and causal thinking

         1.  Independent and dependent variables

2.  Basic experimental research

3.  Barnum statements


II.  Neuroscience Perspective


(4) September 6. Lecture: The brain: Don’t leave home without it

         1.  The brain and nervous system (from Chudler and colleagues at the University of Washington)

                  Common questions about neuroscience

                  Divisions of the nervous system

                  Our divided brain

                  Functional roles of the lobes of the cortex

                  The brain right down the middle

         2.  Diagram

         3.  Functional MRI (fMRI) – read all 5 pages

                  *Optional reading: -- for those who want to learn more, this website provides a nice broad overview of issues in neuroscience


(5) September 8.  Online class discussion: Perspectives on September 11

         1. Psychological impact in perspective  -- If you can’t access the website, you can get a pdf of the text (without photos) here

         2. Tracking the impact through language


(6) September 13. Lecture: Neurons, neurotransmitters, and scurrilous liars

         1.  Read all 8 tabs at top left of this page

2.  For more on neurons in video format.

3.  Video on synapsis action

         4.  Tying it together: the brain and nervous system


***(7) September 15.  Lecture: Sensation and perception

1.   Details of sensation. To go to the original article published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (which is optional), click here


 (8)  September 20. Lecture: Stress, illness, and emotional disclosure

         1.  Stress and health

         2.  Psychoneuroimmunology -- If you would like more information, watch the 1-hour video lecture by Professor Margaret Kemeny on that same page



III.  Developmental and Evolutionary Perspectives


(9) September 22.  Lecture: Sex. Need we say more?

         1.  Human sexuality (first 13 units through contraception)

2.  Sex and Love: Watch the video

         3.  How important is smell?


(10) September 27.  Lecture: Developmental approaches

1.  Development


(11) September 29.  Lecture: Evolutionary approaches

1.  Genes and personality


 (12) October 4.  Lecture: Sleeping, dreaming, and consciousness

1.  Sleeping and dreams

2.  When you can’t sleep

3.  Natural sleep cycle

*  What the bleep do we know?: Optional video, quite thought provoking.


IV.  Language and Thought


(13) October 6.  Lecture: Let’s talk: How the words we use reflect how we are

1.  Language: Innate or learned?

2.  Do animals have language abilities?  Optional: A humorous and irrelevant video


***(14) October 11.  Lecture: Learning and problem solving

         1.  Classical conditioning

         2.  Instrumental conditioning

*  Ape Genius: Optional video


(15) October 13. Lecture: Memory-- Drafts and treats

1.  Memory:  You do NOT have to read the section from “Classification by Information Type” through “Disorders”… Everything before and after is required

2.  Daniel Kahneman talks about memory and wellbeing


V.  Personality


(16).  October 18. Lecture: Freud and personality: Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll

Organization of the psyche

Psychosexual stages

Defense mechanisms

Library of Congress exhibit: the Formative years, the individual, from individual to society


(17) October 20. Lecture: Who do you think you are?

Levels of personality: What do you need to know to know someone?  

Does personality change over the lifecourse?

        Personality in everyday life


(18) October 25. Lecture: Snoop, dog… Traits in humans and other animals

1.  The Big Five (Just the first two questions, up to [NOT including] “Where can I learn more about the Big Five”)

2.  Application: Predicting job performance

3.  Do animals have personality?


(19) October 27. Lecture: Emotion

         Overview of emotion theories

         Emotion, culture, and music

         Are emotions universal?

         Is laughter contagious?  


(20) November 1. Lecture: Coping with upheavals – the power of writing

         Jon Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, Chapter 1.  A bit long but quite good.

         Women and men: Fight or flight versus tend and befriend



(21) November 3. Guest Lecture: Professor Keith Maddox (Tufts University) – The psychology of race and ethnicity

         Prejudice and discrimination, by Scott Plous, a classic article – and yes, you should read all 27 pages

         The problem of white privilege, by Peggy McIntosh



VI.  Clinical Psychology


 (22) November 8. Lecture: DSM and anxiety-based problems

Overview of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual


***Writing Assignment 3: Online November 9, 5pm-midnight; November 10, 6pm-midnight – on the hour only.

         Reading requirement for Writing assignment:

         Narcissistic Personality Disorder

         The debate about Narcissism and DSM



(23) November 10. Lecture: Major mood and thought disorders

         Clinical depression

         Possible causes of schizophrenia


(24) November 15. Lecture: Psychotherapy

         Psychotherapy overview

         Depression, therapy, and medication

         How to select a therapist

         Optional reading: The brain of a psychopath


VII.  Social Psychology

(25) November 17. Lecture: Social physics

         Does group size matter?

         Does environment suit your personality – Read the article and watch the video

         Social impact theory


(26)  November 22. Lecture: Attitudes and behavior

         Robert Cialdini and persuasion

         Brainwashing – read all 6 pages


(27)  November 29.  Lecture: The psychology of altruism, attraction, and apathy

         1.  Deindividuation, from David McRaney’s book You are Not so Smart

2.  Altruism -- When do people help others?

3.  Another look at the bystander effect


 (28) December 1.  Lecture: Conformity and obedience

         The psychology of evil – TED talk by Philip Zimbardo

         War crimes and conformity – by John Horgan


***Writing Assignment 4 and last benchmark.  Online on Thursday, December 1 from 8pm until midnight and Friday, December 2 from 5pm until midnight.  On the hour only.


The writing assignment will be integrated with the readings and lecture for December 1. Be sure to read the December 1 readings before doing the writing assignment.  It is also a good idea to review your notes from the December 1 lecture as well since the writing assignment also serves as the final benchmark.




There is no formal final exam.  However, there IS a Remote Benchmark Final Exam for anyone who has taken 6 or more benchmarks from a remote location.  For those people, the final exam will be a cumulative essay/short answer test.  Your grade on the final exam will replace your 6+ remote benchmark grades.  So, if you took 7 benchmarks remotely, your final exam grade will replace benchmarks 6 and 7.


Times for Remote Benchmark Final exams:

For the 2-3:15 class, December 12, 9:00 AM

For the 3:30-4:45 class, December 8, 9:00 AM


Bring your laptop.

***All writing assignments must be completed and submitted by 11:59 PM on the assigned day.

*A single asterisk denotes an assignment that is recommended but not required.  It will not be part of the benchmark assessment