Week 01

Aug 31

Get course description and other info.

Sept 02

Nature and goals of sdence (see handout and web summary)

Science is seen as a human activity, a process for acquiring useful knowledge, and the products of that process (eg. Newton's Laws, Darwin's theory)

Goals include explanation, prediction, and control of phenomena. These are somewhat independent as seen from our discussion of weather; similar examples are found in psychology. Explanations seek a causal understanding of the subject but may not in themselves allow prediction nor control of the phenomena.

Wallace and Darwin's theory of evolution

(See handout; I forgot to mention the obvious -- that sex and parenting are fundamental for this theory to work. Darwin made this very clear in his 1871 book.

Darwin, C. (1871/1981). The descent of Man, and selection in relation to sex. (Photoreproduction of the 1871 edition ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Intro video on the breadth and nature of psychology

Week 02

Sept 07

UROP (view their handbook)

Critical Evaluation of research

"Pseudoscientific therapies"

Look out for claims that lack evidence and other warning signs….. (from Science in autism newsletter)

IRB and class research requirement (See G, A19-21)

Concepts of "minimal risk", benefit, informed consent, confidentiality, "populations at risk," along with the review procedure mandated by Federal regulations, stimulated by Nazi war crimes and Stanley Milgram's research (p.513) on "obedience." See the information at the UNH research office.

MPD, DID and the DSM IV (G, pp,763-7)

Multiple personality disorder or more recently "developmental identity disorder" is one of a number of disorders defined and classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of the American Psychiatric Association. This "catalogue" aids in reliable assessment of disorders and is also critical in insurance coverage in many cases. The IV indicates the most recent revision.

Sept 09

G on Dreams "many faces" -- perspectives in psychology

Mental experiences, behavior (overt, covert), cognition (visual imagery, narrative?), natural selection (dreams in animals?), social behavior (contents, cultural significance), internal conflicts (Freudian disguise), human development (children's beliefs), individual differences,

Discuss dreams and related topics.

Video (sleep research segment )

Week 03

Sept 14

More on research and methods in psychology

Biological foundations (ch.2)

Descartes (1596-1650) : reflex machines, theology, and more!

Early scientists began eliminating the supernatural from explanations, often using analogies. We still do!

Descartes suggested all animals were "beast machines."

Humans however are only partly so!

Was this Descartes' worry about the church, given Galileo's run -in with the Inquisition? Or did he see humans as different?

What about consciousness and human language?

Cogito ergo sum!

How the nervious system is studied.

The billions of cells with up to 10,000 connections each form a system with many subsystems and circuits. Many methods are used to study these.

Climical observation (Gage, aphasics, split brains)

Invasive techniques (lesions, ablation, internal recording, cannulas for sampling or modifying chemistry)

Imaging techniques (see email)

The architecture of the nervous system

Evolution (phylogeny)

All nervous systems appear to be offshoots of one design, with great variation according to species.

Development of individuals (ontogeny)

The same is true for development of the brain. Differences in related species are often a matter of differential growth rates regulated by hormones controlled by genes.

Brain development principles (handout)

This is a rapidly growing area of research.

Cerebral specialization --video

Michael Gazzaniga's research on "split brain" effects of treatment for epilipsy reveals much about brain organization and function.

Sept 16 quiz 1

See second split brain patient, a woman who recently had her surgery and showed overt effects of divided control and volition. This is in contrast to "Joe" whose surgery was 15 years ago and only was reflected in the experimental setting.

Brain disorders

Here is a simplified classification of types of disorders; keep in mind these are not mutually exclusive. For example a genetic variant or lesion may result in a chemical imbalance.

Lesion effects

Depending on location, one may suffer apraxias, agnosias, prosopagnosia, aphasias. Planning and social deficits (Phineas Gage)

Chemical imbalances

Anything from diabetes to depression. Imbalance here is a relative concept.

Myelination disorders

e.g. multiple sclerosis


these could a large number of problems, perhaps autism and Down's and Williams' syndrome.

Week 04

Essay question answer -quiz 1

The organism as machine

Since the time of Descartes, humans have tried to explain our own behavior as machine-like -- we are clever adaptable automatons. While Descartes himself believed there were limits on explaining human (but not animal) behavior completely in this way, psychologists today (e.g. Gleitman, p. 67) routinely accept this idea even for humans. a) Give one example behavior and its explanation in machine-like terms that Glietman suggests governs or regulates our behavior. b) What might be some of the limitations on this perspective --humans as machines?

This question has two parts, a and b.


a-Human as machine —yes : more or less!

Several different examples could be taken from Gleitman. Any function of the hypothalamus regulating states of the body, using negative feed back, simple reflexes, or even a discussion of the neuron as a kind of computing relay would be okay. You need to give some specific details for full credit.

You should also recognize this enterprise as one of trying to understand the overall behavior of organisms including humans — a kind of scientific attitude, a way to test our understanding of various functions of body and mind, and to eliminate supernatural stuff from possible causes. Descartes used then current machines, clocks and hydraulic garden "toys" as a metaphor and model. Later scientists used self-regulating devices like governors on steam engines as models for homeostasis. Early in this century, we used telephone relays, electrical circuits, and now the machine of machines, a computer where the program can model any machine.

Also you need to have a broad sense of what counts as machine, from an artificial molecule that would fool your taste system into reporting "peaches", a prosthetic arm, eyeglasses, to a replacement cerebellum in the millenium after next!!

B — limits?

Almost anything you say here that is supported with some kind of argument or evidence is acceptable. Of course some ideas seem better to me than others. Let’s look at what Descartes said; remember he didn’t argue humans were entirely machines.

Cogito ergo sum!

"I think therefor I am."(Cogito ergo sum.) This famous expression reflected his (and presumably ours) personal first person experience of self and the world. How could a machine have that experience? Some have argued a sufficient complex, perhaps organic machine might have something like it, depending on its organization. This is sci-fi at present and forseeable future.

Complexity of human reason reflected in language

Descartes believed the speech of even the dullest humans reflected the complexity of their reasoning — complexity of such a degree that it far exceeded the capacity of any machine he knew about. (Think about each sentence we use, each mental state corresponding to that sentence, and now the kind of machine that would have some combination of wheels and gears somehow representing each of those mental states.) Since there are an unlimited number of sentences this machine gets out of imagination very quickly.

Even today there is no straightforward understanding of how any machine (computer) can represent such a large number of states -- though "recursive" functions can represent infinite sets in a finite space. Note for example how the idea of adding 1 to any given number leads to a representation of all (infinitely many) integers.

Reasoning is not perfect

(I neglected to mention this critical point in class but some of you did, more or less.)

This is a less important consideration for the notion of machine but interesting in regard to what we might regard as "intelligent" behavior. It suggests intelligence be reserved for non-instinctual behaviors.

Descartes noted that animals could build nests, dams, webs, have complex social interactions — sometimes apparently exceeding the abilities of humans. He argued this didn’t in itself show the animals were intelligent (, i.e. had reason) ; instead he argued that machine-like perfection was a sign of little or no intelligence, and suggested a role of instinct instead. Behavior that was just a reflection of the machinery could be very sophisticated but not a reflection of intelligence. Thus one needs to know the origins of the behavior.

Other quiz comments

The relation between visual field, eye, and transfer of info to brain

Information projecting into each eye goes to both hemisphere depending on exactly where on the retina light rays fall. Those in the center around the fovea go to BOTH left and right visual cortex. Those on the left visual field (LVF) go the right hemisphere and those on the far right VF go to the left hemisphere. Information may be transmitted from either side across the corpus callosum in normal individuals. (Fig. 2.23, p.40)

Reflexes usually are mediated at the spine not directly to brain

See Fig.3.19 for a similar idea regarding pain.

Assignments to next quiz Oct. 05

These include reading through chapter 7 and an internet assignment. See web page for sample multiple choice quiz 1 from last year.

Other ideas discussed

Eye dominance

Blind spot

Sept 21

Sept 23

Motivation as Directed action

Organisms attain goals requiring complex behavior, varying with circumstances, even in the activity, e.g. fetching a ball. Motives are our attempts to explain the goal directed action in behaviors, along with the interplay of factors that make some acts more likely than others.

Control systems


Positive can amplify a response

Negative can slow a response

Setpoint and regulation


Fig. 3.1 Negative feedback




Temperature regulation -- internal or external activity

Note there are many "ways to skin a cat" -- that is different actions may all result in the same effect, warmer or cooler. These may be internal adjustments or external actions -- G calls these voluntary p.76.

Role of autonomic nervous system (ANS)

Both ANS subdivisions, sympathetic and parasympathetic, act reciprocally -- one "on" and the other "off" to regulate temperature. For example the para-s helps to cool by panting, sweating, vasodilation. The sympathetic NS conserves heat slowing heart rate and vasoconstriction.

The hypothalamus senses the environment

G, p. 76 cites studies showing temperature of the hypothalamus region governs regulation. Other studies show various other regions involved in regulation of temp.


Our bodies monitor both cellular water level as well as volume of fluids circulating outside of our cells, e.g. saliva, blood, and lymph.


Many systems monitor and control actions. Signals from all these areas direct internal and external activity. A simplistic model (G. p. 84) takes input from all these systems and "decides" to eat.

Hunger systems of the body


Brain (glucose monitor)

Stomach and intestines

Sensory input

Food selection

Some inborn universals; also a tendency to eat conservatively (neophobia). For young of many species, the mother models eating and may guide preferences.

Psychological issues of eating


Genetic-bodily factors

Twin study (Fig. 3.10) shows extent and placement of fat has genetic component.

Set-point differences


Lots of speculation on possible factors, e.g. externality (oriented to external cues), poor memory for food intake


Diet, group therapy, surgery, increased exercise, etc.

Anorexia nervosa -- preoccupation with fear of fat

Restricted diet, extensive exercise, extreme weight loss with up 10% death from starvation.

Debate over causes, cultural artifact?, biological, depression?

Bulimia nervosa

Extreme binge and purge cycle, but near normal weight, also depression treatments effective


Role autonomic nervous system

Parasympathetic ns for "peace"

Sympathetic ns for activation in crisis

This includes stimulating the adrenal gland to secrete more epinephrine and norepinephrine into blood, resulting in even more stimulation.

Role of limbic system and other central regulators

Stimulation may provoke aggressive behavior

Pain and endorphins and "placebos"

Pain is more complex than G even suggests. There are great individual differences and the context makes a great difference as well. These may be due to differences in pain receptors as well as endorphins and their receptors.

Some of the placebo effect may be due to endogenous endorphins, though not all. G. p.98

Sleep and waking

Sleep is cyclic and cycles can be monitored via an EEG (Fig.3.22).

Few answers to interesting questions about functions.

Speculative functions

Protection from predators, consolodation of daily experiences, restoration?


Half of an infant's sleep is REM but about 15% for an adult. REM is important just to lubricate the eyes --which decorrelate in movements during REM .


We dream in stage two and REM sleep; the former doesn't have much detail or vividness compared to REM dreams. (The kind I have seems to be "stage two.")

G pretty much downgrades Freud's protection hypothesis and any rationalization of the dream process beyond reflection of recent events and in REM sleep some narratization of those events. (less so in stage two dreams.)

What's in common?

While motives "impel" us to action, is there anything more general to be said?

Drive reduction theory?

Maybe for some basics. (Look ahead at Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" p. 742, Fig .17.3


G notes Fig. 3.26 that monkeys do things "just for the fun of it." What does this suggest? Some motives may be for intellectual closure, understanding, etc???

Effects of drugs

These change arousal levels, up and down! Lots of traditional self-medication and increasingly deliberately so.

The opponent process theory of motivation

(G points out it comes from color vision theory but it may be from muscles that work in opposition to each other.)

this is kind of a homeostatic theory where there is an effort to maintain balance and when a change occurs outside the loop, more effort is diverted to balance canceling those external effects. This has been used to explain drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Biology of reward -- dopamine and pleasure centers

The nature of motives -- two points

Evolution is the bottom line

Mother nature… designed organisms to do what they need to survive and propagate their genes. P. 112

It is a conclusion from Wallace and Darwin's work that much of what organisms do -- what motivates them -- are behaviors that increase the chances of their genes surviving into succeeding generations, i.e. their fitness. While there may be some exceptions to this conclusion, that conclusion at least should motivate us to ask what is the "fitness advantage" of whatever we are studying in behavior.

The importance of learning -- individual adaptation

Learning can be seen as the means by which individuals with very similar genes can differ in fitness. "Intelligence" has also been seen as an ability for making individual "ontogenetic" adaptations.


Don't neglect the role of novelty and discrepancy as motive

Humans seem to have a need to "make sense" out of a situation. Many concepts or terms in psychology deal with this. Freud talked about "rationalization." We saw Gazzaniga and his left hemisphere "interpreter" synthesizing a story about diverse bits of information. The concept of "curiosity" also seems relevant, as does "disequilibrium" in Piaget's theory and the notion of "cognitive dissonance". These will be discussed later.

Video on learning

This illustrates much of the contents of ch. 4 in Gleitman.


Week 05

Sept 28

See learning notes and summary of chapter 4.

Sept 30

Show perception video

Discuss "the big picture" - science of psychology, motivation, learning, perception.

Handout and discussion on "proximal-distal" model of perception, some basic concepts

Week 06

Oct 05

Discuss blindspot paper, more on perception, quiz on Thursday,

Depth perception

Oct 07 quiz

Week 07

Oct 12 perception and memory video

Oct 14 memory (see assignment to quiz 3)

Week 08

Oct 19 Methods of science -- relate Appendices on science and statistics to cognition as "mindtools."

Oct 21 discussion of "mindtools" to aid the naïve mind, video on cognitive processes. Outline handout on thought concepts.

Week 09

Oct 26 Discussion and demo of mental set and conjunction fallacy, mindtools. Show language video.; also review some of chapter 9 (handout outline).

Oct 28 quiz 3 Review functions of language; see language video notes.

Week 10

Nov 02 Get next assignments and essay for quiz 5 (Quiz 4 is a take home essay.) Discuss biology of social psychology; why sex? , mate selection and attractiveness, and the biological development of sexual differences from conception to old age.

Nov 04 Discuss Glietman's survey of sex differences.

Week 11

Nov 09 Discuss briefly some main topics in social psychology; conformity (Milgram, Asch research), cognitive dissonance (Festinger's "when prophecy fails"), and related attitude formation out of dissonance and other social cognitive processes. Show "Social Brain" video.

Nov 11 Veteran's day (no class)

Week 12

Nov 16 quiz 5 on ch. 9 (language) and ch 10-12 social behavior (quiz 4 will be a "take-home" question), Summarize aspects of social behavior scattered over a few chapters. (see Nov. 18 for overview notes.)

Nov 18 Give next assignments to quiz 6. Do demo on personality assessment. Discuss physical and cognitive development, Piaget and Harlow. Begin discussion of "intelligence" -- recall comments on this topic in connection with "mind tools." Do an overview on social behavior, emphasizing developmental factors. Show developmental video.

Week 13

Nov 23 intelligence and Personality -- meaning and assessment of individual differences. Return quiz 5; see notes for answers and comments. Show video on testing and intelligence.

Nov 25 Thanksgiving

Week 14

Nov 30 Finish discussion of intelligence and personality theories including Eysenck's "introversion-extroversion" model, the Big Five trait factors and the Barnum effect. Also mention Erikson's better variation on Freud's idea that personality traits were formed during development and specific developmental conditions at a given age may lead to adult traits. For example "industry/competence versus inferiority" is determined by developing skills during school age. (See G, p. 614 and the Nov. 18 assignment notes.

Dec 02 quiz 6 (new date). Get last assignments including abnormal psychology internet asssignment.

Week 15

Dec 07 (quiz 7 --take home) Pathology and health psychology.

Dec 09 last day of class. All research reports are due. . If time allows, go over some multiple choice questions from quiz 5 and 6 for review.

Week 16

Dec 14

Dec 16 401 Final exam 10:30 - 12:30pm in class room. Review old quizzes and recent assignments.