Introduction to Psychology

Introduction to Psychology

401H.01 Honors/Intro to Psychology 13658
MWF 9:10am-10:00am Conant   8
"Psychology as a behavioral science; its theoretical and applied aspects. Coverage of basic topics in the field, including developmental, learning, personality, abnormal, social, perceptual/sensory, and physiological psychology. To experience actively the nature of psychological research, students have an opportunity to participate in a variety of studies as part of a laboratory experience. 4 cr."

instructor information

John Limber, 108 Conant Hall, office 862-3175 (don't leave message); home 868-7320 (before 8pm.); email: (office hours Monday and Wednesday, 12:30-1:30 and appointment)

internet information

Information for this class, including my notes and Gleitman's book page, is available at: (click or arrow on Psychology 401 This page will be undergoing some changes from last semester.).


Gleitman, H. (1999). Psychology (Fifth ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. (Available only at the Durham Book Exchange, Main Street.)

Text structure

Take time to look at the organization of this book - its sections and chapters. Note the following structure in each chapter (1) Main topics given on first page, (2) Gleitman's overview paragraph at the beginning of each chapter, and (3) most important the chapter summary with concepts in italics. There is also a glossary at the end of the book.

requirements and grading


Each week you will be expected to read several chapters including reviewing previous chapters and skimming upcoming ones. Personally I would NOT underline my text, but would first read the chapter outline, skim the text quickly, read the summary, and now reread the text, looking at figures carefully, using glossary when needed. To review, I start with summary and any notes I made in margins or notebook. (I might actually read the summary first!)

attendance and class contribution

You are expected to attend all classes; no makeup quizzes will be given without a medical excuse or similarly serious reason.
Everyone will have questions about readings or general issues in psychology. To encourage you to ask them, I will expect at least one question every other week or so from each of you, either by email or written on a page of notepaper.

quizzes 40 % **

Quizzes(*) will have short essays as well as multiple choice questions. The concepts in the summary as well as those illustrated in figures and graphics are especially important. There will six or seven quizzes spaced throughout the semester. One or two may be take-home.

final exam 20 % Wednesday, Dec. 20, 10:30-12:30

This will be a cumulative exam covering all material and based largely on quiz materials.

written assignments and class contribution 35 %

This includes your questions, class and email discussion, and specific short written assignments and research reports.

research requirement 05 %

Students are required to participate in 4 hours of research or a comparable experience. See the Lab experience handout.
**(The % given above are only approximate and may be revised somewhat).

Class email list

All of you will be registered on this list; sending a message to the list [] will go to everyone. To send a message just to the instructor, send to I will post some of the more interesting questions and discussions by topic on the web page; all will be archived. Be sure you check the address if you are sending a personal message rather than a comment or question to the entire class.

Calendar: assignments and topics, etc.

Assignments to quiz 1 Sept 15

week 1-2 "ACTION"


A Science of Many Faces.....5
Dreams as Mental Experiences.....Dreams as Behavior.....Dreams as Cognition.....Dreams and Social Behavior.....Dreams and Human Development.....Dreams and Individual Differences.....Perspectives on Psychology

2. Biological Bases of Behavior

3. Motivation

4. Learning

Read for Thursday: Preface, epilogue, ch.1


Be prepared to discuss your conception of psychology. What's an "introduction to Psychology" anyway?


Written assignment due Friday, 9/08: Write a one or two paragraph introduction to your self. Include some idea why you are taking this course, your tentative major, and after looking over the text, list the 3 or more topics you might be most interested in at this point. (1-2 pages typed pages or email). Say whether you have taken a previous psychology course.

essay question for quiz 1 (9/15)

I will ask you to write on this topic. Prepare to do it in advance; if you have questions -ASK!

1. Is the organism a machine? Why and/or why not?

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. 15-17) 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?

Assignment 2 up to quiz 2, Sept. 29

Read and Review ch. 3 "motivation" and 4 "learning"
Read Part Two Cognition: Ch.5, 6, 7, (8), (9)

Written Internet assignments; due Oct. 02

Visit, using a graphics capable browser,

http://serendip.brynmawr.e du/bb/blindspot1.html
Write a short account of your experiences with each of the 5 demonstration "slides" illustrating the blind spot at the web site above. What is your conclusion about the relation of your conscious visual awareness to the actual visual information reaching your eyes at any moment? First deal with the blindspot phenomenon but then consider more generally the issue of consciousness and awareness. Think about the Gazzaniga "split brain" videos in this connection.
Next visit "fun things" at
http://www.yorku. ca/research/vision/eye/funthing.htm
This is an excellent site for all things visual. Look at one and review it in a paragraph.
(About 3 pages --total -- typed, due Monday, Oct. 02.)

Topics and study questions for quiz 2


Essay Question

Describe the process of trial and error learning, using Thorndike's "law of effect" (4.11) and his puzzle box (Fig. 4.9). It has been argued that this general approach to learning covers most of the phenomena we consider "learning" today. What do you think? What conditions would make this generalization reasonable? Unreasonable?
How would Thorndike's ideas fit in with or be reconciled with those of Wallace and Darwin?

Sensation and perception

Short answer questions

For any of the major senses - vision, hearing, smell, touch - be able to explain the relationship between a distal and proximal stimulus. Using any of these senses that I may select, be able to discuss the chain of events linking the observer's phenomenal experience to a distal stimulus object.

Additional concepts and topics from class including review

(I will emphasize interpreting research and case studies. Here are some likely topics for this next quiz.)

Always consider the "Base rate" of a phenomena

e.g. deaths from viagra?, illness from silicon implants? Results from Prozac?

Causes precede their effects!

Biochemical differences are found in those with eating disorders - but what came first?

Basic ideas of Wallace and Darwin (review)

See my notes on this.

DSM -IV (Science or insurance!!)

Glove anesthesia and psychogenic symptoms p. 671

Early cases showed a simple physiological/ organic explanation of this affliction was inadequate. These cases remain one of the reasons for the existence of psychology as a science and discipline independent from physiology.

Something "running in families"

Only a correlation; this does not necessarily mean inherited unless there's genetic evidence (DNA patterns or Mendelian statistical patterns of inheritance. Even then there may be limitations due to interactions of genetic potential with the environment.)

Assignments to quiz 3 (Friday, Oct.13)


1. Appendix 1, Appendix 2 (the idea of variability, that numbers can have different meanings, measures of central tendency, measures of variability, comparing scores, the normal distribution, correlation + and -, explaining variability, sampling.)
2. review ch. 6 (perception); read ch. 7 (memory) and ch. 8 thought. Skim ch. 9 and read the summary (on language and the first two sections "properties" and "units" of language.)

Internet assignment 2
Do any one of these experiments (below) (except the "receptive field" one) and write a 1-2 page summary of your findings and evaluation of the experiment. Due Monday, Oct. 16. (Do two and get 5 points extra credit on a quiz.) Read directions at the site and register as "guest" as directed.
. Perception Apparent Motion    Stroop Effect    Simon Effect
Neurocognition Brain Asymmetry   
Memory Absolute Identification    Brown-Peterson    False Memory    Memory Span    Operation Span    Partial Report    Serial Position    Sternberg Search
Imagery Mental Rotation
Concepts Prototypes

Next quiz 3


Gleitman in Appendix A, describes the "scientific method." I have suggested this method or process -- a collection of "mind-tools" -- seeks to overcome the limitations of human perception and cognition, increasing the chances of attaining reliable and useful knowledge.
a- Briefly summarize this method (see Fig. A1).
b- List and briefly explain some of these limitations on naïve human perception and cognition found in chapters 6, 7, and 8 (at least one from each chapter.). Comment on how these limitations might be overcome.
c- What relevance does the topic of trial and error learning have to understanding the processes of science?

Some short answer topics -- also see old quiz 3.

(see topics mentioned for quiz 2)
working vs long-term memory
implicit vs explicit memory
causes of memory failure --forgetting
knowledge as mental representation
What is consciousness good for?
Five properties of human language
The basic units of language

Next Quiz 4 assignments

Essay -4- sex and attraction

Darwin's famous 1871 book on human evolution devoted a considerable amount of detail to sex and reproduction. A fundamental element in this process is mate attraction and choice.
a- Briefly summarize the importance of sex to Darwin's ideas.
b- Explain the concepts of mate attraction and choice.
c- And discuss what is known about these in regards to humans.
Darwin, C. (1871/1981). The descent of Man, and selection in relation to sex. (Photoreproduction of the 1871 edition ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Readings for quiz 4

Review and finish chapter 9, Language
Read ch 10, 11, and 12.
Skip ahead and read ch. 13, pp.541-542, and Fig. 13.7, ch. 14 on sex and gender, pp.600-613
Read the 401 notes on evolution, and language.
(other notes may be posted as well)

Internet 3 assignment --implicit cognition

Go to this site, take a look and participate in one of the "studies." Write a 1 page typed review, include an account of what you did and what you found out (about yourself?) anything? Due Wednesday, 10/25

other topics for quiz 4

functions of human language
the relationship between language and thought
four major types of social interactions
attribution and attribution error
creation of beliefs

Week 09

Oct. 30

Get assignments for next quiz: review ch. 10, 11, 12; review and read ch. 13 (physical and cognitive development) and ch. 14 Social development.
See Nov 8 for essay #5.

Internet assignment on prisoner's dilemma due Nov.13.

(But do it before the quiz, 11/08, for best results!)
There are several sites where one can "play" this game.
Or one using Gleitman's example of Prisoner's.
Your assignment is to review Glietman, p. 523-526 regarding the Prisoner's Dilemma. Go to one of the web sites above and play the game. Write a 1 page review of your game experience. Include which game you played, your results, and a brief statement about whether it helped you understand the broader implications of game theory for insights in such things as altruism and cooperation and other aspects of social behavior studied by such games.

Video on social stuff including Milgram's obedience project.

Nov. 01

Give out personality assessment demo.

Overview of testing concepts regarding "implicit cognition"test.

Classic "social" experiments

Milgram and Asch on conformity/obedience
Festinger's "when prophecy fails" (cognitive dissonance)
Attribution theory
Bystander effect

Nov. 03

Discusss quiz 4 (See quiz file for answers, esp. essay/short answers.)

Comment on "proximity" and its limits as a factor in sexual attraction. Children raised in close proximity, for example the same living space (siblings, orphans, communal farms) rarely have a sexual attraction to one another. Other primates have characteristic patterns of mating to minimize incest. These presumably promote even more genetic variability.

Factors in mate choice and selection. (See overhead slide.)

Week 10

Nov .06

Nov. 08 quiz 5

Essay 5 sexual identity

Sexual identity is a complex concept involving genetic sex, morphological sex, and gender role and identity.
a- briefly explain these component concepts and their integration into sexual identity.
b- discuss with at least two examples, how --according to researchers -- biological and social factors can influence the development of gender roles and identity.
c- From your own personal experience, what factor would you emphasize as most important?

Some Short answer topics

Piaget's theory and critics
Stages of development
Theory of mind and egocentricism
Language development timetable (13.1)
Classic studies in social behavior

Nov.09 quiz 5 (Thursday is Friday!)

Nov. 10 Veterans Day holiday-no classes

Read ch. 15(intelligence) and 16 (personality)

Week 11

Nov. 13

Development video

Nov. 15

Finish discussion of early development: see notes.

Discuss email article on homosexuality. See archives.

Nov. 17

Return and discuss quiz 5

Week 12

Nov. 20

Discuss essay on intelligence, the structure of the Stanford-Binet, deviation IQ, the information processing approach in Gleitman. I mentioned the "Flynn effect" that absolute scores (items correct) have been continously rising though norms are always set at 100 for the average score. Some discussion of the validity of various tests, for predicting success in school.

Nov. 22

Nov. 24 Thanksgiving holidays

Quiz 6 take home on" intelligence" due Nov. 27.

There are two parts to to this essay. Write 2-3 pages total, typed double spaced on the following two related points.
1. Read the information-processing approach (644-650) to intelligence. Visit the site below. . Read the discussion about the use of reaction times and do the demo on "thinking time."
Now write a brief summary of the "information processing" approach incorporating your experiences with the demo at Serendip. Read the discussion about the use of reaction times and do the demo.
2. Earlier we talked about "mind-tools" (see web notes) and their use -- How do you see the use of these fitting into Glietman's overall discussion of intelligence?

Week 13

Nov. 27

Review and/or Read ch. 16, 17 (personality 2), 18 (psychopathology), ch. 19 (treatment)
Abnormal web sites assignment

Internet assignment

Pick any topic in the realm of abnormal behavior or psychopathology. Do a web search looking for the best 3 sites in your judgement relevant to that topic. For the best site, write a short paragraph outlining why you chose that one. Send an email to the 401 list with your topic in the subject as follows: "abnormal: paranoia" (for example) and in the text, just list the 3 sites in order with your reasons below. Do this by Dec. 08 if not sooner. (If you want help on searching, look at my webpage on "searching." There is a list of some of the better methods. Try Google if you have no favorite method, along with one other. Exercise judgment in choosing your sites; make sure you know who created or sponsored the site and that they appear to be legitimate.)

Nov. 29

Dec. 01

Week 14

Dec. 04

Dec. 06

Dec. 08 quiz 7

Essay quiz 7

Explain the "Diathesis-stress" model (Gleitman, fig. 18.4 and 18.9) as applied to schizophrenia. Now pick any other pathological problem and apply it to that. Of course you may have to speculate when you don't know the facts -- make an educated guess! (Using a labeled diagram or two is ok, if accompanied by sufficient explanation.)

Week 15

Dec. 11

Dec. 13 Last day of class

Dec. 15

Week 16

Dec. 20 401H final exam 10:30am