What we will do this semester:
We will examine psychology as a natural science. Thus, we will practice forming opinions based on reason and defending those opinions using evidence (aka critical thinking). In particular, we will consider why psychologists believe certain theories. We will also critically examine various explanations given for why we do what we do.
Specifically, we will look at psychological theories of sensation, perception, learning, memory, thinking, motivation, and development. In many cases we will compare our commonsense notions of what makes us tick with the scientific findings of psychologists.
We will improve our writing and reading skills.
We will have fun.
Consider the following:
- I have joked that psychology is half common sense and half nonsense, but this is not true. Many people feel that their own experience with others makes them expert psychologists. Yet, we all deal with chemicals everyday but don't believe ourselves to be expert chemists. Similarly, those who study human behavior and mental states scientifically and professionally may have something to tell the rest of us.
- You have no way of directly seeing into my head. In fact, you can't be sure that I am even conscious. The science of psychology has the difficult task of studying something that is not only invisible, it is nearly intangible ("incapable of being defined or determined with certainty or precision" page 372, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1974, New York: Pocket Books).
- We can be pretty sure that there is a brain. But what do we mean by "mind"? What about "soul"? Biological psychology picks apart brains (sometimes literally). Contemporary cognitive psychology proposes the existence of many mental functions that would qualify as "the mind." Although the Greek word "psyche," from which "psychology" derives, means "soul" as well as "mind," scientific psychology usually excuses itself from discussions on the soul. Still, many psychotherapists embrace the notion of soul or spirit. We will spend a couple of weeks studying the brain, but will focus on mind for most of the class. Soul is covered in General Psychology II J
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