General Psychology (PSY 10300)
Spring, 2015

Barney Beins

Contacting me

Schedule for the Course

Office Hours

Teaching Assistant


Purpose of the Course

Goals of the Course

Nature of the Course


Tests and Evaluation Policies

Extra Credit

Important Dates

Final exam schedule


Important announcements about the course will appear here.


The second test (Chapter 3) will be on Tuesday, February 10.


"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." --B. F. Skinner

Contact Information

Barney Beins
Office: 115-E Williams
Phone: 607-274-3512 or 607-274-3304 (Psych Dept.)




January/February   March   April/May
January 20 and 22   March 3 and 5   April 7 and 9
January27 and 29   March 10 and 12   April 14 and 16
February 3 and 5   March 17 and 19   April 21 and 23
February 10 and 12   March 24 and 26   April 28 and 30
February 17 and 19   March 31and April 2   May 4-11
February 24 and 26        

Teaching Assistant: Allison McComb

Tests and Assignments:

We will have a chapter test every Tuesday after we complete a chapter. The tests will cover a single chapter with a few questions from the previous chapter and will take about 20 minutes. There will also be a cumulative final exam.

There are no makeup tests for chapter quizzes. However, the final exam will allow you to make up for poor performance on the tests.You will be able to select parts of the final exam and use them to replace earlier test scores. So if you miss the test or do poorly on Chapter 3, for example, you can substitute your final exam score for that chapter as a replacement for your poor or missing score. If you score lower on the final exam component for a substitution, your grade will go down.

Your final grade in the class will be based on the total points accumulated on the homework assignments, chapter tests, and final exam. Extra credit points will be added to the point total on the final exam.



B+ = 87-89%
C+ = 77-79%
D+ = 67-70%
A = 94-100%
B = 84-86%
C = 74-76%
D = 64-66%
A- = 90-93%
B- = 80-83%
C- = 70-73%
D- = 60-63%

Your grade will be determined by the average of all points earned in the class.

Purpose of this course

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In this course, you will learn about psychology. This will involve both the content of psychology and the processes that psychologists use to develop find out more about behavior. Both of these elements are important because in order to understand psychology, you have to know some facts, but you also need to be able to evaluate whether you can trust the facts you encounter. After you complete this class, I hope you will be more scientifically literate, knowing what science is and what it isn't, and knowing what kinds of questions to ask when somebody tries to tell you about a scientific area. As such, you will be able to differentiate between science and pseudoscience.

Psychology covers a broad spectrum of areas. We won't be able to cover in this class everything psychology has to offer. There simply isn't time to do that. Consequently, we will cover many (but not all) of the most important areas.

After you complete this course

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When you finish this methods course, you should have diverse knowledge, including

The nature of this course

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This course requires consistent work throughout the semester. If you fall behind in the work, you will experience difficulty catching up. The material is not difficult per se, but it is extensive; if you have problems, make sure you see me about them.

If you need help at any point or if you are confused about something, make sure you talk to me about it. I have office hours so students know when I'll be around to help. (I am around at other times, too, in addition to my office hours.)

Take Care of Yourself

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance. The source of symptoms might be related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with relationships, family worries, loss, or a personal struggle or crisis can also contribute to decreased academic performance.

Ithaca College provides cost-free mental health services through the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to help you manage personal challenges that threaten your personal or academic well-being.

In the event I suspect you need additional support, expect that I will express to you my concerns and the reasons for them. It is not my intent to know the details of what might be troubling you, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help (e.g., CAPS, Health Center, Chaplains, etc.), if needed, is available.

Remember, getting help is a smart and healthy thing to do -- for yourself and for your loved ones.


Weiten, W. (2014). Psychology: Themes and Variations (Briefer Version) (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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January 20 and 22

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 12: Social Behavior

Humans have evolved as social animals. Consequently, many of our behaviors have underpinnings that involve relationships with other individuals, with ingroups, and with outgroups. We generally have to make social decisions with too little good information, so we do the best we can with what is available. This leads to behaviors that are sometimes not strictly logical, but, rather, are psycho-logical. As we move through life, we learn to navigate the social environment by gaining a sense of what behaviors are appropriate in different social settings and what behaviors are effective in helping us reach our social goals.

NOTE: The readings on myths for the class assignments are in Sakai. Go to the Resources folder and select the subfolder named Readings.

There are Word files in Sakai Assignments folder that you can use to complete the assignments.

Assignment: MYTH--CHANGING ANSWERS (2 pts)

Psychological scientists address a wide range of behavioral questions. One that has been addressed involves whether it is a good idea to change your answers on a multiple choice test after you have selected an answer.

Based on the reading in Sakai called Changing Answers, identify three reasons why people are reluctant to change their answers. (1 pt)

Based on the ideas offered in the reading, say why you will or will not be likely to change answers on the multiple choice tests in this class. (1 pt)



January 27 and 29

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 2: The Research Enterprise in Psychology

Behavior is complex, so there should be no surprise that psychologists have developed multiple approaches to studying human and animal behavior. Our discussion this week will focus on the different ways that researchers create new information. One of the most important messages from this material is that we are always trying to draw conclusions with insufficient information. As a result, in science, all conclusions are tentative. We gain increasing confidence in our conclusions as we conduct research, but scientists have to live with uncertainty all the time.

One implication is that when we read or hear about scientific research in the popular press, we have to be wary. Reporters are trained to write, not to be scientists; the media exist to make money by attracting interest of readers and viewers, not to discuss scientific matters accurately. As a result, reporters invariably simplify the complicated scientific studies whose results make it into the popular press. As a result, you should treat with suspicion anything you hear on the news by asking, "What did they leave out?"

Assignment: (3 pts) ETHICS

There are ethical issues in any study involving humans or other animals.

1. Based on the reading on the effects of placebos, do you think that it is ethical to do research on patients in which one group gets a placebo and the other gets an actual drug?

2. Is the situation any different when researchers are comparing a possibly effective new drug to standard treatment?

3. Then read about the research that claimed a link between vaccination and autism. What long-term problems might result from people's believing this unethical research? [IMPORTANT NOTE: THE EDITORIAL ABOUT THE VACCINE-AUTISM RESEARCH IS THE 5TH (AND FINAL) EDITORIAL ON THE WEB PAGE. YOU DO NOT NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THE FIRST FOUR.]


February 3 and 5

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 3: The Biological Bases of Behavior

The brain may be the most complicated structure in the universe. We know a lot about it, but there is much more that we don't know. This discussion will highlight the way the brain contributes to thought and behavior. It is too simple to believe that knowing about biological processes explains psychological processes; we will talk about the difference between biology and behavior and how they affect each other.

Assignment: (3 pts) BRAIN

Listen to the TED talk about phantom pain and synesthesia (it begins with the second talk in the TED talk on Capgras Syndrome link; it appears at 9 minutes and 29 seconds).

Based on the talk on phantom pain, describe how can the brain experience bodily sensations when the body part doesn't exist. (1 pt)

Using synesthesia as the basis for your answer, describe how your neurons are linked to the way we experience sensory events. How do synesthetes (i.e., people with synesthesia) differ from non-synesthetes? Then describe how metaphors arise from the neural functioning in our brains. (2 pts)


February 10 and 12

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 3: The Biological Bases of Behavior; Chapter 4: Sensation & Perception

We will continue to explore the relation between biology and behavior and then move to how we perceive the world around us.

Assignment: (2 pts) MYTH--ESP

Find a source that discusses the concept of confirmation bias.

Explain what confirmation bias is and, using the material in the reading in Sakai Myth--ESP, describe how it could be partially responsible for people's belief that ESP exists. Wikipedia is OK, but there are any number of sources that you could use, including textbooks in social psychology. (1 pt)

In general, are arguments that ESP exists more persuasive than the research? If so, why do you think people ignore the research? If not, why do people still believe? (1 pt)

February 17 and 19

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 4: Sensation and Perception

We take for granted that what we see, hear, feel, etc. really exists. In truth, every signal we receive from the outside world is filtered and translated by our sensory systems, processed further in our sensory cortex, then refined by our cerebral cortex. Many different parts of the brain are at work. At every point along the route, the messsage we are processing undergoes alteration. So our final evaluation of the world around us is the product of many different pieces of information coming together. We experience the world seamlessly, but our perceptions disguise the complexity of the process.


Based on the reading in Sakai Myth--Profiling Criminals, identify and describe the three likely reasons for the popularity of and belief in profiling.

Based on information in the reading, do you think that law enforcement personnel should use profilers to help catch criminals? Justify your answer.


February 24 and 26

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 6: Learning

Learning is a complicated process. Like sensation and perception, learning proceeds automatically, without our awareness of the many individual components associated with it. Learning can take place at the level of autonomic, involuntary processes; it can also occur in behaviors that we feel we can control. There is controversy over the extent to which we actually have control over our behaviors in some cases.

Assignment: ADVERTISING (3 pts)

Read the material on conditioning and advertising to answer this question? Why is the elaboration likelihood model useful in helping us understand whether people will be affected by an emotional appeal or a cognitive argument? (1 pt.)

View the advertisement for Exxon. (It's the first video on that web page.) Identify the US, the CS, the UR, and the CR. (2 pts)


March 3 and 5

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 7: Human Memory

We normally take memory for granted, but research has revealed that remembering is more complicated than we think. Remembering something requires a number of different components, including becoming aware of the item to be remembered, encoding it into memory, and retrieving it later when we want to recall. Each of these stages itself involves multiple components. In addition, forgetting is complicated. We still don't know exactly what happens when we forget, but we do know that it is not simply the reverse of learning.

Assignment: MYTH--LEARNING STYLES (3 pts)

In the educational world, many people have talked about matching a student's learning style with an instructor's teaching style. It turns out that there is less here than meets the eye.

Based on the reading Myth--Learning Styles, identify and describe four reasons to be skeptical of the concept of learning styles. (2 pts)

Why do you think that belief in learning styles persists even though there is no evidence regarding it? (1 pt)


March 10 and 12



March 17 and 19

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 8: Cognition and Intelligence

Psychology's initial domains involved sensation, perception, and learning. In the century and a quarter since the inception of psychology, these initial domains have evolved to include cognition, that is, our thought processes and the factors associated with decision making and problem solving. The more we study cognition, the more we have become aware how complex our thought processes are. Further, psychologists have studied the concept of intelligence for the past century. The initial foray into this area was fraught with severe problems; psychologists are still trying to figure out what intelligence is and how we can measure it. Regarding intelligence, there are complex and controversial social and scientific issues that still need to be resolved.

Assigment: False Confessions (3 pts)

Sometimes people confess to crimes they didn't commit. Based on the article Why innocent people make false confessions, identify and describe three psychologically based reasons that innocent people confess.


March 24 and 26

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 11: Personality

Each person has a distinct personality, even those of us with no "personality". Psychologists have tried to identify characteristics of personality that are universally relevant, knowing that the most complex theory we develop is bound to be simpler than reality. Nonetheless, psychologists have identified a number of traits that can be used to describe and characterize the structure of personality. In addition, psychologists have developed an enormous number of instruments to measure different aspects of personality. One of the difficulties we have is that cultural influences on personality mean that a measurement that is valid for one group of people may not be valid for others.

Assignment: PERSONALITY (2 pts)

Cats and dogs have personalities that vary from one cat to another and one dog to another. Just like people, even animals like mice can differ from one another. For instance, mice vary in the degree to which they show fear. In an experimental setting, researchers infected mice with a bacterium and measured their fear of cats. Read the story about fear responses in mice.

In another behavioral realm, people differ in the type of foods they eat, but what causes these differences? Bacteria in your gut may affect your eating habits.

Surprising relations occur in people, too. For example, stress affects the type of body that a person finds attractive.

Read the articles linked above. Based on the material, are you convinced that people are aware of their reasons for acting as they do? Refer to the readings in generating your answer.


March 31 and April 2

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 13: Stress, Coping, and Health

Psychologists have explored the relation between psychology and health. As you might expect, the issues are complicated, but we do know that psychological states can affect physical states and vice versa. So in order to understand physiology, we need to understand psychology; likewise, in order to understand psychology, we need to understand physiology.



April 7 and 9

Reading and Topic:

Chapter 5: Variations in Consciousness

We go through life taking our daily rhythms and our level of awareness for granted. Like all psychological phenomena, however, there are interesting twists and turns to what we take for granted with respect to our consciousness.

Assignment: (2 pts) MYTH--ULCERS

In our stress-filled world, people frequently suffer from stomach ulcers. Would reducing stress help reduce the incidence of ulcers? Probably. But there is more to it (of course).

Based on the reading in Sakai Myth--Ulcers, identify what doctors and psychologists now believe is responsible for ulcers. (1 pt)

Even if it isn't stress along that causes ulcers, what is likely to be the role of stress in the formation of ulcers? (1 pt)


April 14 and 16

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 14: Psychological Disorders

Psychology is best known for its focus on psychological disorders, even though there is a large component of psychology that has nothing to do with abnormality. Since psychology adopted this focus, it has broken away from psychiatry. The difference between the two is that psychiatry deals with a medical model whereas psychology is more behavioral. As an illustration of why this is important, one should consider that psychiatrists are medical doctors who often rely on pharmaceutical treatments; psychologists rely on treatment of thought and behavior. There is a role for both approaches, although a considerable body of research has shown that psychological treatment is often as or more effective in the long-term. Depending on the therapist's theoretical background, treatment can take very different forms.

Assignment: (3 pts) DISORDERS

Should people diagnosed with mental illness be allowed to own guns? Read the article from Guns & Ammo for one set of arguments. Then read a paper by a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services about the issue.

Also, listen to a balanced report by National Republic Radio (5 minutes and 37 seconds in length).

What are the general arguments in favor of restricting gun ownership by the mentally ill? (1 pt)

What are the objections to those arguments? (1 pt)

What do you think about resolving the issue? (1 pt)


April 21 and 23

Reading and Topics:

Chapter 14: Psychological Disorders (continued)

April 28 and 30

Topic: Catching up


May 5 through 11


Homework: None

(Go to the top of the syllabus)


You can get extra credit for this class in three different ways.

1. You can participate in an approved experiment within the Psychology Department. After participating, you need to write a summary of the research question that they are investigating, what you did in the study, and what methodology they used. You also need to indicate what, if anything, you got out of this research participation. Was the experience interesting? Were you bored? Confused? (Please note: You do not have to say that you learned a lot, or even a little, from participating in a study. I seriously want to know what you got out of the experience.) If you do not hand in your responses to the points below, you will get one point for participation in the study and will not earn the maximum of three points.

These are the elements you must include in your summary of the study.

(a) You need to describe the research question for the study in which you participated

(b) You must outline of the methodology; that is, what you did during the study

(c) You also need to describe your reaction to the study: What did you think about the way the study was conducted? Did you learn anything? What was it like to participate?

Submit your information, go to the dropbox in Sakai.

2. You can read and summarizing an approved journal article from a psychological journal. There are a few elements you must present. (a) You need to explain why the researchers did their work, (b) how they did it, (b) the results of the study, and (d) what they concluded. You also need to indicate (e) how easy or difficult it was to understand the article and explain yourself.

3. You can bring a summary of a report in the popular media (e.g., magazine or newspaper article) that relates to the kind of research we deal with in class. Your written report should include what the research was about, what methodology they seem to have used, what the researchers concluded, and what additional information you would like to have seen in their report to have a complete understanding of the issue.

Each activity (#1-3) will be worth a maximum of 2 percent on your final exam grade, with a maximum of ten points allowed. Before doing any extra credit work, you must check with me in advance so that I can assess its suitability, although if somebody recruits for research participation in class, you do not need to check with me. The credit you earn for each one will depend on the quality of your write-up. Please note that you are not guaranteed 2 points per attempt.

(Go to the top of the syllabus)

General Information - Spring 2015 Academic Calendar

Note: Dates in bold are relevant for our class

Monday   January 19   

Martin Luther King, Jr. Campus Celebration - No Classes

Tuesday January 20 Classes Begin 8:00 a.m.
Monday January 26 Last Day to ADD/DROP Block I Courses
Monday January 26 Last Day to ADD/DROP Semester Courses
Monday January 26 Last Day to Audit Courses
Friday January 30 Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Block I Courses
Monday February 9 Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Semester Courses
Monday February 23 Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Block I Courses
Monday February 23 Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Block I Courses
Friday March 6 Block I Ends 4:00 p.m.; Spring Break Begins
Sat-Sun March 7-15 Spring Break - No Classes
Monday March 16 Classes Resume 8:00 a.m.; Block II Begins
Wednesday March 18 Mid-Term Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday March 18 Block I Final Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.
Sunday March 22 Last Day to ADD/DROP Block II Courses
Wednesday March 25 Last Day to Request S/D/F Option in Block II Courses
Wednesday March 25 Summer 2015 Application for Graduation Due (Online)
Friday April 3 Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Semester Courses
Friday April 3 Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Semester Courses
Friday April 3 Passover begins at sundown
Friday April 3 Good Friday
Sunday April 5 Easter
Friday April 17 Last Day to Revoke S/D/F Option in Block II Courses
Friday April 17 Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Block II Courses
Friday April 17 Last Day to Withdraw with "W" in Graduate Courses
Mon-Fri April 20-24 Online Registration for Fall 2015
Monday May 4 Last Day of Classes (Our last class meeting is on April 30.)
Tuesday May 5 Final Examinations Begin 7:30 a.m.
Monday May 11 Final Examinations End 10:00 p.m.
Thursday May 14 All Final Grades Due (Online) 10:00 p.m.
Sunday       May 17 Commencement