There are several topics that should be included in a Psychology 101 class. The most important place to begin is to have students come up with reasons people choose a particular behavior. I would have each student pick an action they have observed recently or in the past and answer why they think that person performed that behavior. This helps students to begin to think about human actions in general. It will also encourage them to pay attention to the behavior of others. This would be the first day of class.
The scientific method is the basis for all of science. Develop a question, create a hypothesis, design a study and do research, collect data and analyze it, and communicate the findings. This process is universal for any scientific paradigm. The formulated question must be something testable and should lead a researcher to developing a hypothesis. I would have students brainstorm research ideas and then form groups to create mock research proposals. They would then give a short presentation of their proposal. This would help students understand the process of the scientific method.
The theories of human behavior should be covered. This would begin with Ivan Pavlov and his experiments with animals. Classical conditioning and instrumental conditioning forms the basis of a lot of studies on human behavior. Students would learn about how a stimulus in one’s environment can elicit a response. I would explain how a behavior response can be paired with a stimulus to shape behavior.
Behaviorism is an important part of understanding instinct and environmental effects on behavior. I would talk about Albert Bandura’s concept of modeling. I would talk about how children learn through observation and that adults also sometimes learn this way. I would compare and contrast the differences between classical conditioning and Skinner’s box and other animal experiments he conducted testing to see how they can be trained. Students would learn that biology and social observation both help young people to learn behavior. I would have students write an essay comparing and contrasting classical and operant conditioning.
It’s important to cover the most common areas of psychology, such as: abnormal, social, biological, and child psychology. Industrial and organizational psychology is a popular specialization. It deals with human resources issues and helps psychologists determine how to improve employee satisfaction and efficiency. Abnormal psychology covers patients who suffer from disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Social psychology focuses how people behave in groups and how groups influence individual behavior. Biological psychology, often called physiological or neurological psychology, focuses on brain function and the central nervous system. Child psychology focuses on child development and how children learn and function in social situations.
Nutrition and every day health are part of a good education. Health is important to be maintained with positive behaviors. Experts suggest at a minimum of 30 minutes of constant activity three days a week. Good nutrition requires a balance of the main food groups: grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans, and protein like fish and meat. Proper exercise and nutrition help the mind and body function efficiently. Students would be given an assignment to look up their BMI and develop their own nutrition and exercise plan.
Moving on to abnormal psychology, discussing theories on disorders comes into play. Bipolar disorder is a random and sudden shift from two severe states, manic and depressive. Manic states are high levels of happiness and energy. A person can seem elated and full of life. Depression states include intense sadness and low energy. People in depressive states tend to feel unmotivated and do not want to interact with the world. The assignment for this topic area would require students to write a five page paper about one particular mental disorder.
Social psychology broadens one’s understanding on social behavior. Some of the most interesting experiments include the Stanford Prison study. Dr. Zimbardo discovered that authority could influence people to behave in ways that are out of character. In his study, Zimbardo used two groups of students, one were mock prisoners and the other prison guards. The students who took the role of prison guards took their mock authority to extremes in part because of how it felt to put on uniforms. They saw the other students as prisoners as they were dressed as such. The students in effect forgot that they were in an experiment! This mock reality became consuming and Dr. Zimbardo had to cut the experiment short. A fun assignment for students would be to debate the pros and cons of Dr. Zimbardo’s experiment. Was it ethical to study such an experiment? Could anything have been done differently to prevent the experiment from getting out of hand? A panel of six or more students with two teams total would present to the class and debate pro or con. The rest of the students could ask questions after the debate for the panel to answer. Then each student would write an essay taking either pro or con and argue which side they agree with the most.
Child development is arguably the most important part of human life. The experiences that kids have shape who they are. Several theories attempt to explain how child development occurs. Freud believed in psychosexual stages that infants and children experience. These stages involve crisis’s in which a child learns to adapt and is successful or becomes stunted and develops fixations. A fixation is an obsession over something. An oral fixation, for example, means a child is unable to move past a fascination with putting thing in their mouths. Students would write an argumentitiave essay on whether they think genetics or environment is more influential to child development. They can also argue that it’s more of a balance.
The bystander effect occurs in large groups of people. The more people there are, the less likely someone is to help another person in an emergency situation. There are many likely reasons why. There may not be a perceived threat or a person might not recognize it. There may be a belief that someone else is likely coming to aid the person in trouble. There may be a fear of acting outside of the norm of the group. Or there could be a lack of belief that the threat is real.
My favorite positive psychologist is Abraham Maslow. Positive psychology is the focus on the advancement of happiness and the satisfaction of live. Positive psychologists seek to find ways to improve the human condition. Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs. At the very base are natural or biological needs. Sleep, food, drink, and that sort of thing. Higher needs include: security, social, esteem, and self-actualization. The final assignment of the class is for students to think about what area of psychology is their favorite and what they would want to study if they were working in a lab.
Other subjects that I would include are: sleep and dreams, memory, motivations and emotions, sexuality, personality, and coping and hardiness. I feel these subjects add an additional understanding of psychology. They can also be included and mentioned in some of the previous topics I have mentioned. Such as biological functioning and brain functioning.
Professor Anh Tho Andres
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