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Psychology Honors 110- LIVES & TIMES

Fall 1999
Psychology Honors 110: Section #92254
3:40P-4:55P TR CA 106 (AP 213,398)
Paul Ashdown
Alvin G. Burstein


This is a team taught course, very different from the conventional sections of Psychology 110 in both style and substance. Not only is it a small section team taught by faculty, but it involves a good deal in the way of active participation from the students and, rather than trying to offer a comprehensive review of the field (the usual introduction), it explores a series of polarities or fracture lines that characterize psychology by asking the faculty to consider what it is they think it most important to say about psychology to an audience of gifted lower division students.

Many fields of knowledge are characterized by a dominant theoretical view. That is not the case with the social sciences in general nor with psychology. Psychological theories can be classified in terms of how they fall on a series of epistemological dimensions. Below are a list of such dimensions adapted from Watson and Evans, The Great Psychologists. Each of the lectures you hear will embody assumptions about many of these polarities. Adopting a theoretical position means making choices among the polarities. It is probably the case that such choices are difficult to ground objectively and flow from a more general world view.

  • Determinism vs. Free will‹Are thought and behavior predetermined by previous events or are they the result of free choice. This is an issue with moral as well as psychological consequences.
  • Empirism vs. Idealism‹Is the source of knowledge ultimately external to us and based on experience or is knowledge accessible by other means such as reason or inspiration.
  • Reductionism vs. Emergent Qualities‹Are natural processes explained by resort to smaller and smaller units or do systems acquire qualities unpredictable from their components as they become more complex.
  • Nomotheticism vs. Idiograpicism‹Does one seek general laws or explanations for specific individuals or events.
  • Monism vs. Dualism‹Are mind and body two distinct things, however related or a single entity.
  • Stability vs. Change‹Is the emphasis on enduring qualities or on change over time and the causes of change.
  • Conscious mentation vs. Unconscious mentation‹Are the most important mental events conscious ones or do they exist outside of consciousness.
  • Objectivity vs. Subjectivity‹Are the most important data for psychology directly observable phenomena or private

There will be one faculty lecture each Tuesday. That lecture will be followed by a Thursday small group discussion led by a graduate student. Each week one of the students will be responsible for posting an email question or comment about the topic of the lecture, to which the other students will respond by email. The student posting the question each week, will also “tag” the student responsible for next week¹s post.

There will be a 1500 word term paper on a topic chosen from a list provided or on an alternative topic approved by the faculty. The term paper should address one or more of the polarities (by defending one of the poles or by developing a synthesizing context), explore the ways in which one or more of the polarities finds specific substantive expression in a particular topic area covered in the lectures or by integrating two or more of the topic areas covered in lectures. Each student should schedule a meeting with one of the faculty to discuss the paper topic before writing a one paragraph precis of the paper due Sept. 30. An outline of the paper will be due Oct 12. A first draft of the paper will be due Nov 18. The final version of the paper will be due Dec. 7.

Fifty per cent of the grade in the course will depend on the final paper. Twenty five percent of the grade will depend on the consistency and quality of email postings. Twenty five percent of the grade will depend upon contributions to the discussion groups.

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a documented disability or if you have emergency information to share, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 191 Hoskins Library or 974-6087. This will ensure that you are properly registered for services.


Honors Psychology Schedule of Readings


Alvin Burstein, Professor of Psychology

Aug 26 Introduction, syllabus, course requirements, discussion of “polarities” in psychology AB
Aug 31 Modes of Inquiry: experiment, observation, hermeneutic exchange, introspection SH
Sept. 13 Magritte and memory;
write a biographical episode
Sept. 2 Discussion Groups
Sept. 7 History of Radical Behaviorism: Epistemologic Monism JM
Sept. 9 Discussion Groups
Sept. 14 Coherence and Perception; minipaper assigned; information retrieval SH, LS
Sept. 16 Discussion Groups
Sept. 21 How Behavior Changes WM
Sept. 23 Discussion Groups
Sept. 28 Personality/Identity WJ
Sept. 30 Discussion Groups; (Term paper precis due)
Oct. 5 Social Influences WJ
Oct. 7 Discussion Groups
Oct. 12 Language and Thought MJ (Outline of term paper due)
Oct. 14 Discussion Groups
Oct. 19 Biology and Behavior MK
Oct. 26 Modes of Remembering MJ
Oct. 28 Discussion Groups
Nov. 2 Dreams, Dissociation and Narrative Identity AB
Nov. 4 Discussion Groups
Nov. 9 Radical Behaviorism and Cognition JM
Nov. 11 Discussion Groups
Nov. 16 Psychopathology WM
Nov. 18 Discussion Groups (first draft of term paper due)
Nov. 23 Sexuality WM
Nov. 30 Intelligence AB
Dec. 2 Discussion Groups
Dec. 7 (Final draft of term paper due)
Dec. 9 Discussion Groups