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Some of my best friends are psychologists. They all have different backgrounds and interests; some teach at colleges and universities, others work for government or private organizations; some do laboratory research, others write books, and still others help people with personal problems. Yet despite the differences, these friends are all excited about their work, the field, and the contributions being made by this intelligent and useful discipline.
This textbook, Essentials of Psychology, is a new, brief, lean-and-clean adaptation of my existing text, Psychology, now in its fourth edition. Brief textbooks have a long and venerable history in psychology. In 1890, William James published his precocious two-volume text, 1,393 pages in length, Principles of Psychology, in which he wrote about habit formation, consciousness, mind and body, emotions, the self, and other still challenging topics. Two years later, he followed "James" with Psychology: A Briefer Course, a condensed version nicknamed "Jimmy." One size did not fit all then-and it doesn't now.
As psychology enters its third century as a formal discipline, it's easy to build an encyclopedic text by piling new theories and discoveries, hot off the presses, upon old ones from psychology's historical warehouse. One could argue that students should have at least cursory exposure to it all. I don't agree. The primary purpose of this book is not to inject students with lists of names, dates, facts, and figures for regurgitation, but rather to draw them into the field, excite them, and get them to think like psychologists about the human experience. This requires an approach thatretains the depth of topic coverage found in more comprehensive texts, while reducing the number of topics covered. For an author, that means making the tough but necessary choices described below.
As always, I had three goals in writing this textbook. First, as I said, I want to get students thinking like psychologists. No author can invoke critical thinking in students the way a parent spoon feeds a baby. Critical thinking is a frame of mind that forms naturally in response to information that is engaging and personally relevant—which leads me to the special features of this book. Determined to get the reader to think like a psychologist, I have created a number of innovative features for this textbook that are described below.
My second goal is to teach students that psychology is a dynamic and evolving process of discovery. Every textbook presents the discipline as a science. Indeed, many authors devote a whole second chapter to research methods. I have taken an integrated approach. Research methods are central to psychology's identity, so they are introduced and fully presented in Chapter 1, along with the field itself. In learning about research methods, students will see that science is a process that is slow, cumulative, and dynamic.
My third goal is to spark in students the hunger, passion, and excitement that psychologists have for their work. Toward this end, I have tried to write a book that is not only "readable" but warm, personal, interactive, contemporary, relevant, and newsy. I have not ducked the hot and sticky issues. The nature and nurture of homosexuality and the recovery of repressed childhood memories are just two of the controversies that I have confronted head-on where research is available. I've also made it a point to illustrate principles with vivid events from the worlds of sports, entertainment, politics, law, and world events. I never, ever, resort to "John and Mary in the dorm" hypotheticals to make a point. The examples I use reflect my conviction that students, like the rest of us, have a vested interest in a world that extends past the borders of the college campus.
Sneak a peek at the Table of Contents and you'll see that Essentials of Psychology contains fifteen independent chapters—not the eighteen found in the more comprehensive parent text. To help condense material, I combined the coverage of thought and language with intelligence (Chapter 7), I combined motivation and emotion (Chapter 10), and I brought together the material on social and cultural psychology (Chapter 11). To show psychology's relevance "out there" in the world, I also wrote a new capstone chapter on current applications to health, business, and law (Chapter 15).
You'll see that this book offers a balanced and mainstream look at psychology today—and that it's remarkably up to date. Included are discussions of the most recent work on the psychological effects of terrorism, neurogenesis, corporal punishment, the creation of false memories, the Human Genome Project, infants as mini-mathematicians, stereotype threat effects on academic performance, the global obesity epidemic, implicit stereotyping, and the trend toward the "manualization" of psychological treatments.
When it comes to organizational structure, there are three aspects of the book that I want to spotlight for instructors: the coverage of research methods, a chapter on nature and nurture, and a final capstone chapter on applying psychology.
Many introductory textbooks separate the introduction of psychology from its methods of inquiry, often presented in a parenthetical second chapter. I have taken a more integrated approach that presents psychology's research methods as part and parcel of its history, development, and current identity as a science.
All the material you'd expect to find in a chapter on research methods appears in Chapter 1—including discussions of where and how psychologists do their research, how they measure psychological variables, and the inferences that we can and cannot draw from descriptive research, correlational studies, and experiments. Noting that scientific knowledge builds slowly over time, this coverage contains a section on literature reviews and meta-analysis.
As in the parent text, the central focus on research methods is reinforced in every chapter, which opens with What's Your Prediction (WYP)—an activity that describes the procedures of an actual published study and calls on students to predict the results. The actual results are then revealed, followed by a brief discussion of what they mean. This activity, more than any other I've tried in the classroom, gets students, like psychologists, to think critically about research methods. Look at these activities, and you'll see how they work. To further reinforce this interactive focus on research methods, I have added Mini-WYP exercises throughout the text. In the margin of each chapter, you'll find a brief description of a new, high-interest study. In light of the material they've read, students are asked again to predict the results, which then are revealed.
The nature-nurture debate is a classic in all areas of psychology and always the subject of intense debate. At one end, the strict biological position states that we share a common evolutionary heritage that makes us all similar—and that we are predisposed by genetics to exhibit differences in the way they think, feel, and behave. At the other end, a strict environmental position says that our fate is shaped by learning, culture, nutrition, family background, peer groups, and critical life events.
Drawing upon a current renaissance in evolutionary theory, the discoveries of the Human Genome Project, and recent developments in behavioral genetics, I have written a new chapter entitled Nature and Nurture. The purpose is to educate psychology students about basic genetics, natural selection, and the emerging field of evolutionary psychology, and to introduce the nature-nurture debates, heritability studies, and recent work on the interaction of biology and environment. This chapter concludes with discussions of the nature and nurture of gender and sexual orientation.
All introductory psychology texts that I've seen come to an end on whatever happens to be the final word of the last substantive chapter. Typically, no effort is made to integrate the material or to provide students with a sense of closure. A key feature of this text is a closing "capstone" chapter that applies psychology to three high-interest areas of concern to students: stress and health, law and justice, and behavior in the workplace. As I note in this final chapter, "The mind is a powerful tool. The more we know about how to use it, the better off we'll be."
To orient students to the material in each chapter—and to get them thinking in operational terms—I open each chapter with a detailed account of an actual study. Some are classics in the field; others are new. Some are laboratory experiments; others are field studies, archival studies, or self-report surveys. One is a neuropsychological case study; another is an archival study that tracked intelligence test scores over time. In some cases, students are asked to imagine being a subject; in others, they are cast into the role of the researcher or an observer. In all cases, I set the stage with a vivid account of procedures used. After students have read about the situation and imagined being part of it, they are asked to predict the results. The actual findings are then revealed, followed by a brief discussion of what it all means.
I have used this technique in the classroom for many years and have found that it works like a charm. After students become personally committed to a prediction, they sit at the edge of their seats, eager to know what happened. Then when the results are revealed, they think long and hard about the study and its methods—particularly when the results contradict their predictions. Now that's critical thinking. This activity is so effective, and the feedback from instructors so positive, that all chapters now contain additional Mini-WYP exercises that feature new, high-interest studies that extend the material presented in the body of the text.
I am particularly excited about a new feature that I have called "The Process of Discovery," or POD. Building on my desire to get students to think like psychologists, the purpose of POD interviews is to give students a firsthand glimpse into eminent psychologists and their stories, in their own words, of how they came upon their major contributions. Across chapters, psychology's leaders answer four questions: (1) How did you first become interested in psychology? (2) How did you come up with your important discovery? (3) How has the field you inspired developed over the years? (4) What's your prediction on where the field is heading?
For me, reading the process of discovery stories told by psychologists who have shaped the field was a labor of love. Through it, I learned how Michael Gazzaniga came to test his first split-brain patient, how Robert Sternberg became interested in intelligence while in elementary school, how Hazel Markus came to realize that Western conceptions of the self made no sense in Japan, how a psychoanalyst by the name of Aaron Beck came to formulate cognitive therapy, and how the late Eleanor Gibson's inspiration for the visual cliff came from a family vacation to the Grand Canyon-and her concern for her young daughter who "danced on the rim." Shortly after Daniel Kahneman described how he became interested in cognitive illusions, he won a Nobel Prize. Needless to say, I think that this feature will serve as a valuable learning tool, a source of inspiration, and an archival resource for both students and teachers of psychology.
In every chapter, you will find one or two special, high-interest boxes designed to get students thinking like psychologists. Toward this end, I have incorporated two types of boxes: "Psychology and . . . ," and "How to . . . "
"Psychology and . . ." These days, some of the most exciting work in all areas of psychology connects basic theories and research, on the one hand, to various real-world applications, on the other. There are many fertile domains of application that animate us psychologists. To represent some of these areas, "Psychology and . . ." boxes describe applied research in such areas as health, education, law, sports, and current events. Beginning with a new box entitled Psychology and . . . World Events: Psychological Consequences of Terrorism, this feature will enable students to see psychology from an enticing other perspective—"out there," in action, and in the public forum.
"How to . . . " As all instructors know, students often wonder about the personal relevance of psychology to their own well-being. "How to . . ." boxes are designed to answer this question by describing some of the ways that students can use psychology to improve aspects of their own lives. Practical nuts-and-bolts advice is thus presented on a whole range of matters—such as how to improve your memory, how to overcome insomnia, how to avoid social blunders when traveling in foreign cultures, and how to help a friend who talks about suicide.
Reading can be a passive and mindless process. Or, it can animate, inspire, raise questions, and promote active learning. The What's Your Prediction activities that open each chapter, and their counterpart mini-prediction exercises that appear in the margins, are designed for that purpose. I also added two other pedagogical features that I think students will find useful.
"Try This!" Each chapter contains one or two step-by-step activities that enable students to demonstrate psychological phenomena firsthand, either on themselves or by recruiting friends to serve as their "subjects." Most of these exercises are easy to do, and they include demonstrations of framing effects, selective attention, emotion recognition, and personality testing."Review." Each chapter contains periodic opportunities for students to review the preceding section and track their progress by quizzing themselves on the material. I used a variety of questioning formats—such as matching, sorting, ordering, and true or false—in order to keep students interested. The answers are printed upside down at the bottom of each activity.
For those who wish to analyze research results using descriptive and inferential statistics, this appendix leads students, step by step, through methods of describing data, measures of central tendency and variability, the normal distribution, correlations, t tests, and the analysis of variance.