Do you teach Intro Psych? Here are some recommended books

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The Introduction to Psychology course is the hardest course to teach because we do not have expertise in the vast majority of the material. When you teach Intro Psych for the very first time, you get used to saying, “I don’t know.” As the years have rolled by, I’ve accepted that “I don’t know” is just part of my Intro Psych teaching lexicon. For me, however, it’s not the not knowing that’s problematic. It’s all of the information that I thought I knew, but, alas, did not. Finding out that I’ve gotten something wrong makes me wish I could contact all of my previous students and say, “Hey! Remember that thing I told you about? No, you don’t remember? Well, anyway, it turns out I was wrong. Here’s the right information. Or at least here’s the right information as we know it today.” Okay, maybe it’s best that I can’t contact my previous students.

In some cases, the scientific research has given us updated information. For example, research published a week ago in Nature reveals that the motor cortex is not all about motor control (Gordon et al., 2023). There are pockets of neurons in between the motor control sections of the motor cortex that connect with other parts of the body. “As a result, the act of, say, reaching for a cup of coffee can directly influence blood pressure and heart rate. And the movement is seamlessly integrated into brain systems involved in planning, goals and emotion” (Hamilton, 2023). This is a beautiful example of the first of APA’s overarching themes for Intro Psych: “Psychological science relies on empirical evidence and adapts as new data develop” (Halonen et al., 2022)

In some cases what I got wrong was me just not understanding. For example, if you used to teach that the cat running to the sound of the can opener was classical conditioning, you can identify with what I’m saying. (See this 2016 blog post for the explanation as to why this is not classical conditioning, but operant conditioning.)

While I don’t have any suggestions on how we can speed up science, I do have some suggestions on how we can mitigate how much stuff we don’t understand, and, thus, mis-teach to our students. Here are some excellent books that will expand your Intro Psych knowledge. Most are written by experts in the field. Others were written by people who got deeply interested in the topic. If you have books that you have found useful for expanding your Intro Psych knowledge, please add them to the comments. Thanks!

Neuroscience

  • The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons: The history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery written by Sam Kean
  • Incognito: The secret lives of the brain by David Eagleman
  • Livewired: The inside story of the ever-changing brain by David Eagleman

Sensation and Perception

  • An immense world: How animal senses reveal the hidden realms us by Ed Yong
  • Perception: How our bodies shape our minds by Dennis Proffitt and Drake Baer

Consciousness

  • Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams by Matthew Walker
  • Buzzed: The straight facts about the most used and abused drugs from alcohol to ecstasy, 3e by, Cynthia Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder, and Wilkie Wilson

Development

  • Breaking the age code: How your beliefs about aging determine how long and well you live by Becca Levy
  • The gardener and the carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children by Alison Gopnik

Memory

  • The memory illusion: Remembering, forgetting, and the science of false memory by Julia Shaw
  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything by Joshua Foer

Cognition

  • Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • The undoing project: A friendship that changed our minds by Michael Lewis

Emotion

  • Aroused: The history of hormones and how they control just about everything by Randi Hutter Epstein
  • Why zebras don’t get ulcers: the acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping, 3e by Robert M. Sapolsky
  • Stumbling on happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Social

  • Aggression and violence: A social psychological perspective by Brad J. Bushman
  • Kitty Genovese: The murder, the bystanders, and the crime that changed America by Kevin Cook

Personality

  • Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain

 

References

Gordon, E. M., Chauvin, R. J., Van, A. N., Rajesh, A., Nielsen, A., Newbold, D. J., Lynch, C. J., Seider, N. A., Krimmel, S. R., Scheidter, K. M., Monk, J., Miller, R. L., Metoki, A., Montez, D. F., Zheng, A., Elbau, I., Madison, T., Nishino, T., Myers, M. J., … Dosenbach, N. U. F. (2023). A somato-cognitive action network alternates with effector regions in motor cortex. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05964-2

Halonen, J., Thompson, J. L. W., Whitlock, K. H., Landrum, R. E., & Frantz, S. (2022). Measuring meaningful learning in Introductory Psychology: The IPI student learning outcomes. In R. A. R. Gurung & G. Neufeld (Eds.), Transforming Introductory Psychology: Expert advice on teacher training, course design, and student success (pp. 57–80). American Psychological Association.

Hamilton, J. (2023, April 20). An overlooked brain system helps you grab a coffee—And plan your next cup. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/04/20/1171004199/an-overlooked-brain-system-helps-you...

 

 

 

 

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.