Psy117: Honors Introductory Psychology

Text: Psychology in Action by Karen Huffman (7th ed, customized version). There are also assigned readings posted on the web. There may also be class handout readings.

Instructor: Dr. Matt Rossano
Office: 213c White Hall
Office Hrs: MTW 11-2; F 11-12
Phone: x5537
email: (please note that all email communication shoud be done through the university assigned email address).
Getting in touch with me: email is by far the best way to get in touch with me. I usually check all my emails first thing each morning. If I'm in my office I'll usually answer the phone but I will almost never get a phone message that you leave on voice mail (I can't remember all the codes and numbers I'm supposed to punch in to get them!).

Honors Intro has the following goals: (1) to provide the student with a basic overview of the general areas of research in psychology, (2) to provide an introduction to and some interaction with individual psychology faculty members so that honors students can become aquainted with the research and scholarly activities taking place in the department, (3) to provide a more indepth investigation into the various areas of psychology than would be feasible in a typical intro class, (4) to begin the process of helping the honors student formulate ideas that might lead to research and/or thesis work.
    In order to foster these goals honors intro is designed so that the lectures will focus on specific issues in psychology rather than a general survey of topics, additionally there will be a number of guest lectures by different psychology faculty members focussing on issues of special interest in their areas of specialization and/or issues specifically related to their on-going research. This means that students cannot expect lectures to simply repeat material already covered in the text. Students are expected to read and learn the text primarily on their own, with lectures augmenting and supplementing that material. I will start each class by asking if there are any questions and this will be the time to ask about text material on which additional discussion is needed (as well as being an opportunity to go back over previous lecture material). If there are no questions, then it will be assumed that the text material has been read and understood with no problems.

Grades: Course grades are based on three things: (1) Tests, (2) A final paper, and (3) a cumulative final.  (Each of these items will be explained in detail later). On each of these items you will receive points.  At the end of the semester I will total up the points that each student has received across all three of these items.  The student with the most points, wins! (i.e. is assured of an A).  I then take 93% of that top score, and all students with at least 93% of the top score also get A's.  I then take 85% of that top score and all students with at least 85% of the top score get B's; and so on using 78% for C's and 70% for D's.  The bottom line is that you must get at least 70% of the top score in order to pass.  Notice that this is a relative scale, it is based on student performance, not on an arbitrary standard set by the instructor.  However, because of this, I cannot tell you how many points you need to pass, or to get an A or whatever.  I don't know what the breakdown of grades will be until after the final.  Therefore, it is up to you to keep track of your relative standing in the class, here is how you do it:
        After each test I will post (on blackboard) the class distribution of scores noting the top score. Write down your score and the top score.  Keep a running track of these scores throughout the semester.  At any time you can take your point total and divide it by the top point total.  This will yeild a proportion.  Compare that proportion to the grade scale cited earlier.  This is your grade so far in the class.  It is your responsibility to keep track of your grade, you have all the information neccessary to know how you doing.
        A final note about grades (especially for graduating seniors).  I give exactly the grade you deserve based on the numbers.  I don't round anything.  I don't give "breaks."  I don't add points.  I'm a machine when it comes to giving grades (literally, it's a computer program!). I really do fail people, even graduating seniors.  (As cruel as it may seem this is the only way that I can be fair to everyone.)  So please, keep track of your grade - don't let your final grade come as a shock, it shouldn't be.

Tests & Final: During the semester I will give three multiple choice tests. They will each have 50-60 questions on them. The tests are not cumulative and are worth as many points are there are questions on it. I will also give a final exam which is cumulative and  will have around 100 questions. (So that's 4 tests total; 3 tests and a final.) About half of the questions on the final will cover "new stuff."  The other half will cover "old stuff." The test will be about half text material and about half lecture material. Any assigned readings such as readings from the web are consider the same as text for test purposes. For each test (and the final) you will need to bring a #2 pencil and a scantron answer sheet (the one with 50 questions per side)

Make-up tests:
See Psychology Department Information Sheet, for specific details, but here's the gist of things: If you miss a test you must either see me beforehand or promptly afterwards.  By "promptly" I mean by the next class meeting.  If I donot hear from you by the next class meeting immediately following the missed test or quiz, I will not allow you to take a make-up. You may see me personally, or you may call, fax (549-3892) or email (which is best). One way or another, I must hear from you. I donot "automatically" leave make-up tests for students.
        If I approve, you will be allowed to take a make-up.  Make-ups are given by the department.  They take place on Fridays at around 3pm.  You must make arragnments to be there at that time to take the make-up, you cannot re-schedule or make-up a make-up.  My make-ups are all essay, usually 5 questions. Look - you don't want to show up on a Friday afternoon to take an essay test and I don't want to grade the stupid thing, so do us both a favor and take the tests when you are supposed to  As noted on that sheet, make-up tests are given on Fridays at 3:00 (you should check with the office on the time, because in changes semester to semester ranging from 2:30 to 3:30 depending on the schedule of the person they get to monitor the test).  Make-ups must be approved by the instructor whose test was missed and will conform to the guidelines given in the Departmental information sheet.

Final Paper: A final paper is also required in this class. The paper will be worth 50pts (about equivalent to a test) and must be turned in on or before 3pm Monday May 1. Papers will be docked 10pts for being late, with 10 additional points being added for each additional day it is late.
    The paper must be a book review of one of the books listed on the Great Books in Psychology reading list on the Psych honors webpage. You must read one of the books on this list and write a summary and analytical critique of the book. Good models for what I am looking for can be found at  the site Human Nature Review at From there you can see that a good book review gives an overview of the book's contents, summarizing its basic thesis. Then proceedes to point out the strengths and weakness of the book's argument, often using specific examples from the text itself (usually about 3-5 pages is a good target length). Read over a number of those reviews (pick books that sound interesting) to get an idea of what is expected. This is not a book report. By looking over those reviews you should be able to see the difference between the two. I'm happy to look over rough drafts if you would like to turn one in. I will accept rough drafts up to two weeks before the final deadline, that is up until 3pm Thurs. April 13 (the day before spring break begins). No rough drafts will be accepted after that; whatever you turn in after that will be considered a final draft. All rough drafts have the grade of C.

Class Outline
Week/Dates Chapter Lecture Topic
1 (1/18,20) 1 Plato, Aquinas and the history of the mind
2 (1/23-27) 2 Neuroscience
3 (1/30-2/3) 2 *1 Evolutionary Psychology/Teenage Brains
4 (2/6-10) 4 Illusions and the visual system
5 Monday 2/13 Test 1 Chapters 1, 2 & 4 plus readings and lecture material
5 (2/15,17) 5 *2 Consciousness and AI
6 (2/20-24) 6 *3 Models of learning 
7 (3/3)  7 Issues in memory
8 (3/6-10) 7 Issues in memory
9 (3/13-17) 8 Animal language; Bell curve IQ controversy
10  Monday 3/20 Test 2 Chapters 5-8, readings and lecture material
10 (3/22,24) Parent offspring conflict
11(3/27-31)  10 Trivers-Willard Hypo; Cross-cultural development
12 (4/3-7) 11 *4 Human mate selection
13 (4/10,12) 13 Personality tests and measures
14  Monday 4/24  Test 3 Chapters 9-11, 13 readings and lecture material
14 (4/26,28)  14, 15 Pathology and Therapy
16 (5/1-5) 16 Social Psych.

Final exam is Tues. May 9 from 8-10am. Final is in regular classroom.

*1 Reading posted on web "Teenage brains"
*2 Reading posted on web "Conscious machines"
*3 Reading posted on web "Meditation and mystical experiences"
*4 Reading posted on web "Evolution of love"

Attendance will be taken for every class as is required by University policy.  Students should not count on the instructors/supervisor to drop them for non-attendance.  It is the responsibility of the student to drop this class if it is his/her desire to do so.

If you are a qualified student with a disability seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to self-identify with the Office of Student Life, Room 203, Student Union.

Students agree by taking this course that all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity to for the detection of plagiarism.  All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers.  Use of the of service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the website.

Classroom Decorum
No behavior that interferes with the ability of the instructor to teach or students to benefit from that instruction will be tolerated. Disruptive, disorderly, or uncivil behavior will be not be permitted. No beepers, cell phones, or other noise-making electronic devices are allowed in class without prior explicit permission of the instructor.

Important Dates:
2/15: last day to file for graduation
2/16: Last day to withdraw or resign from first half semester classes
3/17: Last day to resign from the University or withdraw from regular classes
4/20: Last day to withdraw or resign from second half semester classes