We found some techniques to help our students understand and appreciate them. First, we realized that psychology actually did matter to our students, but that we needed to make it clear to them why it did. We therefore created a more consistent focus on the theme of behavior. One of the most fundamental integrating principles of the discipline of psychology is its focus on behavior, and yet that is often not made clear to students. Affect,cognition, and motivation are critical and essential, and yet are frequently best understood and made relevant through their links with behavior.
The sympathetic nervous system matters because it has specific and predictable influences onour behavior. Piaget’s findings matter because they help us understand the child’s behavior (not just his or her thinking). And social cognition matters because our social thinking helps us betterrelate to the other people in our everyday social lives.We emphasized that what seems true might not be true, and we need to try to determine whether it is. The idea of empirical research testing falsifiable hypotheses and explaining much(but never all) behavior—the idea of psychology as a science was critical, and it helped me differentiate psychology from other disciplines. Another reason for emphasizing empiricism is that the Introduction to Psychology course represents many students’ best opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of scientific research.
This course is designed to facilitate these learning outcomes. We have used three techniques to help focus students on behavior:
1. Chapter openers. Begin our focus on behavior by opening each chapter with a chapter opener showcasing an interesting real-world example of people who are dealing with behavioral questions and who can use psychology to helpthem answer those questions. The opener is designed to draw the student into the chapter and create an interest in learning about the topic.
2. Psychology in everyday life. Each chapter contains one or two features designed to link the principles from the chapter to real-world applications in business, environment, health, law, learning, and other relevant domains. For instance, theapplication in Chapter 6 "Growing and Developing"—“What Makes a Good Parent?”—applies the concepts of parenting styles, and the application inChapter 3 "Brains, Bodies, and Behavior" is about the difficulties that left-handed people face performing everyday tasks in a right-handed world.
3. Research focus. We have also emphasized empiricism throughout, but without making it a distraction from the main story line. Each chapter presents two close-ups on research— well-articulated and specific examples of research within the content area, each including a summary of the hypotheses, methods, results, and interpretations. This feature provides a continuous thread that reminds students of the importance of empirical research. The research help students understand how research really works.