Introduction to Psychology

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 9.00P (Fall 2001)
Course Title: Introduction to Psychology
Course Level: Undergraduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Department: Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Steven Pinker
Course Introduction:
Syllabus Lectures Two sessions / week1.5 hours / sessionLecture attendance is mandatory. Lecture material will be covered in the midterm and final exams. Sections Section attendance is mandatory. Sections are of one hour. During the first class, we will ask you to send us email listing your top six choices of meeting times. You will hear back from us shortly about which section you have been assigned to. About the Subject Catalogue Description:9.00 is a first course in psychology: how we think, see, feel, learn, talk, act, grow, fear, love, hate, lust, and find meaning. It raises many of the great controversies of intellectual life: nature and nurture, free will, consciousness, human differences, self and society. It largely covers laboratory and field studies of behavior, with relevant ideas from evolutionary biology, genetics, brain science, philosophy, economics, sociology, and the arts.Psychology is the science of the mind. It is a science because it aims to explain the greatest number of facts with the fewest number of assumptions, its hypotheses are supposed to be falsifiable by empirical tests, and its theories are lawfully connected to other sciences, particularly biology. But psychology is also intimately connected to the social sciences, because social phenomena arise when individual people perceive and react to one another. And it is connected to the arts and humanities, because works of art and scholarship are products of the human mind.Psychology is a vast discipline. It ranges from the gill-withdrawal reflex of the sea slug to the thought processes that make people fight wars. Its methods range from molecular biology to literary criticism. Students at other universities often complain that an introductory course in psychology is a bewildering hodgepodge of unconnected facts and theories. They are right, but it is unavoidable, because that's what psychology is. I deal with this dilemma by giving you two sources of information. The Gray textbook introduces you to the entire field of psychology in all its wondrous variety (though with more of a biological slant than most textbooks). My lectures, and the recommended reading from my books How the Mind Works (1997) and The Language Instinct (1994) try to weave a coherent story about the mind. Of course, it is my story, and it does not represent the view of all psychologists. The plan is that the two information streams should give you the best of both worlds. In addition, you will have the opportunity to pursue topics of your choice in the term papers.Requirements and Grading:15% Midterm exam, based on Gray textbook and lectures.25% Final exam, covering whole course, based on Gray textbook and lectures.10% Section participation (5% for an oral presentation; 5% for attendance, participation, or short assignments, to be determined by the section leader).50% Papers (10% first paper, 10% revision and expansion of first paper, 20% second paper, 10% paper previews and short assignments).