Question 1 – In what ways has the material you have learned in this course changed or influenced your understanding and/or expectations about human behavior and cognition? Give examples.
What I liked most about Psychology 100 was the variety of topics covered by the material and the availability of in-class discussion. Although the many different aspects of psychology are studied in this course, all topics have a certain degree of practicality and are able to be observed readily in the real world. It is amazing to me how one course can cover the biological areas of psychology, neuroscience and nerve/sensory structures, as well as abstract principles such as theories of personality and intelligence. This shows how limited my view of psychology was before taking the course. Aspects of psychology are easily observable in every-day-life and this makes it a broad and interesting subject that differs from some other subjects that are more difficult to observe and experience so frequently. We are social beings and what I like the most about psychology is that it works to satisfy our innate desire to understand others in the interest of maintaining relationships and coping with difficult circumstances. I feel that everyone, regardless of major or carrier path, should take a general psychology course in order to better understand the fundamentals of how we function and issues that could sometimes impede functioning. I feel as though this information is paramount to leading a happy and healthy lifestyle.
A section that distinctly caught my attention was the chapter on personalities and I was intrigued by the different approaches taken by different psychologists. It is interesting how the professional world of psychology is still in the middle regarding theories of personality and how different personalities are developed. The most obvious area of differing opinions regards the psychoanalytic approach versus the behaviorist approach to theories of personality and personality development. I find Freud’s theories on fixations and defense mechanisms very interesting and applicable. It is easy to see where his ideas on behavior are apparent in my personal life. For instance, the fact that I am a quite frequent smoker could just be due to my own decisions that were determined by thoughtful processes made available to me through my capabilities to exercise free will, or I could attribute my smoking habit to a fixation I developed by not completely moving out of my oral stage because of trauma I experienced before my first birthday. Although I do not customarily use these ideas when thinking about myself, it is interesting to think about how these ideas were formulated and the evidence that could indicate the accuracy of Freud’s theories. I find Freud’s use of defense mechanisms to explain people’s behavior to be particularly relatable. Even if we cannot determine if all his defense mechanisms operate as Freud said they did, we can use and observe these defense mechanisms in people’s behavior and this indicates that our brain does indeed use Freudian-like processes to cope with its surroundings.
On the other hand, I feel that humanistic or behaviorist approaches to personalities are more scientifically based and this provides me with more confidence as to how they were developed and how accurate they are. Not only are these findings about personality and development more scientifically based but they are also more easily observed and studied since they are based on behavior displayed by individuals. For instance, how we attribute other people’s behavior can be observed as specific brain processes occurring in the rTBJ. I find the scientific foundation on which behaviorist theories are constructed to be the most compelling argument in the psychoanalytic/behaviorist discrepancy.
Question 2 – What were some of the most significant or surprising things you learned in the second half of our course? Why were these things so significant or surprising? Give examples.
Expectedly, one of the most surprising things that we went over in the second half of the course was Milgrim’s obedience experiments. With most of the research covered and experiments we learned about over the course of this summer, most of the results were somewhat expected. Milgrim’s experiment, however, yielded very different results than what would be expected. It is so counter-intuitive that completely regular, modernized Americans would behave in such morally grave manners as Milgrim’s experiment displayed and what makes it more incredulous is that people would never admit to falling prey to social pressures to the extent that unethical behavior can occur. We like to see ourselves as completely moral beings with unlimited self-control and here we find out that it is quite the opposite. This is what makes this area of social psychology very interesting and surprising.
This is equally true for the bystander effect that has been observed to be a very real mental process that everyone experiences. It is very against our nature to admit to not being in full control of our reactions, especially when it comes to right vs. wrong situations. It is truly disappointing that instances such as the Kitty Genovese murder could have been prevented if it were not for the bystander effect. It is also disappointing that we think that the bystander effect affects us only in cases of emergencies, but I do not believe that is the case. I feel as if I have been affected by the bystander effect in everyday-life problems and issues where a problem must be resolved and through the passing of responsibility, action is not taken by anyone. I believe that the bystander effect is involved with problems that we commonly experience such as bullying or taking advantage of people. While watching this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSsPfbup0ac, it was shocking to see video footage of an experiment where the researcher would lay on the sidewalk of a busy street pretending to be in agony. An amazing number of pedestrians walked by the experimenter on the sidewalk without even looking at him or offering any help. What this makes me think about is what I would do if I were walking on that street. I would like to say that I would help the person who was apparently in need of assistance, yet statistics from research indicates that, due to the amount of people present in my surroundings, it would be unlikely that I would do anything at all. This concerns me a bit. I can only hope that by studying this phenomenon, I will be better prepared to counteract the social forces that work to hinder my natural response to emergency situations.
Question 3 – Discuss two or three things that we did in class that helped you to learn the material and discuss two or three things from class that should be changed to help students like you better learn the material.
Like I mentioned in my previous learning assessment, I find the learning style used in class to be very affective and interesting. Instead of straight lectures for the entirety of the class period, we can ask questions as well as freely disagree and debate issues until a conclusion is reached. This is the kind of learning that sticks in my brain and allows me understand the deeper concepts of psychology. This in itself would eventually become dull were it now for the videos and in class activities that we are able to work on. Watching videos and listening to radio podcasts change up the pace of the class and make it a more memorable experience. For instance, the Radiolab podcast on love and the neurotransmitters that are involved in the process of a person falling in love truly helped me understand the concept well. Although some of the antics on the show were a little silly, mainly their use of exaggerated sound effects, the podcast helped me learn about dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytosin and associate them with their effects on the body. Without listening to that segment, I might not have remembered them as well. These are the learning methods that I feel really help me to absorb new concepts and ideas.