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Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to fundamental psychological concepts, including theoretical perspectives, brain, behavior, personality, and development, and abnormal psychology.

Students learn to clarify and explain human development and behavior from infancy through maturity through research, discussion, debate, and role play. Human behavior is explored by students through a study of its normal and abnormal manifestations. Students discover and are able to explain the importance of applying the scientific method to the study of human behavior.

Grade Level(s):  10th-12th grades

Related Priority Standards (State &/or National: Missouri Learning Standards (6-12) 

Essential Questions

  • How do different types of psychologists attempt to define, explain, predict, and control human behavior utilizing different perspectives?
  • How do socio-cultural factors influence thought processes and behavior? 
  • How do theorists differ in regard to understanding development of personality? 
  • How does the process of Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, and Observational Learning influence thoughts and behavior? 
  • What are the three criteria for diagnosing someone with a psychological disorder?
  • How many different techniques do psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose and treat disorders?
  • How do our sensory, short-term and long-term memory systems differ? 

Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas

  • Psychological knowledge can be related to everyday life.
  • There are multiple perspectives by which psychologists study and explain human behavior.
  • Heredity and environment interact in the development of an individual across the life span.
  • Understanding different ways to view, analyze, and explain behavior provides a greater understanding of the complexities of behavior helping psychologists to improve the lives of people.
  • Psychologists use the scientific method and experimentation to generate quantitative data and analyze the results with statistics. However, the field of psychology also employs other research methods such as naturalistic observation, surveys, longitudinal studies, cross-sectional studies, and case studies of data.
  • A multicultural and global perspective recognizes how diversity is important to understanding intelligence.
  • Understanding how our environment influences our thought processes and behavior.
  • The power of the situation and its influence on the factors of conformity and obedience to authority.
  • Individuals are motivated to act in a prosocial way because of altruism. Although others act in a prosocial way in the hope of reciprocation in some way (selfishness).
  • The power of the situation is key. Many people act in an antisocial manner in large group (in groups out group), or when they are able to hide their identity (deindividuation).
  • Some personality theorists believe our personality persists through life, while others believe it is possible to adapt different personalities as we age.
  • Psychoanalysts would argue we unconsciously use different defense mechanisms, such as repression and displacement, to protect ourselves from negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety and stress.
  • Psychoanalysts focus on our unconscious mind, and how our personality is the summation of how our id, ego and superego work together. 
  • Psychologists primarily assess personality through the use of projective tests (such as the Rorschach Ink Blot or TAT) and objective tests (including personality inventories such as the Big 5).
  • Stress has many physiological effects on our body, including poor digestion and a weaker immune system. Psychological effects may include hindered cognition and mood instability. There are many strategies used to cope with stress, including exercise, meditation, and practices efficient time-management and organization.
  • Psychologists study the many different ways people are motivated toward action, including physiological “pushes” and psychological/cultural “pulls.”
  • Humans can express and interpret several universal emotions which are shared across time and culture. Although universal emotions are expressed similarly, what evokes these emotions, and what we consider primary emotions does differ across cultures.
  • Classical Conditioning is a type of learning in which an organism comes to associate stimuli. Classical conditioning laid the foundation for behaviorism, the view that psychology should be an objective science that studies environmental influences on behavior. Classical conditioning influences our thoughts and behavior by conditioning respondent behavior. 
  • Operant Conditioning involves an organism learning associations between its own behaviors and resulting consequences, such as reinforcement and punishment. With Operant Conditioning, an organism has more choice as to whether to replicate a behavior for reward, or to avoid punishment.
  • Within Social Learning, we observe and imitate others. Children often imitate what a model says and does, whether the behavior is prosocial or antisocial.
  • There is a standardized method of diagnosis set forth by the American Psychological Association (APA) which is in its 5th edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) which classifies what is abnormal, what is a disorder, and the appropriate methods of treatment.
  • Many clients with mental disorders are misunderstood and carry with them stereotypes which can negatively impact their desire to seek out treatment.
  • The techniques for treatment are psychoanalytic, behavioral therapy, cognitive, humanistic, and biological/biomedical. Although some therapists use only one method, many therapists use a combination. This is known as the eclectic approach.
  • Memory is the persistence of learning over time, and works as a process through three separate memory “systems.” The classic memory model includes a temporary sensory memory that registers information from our senses, some of which are processed in our limited short-term memory, and finally a fraction is encoded in our long-term memory for later retrieval. 
  • Memory is vulnerable to many different elements, including natural forgetting, misattribution, suggestibility and bias. It is key to recognize that memory is not like a recorder with a perfect account of the past, rather a process that is easily malleable.

Course-Level Scope & Sequence (Units &/or Skills)

Unit 1: History, Perspectives, & Research Methods

  • How do different types of psychologists attempt to define, explain, predict, and control human behavior? 
  • Why is it important to take different perspectives when attempting to explain complex behaviors?
  • How do psychologists use research to explore behavior and mental processes? 
  • How do psychologists apply descriptive statistics to organize and analyze information?

Unit 2: Social Psychology

  • How do socio-cultural factors influence thought processes and behavior? 
  • Why does conformity and obedience occur? 
  • Why does prosocial behavior occur? 
  • Why does antisocial behavior occur?

Unit 3: Personality

  • How do theorists differ in regard to understanding our personality development? 
  • How do we use defense mechanisms to help alleviate some negative effects of stress and promote health?
  • How does psychoanalytic theory relate to personality development? 
  • How do psychologists distinguish between personality types, and what are the different techniques of personality assessment?
  • How does stress influence people both physiologically and psychologically, and how do we appropriately cope with stress? 
  • How does motivation control our actions? 
  • How are the basic motivations alike and different?

Unit 4: Learning & Behaviorism

  • How does the process of Classical Conditioning influence thoughts and behavior?
  • How does the process of Operant Conditioning influence thoughts and behavior?
  • How does the process of Social Learning influence thoughts and behavior?

Unit 5: Abnormal Psychology & Treatment

  • Why are behaviors considered “abnormal”, and how are psychological disorders classified?
  • How does labeling an individual with a disorder stigmatize them and what are the potential consequences?
  • How many different techniques do psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose and treat disorders?

Unit 6: Cognition, Thinking, & Memory

  • How do our sensory, short-term and long-term memory systems differ, and how does the process of memory relate to these different systems? 
  • How is memory encoding, storage and retrieval influenced by our biology, attention, motivation and environment?

Course Resources & Materials

Date Last Revised/Approved:  May 2019