Fall, 2020, PSC 001-001

Covid-19 Online Version

Due to the virus, the course will be entirely online, with lectures available on YouTube, and an interactive zoom discussion session during the scheduled lecture time shown above. The zoom sessions will be recorded and available on the canvas site for the benefit of those who were not able to make it – if you do not want to be recorded, you can communicate through canvas or email.

The primary learning experience and content is provided by the textbook and associated online lectures, with the zoom discussions providing a way to add depth and personal interest. The weekly quizzes on canvas are designed to make sure you’re reading the textbook, which is a brand new, innovative way of presenting the material.

One of the main lessons you’ll learn in this course is how important social forces are in shaping your behavior and cognition. The traditional in-person university course delivers these social forces more effectively than with the inevitable virtual distance of an online course. Therefore, you will have to work extra hard to make up for this lack of social pressure, to make sure you get something out of this course!

Another lesson from this course is that motivation shapes everything about you, and intrinsic (internal) motivation is by far the most effective – external motivators are much weaker. This is perhaps the most important practical lesson you will learn in college: now that you are becoming a “grown up”, you are ultimately responsible for your own destiny, and you must find ways of motivating yourself to do what you need to do to accomplish your longer-term goals.

The current reality of remote classes just makes this lesson all the more important. Why do you want to be here, in college? What is the point of being here, if you don’t engage and somehow force yourself to actually get something out of these courses?

On the other hand, we all have to be mindful of the extra stress, uncertainty, and significant real-world challenges that the current situation creates. Recognize that this is one of the most difficult times everyone across the globe is confronting, and it is having significant mental health impacts (again as we’ll learn about in this course). Thus, it is important to be mindful of your situation, and not compound the difficulties by being hard on yourself for experiencing symptoms of the situation we are all confronting.

One of the advantages of the online format in this respect is that it allows for considerable flexibility in when you engage, so you can take the time that you need to deal with whatever situations you’re confronting, including being in a different time zone.

Overview and Goals

You may “think” you know yourself (or maybe you don’t…) – in any case, after this course, you will know a lot more about how your brain and mind work, and the forces that shape your thoughts and behavior, from the basic biology of your brain up to the social interactions that shape you in myriad powerful ways, and everything in between. In short, this will be the most important class you’ll ever take, because knowing how the human mind works underlies almost everything of importance in our world.

This class takes a “radical” new approach, by providing a comprehensive, principled understanding of how the mind / brain works, based on only 3 core principles: Compression, Contrast, and Control (the 3 C’s). We’ll see how these principles emerge from the neuroscience of the brain – the deep integration of neuroscience and psychology is major feature of our approach, which is increasingly reflected in the field as a whole. Then we’ll apply them to everything from perception to personality, covering all of the major findings discussed in standard textbooks.

The actual conduct of research in psychology and neuroscience raises a number of important issues in critical thinking, and how the methods of science can be applied to test hypotheses about how the brain/mind works. These lessons apply broadly across many disciplines, and provide an important broad foundation for the rest of your college career and beyond.

Grades (what you need to do)!

Your grade will be based on four components according to the following percentages:

  • Midterm Exams: 30% Two multiple-choice midterms, conducted online through Canvas. They have 33 questions and you have 1 hour (60 minutes) to complete the test.

  • Final Exam: 30% Includes some cumulative questions, multiple-choice, conducted online through Canvas

    • Both midterms and final are available for multiple days on Canvas, but must be completed IN ONE SESSION of 60 minutes – they cannot be started and stopped multiple times. Please plan accordingly. The midterms have 33 multiple choice questions, similar to what you see on the quizzes. The questions appear one at a time in random order (with random order of answer options), and you cannot go back to earlier questions. As these are tests of what you’ve learned in the course, obviously, you are not allowed to use notes or the book for the midterms and final. In case the above was not sufficiently clear, you do not need to take the final at the date/time assigned for this class – you have a range of days as listed in the schedule.
  • Chapter quizzes: 30% Due on Tuesdays by 6pm PT every week before class (recommend doing earlier!!), through canvas – open book, untimed – this is a major place where a little bit of diligence can really improve your grade! Everyone should be able to get high scores on this by reading the book and carefully answering each question. You are even allowed 2 attempts and the highest of these two is counted. Answers to quizzes are avail for study on the Thursday after the class, at 8pm – see below for more info about how to access and study!

  • QOTW: 10% due Monday by 10pm PT every week. (1 can be dropped/excused) question-of-the-week (QOTW) submissions are your chance to create a multiple-choice question for the entire class to answer and discuss during our zoom discussion sessions. These are submitted in the canvas system, and again are a very easy source of points for you. They can be any kind of interesting question, from a survey about the behaviors or beliefs of your peers, review of key points in the class, or other novel questions related to the topic of the week. You can also include a link and brief summary to news stories about scientific findings relevant to the topic of the week, that would be useful to discuss. Try to think of what would make the discussion the most interesting to you, while also being highly relevant to the topic.

Grading Policy

Grades are not curved; they are based on percentages (note: Canvas truncates points, so a 92.9 is still an A- for example):

  97-100 A+    87-89 B+   77-79 C+   67-69 D+
  93-96  A     83-86 B    73-76 C    63-66 D
  90-92  A-    80-82 B-   70-72 C-   60-62 D-

In addition, you cannot pass the course without completing the Research Participation Requirement described in the next section.

Finally, please do not email me asking for extra credit etc – I absolutely will not make any exceptions to the above grading policy – with a class of this size, it is impossible to accommodate any special cases. Everything you need to do can be done with considerable timing flexibility. It is a good idea to do things sooner rather than later so if something happens, you won’t have to worry about taking a quiz or test – what a pleasant feeling that will be ;)

Research Participation Requirement

See this website for all the relevant information.

IMPORTANT: email spcoordinator@ucdavis.edu for ALL questions related to sona and experiments! If you email me, I will just forward it to them anyway, so save us both the extra step!

All students enrolled in this course are required to gain experience with the scientific and experimental aspects of psychology. This requirement may be filled in any combination of two activities: by participating in laboratory experiments in psychology; or by writing papers. You must complete a total of 6 credits (roughly 6 hours) through any combination of these two activities.

Students who do not complete the required 6 total credits will receive a grade of incomplete for the course, until they complete the course.

The research requirement does not affect your grade in this class, at all! It only affects whether you get your grade!


Every week you have to read the textbook chapter(s) and take the quiz on canvas, due before class on Tues, and submit QOTW by Mon 10pm.

Wk Date Chapter, Topic Test
1 1 Oct Introduction, Syllabus
2 6, 8 Oct Ch 0, 1: Intro and Science and Subjectivity
3 13, 15 Oct Ch 2: Neuroscience
4 20, 22 Oct Ch 3, 4: Consciousness etc, Perception Midterm 1
5 27, 29 Oct Ch 5: Learning, Motivation
6 3, 5 Nov Ch 6: Memory
7 10, 12 Nov Ch 7, 8: Thinking, Control, Language Midterm 2
8 17, 19 Nov Ch 9: Personality & Social
9 24, 26 Nov Thanksgiving break
10 1, 3 Dec Ch 10: Origins: Evolution, Development
11 8, 10 Dec Ch 11: Disorders & Therapy