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How to read the texts

You cannot read these books as you might read the standard intro textbook. And you certainly cannot read them as quickly. So reading the book the day before the test is simply suicide in this course. Here are a few generic hints for reading in this class.

About the texts

Freud
Skinner
Gilligan
Milgram
Ward et al.

Freud. If you know anything about psychology you have likely heard of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. What you may not know is that folks who still read Freud talk about the "early Freud" and the "late Freud." Early Freud is Freud up to his theory of sexuality (which means we get the unconscious, sexual drives, repression, the Oedipus complex, and the therapeutic process). Late Freud (after the publication of Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920) gives us the tripartite theory of personality (Id, Ego, Superego) the death instinct, and much of Freud's theorizing about culture. In this class, we do early Freud, based on the lectures he gave on his only trip to America, in 1909. In other classes you may read his cultural criticism, but this book is the heart of his psychology. As a follow-up to Freud, we will read an article about attachment theory, one of the current legacies of Freudian theory.

Skinner. B. F. Skinner is possibly the second most famous person in psychology (though Carl Jung is fine competition). Skinner's approach was a radical reaction to all the interior oddities of psychoanalytic thought. Skinner thought it was foolish to multiply internal agents like the Id, Ego, and Superego. Why stop at three? His alternative approach was to focus on the environment of the person and how that environment shaped the behavior of the individual. Both the environment and behavior are right out there in front of us to observe. Skinner does away with all "internal states" and constructs his theory out of nothing but the connections between the environment and behavior. Walden Two is a classic statement of what a utopian community that used Skinner's principles would look like. It is positively reinforcing.

Gilligan. Carol Gilligan was a colleague of one of the great theorists of developmental psychology, Lawrence Kohlberg. Kohlberg's theory of moral development in children and adults has become a classic statement of developmental stage theory. Gilligan's critique and extension of this stage theory has become a classic in its own right. It was one of the first classics in feminism (since she showed that Kohlberg's approach was male-centered). But it is a psychological classic too, integrating Freud's emphasis on ego development with Kohlberg's cognitively based stage theory and adding feminist insight.

Milgram. Stanley Milgram wanted to find out how the people during World War II could be obedient enough to authority to end up killing other people. His experimental analysis of Obedience to Authority stunned the academic world. His clever use of experimental procedure allowed him to uncover the dimensions that led people to obey, and in the baseline experiment showed that two thirds of his participants were willing to continue shocking their victim until it became clear serious harm had been done.

Ward, Finke, & Smith. This is a quite recent book in the area of cognitive psychology. Ward, Finke, & Smith use the basic concepts of cognitive psychology (like "basic concept") to explain how we think creatively, why we get stuck on problems requiring creativity, and how regular folks like you and me can be more creative in our writing, our inventing, and in several other applied fields.


Books We Used to Read

Below are two books I have used in the class in the past. Sorry we don't have time to do them. But if you are interested, do check them out.

B. F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity is a classic statement of how Skinner would apply the main principles of operant conditioning to reforming our culture. In a way, this is the theororetical work behind his novelistic treatment of the subject in Walden Two.

Andreasen. Nancy Andreasen is one of the foremost authorities on schizophrenia today. She has done groundbreaking research on the neurochemical basis of schizophrenia. Her book The Broken Brain is a plea to a popular audience to consider mental illness as just that, an illness over which the victim has little control. She reviews all the major syndromes and makes the case that these are primarily physical illnesses that require a physical treatment. Her book is now 14 years old, but she was so thorough and careful in this popular introduction that very little of it is out of date today. This is a classic statement of the medical model of mental illness.

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