The University of Alabama

Introduction to Psychology: PY 101-005

Fall 2010

M/W/F 11:00 – 11:50 am

Gordon Palmer Hall, Room 232

Instructor: Nicole L. Muscanell, M.A.

Office: Gordon Palmer Hall, Room 191

Office Hours: M & W, 2:00-3:00 or by appointment. I am also available via instant message on gchat (ONLY during office hours). My username is simply my email address for this class.

Office Phone: 205-348-5083 (Psychology Department Main Office)

Mailbox: In the Psychology Department Main Office, Room 348 (Gordon Palmer)

Email: (best way to reach me)

Class website:


This course does not have a prerequisite.


Gazzaniga, M. S., Heatherton, T. F., & Halpern, D. F. (2010). Psychological Science, 3rd edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

The text is available in hard copy from local bookstores. It may also be purchased as an eBook ( in either online or download form. (

( is the textbook’s free website for students. There you can find practice quizzes, chapter audio podcasts, video podcasts, video exercises, animations, and more about psychology in the news.

Supplemental Reading Materials: I will also post some supplemental readings on the class website (e.g., journal articles, magazine/newspaper articles, chapters, etc.) throughout the semester related to in-class activities, topics not covered in your text, writing assignments, and skeptical thinking and opinion papers.

Course Description

Psychology is a very diverse field that offers a scientific perspective on human thinking and behavior. There are many aspects involved in the way in which individuals think and behave. Thus, this course is designed to give you a broad overview of several core areas of psychology, including the origins of psychology, research methods, biological bases of behavior, learning, attention and memory, intelligence, social behavior, personality, and psychological disorders. Introduction to Psychology is a prerequisite for all advanced courses in the psychology department, and will also provide you with a foundation for coursework in many areas of study. Throughout the course, you will learn about basic characteristics shared by all humans and how some aspects of human experience are also shaped by social institutions and culture. Because the study of psychology is so broad, we will not be able to cover each topic in great depth. But hopefully this class will give you a taste of what psychology is about so that should you be interested in learning more, you can take additional courses in psychology.

Course Objectives

Because psychology is a scientific enterprise, it is important that students understand the basic principles of science. Therefore, one goal of the course is to help you become familiar with the methods that all scientists use to empirically test their ideas. However, please note that this course is not focused exclusively on methodology or professional skills. Many people hold a number of misconceptions about psychology and about human behavior. Thus, another objective of this course is to help dispel some of these more common myths. A strong emphasis will be placed on fostering the use of critical thinking skills to assess claims and make informed judgments about human behavior. It is my hope, as a result of this class, you will not only develop a basic content knowledge of psychology and the research methods used to study this diverse discipline, but you will also see how psychological principles can be applied to daily life, thereby giving you a better understanding of yourself and your relation to others. 

General Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course, you will:

1.Be familiar with the major areas and key concepts in the field of psychology.

2.Develop and refine both writing and critical thinking skills.

Specific Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course, you will:

1.Understand the significance of psychology as a science and recognize the benefit of using scientific methods to understand behavior, cognitions, and emotions.

2.Understand that peoples’ experience of the world is subjective.

3.Explore and challenge preconceived notions and apply the principles of scientific inquiry to novel situations or phenomena.

4.Apply this body of knowledge to your personal, social, and professional lives.

The learning outcomes described above will be assessed through a combination of in-class exercises, writing assignments, and four exams.

Course Format

Due to the introductory nature of this course, a great amount of material will be covered. Thus, a large portion of class time will be spent in the traditional lecture format.  However, in-class videos, demonstrations, writing assignments, and group activities will also be used to promote active learning and the application of course material to issues outside of the classroom. I will be unable to go over all material that is assigned to read in the textbook. However, you will be tested on all assigned readings regardless of whether or not they are covered during lecture.

Active participation is expected during all in-class activities. Active participation along with showing respect for the opinions of others will make the class informative, interesting, and enjoyable. Completing the readings prior to class will facilitate active participation and class discussion. There will be opportunities for group discussion, activities, and short quizzes that will make up 10% of your grade. Therefore, regular attendance will be a key component in your success in this class. There will be no make up opportunities for activities done within class time.

Class website

I developed this website to provide you with easy access to class updates, notes, assignments, links to the subject pool and other websites, as well as the syllabus.  I will also occasionally post interesting and entertaining articles, activities, and videos on the website which will supplement the material covered in lectures and in the book.

You should check this site frequently, as class announcements will be posted periodically. Guidelines and details for each assignment and extra credit opportunities will be posted on the website under the appropriate link. Lecture notes for each class will also be posted under the “Notes” link.  It is recommended that you print off the notes (in Microsoft PowerPoint) before coming to class each day. Doing so will free you from taking notes during the entire class, therefore allowing you more time to comprehend the material and participate in class discussions. However, these notes are skeletal, in that they contain the “bare bones” of the lecture material, but are lacking the detail and descriptions that will be provided in class. You should still be prepared to take notes during lectures. You will not perform well on the exams without attending class!

Course Requirements

1.Class Attendance and Participation

Although attendance is not required, it is necessary for you to do well in the class. On exams, you will be accountable for not only the information covered in the assigned readings, but also the information presented in classroom lectures (which may not be covered in the text—another reason why it is important to attend class!). Therefore, if you miss a class you should contact another student for the lecture notes to be properly prepared for an exam. I will not provide this information.  Furthermore, active participation in classroom discussions not only improves the quality of the class session for all involved, but has also been demonstrated to improve learning and test performance. To facilitate this, in-class exercises will be offered throughout the semester (see below). 

2.Assigned Readings

Each week there are 1-2 chapters from the text assigned for reading as well as supplementary reading posted on the web site (see the course schedule for specific information). It is expected that you complete the assigned readings before the class session in which they will be discussed.  Completing the readings in advance will enable you to participate in an informed discussion of the material and enable more in-depth discussion of concepts from the text. 

Due to the nature of this course, I will be unable to go over all material that is assigned to read in the textbook. However, you will be tested on all assigned readings regardless of if they are covered during lecture or not.

Unassigned portions of the textbook are considered supplemental material that will likely contribute to your understanding of the subject matter, but you will not be tested on the unassigned sections.  I encourage you to read chapter summaries and discussion questions at the end of each chapter to aid in studying for exams.

3.In-class Exercises (10%) 

Throughout the semester, you will have the opportunity to participate in several in-class exercises such as short quizzes, small-group activities, in-class writing assignments, and/or class demonstrations that will be designed to supplement the assigned topic of the day. These exercises will not be announced ahead of time, and there will not be any opportunity for make-ups. There will be more than 10 opportunities throughout the semester. To receive full credit for this portion of your grade, you must be present and fully participate in at least 10 of these in-class exercises (1 point each). They will be graded on a pass/fail basis. For each exercise, you will pass and receive one point if you are present and an active participant (e.g., listening, providing input, turning in assignment at the end of class). Each exercise will be worth 1% of your final grade.

4.Outside Writing Assignments (15%)

You are required to complete 3 writing assignments outside of class time.  These assignments will be posted on the website under “Writing Assignments” and must be turned in on the date specified by the start of class. You must turn in a hard copy of your paper and this can be done by turning it in during class or putting it in my mailbox in the Psychology Department.

The following guidelines apply to any and all assignments that are to be turned in (i.e., outside writing assignments & extra credit):

  1. 12 point font (Times New Roman), double-spaced, and 1 inch margins

  2. No identifying information anywhere on the paper. Please WRITE your name and student ID on the back of each paper that your turn in.

The main purpose of the writing assignments is to expand your understanding of the subject matter and its application to everyday life. The writing assignments will be worth 10 points each and will be graded as detailed on the website (i.e., writing assignment page). These assignments account for 15% of your total grade.  Specific grading criteria and submission information for each assignment will be posted on the website.  These assignments must be turned in as a hard copy in the beginning of class or in my mailbox located in the psychology office.  Because assignments will be posted well in advance of their due dates, no late assignments will be accepted. NOTE: I do not accept technical difficulties as an excuse for missing an assignment. It is your responsibility to make sure that I receive some form of your assignment by the due date.

5.Exams (75%)

There will be 4 non-cumulative exams throughout the semester, with the last exam given during finals week (Tuesday, December 7th from 8:00 am – 10:30 am).  Even though the final exam is not cumulative, there may be some items on the last exam that require understanding of material that was covered earlier in the semester.  Any and all of the material covered in class lectures, class activities, and assigned readings will be fair game for the exams.  However, the majority of the exam questions will cover what was discussed during class (yet another reason that you should attend class!).  The format of the exams may consist of multiple-choice questions, short answers, and essay questions.

Make-up exams will not be given, except in the case of extreme extenuating circumstances such as a medical emergency or death in family. For example, common illnesses and prior travel arrangements do not qualify for a make-up exam. To qualify for a make-up exam, I must be notified either prior to the exam (highly preferable) or as soon as possible afterward. Written documentation is required. Proper medical documentation includes (a) date and time of visit, (b) description of the medical problem, and (c) clear description of why the student could not take the exam even with this problem, and (d) the name and contact information of the physician. Further documentation may be requested. Make up tests may be in a different format than the original exam and will be given during finals week. If you miss an exam without an approved excuse, you will receive a score of 0 for that exam.

6. Research Requirement

The Department of Psychology requires that all PY 101 students satisfy a research requirement by participating in several psychological research studies during the semester.  The purpose of this requirement is to learn about different methods used by psychological researchers and to help advance our knowledge of various psychological processes.  Faculty members and graduate students who are part of the Psychology Department conduct these studies.  It is beneficial to complete this requirement early in the semester for 3 reasons: (1) there is a greater variety of studies/times available, (2) you receive 1 credit for each hour completed in online studies, and (3) you receive 1 ½ credits for each hour completed in laboratory studies. You will need to create an account before viewing available studies at The research requirement must be fulfilled completely (partial credit is not an option).  If you fail to complete this requirement, your grade will be reduced by one full grade level as stated in the Department Policies. Therefore, if a student has a C in the course it will become a D; if they have an A- it will become a B-.  Should you sign up for a study and fail to attend, you will not receive any credit for that study. Be sure to look at a copy of the research participation requirement on the website.

If you are uncomfortable participating in research, you have the option of completing a writing assignment to satisfy the research requirement. This alternative is available, but must be declared and approved (i.e., approval date will be posted on website and announced in class.

7. Extra Credit

     There will be an opportunity to earn up to 2 percent extra credit for each of the 4 exams and     

     they will be posted on website under “Extra Credit.” These points will be added to your      

     exam grade and must be completed before the exam is taken. These opportunities will be

     presented to the entire class throughout the semester so that all students will have the

     same opportunity to earn extra credit.  These extra credit opportunities will be short 2-3

     page study guides covering the chapters related to each exam.

Grading System

There are 100 possible points to earn in the course, plus extra credit opportunities. Final grades consist of participation during 10 in-class exercises (10% total), the completion of 3 outside writing assignments (15% total), and 4 exams (75% total). Please keep in mind that the research requirement is not directly calculated into the final grade. However, failure to complete the research participation requirement will result in a grade reduction by one full letter grade.


Things to Remember About Grades

  1. Up to 2 percentage points will be added to each test grade for every outside extra credit opportunity you participate in.

  2. Your final grade will be reduced by one letter grade if you do not complete the research requirement

  3. Disputes regarding grading should be addressed by making an appointment with me within one week of receiving the grade.  If you would like to discuss your course grade, please come to my office hours or schedule an appointment to do so before finals week.

Course Contract

I want to be assured that you understand the requirements for the course and my expectations. I also want to be certain that your initial questions about the course are answered. Therefore, I ask that you carefully read the entire website and then submit a signed statement by August, 25th. A copy of the course contract will be available for you to print and sign on the class website. You must turn this in to me at my office in Gordon Palmer, room 191. If I am not in my office you may leave your contract in the PY101 envelope on my office door.

Email Policy

I will try to respond to emails as soon as possible. However, before you email me a question make sure the answer is not in the notes, the book, the website, or the syllabus. If the answer is in one of these places I will simply refer you to these sources.  I will only check email between the hours of 8am and 8pm. So, if you email me the night before an assignment is due I cannot guarantee an answer outside of the above specified times.  To receive an answer your email must contain PY101, your name and CWID in the subject line.  I receive a large volume of email and following this procedure will help to expedite the answer to your question.

General Class Guidelines

  1. Cell Phones: Please keep your cell phone and/or any device that makes noise off during class and refrain from texting. You may find me answering your phone for you if it rings during class time.

  2. Tardiness: It is disrespectful to come in late to class.  It disturbs not only the instructor but also your fellow classmates.  Please do not come late to class.  In the event that it is unavoidable, please enter in the back door of the classroom and sit in the back to minimize distraction.

  3. Class Time: Class is in session from 11:00am to 11:50am. I will not lecture past 11:50, so I ask you NOT to begin packing up your belongings until I am finished lecturing. It is highly distracting when students pack up materials prior to class time being over. I will make every effort to stop class at 11:50.  IF I happen to lecture over, please let me know immediately.  I do not feel it is fair to keep students past the allotted class time.

  4. Eating/Drinking: I do not mind if students eat or drink during class as long as it is not disturbing to other students.

  5. Importance of Syllabus/Website: Prior to turning in assignments or preparing for exams, I would recommend reviewing your syllabus and/or the website.  Many of your questions can be answered here.

  6. Laptops: If you want to bring your laptop to class for the purpose of taking notes please clear it with me first. If I notice you are using the laptop for any purpose other than taking notes, I will ask you not to bring it back.

  7. Social Networking Sites: Professionalism, in part, entails maintaining fairness, equity, and impartiality in the instructor-student relationship. Social networking sites can blur this relationship. Therefore, I will not accept "Friend requests" or respond to messages sent via any online social networking sites.

  8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Finally, please be respectful of your fellow students.  Some of the topics we will discuss in class may be sensitive or controversial.  Keep this in mind when you are sharing your opinions, and be considerate of others when they are sharing theirs.

Academic Misconduct

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct and will not be tolerated.  This includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of information, misrepresentations, and abetting any of the above.  The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event that academic misconduct occurs.  Please refer to the Student Affairs Handbook, which can be obtained in the Office of Student Life and Services in the Ferguson Center, for more information. Additionally, students are expected to uphold the University’s Codes of Academic Conduct Statement, which reads:

“All students in attendance at the University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and to observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars.  The University expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline.  Academic misconduct includes all acts of dishonesty in any academically related matter and any knowing or intentional help or attempt to help, or conspiracy to help, another student.  The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct.”

Special Needs

If you require assistance in the classroom due to a disability of any type, please contact Disability Services at (205) 348-4285 during the first week of the semester so that appropriate accommodations can be made.  After initial arrangements have been made with Disability Services, contact me immediately.


Even the best of students can feel overwhelmed by a heavy course load or stressed out from the demands of college life. There are numerous resources available to all students on campus that can help you progress through your coursework in a successful and timely manner. Such resources include, but are not limited to:

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL): Obtain academic tutoring services in a variety of subject areas, as well as assistance developing more effective study habits. Go to or call (205) 348-8854 to make an appointment.

The University of Alabama Writing Center: Obtain assistance with writing assignments. To find more information about their available services, go to or call (205) 348-5049.

The University of Alabama Counseling Center: Obtain a variety of emotional health services. The Center provides confidential private and group counseling sessions, as well as substance abuse counseling, crisis counseling, and psychiatric consultation. You can learn more about these services by visiting or calling (205) 348-3863.

Tentative Class Schedule

Below is a tentative class schedule.  Keep in mind that every class is different and we may end up spending more/less time on a given topic depending on the comprehension of the material that the class demonstrates, as well as where the class’ interest lies. If the class schedule changes dramatically, I will provide you with an updated version.