Psychology 100 General Psychology

Fall, 2009
Instructor: Michael E. Mills, Ph.D.
Office: University Hall,  Room 4757
Office hours: Tuesday: 12:30 - 2,  Wednesday: 10:00 – 4:15
Phone: (310) 338-3017

Email:     Note: Please put “LMU” in your subject heading if you email me, otherwise I may think it is junk mail and delete it.

Class website:
Class wiki:

This course presents an introduction to human psychology.  We will explore why we behave the way we do, both from proximate (immediate) and ultimate (evolutionary) perspectives.   In particular, we will use an evolutionary perspective as an integrative meta-theory for the discipline.   A particular focus of this course will be human nature – the set of psychological emotional, behavioral, cognitive and sexual adaptations that characterize humans a species.

Note: This course is intended to introduce non-psychology majors only to the field of psychology.  Psychology majors should take Psych 101.

Course Objectives / Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to differentiate behavioral characteristics that are likely to be adaptations.  They will also be able to identify causation of behavior at various levels of analysis, including the individual, the mating dyad, the family, the small group, and large cultural groups.


Gaulin, S. J.  & McBurney, D. H. (2004).  Evolutionary Psychology, (2nd Ed.).   NJ: Prentice Hall. 

Dawkins, R. (1989). The Selfish Gene. (2nd Ed.) New York: Oxford University Press. (Paperback)

Course Content and Informed Consent


Before you take this course, you should be aware that some of the content will cover controversial and personal topics, including evolutionary theory, sex differences, sexuality, and issues of ethics and morality.  For example, if the theory of evolution conflicts with your religious beliefs you may feel uncomfortable with some of the lectures that will be presented. (However, most Catholic and non-fundamentalist Christian theologians find no incompatibility with evolutionary theory and their religious faith.)  In addition, we will be covering aspects of human or animal behavior, including sexuality, that are not often discussed openly and honestly in polite, or mixed, company.   As such, there will be material discussed -- explicitly --  that could be, in principle, offensive to individuals with particular beliefs or attitudes. If this is a potential problem for you, then please contact me as soon as possible for clarification of the issues, terms, and materials that will be part of the class.


There will be two midterms and a final exam. The midterms and final will be given online via Blackboard.

Quizzes.  Starting with the 3rd week of class, you will be given a brief quiz at the beginning of class every week (however, no quiz will be given on those weeks in which a midterm is scheduled).  The material covered on the quizzes will be from the previous week’s readings and lectures.     If the class meets twice a week, the quiz will be given on the Tuesday class.  The quiz will be given immediately at the start of the class.  There will be no make-up quizzes.   At the end of the semester, your lowest quiz score will be dropped.   (Hint:  Keep up with the weekly class readings!)

Examinations will include objective (T/F, multiple choice), and perhaps a few short answer and/or brief essay questions. Tests are not cumulative, except that on the final exam about 25% of the questions will cover the most important material from the first 2/3rds of the course.  No study guides will be provided – you are responsible for all of the material presented in class and in the readings.  

IMPORTANT: There will be no make up exams for missed tests without a note from your doctor.


You will be given homework assignments. The point value of each will be specified (usually 3 - 5 points).


The research component is required for all Psychology 100 students.  For this requirement you have 2 options:


Option A:  Subject Pool Participation (2 subject pool hours=20 points)

You will be given a chance to participate in research conducted within the Psychology Department.  This will be described in more detail in a separate handout.  Unlike option B, you are guaranteed 100% credit each time you participate.  This is a great way to earn points, participate in something fun and interesting while learning and helping graduate students and professors. Since slots fill up early, plan to participate before the final few weeks of the semester.   There is a signup sheet in the Psychology Department outside of UNH 4727. 




Because experimenters are depending on you, if you don’t show up, you will lose 10 points.  In other words, you would get minus points that will be deducted from your final grade.


Option B: Article Reviews

Those students not wishing to participate in the subject pool will be required to read and summarize one research article for each research hour missed. A summary hand-out will be given to the student to complete and return with a copy of the entire article reviewed. 


Please turn off beepers and cell phones before coming to class.   Regular attendance is expected.  


Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated - period.  Every effort is being made to minimize an environment for cheating.  If you are caught cheating during an exam or plagiarizing your paper, at the minimum you will be receive a 0 for that test/paper and will be penalized according to university regulations.  Familiarize yourself with LMU rules and regulations regarding cheating/plagiarizing.


It is your responsibility to formally withdraw from classes if you decide to do so.  Instructors have no obligation to withdraw students who do not attend courses.


Throughout the course you will be awarded points for tests, quizzes, and homework assignments.  All points, whether from a test, a homework assignment, panel presentation, etc., are all given equal weight when summed. At any time during the course, your grade will be determined by total points you have accumulated up to that point.


Your grade in the class will be determined by your "content mastery grade." This grade is based on your percentage correct score.  However, the "maximum possible score" will be re-set to half way between the maximum points possible and highest point total actually obtained by the top scoring person in the class.  This is to your advantage, and it helps to adjust the grades based on the relative ease or difficulty of the tests. 

Grade Cutoffs Table (Percentage scores, again, where the maximum possible is re-set to half way between the maximum points possible and highest point total actually obtained by the top scoring person in the class):


A >= 93% of top score in class

 A- = 90 - 92


B+ = 87 - 89

B = 83 - 86

B- = 80 - 82

C+ = 77 - 79

C = 73 - 76

C- = 70 - 72

D+ = 67 - 69

D = 63 - 66

D- = 60 - 62

F+ = 57 - 59

F < 57



For example, if the maximum points possible on a test was 110, but the top score in the class was 100, 105 would be used as the basis for comparison of your score in the table above.


At any time during the course you can check your point total on Blackboard.  If you would like to know what the overall class point total is a particular point in the class, email me and I will get it for you.  You can then calculate your grade based on the above table.  I will also announce the class point total after midterms.



The week before the final exam, your lowest quiz score will be dropped, and the all points for tests, quizzes, homework, etc., will be summed.  Grades going into the final exam will be calculated and reported according to the grading system noted above.

At that time, if you have any questions regarding your grade, or if you would like to review your accumulated points (from homework, tests, panel presentations, etc.), please stop by my office during office hours to review the class roster (you must do so before the end of the class – point changes cannot be made after the course has ended).







WEEK 1. Monday date: 8/31

Topics: What is Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, Basic Statistics
Class readings:  G & M: Chapter 1  /  Dawkins, Chapter 1

Web Resources:

·         List of web sites to help improve your academic success:

·         List of Psychology Links:
General Resources:

·         Another List of Psychology Resource Websites:

·         Psychwww:

·         Psychology tutorials and demonstrations:

·         Psychology demonstrations:

·         Psychology Online Resource Central:

·         American Psychological Society:

·         Human Behavior and Evolution Society:


WEEK 2.   Monday date: 9/7

Topics:  Proximate mechanisms:  Genes and the brain.

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 2 / Dawkins, Chapter 2

In class videos:  Research Methods / The Brain

Web Resources:

·         Psychology Links: Biological Basis:

·         BBC “Gene Stories”:

·         Human Genetics for the Social Sciences Interactive Learning Exercises (  Several interesting behavioral genetics tutorials and simulations.

·         PBS Resources on the Brain

·         The Whole Brain Atlas:

·         Mind & Machine Module (includes neural network at AI info):

·         Basic Neural Processes Tutorial:

·         Neuroscience info and demonstrations:

·         Brain

·         Digital Anatomist Interactive Atlases

·         Brain Model Tutorial


WEEK 3.  Monday date: 9/14

Topics: Evolutionary Theory, The Standard Social Science Model vs. the Integrated Model in psychology, the “second Darwinian revolution,” proximate and evolutionary explanations of behavior.

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 3 / Dawkins, Chapter 3

Web Resources: 

·         Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer at:

·         Replicators: Evolutionary Powerhouses  (  a website specifically designed to explore Dawkins' concept of replicators in an interesting and interactive format.

·         Morph Lab: ( ) Artificial selection in action.  Select biomorphs.  Requires a Java-capable web browser.

·         Evolutionary Psychology FAQ:

·         BBC “Gene Stories”:

·         Twins separated at birth reunite (includes video clip)



WEEK 4.  Monday date: 9/21

Topics: The Human Ancestral Environment  / Nature-Nurture Interactionism.

Class readings: Dawkins, Chapter 4

Video: The Human Quest   / The Yanomamo.

Midterm 1 next week.

Web Resources:

·         Steven Pinker video discussing his book “The Blank Slate

·         Becoming Human (includes video clips):

TOPIC 4. THE INDIVIDUAL: Adaptations for survival.

Perception, Consciousness, Emotion, Behavior, Cognition, Personality, Language

WEEK 5: Monday Date: 9/28


Topics: Sensation and Perception

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 4 / Dawkins, Chapter 5

Web Resources:

·         Change Blindness demo:

·         Several perceptual illusions demos:

·         Audio illusion of continuous rising tone:

·         Muller-Lyer illusion:

·         Pogendorf illusion:

·         Internet Psych Lab: Visual Perception. Muller-Lyer illusion:

·         Pogendorf illusion:

·         Stroop Illusion:

·         Necker Cube Illusion:

·         Internet Psych Lab: Auditory Perception

·         Sensation and Perception Tutorials:

·         The Biology of Mind - Origins and Structures of Mind, Brain, and Consciousness:

·         Split Brain Consciousness:

·         Psychology Links: Sensation, Perception and Consciousness:

WEEK 6: Monday date: 10/5

Topics: Consciousness

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 5  / Dawkins, Chapter 6

WEEK 7: Monday date: 10/12

Topics: Motivation and Emotion

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 6

Web Resources:

·         Test your disgust sensitivity: TO FIND RELEVANT VIDEOS

WEEK 8: Monday date: 10/19

Topics: Learning / Cognition

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 7 & 8

Web Resources:

·         Internet Psych Lab:  Memory and Learning

·         Internet Psych Lab:  Cognition

·         Cognitive Psychology Tutor:




WEEK 9: Monday date 10/26

Topics: Intelligence and Personality

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 9


WEEK 10: Monday date: 11/2


Topics: Abnormal Psychology / Psychology of Health

Class readings: G & M: Chapters 10 and 11

Web resources:

·         Mental heath information:



TOPIC 5. THE SEXES:  Adaptations for reproduction / Adaptations caused primarily by sexual selection

WEEK 11: Monday date 11/9

Topics: Psychology of Sex Differences / Human Mating

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 12  / Dawkins, Chapter 9

Relevant websites: 

·         Faceprints:

·         Interactive Lonely Hearts ad:

·         Darwinian aesthetics:

·         Calculate your Waist to Hip Ratio:

·         The Brain Game (video / quizzes / articles):

·         Face Perception:

·         Do you have a male or female brain?,12983,937443,00.html

·         PBS website on the evolution of sex:

WEEK 12: Monday date:  11/16

Topics: Psychology of Sex Differences / Human Mating (continued)

Class readings: None this week -- take good lecture notes.

TOPIC 6. THE FAMILY & KINSHIP: Adaptations to increase the fitness of relatives (inclusive fitness)

WEEK 13: Monday date: 11/23   -- Thursday: Thanksgiving

Topics: Families and Development

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 13 / Dawkins, Chapters 7 and 8

Relevant websites:

·         Facial resemblance enhances trust: TO FIND RELEVANT VIDEOS

TOPIC 7. THE GROUP / SOCIALITY: Social Interactions Based on Reciprocity


WEEK 14: Monday date: 11/30

Topics: Social Behavior, Game Theory

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 14  / Dawkins, Chapter 10 and 12

Relevant websites:

·          Interactive Prisoner’s Dilemma Game:

·         Another interactive Prisoner’s Dilemma Game:

·         Another:

·         Evolutionary Psychology of Gossip (Slate magazine article):

TOPIC 8. CULTURE / MEMETICS:  The Evolution and the transmission of Ideas and Customs

WEEK 15: Monday date: 12/7

Topics: Culture and Memetics

Class readings: G & M: Chapter 15  / Dawkins, Chapter 11.

Relevant websites:

·         Robot Independence (PBS video clip – click “Watch Online” at top)

·         Article on conscious robots:,3604,1028776,00.html

·         Morals: Are you a model citizen, or do you look after number one?

·         UK Memes Central:

·         Memetics:

·         Memes (info / links):

·         Alt.memetics (info / links)

·         Journal of Memetics:

·         The Hedonistic Imperative (genetic engineering and nanotech):

·  (computer learning to walk):

·         The Law of Accelerating Returns, buy Ray Kurzweil:

·         Why the future doesn’t need us., by Bill Joy

WEEK 16: Final exams