Required Texts: Benjamin, L. T., Jr. (2007). A Brief History of Modern Psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Benjamin, L. T. Jr. (2006). A History of Psychology in Letters (2nd ed.). Malden, MA:
Blackwell. (paperback edition)*
* All author royalties from books for this class donated to TAMU Psychology Club.
Readings Packet is available from Copy Corner (1404 Texas Ave. S.).
Online readings, as indicated on the Course Outline, are available on the Internet. Classics readings will be found at: http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/
Course Goals: In the 21st century, psychology continues to be listed as one of the best careers for future employment, the psychology major is typically among the two or three most popular majors on college campuses, and psychology is often the most popular elective course in high schools today. Furthermore, the public displays a seemingly endless fascination with human behavior as evidenced in everything from movies to plays, from magazines to books, from radio talk shows to country music lyrics, and especially in television as the principal subject of talk shows, public humiliation shows (such as Jerry Springer), soap operas, so-called investigative journalism shows (e.g., Dateline, Hard Copy), dramas, comedy shows, and the “reality” television shows such as survivor formats and game shows such as “Weakest Link.” In short, psychology is everywhere. Granted the psychology of the public may not be the psychology of the professional psychologist, a conflict that often causes embarrassment for psychologists. But no one can deny that people are interested in the field. That is, whereas you might have to do some hard selling to get people interested in physical chemistry or French neoclassicist literature, one doesn’t have to sell psychology.
This course traces the development of modern American psychology from its 19th century philosophical and scientific roots in Germany as well as its roots in American popular culture. We will begin with a look at the pre-scientific practitioners of psychology in America in the 19th century – the phrenologists, physiognomists, mesmerists, spiritualists, and others – and look at how these individuals practiced their psychological trades. We will then move to 19th-century
Europe to understand the philosophical and physiological viewpoints that led to the birth of scientific psychology. Emphasis will be placed on the early “schools” of psychology as theoretical systems influencing the development of the field, schools such as structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, and psychoanalysis. Finally we will look at the post World War II developments, principally the importance of cognitive psychology and the explosive growth of the practice specialties in psychology such as clinical, counseling, school, and industrial/ organizational psychology.
The broad goal of this course is to provide a comprehensive history of American psychology that will aid your understanding of both psychology and American society. An important lesson to keep in mind is that psychology has been shaped by the historical influences in which it developed and most of those forces lie outside of psychology. It is also
true that ideas developed within psychology have had considerable impact on the development of American history. This interaction is an ever-present theme in understanding the material of this course. Another goal of this course is that you learn something about historiography, that is the
theory and methods that underlie the research and writing of history. In short, you will learn something about the way historians do their jobs.
This course will help you integrate the information from other psychology courses that you have taken or may yet take. It will allow you to interpret the present in light of the past. It will provide you with an understanding of psychology that cannot be obtained without a historical perspective. It should teach you something about the dangers of certainty, about having humility for your own views and a greater tolerance for the views of others. Finally, it should be an enjoyable and significant learning experience.
Assignments and Evaluation Policies Autobiographical Paper: This is an ungraded assignment, one that allows me to learn something about who you are. That is not always easy in a class of this size. The autobiographical paper should be 1-3 pages in length. It should include a little information about where you were born, where you grew up, about your family, high school activities and other hobbies, why you came to Texas A&M, your major, why you are taking this course and what you hope to get out of it, jobs you have had or have, what you plan to do when you finish your degree, anything else you would like to include, any questions you have of the instructor. You don’t have to cover all of that information; those are provided as suggestions of things you might write about. Furthermore, this exercise is not meant to be prying on my part; please do not feel you need to tell me information that you don’t want me to know. The paper is due on the second class day, January 17. In your autobiography, please include your email address and local phone number at the top of the first page. Submit this in class as a hard copy; do not send it to me as an email. Reading: You are expected to read all of the material as indicated on the course outline prior to the class for which it is assigned. In addition, extra reading materials may be assigned from time to time. Classes will typically cover material not in your reading but for which the readings provide the background.
Exams: There will be three exams during the course, including a final exam. The final exam is not comprehensive; it will cover reading and lecture material since the second exam. Each of the exams will count 100 points, and collectively they will determine 100% of your course grade. Content of the exams will stress reading and lecture material in the form of multiple-choice questions. You will need to bring a MARS Scantron and No. 2 pencil for each exam. Make-up exams will not be given except in those cases where the student can show proof of a university recognized excused absence as specified in the Texas A&M University Regulations, 2007-2008. Make-up exams will cover the same material but will be in a short answer/essay question format.
Occasionally an exam may be taken early if arrangements are made with the instructor’s approval. Exam dates are shown on the course outline.
Total points possible for the course = 300.
Listed below are the required scores for each letter designation in the grading system.
A = 270 points C = 210 points F = below 180 points
B = 240 points D = 180 points
Attendance Policy: Attendance will not be taken in this class and no penalty will be assessed for absences. Attendance is the sole responsibility of the student. Examinations will consist of lecture material not covered in any of the assigned readings, thus students will be held responsible for the content of the lectures. Experience strongly suggests that students who do not attend class regularly do not do well on the examinations.
Students with Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal
anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their
disabilities. If you believe that you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services for Students with Disabilities in Room 126 of the Koldus Building, or call 845-1637.
Jan. 15 Orientation to the Course Jan. 17 Historiography (NOTE: Autobiography due)
Letters: Chapter 1 – Reading Other People’s Mail: The Joys of
Historical Research (13)
Course Packet: Application, Popularization, and Public Understanding: A
Research Program in the History of American Psychology (2)
Course Packet: Inez Beverly Prosser and the Education of African
Jan. 22 First Century of American Psychology Course Packet: Psychology” entry in Oxford Companion to US History