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Module 1A: A Model for Understanding Psychology

Read the all module 1 and at the end of the pdf fill out the review and reflect part. and there is some questions in the pdf we need to answer them as well.

Module 1

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Module 1: Introduction and Methods in Psychology Wednesday, July 5 – Monday, July 10



Principles of Psychology, Chapters 1–2 & Appendix

(Pages 1-6; 29-59; 581-604)

Review APA (American Psychological Association)

Ethical Principles (page 1–middle of page 4; section

8–8.09 (middle of page 10–page 11) [Available via

the Course eReserves.]

Module 1 online content

Discussions: Discussion 0: Introduce Yourselves

Module 1 Discussion:

Initial responses due Friday, July 7, 9:00 AM ET

Two peer response due Monday, July 10, 9:00


Leader response due Wednesday, July 12, 9:00


Assignments: None

Assessments: Syllabus Quiz due Friday, July 7, 5:00 PM ET

Live Classrooms


Wednesday, July 5, 7:30–9:00 PM ET

Activity: Complete Module 1 Review and Reflect, due

Tuesday, July 11, 11:59 PM ET

Module 1A: A Model for Understanding Psychology


What are some of the examples of trauma that were mentioned? Check all that apply:

Tsunamis Accidents Fires Terrorism Storms



Learning Objectives

By the end of the session students will be able to:

1. Describe a multi-level framework for considering phenomenon in the field of psychology and give an example.

2. Describe types of studies in psychology and outline their uses, strengths, and weaknesses.

3. Describe the difference between correlational (non-experimental) and experimental psychological research and gives examples of each.

4. Describe the research process – from idea to peer review.

5. Describe the three principles governing research ethics. Give examples of each.

Introduction to the Model for Understanding Psychology

Remember back to the course introductory video that was on the course home page, and see if you can respond to the question below.

What do you think of when you hear the word “psychology”?

I always like this cartoon, as I think it represents a common perception of psychology—a therapeutic endeavor where we seek to understand how early

experiences caused folks to have problems (often, how it’s all your parents’ fault!!). Although humorous, it’s a pretty poor idea of what psychology is.

Instead, psychology covers many things, but, at its heart, it is a science of behavior. It shares many principles with other sciences. Psychological

science can be basic—when we try to understand how and why individuals behave the way they do. This is really knowledge for the sake of

knowledge, and that’s important. For example, we might want to understand how human memory works, what factors are associated with healthy child

development, how individuals develop anxiety problems. Psychological science can also be applied—when we try to use that basic knowledge to

change (hopefully improve) human behavior. For example, we may want to use what we know about human memory to improve student performance;

we may want to use what we know about healthy child development to improve early childhood education or parenting; we may want to use what we

know about how anxiety develops to better treat and prevent problems with anxiety.

One of the things that makes psychology so challenging as a field is its tremendous breadth. Psychologists are interested in how the brain works, how

social situations impact individual performance, how early experiences influence the later development of mental health problems, and lots more. The

sheer range of potential questions is overwhelming. This is what can be referred to as the CONTENT (what we know). This also means that we have a

broad range of strategies and methods that are part of psychological research. This is what can be referred to as the PROCESS (how we come to know

it). Throughout this course we will focus on some of these strategies and methods.

But we need to start with a framework—a framework for thinking about complex problems in psychology. The model that you see below is an old but

still influential one—Uri Bronfenbrenner published this model in 1979. What does it show? It illustrates how we have to consider the individual in

context. In his model the individual is in the middle, and they are embedded within other systems. The family, schools, neighborhoods, political

systems, social structures all surround this individual. Now Bronfenbrenner, as a sociologist, was really most interested in these larger systems.

Bronfenbrenner Model of Ecological Systems Theory

Source: Adapted from Hchokr at English Wikipedia

As psychologists, our focus is on the individual. Still, we must think of this individual in context. So, in next illustration, I include an adaptation of this

model that focuses on individual functioning—this will be our framework throughout the semester. Each of these circles is a “level of analysis”; to

understand complex ideas in psychology we often need to understand them at each of these levels:

Understanding Behavior Model Click each of the six labels to learn more below

Examples of the Model for Understanding Psychology

I’d like to illustrate how we can think about complex topics in psychology using this kind of general framework. So, I’m going to use two topics to

illustrate: youth aggression and anorexia nervosa.

Let’s talk about youth aggression

We need a little background. Aggression is a common problem. What’s the time of life when we experience the highest level of individual aggression?

Many of you probably guessed the teenage years, but actually it’s those toddler years! Toddlers are cute, but they can kick, hit, thrown things, bite!

Thank goodness it gets better pretty quickly . . ., and they are small enough that the adults around can typically manage it. Aggression in teens can

lead to many problems, like delinquency and criminal incarceration. The age when a youth begins to show significant aggression begins is often

important in predicting future aggressive behavior. Kids who have high levels of early aggressive behavior (elementary school and younger) seem to be

a different, and potentially more worrisome group, than those who have high levels of aggressive behavior beginning in the teen years (which is usually

more short-term and associated with peer influences). We can also define aggression in various ways—physical, verbal, and/or relational. Physical

aggression is pretty clear—hitting or assaulting others are examples. In verbal aggression we insult, demean or threaten others. In relational

aggression, relationships are manipulated—isolating, shunning, spreading rumors, destroying reputations. Aggression can take place in person or

online; indeed, online or cyberaggression is associated with negative health impacts on youth victims.

Think about youth aggression – In what ways have you experienced this?

Compose your thoughts below and click "save" for the option to review your response later.

Compose your thoughts here

Jot Your Thoughts

Save 

So, let’s use our framework to understand youth aggression:

1. The biological level

Wow, we could consider many things, and here are just three. First, human aggression, and that of many other

mammals, is generally higher in males then females, particularly after puberty. Second, we also know that the

male sex hormone testosterone is associated with higher aggression. Administration of testosterone in mice leads

to increases in aggression. Third, we also know that levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter in the brain—can be

associated with higher aggression. So we know the biological level is important.

2. The psychological level.

Let’s back up a little. Those who study youth aggression distinguish between two additional types: Reactive and

Proactive. Reactive aggression what you might imagine—folks who are being attacked often respond in

kind. When one child hits another child and the second child hits back, that second child is engaging in reactive

aggression. You think someone has insulted you, maybe you insult back. Reactive aggression is emotional and is

in retaliation to perceived slights or aggression from another individual. Proactive aggression, also called

instrumental aggression, is when an individual uses aggression to get something they want or achieve some other

end. Proactive aggression is goal oriented. When a child twists another child’s arm behind their back to force them

to give up their lunch money—that’s proactive aggression. Which one seems a little more concerning to you? (I

hope you said proactive). Although, proactive aggression is also used in war situations and in some sports


We know that the psychological processes involved in these two types of aggression are different. Individuals who

are prone to reactive aggression often have heightened “threat perception”—they expect others to be aggressive

toward them. You could say “their antennae” are up; they expect to be attacked (physically, verbally, or

relationally), and sometimes when we expect to see something we see it even if it’s not there! Let’s say you have

a line of 3rd graders all jostling to see something and one child bumps into another. The child that gets bumped

can think “that child bumped me because they got bumped by another classmate” or “that child bumped me by

mistake” or “that child bumped me on purpose”. The child who makes that last assumption—the “on purpose”

assumption—is more likely to respond with reactive aggression —maybe bumping or hitting the other child back in


The situation is different for proactive aggression. Remember in proactive aggression, the perpetrator uses

aggression to get something. Research has demonstrated that children who tend to use proactive aggression

evaluate problem solutions a little differently than children who don’t tend to use proactive aggression. In one

study children were all presented problems and potential solutions. Proactively aggressive kids tended to evaluate

aggressive solutions more favorably than non-aggressive kids. So proactive aggression seems to be a strategy.

This distinction between reactive and proactive aggression also applies to individuals who engage in domestic

violence or intimate-partner abuse. In domestic violence an intimate partner, say a husband, is aggressive toward

the other intimate partner, say his wife. Some spouses do this because they feel they are being “attacked”,

insulted, or demeaned by their spouse and respond with aggression. In this case they are engaging in reactive

aggression. For others, they use aggression to get what they want in the relationship—bullying or abusing their

partner. These folks are engaging in proactive aggression. This is not to say that one type of aggression is

“better”; but by understanding the psychological level we can understand more about how and why aggression

occurs. Maybe, we can also be more effective in STOPPING aggression.

3. The family level

We know that individuals develop their thought processes and emotions within the context of close relationships.

Interestingly, aggression tends to run in families. Children who are raised in physically abusive families are more

likely than those raised in non-abusive families to go on to either be abusive or be in abusive relationships. You

could say that we learn aggression at our parents’ knees. One way this happens is through modeling—we see how

our parents solve problems and go on to solve problems in a similar fashion, and sometimes that’s an abusive

fashion. Another way this happens is through shaping our expectations—we may learn to expect to be attacked or

demeaned, or we may learn at home that aggression can work for us. That is to say, these experiences at the

family level shape the psychological level. Finally, we know that parental monitoring is important—high aggression

and other delinquent behaviors are less likely when parents know what their kids are up to. We hear a lot about

“helicopter parenting” these days (when parents are overly involved), but lack of parental involvement can be a

real problem too! Family involvement and parental monitoring are important.

4. The larger group level

Some groups consider aggression to be a valid way to solve problems. Think about the mafia or violent street

gangs. In this groups violence is seen as a legitimate way to solve problems and get one’s needs met. This larger

group level of analysis can impact the psychological level—when your group says it is ok you begin to believe that

as well. Of course the larger group level can also impact the family level by influencing the ways in which parents

relate to their children and model behavior.

A particularly interesting line of research has examined “deviancy training” among young delinquent men, where

they reinforce and “one up” one another for their aggressive behavior. You can also see this happening for sexual

aggression—with one young man boasting about his sexual conquests, leading to more and more outlandish

boasts and “legitimizing” more egregious, harassing, aggressive (and possibly illegal) behavior.

5. The cultural level

In some cultures, violence is more normative than in other cultures. If you look at violent crime rates you see

startling differences across countries. Indeed, some cultures glorify violence and aggression. In the USA we

frequently see movies where violent solutions are dramatized, heroes use violence to solve problems, and athletic

events glorify aggression. We believe in “letting him [our adversary] know who is the bosss”—dominance is a big

deal in American culture. Other cultures emphasize getting along, playing your role in the larger, very highly

valued group.

An interesting example of a powerful cultural factor impacting aggression is what is known as a “Culture of

Honor”. In this system men (almost always men) feel that threats to their honor or reputation (i.e, culturally

unacceptable behavior of a family member, insults, threats, etc) must be answered with violence to re-establish

that honor or reputation. For example, in some cultures female chastity is highly valued, and a woman having

sexual relations outside of marriage (whether consensual or not) is a stain on the family’s honor. In this cultural

framework, killing one’s own female family member may be considered appropriate aggression to restore the

family’s honor.

So there are important cultural factors that impact aggression.

Another example 

What do you know about anorexia nervosa? Anorexia nervosa is a mental health problem that impacts about 0.6% of individuals. Symptoms include self-starvation, severe weight loss and low

body weight. It tends to emerge during the teenage years and to predominantly impact young women. Although not the most prevalent mental health

disorder, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health problem—about 20% of those with a diagnosis die as a result of it. Even

when not fatal, it can have terrible consequences. It’s been said that it impacts the “three B’s"— bones, brains, and babies. Let’s focus on bones.


When young people are teenagers their bones are growing and strengthening, with calcium increasing bone health. Individuals with Anorexia

Nervosa aren’t taking in enough calcium and may end up with brittle bones—osteoporosis can emerge very early in individuals with a history

of Anorexia Nervosa.


Young people are also undergoing tremendous growth in their brains, and fat in the diet is important in this process, as it promotes

myelination of axons in the cells of the brain. We will talk more about this process when we learn about the brain. If individuals do not have

enough fat in their diets, brain development may not be optimal.


In order for young women to menstruate, they have to have a certain percentage of body fat. One common complication of Anorexia Nervosa

is a lack of menstruation or what we call amenorrhea; this can have a long-term impact on young women’s fertility. Overall, AN can have

long-term health impacts even when it gets better or resolves.

So how can we use our model to understand Anorexia Nervosa? Again, the framework:

1. The biological level

The hypothalamus is a small region deep within the brain that controls some aspects of our physical functioning

and our behavior.

Experiments with rats demonstrate that damaging a certain part of the hypothalamus can lead to a rat overeating

to a point of severe obesity—an enormous rat! Damaging a different part of the hypothalamus gives you a rat that

starves itself. So the hypothalamus seems to be very important in the control of eating behavior.

Studies using brain scanning (MRI) suggest that other areas of the brain may be involved as well, including the

dorsolateral prefrontal context, parietal cortex and anterior cingulate gyrus. You won’t need to know the particular

regions, but I do want you to recognize that this level of analysis (biological level) is important.

2. The psychological level

Self-Perceptions are crucial as well. One thing we’ve learned is that people with anorexia nervosa tend to see

themselves, not as they are, but in a distorted way. You and I may look at the person and think “what an

extremely thin person!” whereas they may look in the mirror and think “I’m still so heavy!” They may focus on

one part of the body that seems like a problem to them— a thigh perhaps—and focus almost exclusively on that.

Personality plays a role too. Several personality characteristics may predispose someone to develop AN,

particularly perfectionism. Individuals who are perfectionistic have very high standards for themselves and little

room for mistakes or errors. Internalization of a thin ideal—when folks have thoroughly accepted the idea that

thin is beautiful – also places a person at increased risk for developing anorexia nervosa. Understanding this

psychological level has really helped in the development of better treatments for anorexia nervosa.

3. The family level

Although not always, anorexia nervosa seems to happen more in families where parents have very high

expectations for success—this is a disorder that is more common in higher socio-economic groups. Also, anorexia

appears to occur more when parents emphasize appearance as an important value—perhaps this is where the

internalization of the thin ideal begins. Again, this level of analysis impacts other levels, including the

psychological level.

4. The larger group level

Certain groups are more likely to develop anorexia nervosa. In general, rates of anorexia nervosa are higher in

groups where appearance (and especially a thin appearance is valued)—models, dancers, gymnasts. Gay men

appear more likely than non-gay men to develop eating disorders. Group values about appearance and its

importance may be internalized into one’s own value system—part of the psychological level. Again, one level can

shape others.

5. The cultural level

In our culture, appearance is something that is more highly valued in women (as compared to men), and youthful

appearance (especially for women) is particularly valued. We see this in the media all the time.

As an interesting case study and an example of the importance of cultural factors, rates of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa were exceedingly rare

in Fiji prior to 1995, and behavior like self-induced vomiting and binge eating were low. When researchers returned in 1998 following the introduction

of Western television shows, they found greatly increased rates of these behaviors in a sample of girls, and the majority considered themselves “too

fat”. This speaks to the important role of media in shaping self-perceptions and potentially risk of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa. These cultural

variables also impact parenting. So the levels of analysis interact with one another—one influencing the other.

Important Considerations about Culture

Psychology has been criticized for NOT considering culture adequately. Many of the studies that are conducted do not represent the broader population.

Indeed, psychology (among other disciplines) tends to focus on what are known as WEIRD populations—Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and

Democratic. Thus, it is challenging to generalize to different populations. In the United States of America, research has tended to focus on White

middle- and upper-class populations; lower-income and people of color are not well-represented in our research studies. There has been more effort

made in recent years to include more diverse populations in research AND to consider their perspectives and needs. We have a long way to go as a

discipline in this regard.

Module 1A Summary

So to summarize, I’ve presented a model today in which complex psychological phenomenon must be understood at a variety of levels. I’ve also

provided several examples. In your opinion, what is the best level at which to understand psychological phenomena? What’s the right level of analysis?

Well, I would say that it depends on your goals.

Give this some thought before you show the answer.

Let’s say you want to develop a program to reduce bullying in elementary schools. You want to figure out what factors influence school bullying. Which is the best level? 

a. Biological

b. Psychological

c. Basic Social Interactions

d. Larger Social Group

e. Culture

Show Answer

Let’s say you want to develop a program to help students to develop better study habits. You need to understand how study strategies influence memory for course material. Which is the best level?

a. Biological

b. Psychological

c. Basic Social Interactions

d. Larger Social Group

e. Culture

Show Answer

Do You Remember?

See what you can remember from the previous material by matching the terms to their definitions.

Module 1B: Methods in Psychology

The science of psychology relies on research to uncover knowledge. This portion of the module will focus on the methods of research used in

psychology, but we will also return to this important topic throughout the course. Let’s focus on some basic strategies or designs.

1. Naturalistic Observation

One can systematically observe the real world. You can learn a whole lot by systematically observing the real world. Perhaps some of you know who

Jane Goodall is. She studied chimpanzees in Africa, and by observing their behavior in the real world, she learned a lot that has guided our

understanding of primates. Naturalistic observation has been used in psychology to help us form theories and develop hypotheses for future research.

As another example, let’s say I want to understand more about factors impacting children’s aggression. I could observe them on playgrounds and

carefully track all their aggressive behavior—hitting, kicking, spitting, name calling, all that. I could observe and deduce the situations that tend to lead

to this behavior, the characteristics of those individuals who were aggressive, and the consequences of their actions. I can learn a great deal from this

careful naturalistic observation.

Advantages Disadvantages Best Used

1A Matching Activity

Click the terms (colored purple and bold) and definitions to identify matches. Once you finish the activity you will see the full term list with correct definitions.

Two types of

aggression: proactive and reactive

If you look at violent crime rates you see startling differences

across countries.

When we try to use that knowledge to change (hopefully improve) human


Some groups consider aggression to be a valid way to

solve problems.

Individuals develop their thought processes and

emotions within the context of close


When we try to understand why

individuals behave the way they do.

Human aggression is generally higher in

males then females. The male sex

hormone testosterone is associated with

higher aggression.

Applied psychological


The larger group level

Basic psychological science The biological level

The family level The psychological level

The cultural level

Example of an outlier—Shaquille O’Neal's size 22 shoe Taken by David on Flickr: Some rights reserved.

Advantages Disadvantages Best Used

It’s real life Observer bias! The fact that someone is

watching can change behavior. For example, do

you think that children may behave differently

when they know they’re being observed? It’s

also hard to control the many variables that

are there as well

Naturalistic observation is often best used when

first learning about a particular phe

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