Colleagues and Students of Biological Psychology,
I would like to take
this opportunity to ask you to spend a few minutes looking over our new
text, Discovering Biological Psychology
I just received my
first copy of the text in the mail (after working on the text for five
years!), and I am delighted with the results.
You might be wondering
why anybody would want to write a new text in this area. After 30 years in
the classroom, I had a lot of ideas about how to write a text that met the
needs of both instructor and student.
For any textbook to be successful, it must
be have a high degree of currency
(link: "Currency"), cover the basic areas of
the discipline, include emerging areas of the field,
and be accessible yet challenging to
students with varying degrees of preparation.
Our text was designed in a familiar
format with input from around North America. We wanted the FORM of our Table of Contents to
reflect current thinking as well as the wishes of our faculty. We also
believed that Discovering
Biological Psychology could FUNCTION best by addressing the
needs of the faculty and our students. Lastly, we felt that Discovering
Biological Psychology needed to be FUN, this in turn would
make learning and teaching easier for both student and instructor.
We employ a clear, concise
and an easily understood writing style. We
don’t need to “dummy down” content in order to make the material
accessible and interesting to students.
A quick review of our table of contents
(link: "Table of
will show you that we cover the
topics you expect to see, plus a number of “bonus” topics. For instance,
we offer a neurological disorders chapter and a genetics, evolution, and
development chapter. Our sexuality chapter includes a section on the
evolutionary psychology of attraction.
At the same time, reviewers are telling us that our accessible writing
style and pedagogy make this material very “student friendly.”
My writing style role model is Matt Ridley, and I have sought to
communicate the same enthusiasm here as Matt brings to his science writing in
the field of genetics.
Among the unique pedagogical features we included are margin definitions
of key terms with pronunciation guides, flowcharts accompanying pathway
illustrations, and summary tables that gather key concepts into one place
(link: "Interim Summary Table") .
In this example, we have a table that compares and contrasts major
features of action potentials, IPSPs, and EPSPs. Another table organizes
mechanoreceptors according to encapsulation, rate of adaptation, receptive
field size, and the quality of stimulus sensed. These tables, found within
the text and in interim summary sections, will help
students master the material more efficiently. Instructors should be freed from the task
of “translating” the text during lecture.
We use a “How Things Work” approach.
Sometimes, this means we use MORE words, but student understanding should
text features a “how things work” approach that demystifies concepts. We
don’t just tell students what happens, we tell them how and why.
"How Things Work")
Many texts simply inform students that
action potentials propagate down the length of axons, but the reasons for
this occurrence remain unclear. Here's a quote from Discovering
Biological Psychology regarding 'action potentials':
the same diffusion pressure and electrical force that brought them into
the cell, the sodium ions will drift to the adjacent axon segment. At the
same time, incoming positive sodium ions will also push positive potassium
ions ahead into adjacent axon segments due to their like electrical
charges. The arrival of these positively charged ions depolarizes the next
segment. If this segment reaches threshold, the events leading to an
action potential will be reproduced.”
students for their hard work by showing how the concepts they’ve learned
help them understand everyday occurrences. If you understand sex hormones,
you can understand how proposed male oral contraceptives work and what the
pitfalls may be. If you understand neural signaling, you can understand
what happens when people are sometimes poisoned at sushi bars while eating fugu (pufferfish).
Watching the New Zealand national rugby team “psych up” by doing Maori
prewar rituals makes more sense if you understand the relationship between
the physical aspects and conscious feelings of emotion.
Medical Quality Illustrations
are Key to Understanding
areas in psychology are so dependent on the quality of illustrations as
NEW! Samples from the
Art Program (the real deal, not scanned)
Our "medical quality illustrations" feature clear labels comprised of terms
featured in the body of the text, key-to-slice locator brains, and
sequential magnifications. A particularly nice example of the art program
may be found on pages 192-193. This image progresses from the outer ear to
an actual electron micrograph of the inner and outer hair cells
"Medical Quality Illustrations").
A major goal was to provide original illustrations that answered common
student questions and assist in mastery of key concepts. Think of the
art program as a visual FAQ. For example,
Figure 3.13 on page 74 shows students where the absolute and relative
refractory periods occur relative to the typical “spike” of the action
potential. A chart in the Psychopharmacology chapter shows the
relationships of different classes of neurotransmitters (serotonin is an indolamine, monoamine, and small molecule neurotransmitter, etc.)
When studying neural pathways and various anatomical structures, it's easy
for a student to get 'lost'. We consistently used key-to-slice locator
to help the student reorient themselves when they began new material
"Ascending Pain Pathways).
This sample image also demonstrates our flowcharts,
which help students navigate pathway figures.
Illustrations of sequential processes feature “talking boxes” that assist
the student in understanding the order of events. Figure 6.11 on page 163
(Transduction in the Rod) traces events beginning with the absorption of
light by a rod to its reduced release of glutamate.
Our high quality photos add interest and clarity to the text. Even when
some were hard to acquire (such as the outtake of Christopher Reeve’s
“walking” Super Bowl commercial), we persisted. One of my students’
personal favorites, however, remains the "brain worm" picture on page 440.
Incidentally, these illustrations come across really well in our PowerPoints®.
An emphasis on "currency"
Being a first edition, as opposed to an 8th
or so, we had the luxury to design a structure based on current approaches to the
field. We didn't start from zero in organizing Discovering Biological Psychology,
but we did not just add current content to a text organization that
hasn’t changed much in 20 years. We took a fresh approach by asking
ourselves 'where is the field today' and 'where do we see it going?'
A quick overview of
our references section will show you a preponderance of 2000 or later
references augmented by the classic work in the field.
Our 'how things work' approach is
highlighted by currency, medical illustrations and clear writing.
Margin definitions and pronunciation guides for key terms
pronunciation guides are just where our students need them. They're
conveniently located in the margins of the text. You can check out the
placement of margin definitions in
(link: "Interim Summary Table") (link:
"Medical Quality Illustrations")
Interim Summary Tables
I have found that students need a place to catch
midway through a chapter or after major subsections, so I placed "Interim
Summary Tables" at logical intervals. Interim summary tables and within-chapter tables
gather together key information that students need to see in one place.
You can see an example of one of our tables in
(link: "Interim Summary Table")
Test Banks and ancillaries that work!
Over the years, I
have written a variety of test banks and ancillaries for myself and other authors. Good
test banks provide a true learning experience and minimize student
dissatisfaction. One publisher's marketing materials referred to a previous
ancillary project of mine (a test bank, student study guide and
instructor's manual in biological psychology) as 'the best in the business.'
We’ve worked hard on
our ancillary materials. I
confess to being particularly fussy about test banks—most seem quite
dreadful—so I wrote 1600 multiple choice items for the test bank myself.
Gayle Brosnan Watters of Slippery Rock University did yeoman’s work
helping me with this “fun” task. I piloted many of the questions in my own
classes, and empirical item results are provided for your review.
The art program will be
available to instructors electronically, along with PowerPoints® that are
easily modifiable. At the risk of appearing like a micromanager, I
participated in the development of the PowerPoints®, too.
In addition, our animations are based on the illustrations in
Discovering Biological Psychology and are produced by the
same medical illustrators, providing great continuity. If you would like further info
about the ancillaries, please let me know.
Most of us are in this
business because we love what we teach. Sharing our enthusiasm for
biological psychology with our students makes the whole learning process
Have you ever seen a Brain Worm? Do you
know what they are? Most students want to know if they can 'catch' them!
Our world is an interesting place and
full of interesting things. We worked hard to fit in the most
interesting and most relevant material into "Discovering Biological Psychology"!
(Link: "Brain Worms")
Teaching Biological Psychology
(my APS powerpoint presentation) .
Through the use of relevant, interesting, timely and exciting examples,
we add interest to even the most difficult and challenging areas of our
We use “high interest”
content to teach major principles. Here are some examples:
How does male chemical
Why would elite athletes use anabolic steroids?
How does poisoning result from fugu (puffer fish), black widow spider
venom, curare, and cobra toxin?
How does Botox work?
What do cats, dogs, and infants “see?”
What was the effect of exposure to American TV on eating habits in the
Why are football and baseball players dying of hyperthermia?
Why are repeated mild head injuries now considered dangerous?
What happens when young children must have a complete hemisphere removed
in order to treat their seizure disorders?
The all-time favorite….what is a brain worm, and how do you get one?
(Link: "Brain Worms")
What is mad cow disease and how does it spread to humans?
What does the HIV virus do to the brain?
Do sports drinks really help?
We also talk about
'new directions' that are current, sometimes controversial, but always make
Ethics of stem cell research
The autonomic nervous system and stress
Tetanus and the lack of inhibition
Can we stop the aging process?
The effect of vision on flavor
Yellow smoky voices and sounds like briny pickles
How much stronger and faster can we get?
Mood and food
Why have sex? (the advantages of sexual over asexual reproduction)
Can we modify our sleep-waking cycles?
Can we prevent age-related memory loss?
The relationship between music and language
Coping with stress
Using virtual reality (VR) for rehabilitation following brain injury
The roles of
nature and nurture in psychopathology
Building on a line from Frank Lloyd Wright, we have tried to combine form,
function, and fun in Discovering Biological Psychology to
provide a very user-friendly experience.
I would be
happy to discuss the text and ancillaries with any interested
Feel free to email me.
By the way, our Biological Psychology Community is expanding--we have a message board where faculty and
students can discuss issues related to biological
psychology or psychology in general.
particularly interested in using
information competency and
learning to teach biological psychology, and I have posted some
resources on these topics on the website.
you for your time and consideration, and please feel free to let me know
if you have any further comments and suggestions.
BACK to Discovering Biological Psychology