CCOG for PSY 201A Summer 2024

Course Number:
PSY 201A
Course Title:
Introduction to Psychology - Part 1
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces the following major topics in psychology: history, research methods, biopsychology, sensation and perception, learning, memory, human development, consciousness, and associated topics in cognition. Provides an overview of current trends, and emphasizes the sociocultural approach to understand cognition, emotions, and behavior. This is the first course of a two-course sequence. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The Psychology Program at PCC adheres to evidence-based course content and teaching best practices.  "[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world..."    President Barack Obama, March 23, 2015.  US Department of Education webpage

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Describe the key concepts, principles, and overarching themes in psychology, including basic knowledge of psychology’s content domains and applications to everyday life within the course topics: history, research methods, biopsychology, sensation and perception, learning, memory, human development, consciousness, and associated topics in cognition.
  2. Compare and contrast research methodologies appropriate to the discipline of psychology, and discuss the conclusions or interpretations that can be drawn from them.
  3. Apply information literacy and critical thinking guidelines in evaluating claims about human behavior specific to the course topics. 
  4. Describe sociocultural factors and ethical standards in evaluating psychological science and practice.  

Social Inquiry and Analysis

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to apply methods of inquiry and analysis to examine social contexts and the diversity of human thought and experience.

General education philosophy statement

Psychology is a science-based discipline aimed broadly at pursuing and advancing the understanding of human behavior. Within the field of psychology are more than 100 diverse specialty areas, including such fields as neuroscience, human development, clinical and counseling psychology, sports psychology, cultural and international psychology, the psychology of law, environmental psychology, health psychology, military psychology, the psychology of religion, media psychology, social psychology, and trauma psychology (just to name a few). With such far-ranging fields of study, psychology is in a unique position to help world citizens develop a deeper understanding of themselves, their environments, and others – along with the complex and reciprocal interactions among these factors. The aspirational goal of psychologists, around the world and here at PCC, is for this deeper understanding to ultimately promote a world society that values and practices empathy and cooperation among our diverse peoples. With that goal in mind, PCC psychology faculty place a high value on helping students see and understand the connections between the psychological concepts they study and their own lives. Offering learning opportunities to our diverse students in the rich context of psychology will allow them to develop their abilities to analyze critically, to communicate effectively, and to understand complex Issues – both local and global – from multiple perspectives. Through student learning and acquisition of its Intended Course Outcomes, PSY 201A specifically addresses the PCC mission of helping individuals to understand themselves and their natural and technological environments, to reason both qualitatively and quantitatively, and to conceptually organize individual experience and discern its meaning.

Course Activities and Design

All sections of this course, whether F2F or online, will utilize multiple modes of assessment, and not just rely on objective (T/F and MC) tests.   Online sections will adhere to ‘Quality Matters’ and accessibility guidelines along with the “What Works Well in Online Teaching at PCC” document.

Teachers will employ best practices, which include (but are not limited to):

  1. Making expectations clear and transparent, and supporting students in achieving course expectations.
  2. Assessing often, via different modes, and providing timely feedback on student performance (generally a week or less, but no more than 10 days unless extenuating circumstances intervene) so that students have the opportunity to improve.
  3. Maintaining an environment in which diversity is respected and supported, and addressing the situation when that does not occur.
  4. Maintaining an environment in which all students can learn, and seeking appropriate support (PCC CARE program) when a student is demonstrating behavior that is interfering with their own and/or others’ success. 
  5. Recognizing and supporting student needs, including disability support, and providing reasonable arrangements for extenuating circumstances while remaining fair to all students in the course.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Student assessment will include some combination of the following:

  • Written assignments (in-class, homework, or formal papers) designed to promote integration and understanding of class material and assigned reading
  • Short answer and/or essay questions that require integration, application and critical examination of assigned material 
  • Objective tests such as multiple-choice, true-false, and matching assessment items
  • Narrative tests such as fill-in-the-blank, short-answer, and essay exams
  • Participation in individual and group activities
  • Individual and/or group presentations
  • Class participation, including online discussions where appropriate and part of course delivery and outcomes 
  • Service-learning activities, where appropriate and part of course outcomes
  • Other assignments as designed by the instructor

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

History of Psych:

  1. Define psychology, and summarize the history and early foundations of psychology.
  2. Compare the major perspectives of modern psychology.
  3. Identify types of educational degrees and careers within psychology.

Research Methods:

  1. Describe scientific thinking and the meaning of scientific skepticism.
  2. Describe cognitive biases that interfere with evidence-based judgements and conclusions.
  3. Summarize the scientific method and explain how it helps counter common cognitive biases.
  4. Compare the major types of psychological research, including strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate uses of each type.
  5. Explain why statistical correlations may or may not represent causal relationships between events. 
  6. Describe ethical issues that exist in psychological research.


  • Neurons and the Nervous System
  1. Describe the basic structures and functions of a neuron.
  2. Describe the structure and functions of the divisions of the nervous system.
  3. Identify the major neurotransmitters and their influence on behavior.
  • The Brain
  1. Identify the major regions, structures, and functions of the brain.
  2. Describe brain lateralization and hemispheric specialization and how these concepts are misused in popular culture.
  3. Describe neural plasticity, including in response to brain injury.
  4. Explain how neural pathways are strengthened or pruned through experience.
  • The Endocrine System
  1. Identify and describe the major glands and hormones of the endocrine system and their influence on behavior.

Sensation and Perception:

  1. Differentiate between sensation and perception, explain how they work together, and describe how perception can create sensations that did not occur at the level of sensory receptors.
  2. Describe how various factors, such as individual, cultural, and cognitive processes and common biases, influence perception.
  3. Discuss absolute threshold, just-noticeable-difference, and signal detection theory.  
  4. Outline the basic anatomy of and processes by which the following sensations are registered by sensory receptors and conveyed to the brain:  vision, hearing (auditory), taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), pain (nociception), body position (kinesthetic), and balance (vestibular). 
  5. Explain why optical illusions occur.
  6. Explain why our sense of taste is closely tied with smell, and how a loss of sense of smell impacts our sense of taste.
  7. Explain how processing in the limbic system among the pathway to the olfactory cortex ties our sense of smell with emotions.
  8. Explain the gate control model of pain, and how this can be used therapeutically.
  9. Describe synesthesia. 


  1. Define learning and distinguish it from reflexes or instincts (fixed action patterns).
  2. Distinguish between associative (conditioned) learning and cognitive learning theories.
  3. Compare and contrast classical and operant conditioning.
  4. Describe the problems with punishment in shaping behavior.
  5. Describe types of cognitive learning, including insight, latent learning, and observational learning, and how these ideas challenged the behavioral paradigm.


  1. Define memory and identify the major types and steps or stages of memory. 
  2. List strategies to optimize memory encoding and consolidation, including the role of sleep. 
  3. Explain how memory is constructive, including “repressed memories” and the misinformation effect in eyewitness testimony.   
  4. Explain the different reasons why forgetting occurs.
  5. Identify different types of memory loss. 

Human Development:

  1. Summarize major lifespan developmental theories, including Piaget’s Cognitive Development (including schemas and prototypes), Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (aka Social Development Theory), Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development, and Attachment Theory. 
  2. Summarize the basic physical changes during prenatal development, including teratogens and other disruptions to prenatal development.
  3. Summarize the process of acquiring language, including the concept of a critical period and the effect of culture.
  4. Describe the major physical, cognitive, and socioemotional developmental changes throughout the human lifespan.
  • Genetics and Environment
  1. Describe the classic “nature vs nurture” debate.  
  2. Summarize current thinking about the roles of genetics and environment as they impact and influence human characteristics and behavior.
  3. Summarize the concept of epigenetics and current thinking on the role of epigenetics in genetic transfer.


  1. Define consciousness and discuss models/theories used to describe consciousness.
  2. Discuss attentional processes and processes that disrupt attention.
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  1. Define circadian rhythms and explain their relationship to sleep.
  2. Identify the functions of sleep and summarize the sleep cycle.
  3. Identify the major sleep disorders.
  • Hypnosis
  1. Explain current theories of what hypnosis is, and what it can and cannot do.
  • Psychoactive Drugs
  1. Identify the primary types of psychoactive drugs and their characteristics.
  2. Discuss the effects of drug use and associated health risks.