One thing I detest about living

Before I get started in AP Psychology I need to know that….

My teacher was a schmoolie in high school!!!

I discovered I was an schmoolie in high school.  I started dating my first girlfriend in the spring of my sophomore year. 

Here is a photo of her from high school (yeah right).  Well it looks just like her!!!!

 Everything was going great.  She was pretty, she loved me and since she was more popular than I was, I looked cool dating her.  Then came winter break of my junior year.  I went to Florida to visit the grandparents (like half of you still do).  While hanging out in the old age community, I met this 16 year old girl from Maryland and I ended up cheating on my girlfriend.  I told her as soon as I got back to New York.  She proceeded to break up with me, date a guy I REALLY did not like (he looked like a horse) and make out with him in front of me every chance she got.  I stopped going to classes, wrote a lot of bad poetry and truly believed my life was over. We got back together two months later and dated until I cheated on her again my freshman year of college.

Halfway through college, between fraternity parties, I began to ask myself some substantial questions.  Why did I cheat on her in Florida?  Why did I tell her?  Why did she date the horse guy?  Why did I feel like I was going to die without her?  If she meant so much to me, why did I cheat on her again in college?  Were we all just schmoolies?

When my mother couldn’t answer these questions, I did the next best thing; I took my first psychology class.

Hoping to satisfy their curiosity about people and to remedy their own woes, millions turn to “psychology.” They watch Dr. Phil, listen to talk-radio counseling, read articles on psychic powers, attend stop-smoking hypnosis seminars, and absorb self-help books on the meaning of dreams, the path to ecstatic love, the roots of personal happiness.

Others, intrigued by claims of psychological truth, wonder: Do mothers and infants bond in the first hours after birth? Should we trust childhood sexual abuse memories that get “recovered” in adulthood? Are first-born children more driven to achieve? Does handwriting offer clues to personality? Do my dreams really mean anything?

Such questions provide grist for psychology’s mill because psychology is a science that seeks to answer all sorts of questions about us all: how we think, feel, and act.  In this course I will give you the tools to answer these questions and just maybe you will be able to tell me why I am an schmoolie?

Why take AP Psychology?

See which one works for you…..

  • I have a desperate curiosity to learn the inner workings of human behavior.
  • I want to take as many AP courses as I can so my transcript makes me look really smart.
  • I want to learn to pick up chicks.
  • I want to learn to pick up guys.
  • I want to skip a course in college and save myself (really my parents) some money. 

For those of you that complain about the $70 exam fee, just know on average a student saves $2800 per AP exam passed. 

The exams are scored on a scale 1 through 5. 

  • A five means you say to yourself "I am psychology god and should be worshipped daily with sacrifices of small animals". 
  • A four means you say to yourself "I know my stuff and can manipulate people and bend them to my will. 
  • A three means you say to yourself " I know just enough to get a solid C in college", (the last of the non-embarrassing scores). 
  • If you get a 2 you will say "I could have passed if I didn’t spend the night before the exam watching O.C. reruns". 
  • If you get a 1 you will probably say "What is sicologi?". 

 If you want to know what scores your college of interest accepts just click here.

What in the blazes is "Psychology"?

Just so that you feel you have learned something so far I am going to tell you what the modern definition of psychology is and how it came about.  A really long time ago (1870’s) a scientist with a cool name, William Wundt, opened up the first psychological laboratory in Germany.  Wundt spent his time measuring how fast you responded to stimuli (like how fast you will fall asleep when math class starts).  Wundt believed that psychology was a study of what goes on inside of our minds or as he called it our "mental processes".  In the early 1900’s an American psychologist came along named John Watson.  Watson did not care what went on inside of your head, but rather he was concerned with the behavior that you exhibited.  You cannot observe a sensation, a feeling, or a thought, but you can observe and record people’s behavior as they respond to different situations. 

My son Caleb chooses to ram his head into adult crotches when he becomes upset.  Wundt would focus on Caleb’s feeling of anger, while Watson would only focus on the crotch destroying behavior.  Melding together Wundt and Watson’s concepts we have our definition; Psychology is the science of mental processes and behavior.  Let’s unpack this definition. Behavior is anything an organism does—any action we can observe and record. Yelling, smiling, blinking, sweating, talking, and questionnaire marking are all observable behaviors. Mental processes are the internal subjective experiences we infer from behavior—sensations, perceptions, dreams, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

Whatever Mr. Kaplan, this all sound good, but how am I going to learn this stuff?

One thing I detest about living in New York is the lack of buffets.  Sure, we have some of the finest restaurants in the world with twelve dollar appetizers and napkins that I would pay to sleep on.  But every now and then, I just want to shell out eight bucks,  put the old feed bag on and pretend I am the life size version of Hungry Hungry Hippo (the green Hippo was always my favorite).  Recently I found the New York version of the eight dollar buffet, except for the fact that it was thirty eight dollars and required reservations.  Whenever I take my family to this hybrid eatery located at the Rye Town Hilton on Sunday mornings only, I am somehow transformed into mutant buffet Nazi.  I figure if I am spending thirty eight bucks a pop, my wife, myself and my three children better try every damn thing the Hilton buffet has to offer.  My  oldest son Sam hates hash browns; TOO BAD EAT IT!!!!   My wife, Kathy, is allergic to eggs; TOO BAD EAT IT!!!!  My youngest son Harris has no teeth and cannot yet chew on bacon; TOO BAD EAT IT!!!  I worship Belgium waffles with strawberries, whip cream and maple syrup but refuse to eat more than three because lox (smoked salmon to non-New Yorkers) is more expensive per pound and I have this warped notion that if I eat fifty dollars worth of food than I get the better of the posh Hilton buffet.  By the end of every meal I am force feeding myself caviar (smelly fish eggs to the normal person) with a smug look on my face as I imagine the waiter staff is thinking "damn, he got the best of us!!!".

What does this have to do with psychology?  Well not much, I just wanted to explain why I have been gaining weight.  Seriously, the course you are about to spend the next nine months on, Advanced Placement Psychology, is a lot like my experiences at the Rye Town Hilton’ s buffet.  We will be covering scores of different topics in Psychology (about one a week until May) touching on every main area there is.  The good news is that if you despise a particular topic, the pain will not last long (like eating fish eggs).  The bad news is that if you fancy (don’t you just love that word) an area (like those scrumptious Belgium waffles), you will be forced to move on to the next hurdle in this sprint to the AP Exam.  That is the nature of AP Psychology which is modeled after the typical Introduction to Psychology class you would take at any college from Yale University to Omaha College.  Every psychology course after the introductory class is simply a more in depth look at a topic you briefly covered in the introductory course.  For example, we will spend two weeks learning about psychological disorders, but when you get your butts to college you have the option of taking a semester long class covering those same disorders in more depth.  If you actual were able to follow the last few sentences and understand the buffet analogy, this course will be a breeze.

The Buffet of AP Psychology

Every buffet, from the Rye Town Hilton to the Chinese food buffet at the Palisades Mall to the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut, all have two components; the type of food served and the type of person eating the food. 

For example, at the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut you have Cheese Lovers pizza, Pepperoni Lovers Pizza, Sausage Lovers Pizza and the ultimate Meat Lovers Pizza.  Now the type of person eating the food also makes a difference.  I might think the Meat Lovers Pizza is ecstasy on a crust while a vegetarian might look at it as death on pizza doe.  So we all have different perspectives on the food at the buffet.  AP psychology is no different than the buffet. 

The pizzas in AP Psychology are topics like Memory, Sleep, Hypnosis, Drugs, Motivation, Personality, Attraction and a whole bunch more.  There are different schools in psychology that look at these topics differently.  Just as I love the Meat Lovers Pizza and the vegetarian thinks it putrid, different people in psychology view the topics of psychology in their own ways.  These different perspectives are REALLY important and they are known as…….

The Schools of Psychology    

For the purposes of this class we will examine 7 different schools in psychology.  Each one of these schools looks at the foods of psychology (memory, personality, psychological disorders etc…) in different ways.  The best way to explain this is through our pal Stewie Giffin.

For those of you who are not familiar with Stewie, he is a brilliant baby who is obsessed with killing his mother (man, that sounds bad).  Each one of the 7 schools in psychology would view Stewie’s behavior differently.

  1. Biological/Neuroscience School: Dudes from this school focus on the brain and body chemistry. They would attribute Stewie’s behavior to something physically going wrong with his body. They would look at Stewie’s brain for abnormalities, look at his blood chemistry and diet, and maybe put him on drugs to change his behavior.
  2. Evolutionary School: People from this school think all behavior is simply a process of natural selection.  Way back in the caveman days, Stewie’s great great great great great great great great great great great great grandfather also wanted to kill his mother.  For some reason this trait helped Stewie’s ancestors to survive and they passed this trait all the way down to Stewie.  Think for a second, are you afraid of snakes?  Most of you are.  Some of our ancestors were and some were not.  Those that were not afraid of snakes, saw the pretty snake, went up to pet them and died.  Those that had a natural fear of snakes, stayed away from them, lived to have sex, then generations later, you were born.
  3. Psychodynamic School: The psychodynamic school comes from the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud (who will talk all about later).  This school postulates (what a great word) that all behavior comes from unconscious drives.  The unconscious is that dark hidden place that we all have where all of our secret desires hang out.  We are not aware of what is in our unconscious (although through therapy Freud believed he could tell you what was really there), and most of it comes from unresolved conflicts in our childhood.  In Stewie’s case, a person from the psychodynamic school might say that Stewie actually has sexual feelings for his mother (hidden in the unconscious) and to ignore those feelings, he does the opposite of his true desire (a defense mechanism call reaction formation- but that is for later on in the course) and tries to eradicate her.
  4. Behavioral School:  The behavioral school would totally ignore Stewie’s feelings or hidden desires.  They would just focus on his behaviors that they were able to observe.  If Stewie was angry and shot a laser beam at his mother, the behavioral school would only focus on the laser shot and not his feelings.  They figure, if they can stop Stewie’s behavior (in this case shooting his mother with a laser) then the problem is solved.  Who cares about his feelings?  They might do something like shock Stewie every time he tries to kill his mom.  Stewie would eventually associate the shocking behavior with the idea of killing his mom, and stop his assassination attempts.  Again we will tackle all of this in more detail when we study how people learn later on in the year.
  5. Humanistic School: These are the feel good hippie psychologists.  They believe that everyone has free will and by listening to others and trying to fulfill our potential then we can attempt to be the best we can be (which they called self-actualization).  They would listen to Stewie and hear out his problems.  They would tell him to focus on the healthy person they know he can be.  For Humanists believe that everyone has the power to solve their own problems if they can shed themselves of that negative vibe.  Scientists always have the most trouble dealing with the Humanistic school because it is really hard to tell if it works.
  6. Cognitive School:  The cognitive school focuses on how we interpret, process and remember events.  They would say that Stewie wants to kill his mom because he has learned that that is the best way to deal with the world.  We are all cognitive therapists with our best friends.  If your best friend just breaks up with their boyfriend or girlfriend and says that their life is over, what will you say?  Hopefully, you will say that they will find somebody better and will be happier without the hassle of that dysfunctional relationship.  You are attempting to change the way they interpret the world; that is cognitive psychology.
  7. Social-Cultural School: This school simply says that our behaviors and thinking are a result of our culture.  We all grow up in different environments, with various religions, family structures, money etc…  All of these things effect the way we think and act.  In Stewie’s case maybe his violent tendencies are a result of living in a family where the second smartest member is the talking family dog.
These perspectives needn’t contradict one another. Rather, they are complementary outlooks on the same biological state. It’s like explaining why grizzly bears hibernate. Is it because hibernation enhanced their ancestors’ survival and reproduction? Because their inner physiology drives them to do so? Because cold environments hinder food gathering during winter? Such perspectives are complementary, because “everything is related to everything else”

Finally, if these schools don’t make much sense to you, that’s OK.  All long as you have the basic ideas that there are different ways of looking at the same issues in psychology, I promise you will be fine.

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“I’m a social scientist, Michael. That means I can’t explain electricity or anything like that, but if you ever want to know about people I’m your man.” ©The New Yorker Collection, 1986, J. B. Handelsman from All rights reserved.