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PSYC422 Contemporary Issues in Psychology

Critical and lively discussion of current and controversial issues in clinical, social, developmental, cognitive and biological psychology.

Do you want to meet with other students to discuss the latest controversies in psychology like the role of technology in mental health, the use of neuroimaging to deduce lying, or the validity of mental illness categories?  PSYC 422 is a seminar paper designed to give postgraduate students the opportunity to engage in lively discussion of topics currently under debate in psychology. We have selected a range of issues and "hot topics" from across psychology - from clinical psychology to neuroscience. This 100% internally-assessed paper aims to develop skills related to critical evaluation of research and professional skills like scientific writing and oral presentation. The paper is highly recommended for people wishing to pursue a PhD in Psychology or planning to work in fields requiring excellent scientific communication skills.

Paper title Contemporary Issues in Psychology
Paper code PSYC422
Subject Psychology
EFTS 0.0833
Points 10 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $653.49
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,757.23

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Restriction
PSYC 462
Contact

Dr Tamlin Conner (tconner@psy.otago.ac.nz) or Professor Elaine Reese (ereese@psy.otago.ac.nz)

Teaching staff

Lecturers: Dr Tamlin Conner or Professor Elaine Reese

Textbooks

Target readings will be posted to eReserve.

Recommended: American Psychological Association (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Available for purchase at: https://www.bookdepository.com/Publication-Manual-American-Psychological-Association-American-Psychological-Association/9781433805615

Recommended: Silvia, P. (2007). How to write a lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.  Available for purchase at: https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Write-Lot-Paul-Silvi/9781591477433

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to:

  1. Understand the evidence and arguments surrounding important contemporary issues in psychology.
  2. Critically evaluate research in psychology.
  3. Engage in discussion about psychological research in small groups and in class.
  4. Find relevant material from library databases.
  5. Develop your scientific writing skills by producing well-organised, well-written answers to controversial questions.
  6. Develop your oral presentation skills.
Eligibility

Entry into Psychology 400-level papers normally requires a major in Psychology, a B+ average or higher in Psychology 300-level papers, and a pass in PSYC 311 Quantitative Methods. Students from other universities must show evidence of an equivalent level of competence.

Paper Structure

Students meet for two hours each week to discuss a contemporary issue in psychology selected from the major domains (social, developmental, clinical, cognitive, comparative, neuroscience, etc.). The issues will be framed as questions such as, "Does social networking harm or help mental health?" and "Are mental illness categories real?" or "Does brain training actually work?" Students will be asked to read a target article and select their own article related to the question to discuss in small groups. For the other weeks, we will hold classes dedicated to "hot topics" such as why psychology is WEIRD (based on Western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic samples) and the replication crisis that is currently an issue in the field. For hot topic classes, you will be assigned reading prior to the class to prepare you for the in-class discussion or activity.

This paper requires engagement in the material and active in-class participation. Students will be trained in scientific writing and oral presentation skills and given feedback to improve their skills in these areas. The paper is 100% internally assessed. In addition to the readings for each class and in-class participation, students will be required to write two essays each on a separate controversy in psychology, give an oral presentation on their dissertation research or master's thesis proposal, and attend at least two Psychology department seminars and write a critical summary.

Assessment:

  • Class preparation and participation - 20%
  • Essay 1 - 25%
  • Essay 2 - 40%
  • Oral presentation - 10% total
  • Departmental seminar critiques (2) - 5% total

Below is an example course outline. The exact topics will change from year to year.

Outline

We have designed this paper to give you the opportunity to think critically about current and controversial issues in psychology. This paper aims to develop your understanding of the key issues under debate in contemporary psychology, critical thinking skills, and scientific writing/presentation skills. Your goals in this paper are to:

  1. Understand the evidence and arguments surrounding important contemporary issues in psychology.
  2. Critically evaluate research in psychology.
  3. Engage in discussion about psychological research in small groups and in class.
  4. Find relevant material from library databases.
  5. Develop your scientific writing skills by producing well-organised, well-written essays on controversial questions.
  6. Develop your oral presentation skills

To help you reach your goals, this paper contains four major components.

  1. We provide 8 questions about major contemporary issues in psychology that you will discuss in small groups. These issues span a number of topics related to social, developmental, clinical, and biological psychology, among others. You will be assigned a target article to read and then find another article on the same topic yourself. Each week, you should be prepared to discuss the target article in a small group and summarise how your article addresses the question under discussion.  You will be asked to write two scientific essays on these questions.
  2. We will hold two classes dedicated to "hot topics" such as whether psychology is WEIRD and the replication crisis that is currently an issue in the field. You will be required to read about the hot topics prior to attending class and bring in an example of it in popular or scientific media.  
  3. We have scheduled one class devoted to orally presenting the research projects you are doing for your dissertation or master’s proposal.  
  4. We require you to attend at least two departmental seminars and to analyse their arguments.

Assessment:

  • Class preparation and participation - 20%
  • Essay 1 - 25%
  • Essay 2 - 40%
  • Oral presentation - 10% total
  • Departmental seminar critiques (2) - 5% total

Topics:

  • Does social networking harm or help mental health?      
  • Does brain training actually work?
  • Is early adversity always bad?   
  • HOT TOPIC #1: Is psychology WEIRD? (based on Western, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic samples)    
  • What drives the 30-million word gap between middle-class and low-income children?
  • Why is New Zealand #1 in suicide?          
  • Is implicit racial bias a real phenomenon?             
  • Are mental illness categories real?          
  • HOT TOPIC #2: Replication crisis in psychology
  • How accurate is Pixar's Inside Out's portrayal of emotions?
  • Is mindfulness always good?
Teaching Arrangements

Weekly seminar moderated by the instructor with small group discussion by participants.

The seminar is typically 120 minutes.

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Timetable

Second Semester

Location
Dunedin
Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system
Blackboard

Lecture

Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend
A1 Thursday 14:00-15:50 28-34, 36-41