9.00 | Fall 2004 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Psychology



Gleitman, Henry, Alan J. Fridlund, and Daniel Reisberg. Psychology. 6th ed. New York, NY: Norton, 2004. ISBN: 0393977676.

About This Course

“Psychology is the study of human behavior and human mental life.” That is the first line (or a close approximation of the first line) of most Introductory Psychology texts. That line describes an immense territory that includes single cells in the brain, your memories of childhood, the motivations of terrorists, and the nature of dreams…for starters. This course is an introduction. We can’t hope to exhaust the topic but we can show you the lay of the land and invite you to continue exploring when the course is done.

The Text

I picked the Gleitman et al. Psychology text because it has been the best written, most intelligent of the texts on the market for many years. The book has many pages. Students who discover this fact the day before the exam are usually unhappy. The text is most useful when read in small quantities over the course of the term. This year, I have provided handouts with some questions and notes to help you to focus on the points that I consider most important.

Please Note: We expect you to have done the reading by the date listed on the syllabus. More precisely, we assume that you will show up in recitation having done the assigned reading. Thus, if Chapter 3 is assigned for session 2, you can be quizzed on it on next day. Timing is bit less stringent for a chapter that is assigned for a Thursday. Since all recitation fall between the Tuesday and Thursday lectures, you have the weekend to read the chapter.

FAQ: The book is out in its 6th edition. Can you use the 5th that you found cheap somewhere?

Answer: Yes but don’t fuss if some factoid on the exam turns out to be in the 6th but not the 5th. It is your choice but there is a risk.

The Lectures

Lectures are scheduled two days a week, each of one and a half hour duration. I think that lectures and recitations are the reason for taking the course at a place like MIT. You can read the book anywhere. You can take video lectures out of the library. I am a live person as is your TA. Ask questions and get involved. I will be happy to try to respond to raised hands during lecture. Respond to our questions. Engage with the material.

There will be a handout for most lectures. If I finish my summer project, these will be a bit more substantial than in years past but they are not intended as a substitute for attending lecture. If you miss a lecture, you should talk to a friend in the class so that you will be able to decipher the handout.

FAQ: If I miss a lecture or recitation should I find the professor or TA and ask “Did I miss anything important?”

Answer: Be aware that this question, phrased in this manner, has been known to provoke sarcastic answers from faculty (“No, we saw you were not there and realized that we could not discuss anything of substance today.”) However, it is just fine to ask if the material covered was similar to the material outlined in the handout.

The Recitation Sections

The Registrar’s clever computers will put you into a recitation. They will all fall between the Tuesday and Thursday lectures. They are NOT optional. You are expected to be there. Your recitation instructor has primary responsibility for grading your work. Moreover, there are things that we can do in small groups that we cannot do in the 200-300 person lecture. Be there.

The Highly Sophisticated Grading Algorithm

You will be graded on four written assignments, a midterm, a final and some quizzes. Here is the formula that will form the basis for your grade:

Papers 50%
Midterm Exam 15%
Final Exam 25%
Other Stuff Including Section Participation Oral Presentation, and Quizzes 10%

The Writing Assignments

There are four writing assignments this year. You have some freedom in scheduling when you do them but you would be well-advised to spread the work over the term in a fairly even manner. The assignments are described in a separate handout.

Some Notes about Writing

  • Length: The desired length of these papers is given in the handouts. We are not going to sit around counting words BUT 350 words is not the same as 1000 words even if you use a big font and 2000 words is not twice as good as 1000 if we asked for 1000.

  • Citations: Remember, if you use someone’s ideas, give them credit by means of a citation (Franklin, 1776). The basic rules are a) You are not likely to get in trouble for having too many citations and b) it should be possible to track down the source of any assertion in your paper. If the source isn’t you, let us know who it is. If you use someone’s exact words, “put them in quotes” (Lincoln, 1864).

    Read Me! Use your own words: This is important and, for some reason, some people don’t get it. Most of the Dangerously Bad Papers in this class are cut-and-paste collages. These are papers that are made up of direct quotes or close paraphrases of your sources. Even if the citations and bibliography are flawless, this is not a good way to write. Worse, people tend to forget the citations and then this looks like plagiarism (see below). We want your OWN WORDS. Use direct quotation sparingly. Read, think, and then write. You have been warned.

  • Honesty: Every now and then someone turns in work that is not their own. Plagiarism occurs when one person tries to take credit for the ideas or work of another. Fake data is academic fraud. Plagiarism is academic theft. We regard this very seriously. All of this is easier to detect than one might think (I could tell you some great stories). Academic dishonesty is grounds for failing the course and for referral to the Committee on Discipline.

    Accidental plagiarism is easy to avoid. Let’s say you found some good ideas in a book. You can use those ideas in your own paper; just make sure to tell us the source. You can even use the same words (sparingly…see above.) Just make sure that they are in “quotes” and the source identified. We find that people do stupid things like plagiarizing when they are confused or in some last-minute panic. Try not to get into that state. Talk to us if you are having trouble with any part of the course. We feel sorry for people who come in with sad stories about how they came to plagiarize. We feel sorry, but they still fail.

  • Writing Help: As a CI course, 9.00 has three writing tutors assigned to it to help with your papers. To request an appointment with one of the tutors, send an email at least 48 hours in advance of your desired meeting-time. Tutors can help at any stage of the writing process, but can be most helpful if you provide them with a complete rough draft. Send your draft to the tutor (as an email attachment) at least 48 hours before your scheduled meeting. In past years, students have found that using the writing tutors have helped them significantly raise their paper grade.

  • Deadlines: Deadlines are real. The value of papers declines monotonically after the deadline. That said, I have been teaching for quite a while and I know that people will miss deadlines. A late paper is almost always worth significantly more than no paper. Moreover, if you know you are going to be late, it is always better to tell me about it in advance. We hate surprises. Can you imagine what a warrior your mother would have been? Umm… speaking of surprises, that last bit was a quotation (without quotation marks…oops). It was inserted to see who actually reads the syllabus. If you found this line, tell me. First person to identify the source “wins”.

  • Communication Requirement/Writing Requirement: As a HASS CI (CI-H) class, 9.00 gives freshmen and sophomores CI-H credit towards the Communication Requirement (if you pass the course!) Note that students who received grades of “Writing Subject Required” on the FEE will NOT receive CI-H credit for 9.00 unless they have previously completed an approved expository writing subject.

    As with anything else in this class, if you are confused, stuck, lost, curious, or whatever - talk to us. Don’t just guess that you have the right idea. That can be a recipe for disaster.

An Oral Presentation

Because this is a CI course, you will be making at least one oral presentation to the class. This presentation is 2 minutes long and will be on some aspect of the current assigned reading that you found interesting. Names will be drawn randomly (with no replacement - you only have to do it once) during section to choose the speakers. That means you should be in section. If you are not there and your name comes out of the hat (or whatever), your grade could be affected.

The Exams

The course will have a midterm (1 hour) two days after session 11 and a final (3 hours) during finals week. Exams are closed-book (and slightly strange). Note: Please don’t schedule your flight home until you know the dates of your exams.


There might be a quiz in your recitation section on any given week. It will be based on the current assigned reading. One of their functions is benignly coercive. We wish to persuade you to do some of the reading more than 24 hrs before the exam.

A Final Note

It may strike you as somewhat unusual that Intro. Psych. is being taught by a Professor of Ophthalmology from the Harvard Medical School. Trust me, you are much better off having me as your Psychology Professor than as your ophthalmologist. All of my undergraduate (Princeton) and graduate (MIT) training is in Psychology. I have been teaching some version of this course at MIT since 1981. In my research life, I run the Visual Attention Lab. It is part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2004
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Audio
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments