I Thought Intro Psyc Would Be More Interesting

Psychology is one of those courses in University that many students are excited to take. Everyone knows *something* about Psychology, and the idea of gaining a better understanding of how humans tick (or maybe just how your crazy ex ticks) is enticing. Often though, students find that there is a mismatch between their expectations for an Introductory Psychology course and what the course actually covers. Perhaps you expected to be focusing on psychological disorders and therapy, only to find yourself drawing pictures of axons and dendrites. Or maybe you were actually really excited to learn about the hardware of your most fascinating computer (your brain), but are less enthused to find out that you also have to study the stages of childhood development. 

But that's the catch. The science of psychology is SO broad that a course that attempts to cover all of the different areas of the field, as Intro Psych does, is almost guaranteed to bore you to death at times and then fascinate you at others. The point of taking Intro Psych is to help you narrow down the areas of Psychology that you find interesting so that you can decide which courses to take as you continue on as a Psychology student. Or - if you don't plan to be a Psychology student - then the point is to give you a broad understanding of the field and to help you make use of psychological theories and principles in your other courses and life in general. 

Exactly how broad is the field of Psychology? If you open your Intro Psyc textbook up to any random page and select any random paragraph on that page, you will find a description of a concept studied in the field of psychology that is broad enough that a single researcher could spend their entire career focused only on that one topic. Take, for example, page 527 of Psychological Science (4th Edition). The second paragraph is about attributional dimensions - essentially looking at how we tend to explain events in our lives - (or how we make attributions for these events). The discussion in your textbook of the difference between personal attributions (explaining things based on internal, personal factors) and situational attributions (explaining things based on the situation) takes up only a single paragraph. Despite this, there are PLENTY of social psychologists who have spent their entire careers, or good portions of their careers, studying the circumstances that lead individuals to rely on either personal or situational attributions. Their writings on this subject could fill entire books or book shelves, and yet, within an Introductory Psychology course, there is only room to devote a single paragraph to the topic! That's how broad the field of Psychology is! 

Why does it matter that a single paragraph in your textbook could become the focus of someone’s entire career? Understanding this tells you a lot about what an Introductory Psychology course is about and what the course intends to achieve. No psychologist (or very few) is an expert in every area covered within an Intro Psyc course. Some may not even be an expert on a single chapter! A introductory psychology course is intended to give you just a “taste” of some of the basic and most fundamental pieces of research within the wide range of topics studied by psychologists. Believe it or not, if you find even just one page of your textbook to be absolutely fascinating, that could be enough to serve as the basis for the rest of your career! To continue with psychology, as an undergraduate major, honours student, graduate student or even academic, you do not need to fall in love with every chapter covered in Intro Psyc - one topic could be enough! 

In reality, very few of you will go all the way in Psychology - many of you likely have no intentions of ever taking another psychology course while in university. So the other goal of a broad introduction to psychology is to provide you with information that will be useful to you in your every day life and in the other areas that you choose to study while at university. Psychology is the study of human behaviour, thoughts and interactions. No matter what you major in, some part of introductory psychology will be relevant to your area of study, and most certainly to your life in general. 

Consequently, the overall goal of an Introductory Psychology course is not to make you an expert psychologist or to convince you to major in Psychology. The goal is to give you an understanding of how broad the field of psychology is as well as the ability to find a use for the science of psychology in the rest of your life and studies. If you were really excited for this course but then felt let down because some of the chapters failed to spark an interest, don't be discouraged. You only need to love one page to have a future in this field!