Psychology uses scientific analysis to understand the workings of the mind - why humans (and animals) think and act the ways they do, and how and why these behaviors might change. The psychology program shows students how to find the best psychology practices and ground them in quantitative analysis through theory, practical instruction and research.
In the psychology program, students address contemporary social questions such as how norms in society affect those who are different. They look at practical issues, including how businesses can increase productivity through improving job satisfaction. They learn in classes that address topics like memory, reasoning, heredity, dreams and brain development, taught with individualized attention by faculty with specializations in experimental, social, health, and industrial psychology.
Psychology majors at BVU have several ways through which they can produce high-quality research projects. To support these opportunities, courses are designed to incorporate primary-source journal articles into the curriculum to help students familiarize themselves with literature in the field. By senior year, most course texts are empirical journal articles.
As sophomores, students take a yearlong course in experimental design and statistical analysis, culminating when they present short projects they produce in the course at regional undergraduate conferences. In their junior and senior years, students may conduct a major research project as part of a yearlong advanced research methods course. Students may also join the co-curricular organization Scholars for the Advancement of Psychological Research, an organization through which students collaborate on group research projects.
These projects provide strong preparation for the continued studies in graduate school that are required to work in most professional psychology positions. They also produce interesting research in and of themselves: in 2009, six out of eight psychology students who submitted their research papers to professional conferences were accepted. In 2010, psychology student Chase Barrick and Dr. Wind Goodfriend, assistant professor of experimental psychology, co-authored the chapter "The Dark Defender" for the book The Psychology of Dexter in the Psychology of Pop Culture series.
Innovative Class Design
Classes in psychology frequently embrace unique and practical hands-on instruction methods. Here are a few examples:
Learning and Memory
As part of this class, students train dogs at an animal shelter in Newell, Iowa to perform tricks. The tricks the animals learn help them to be more attractive to be adopted while teaching student participants about how knowledge and skills are imparted and retained. "A couple of students came to my office about half way through the course one semester stating they were frustrated with the project," says Dr. Wind Goodfriend, associate professor of experimental psychology. "I asked them what the problem was, and they said, 'Well, we keep having to start over with training, because our dogs keep getting adopted!' I laughed and told them, 'Well, that's kind of the point....' When they realized what had happened, they were laughing, too."''
As part of this course, students complete a work simulation in which they assess other students as "candidates" for positions to construct six ornate origami boxes in one hour. The project lets students experience in miniature the sorts of tasks they will complete in the workplace, supplementing classroom theory with simulated workplace practice to provide a more complete educational experience.
Participants in the class recruit and test general psychology students to "hire" them for the positions of "cutters," "folders," "assemblers," and "inspectors" to build the boxes. Participants analyze the jobs; identify knowledge, skills, and abilities; write job descriptions; administer selection tests; train "workers;" and evaluate performance. In the process, students learn how psychology and scientific analysis can help improve the job search process and employee satisfaction.
"I try to do the practical side of things," says Dr. Bob Blodgett, professor of psychology. "I think psychology needs application. Industrial psychologists are the scientific arm of human resources. Their work helps to ensure that HR practices in a company are consistent, accurate, and in compliance with the law. Industrial Psychology is very hands-on; it's not a lecture class. In it, students do the kinds of things they will be confronted with when they leave college."