Psi High Newsletter


October, 2012 


Volume 37, No. 1 




Introductory Psychology – What subjects do high school and college courses address


Researchers identify four unanimous picks, plus six more topics included in most courses 

Comparing the content of high school and college Introductory Psychology courses was one aspect of a study conducted by five Shippensburg University undergraduate Psychology students and their faculty advisor. Angela Baker, Sarah Shepard, Alyssa Gibson, Chasity Reeder, Julie Spengler, and Dr. Kathryn Potoczak presented “Comparing High School and College Introductory Psychology Courses” in April at Shippensburg University’s 2012 Celebration of Student Research Conference.  

The researchers gathered data from thirteen high school Introductory Psychology teachers and from three Shippensburg University Introductory Psychology professors. Participants provided information during structured interviews or via written responses to an email questionnaire. Dimensions of comparison included thirteen major content areas.  

All of the high school courses and all of the college courses included four of those topics. Out of the following thirteen areas, can you guess the four unanimous selections? 

Research Methods
Classical and Operant Conditioning
Memory and Problem Solving
Sensation and Perception
Developmental Psychology
Social Psychology
Freudian Theory
Other Personality Theories
Mental Disorders
Treatment of Mental Disorders
American Psychological Association Publication Formatting 


All of the teachers and professors included classical and operant conditioning, Freudian theory, other personality theories, and mental disorders. In addition, all of the professors and a majority of the teachers addressed the following four topics: research methods, brain and neuroscience, memory and problem solving, and treatment of mental disorders. A majority of both the professors and the teachers taught developmental psychology and social psychology. The three least popular topics on the list were statistics, sensation and perception, and APA publication formatting. 


How does your Introductory Psychology course compare to these findings? 


Is there a relationship between grades and texting?


What are the correlations between undergraduates’ grades and their texting practices? That was one question investigated by Shippensburg University Psychology graduate student Brittany Harman and her advisor Dr. Toru Sato. They presented their study, “Cell Phone Use and Grade Point Average among Undergraduate University Students,” in March at the 2012 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Pittsburgh.  
Analyzing information from 118 undergraduates, the researchers found statistically significant correlations between grade point average and the following two variables: average number of text messages sent per day (mean of 103) and average number of text messages received per day (mean of 113). Both relationships were negative; lower grade point averages correlated with higher frequencies. The standard deviations for these two variables were 141 and 212. 
Each of the standard deviations was actually larger than the mean for that variable. The only way such a result could occur is for a substantial minority of participants to have had frequencies that were vastly higher than those reported by most individuals in the study. In other words, quite a few of the undergraduates had frequencies that were extremely high in comparison to the majority of their peers.  
The correlational findings indicated that to a statistically significant degree, the higher the frequencies, the worse the students’ grades tended to be.  
What are the daily frequencies of texting among students who are in your classes? Are there substantial numbers of students whose frequencies are vastly higher than those of most students in your classes? For your students, what are the relationships between reported texting frequencies and grades? Answers to those questions might be of interest to you and your students. 

(If you did not know or have not guessed, “def” is a texting abbreviation for “definitely.”) 




What does it mean to be dating?


 Answers to that question may have a long history

Available evidence on both previous hunter-gatherer cultures and those existing today indicates that polygyny (a man having more than one mate) was and is viewed as desirable, whereas that is not the case for polyandry (a woman having more than one mate). In these “traditional” societies, the norm was and is for males to desire simultaneous mating relationships with more than one woman and for females to desire a mating relationship with only one man.  


In North America, the dominant culture does not support polygyny, but is there evidence of continuing sex differences that reflect desires of our distant ancestors? The findings of a recent study shed light on that question. 


Shippensburg University Psychology undergraduates Taylor Boeve and Waajida Moosa, along with their advisor Dr. Suzanne Morin, presented “Adolescents’ Views on How to Prepare for Dating and When to Begin” at the 2012 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Pittsburgh. The researchers described dating-related information elicited during interviews with 53 undergraduates. 


When asked to define the term “dating,” themes of exclusivity characterized the views of most female participants. For example, 35% of them said dating involved two people who had a relationship with each other but with no one else, and 24% said it included a goal of getting to know one another as part of a search for a single life partner. Neither of those themes was as frequent among male participants. Their single most common view, endorsed by 41% of the men, was that a dating relationship exists when two people have mutual feelings for each other and are more than “just friends.” 


These findings can be seen as consistent with the desires of our distant ancestors. When men in our culture commit to a monogamous relationship they may be valuing exclusivity with their partner over their “natural” tendency to desire multiple mating relationships.   


Do males and females in your classes define dating differently? Could some of those views reflect desires of our ancient ancestors? 



How long do dating relationships last? 

It depends 


Using information from the same 53 interviews as in the Boeve, Moosa, and Morin study, Dr. Morin and two other undergraduate students examined a variety of additional topics. One question they investigated was whether men and women tend to differ in the duration of their exclusive dating relationships. Adelyn Chambers, Erin Habay, and Dr. Morin presented their study, “Dating and Communication Patterns of Adolescents,” at the 2012 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Pittsburgh. 


With regard to past dating relationships experienced by the research participants, more men than women reported having been in exclusive relationships that lasted less than a year and fewer men than women reported having been in exclusive relationships that lasted longer than a year. The findings of this study support the idea that maintaining exclusive dating relationships tends to be more of a challenge for men than for women. In the study by Boeve, Moosa, and Morin, women were more likely than men to describe dating in terms of exclusivity. Like the differences between men and women in how they define dating, Chambers, Habay, and Morin found differences between men and women in the actual longevity of exclusive relationships. And just as was true for the dating definition findings, the differences in duration of dating relationships are consistent with the preference for multiple mates that characterized our ancient male ancestors and the desire for exclusivity shown by our distant female ancestors.  


In your classes are there differences between males and females in the duration of exclusive dating relationships? Could such differences reflect preferences of the men and women who were our distant ancestors?  




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Editor: Kenneth France, Ph.D. 



The Psi High Newsletter is published for teachers of high school psychology by Shippensburg University. Contributions are encouraged and welcomed. Please submit material to the editor. 

Department of Psychology 

Shippensburg University 

1871 Old Main Drive 

Shippensburg, PA  




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