IB Psychology

Themantic Education's resources for the new syllabus, by Travis Dixon.

1.1 Introduction to Psychology

This first topic lets students get a glimpse of what psychology is all about: the study of the mind and behaviour.

Students are often overwhelmed early in the IB Psychology course because it’s a completely new subject and there is a lot of terminology to learn. I wanted to plan a topic that would allow teachers to slowly introduce the subject of psychology, allowing time to introduce a few examples of studies and theories that will help prepare students to analyze research critically when they start the second unit: criminology.

(a) Behaviour and Mental Processes

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to two of the fundamental concepts in psychology: behaviour and cognition. It will be quite easy for students to grasp what is meant by the term “behaviour,” but “cognition” is more abstract and takes a bit more thinking about. As this course integrates the cognitive approach into other units, it is important that students are continually thinking about what is meant by this term.

Psychologists study behaviour and mental processes because one can’t understand one without the other. For instance, people don’t act without thinking about it first. Even if there is little thought behind the action, this lack of cognition is still of interest to understand why the behaviour happened (i.e. why was there no thought behind the action?)

(b) Studying Individuals

The primary aim of this lesson is to give students an opportunity to see how psychology is similar yet different to other subjects, like anthropology and sociology. At this early stage of the course, it’s not essential to get too hung-up on the distinctions, but this just gradually eases us into the course. The example of differences in generalizations on pg.13 is also quite important to highlight.

This lesson does not have much content, and so it could be combined with the next lesson, if desired.

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(c) Psychologists are Scientific

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the idea of the scientific process involved in psychological research, as well as highlighting the differences between anecdotal and empirical evidence.

Lesson Idea: Gardening and the Experimental Method

The Scientific Method

I like to begin lesson 1.1(c) with the following TED Talk by Ben Ambridge, which is called “10 Myths About Psychology, Debunked.” In his talk he makes it clear why we need empirical evidence and tightly controlled studies in order to make valid and credible claims in psychology.

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