Critical Issues in Psychology

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PSYC 3309
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course covers critical historical and philosophical issues in the modern day practice of psychology. The purpose of the course is to help the student understand current critical debates in modern psychology by exploring their origin and the empirical and philosophical foundations upon which they rest. By the end of the course, students will understand why controversy exists in modern psychology about the nature of mental disorders, intelligence, memory and other important psychological phenomena. Students will be encouraged to engage in these critical debates and begin to formulate their own positions.
Course Content
  1. Basic philosophy of mind concepts such as materialism, determinism, mechanism, reductionism, monism, dualism and epiphenomenalism.
  2. Basic theory and concepts in philosophy of science such as rationalism, empiricism, operationism, positivism, realism, construct validation, Kuhn’s concept of scientific revolutions and Popper’s concept of falsifiability.
  3. Critical historical developments in psychology such as the immediate pre-history of psychology, psychophysics, voluntarism, structuralism, functionalism, behaviourism and cognitive psychology.
  4. Coverage of some modern controversies in psychology such as the nature of mental disorders and intelligence, validity of measurement and the role of hypothetical constructs in psychology.
Learning Activities

The course will involve a number of instructional methods, such as the following:

  • Lecture
  • Videos
  • Group discussion
  • Online exercises
  • Online discussion
Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with Douglas College and Psychology Department policies. Evaluations will be based on the course objectives. The specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

2 quizzes – multiple choice and short answer                                30%

2 online discussion forums                                                         20%

1 final – short answer                                                                20%

1 APA term paper                                                                     30%


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe the historical development of the major schools of thought in psychology.
  2. Distinguish between the major schools of thought in psychology.
  3. Identify the philosophical and methodological commitments inherent to each of the major schools of thought in psychology.
  4. Explain the philosophy of science principles inherent to modern psychology.
  5. Explain the use of mental analogies in psychology and exactly how these analogies have changed and stayed the same since the inception of the discipline.
  6. Discuss current debates about the nature of mental disorders, intelligence, etc., within the modern discipline of psychology.
  7. Be able to give an accurate characterization of operationism and construct validation, and how each philosophy of science is relevant to modern psychology.
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

Textbook(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2011). A history of modern psychology (10th ed.). Belmont, CA:


 Stanovich, K. E. (2010). How to think straight about psychology (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Classics in the history of psychology website - selected papers.



PSYC 1100 AND PSYC 1200 with a C- or better


Admission to the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology Program or the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology Honours Program or Bachelor of Arts in Applied Criminology or Bachelor of Arts in Applied Criminology-Honours or with permission from the instructor.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PSYC 3309
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PSYC 3XX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PSYC 2XXX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PSYC 2XX (3) & SFU PSYC 308 (0)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PSYC 3XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PSYC 408 (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW PSYC 3XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO PSYO 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PSYC 3XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PSYC 3XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PSYC 210 (1.5)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023