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Critical Issues in Psychology

Course Code: PSYC 3309
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Psychology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Partially Online
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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.

Methods of Instruction

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.

course prerequisites

PSYC 1100 and PSYC 1200

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.