Psychology: The Adaptive Mind

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9780534206826: Psychology: The Adaptive Mind

If you think all Introductory Psychology texts are essentially the same, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at this exciting new text by Jim Nairne. Nairne presents all the conventional content of an introductory course in a traditional 16-chapter sequence, but with a twist. Rather than beginning with theory or research (as most texts do), he begins each topic with an everyday example of a "problem" to be solved (for example, how to remember a telephone number or how we can "know" that a rattlesnake's rattle signals an event). As Nairne states, "I've been teaching Introductory Psychology for 15 years, and the single most-asked question students have is 'Why are we studying this? It's all about rats and drooling dogs, but what is the point?' " To write a text that would answer students' questions in a meaningful way, Nairne took a novel "adaptive problem-solving" approach. The response from professors has been overwhelmingly positive. Many find the Nairne text the "book they've been waiting for!" In every chapter, Nairne "reframes" the subject matter of psychology by placing the major emphasis on how particular behaviors, cognitive processes, and emotions help people solve important adaptive problems -- not just survival problems, but everyday problems. For example, the principles for classical conditioning are introduced as "solutions" to the problem of how people learn about signals in their environment; neural transmission is introduced as a "solution" to the problems associated with communicating internally; and short-term memory is introduced as a "solution" to the problem of how people remember information over the short term.

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About the Author:

James S. Nairne is the winner of the 2001 Charles P. Murphy award, a lifetime teaching award at Purdue University, which at the time had not been awarded to a psychologist for over 30 years. This award reflects Nairne's record of success as a committed teacher and researcher, including the receipt of Purdue's highest teaching award as well as numerous teaching awards from the psychology department and the School of Liberal Arts. Professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in Indiana, Nairne received his undergraduate degree at UC-Berkeley and his Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University. He delivered the 2000 G. Stanley Hall address at the APA. He's an active researcher in cognitive psychology, specializing in human memory, and has published dozens of articles in professional journals. He is associate editor for Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, a past associate editor of the Journal of Human Memory and Language, and has served on numerous editorial boards.

Review:

Perhaps the greatest strength is the author's ability to present the field of psychology in the context of a distinctive and cohesive viewpoint, i.e. adaptive problem solving. The author's point of view seems to work because it is the kind of perspective that imparts a helpful organizational structure to the text...The very choice of three of four 'problems to be solved' gives each chapter a manageable feel that should make the reader's job easier. There is depth and substance in each chapter, but there are also welcome breaks or rest stops in the form of the 'Inside the Problem' and 'Adaptive Mind' special features.

The book takes a scientific approach right from the start. In every chapter I examined, support for theories was described in empirical, data terms rather than in terms of simple logic of cultural stereotypes...I find that the 'Adaptive Mind' sections help hold the text together as a coherent book rather than as a set of independent chapters. The chapter summaries do an excellent job of giving the reader a true overview of the important content of each chapter. I also appreciate the way that in each chapter there are references to ideas of information that will be covered in more detail later in the text.

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Nairne, James S.
Published by Brooks/Cole Pub Co, U.S.A. (1996)
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