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Note from Authors

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From James S. Nairne

I’m pleased to introduce the new 7th edition of my introductory textbook, Psychology, now co-authored with Dawn McBride. It’s the best version yet. No one sets out to write an introductory textbook for money or recognition—it’s too hard and you’re too likely to fail. In my case, I was motivated by a love of writing, and by a desire to write about psychology in a way that I couldn’t in a scholarly article. Peer-reviewed articles or monographs may be our professional currency as academics, but it’s nearly impossible to express the joy and wonder of discovery, or tap the remarkable breadth of psychological science, in a journal article. Textbook writing has given me the freedom to speak plainly and creatively about the study of behavior and mind—to act more like a storyteller than chronicler of data and design.

I also wanted to tell the story of psychology in a way that reflected my classroom experience. I spent over a decade teaching the introductory course before I even considered writing a textbook. It’s important to know what students grasp easily and what they don’t (e.g., negative reinforcement). To overcome the curse of knowledge—to get into the minds of your reader—in-class experience is a must. Among the most important things I learned teaching elementary psychology is that our students rarely seem to know why we’re covering the material we cover. If you look at a typical chapter on learning, for example, its contents seem to bear little resemblance to our everyday understanding of what it means to “learn.” There are extended discussions of drooling dogs and key-pecking pigeons, but little about the connection between conditioning procedures and the learning problems we face on a daily basis.

In my lectures, and subsequently in the textbook, I learned to reorganize the way topics are typically presented.  Instead of leading with the facts and methods specific to a topic—e.g., now we’re going to learn about classical conditioning—I started introducing each topic as a “solution” to a pressing adaptive, environmental, or conceptual problem. For example, if you want to understand how people and animals learn about the signaling properties of events (problem), we can look to the procedures of classical conditioning (solution). Notice the shift in emphasis: Instead of topic followed by its function, it is function followed by topic. This kind of problem-solving (or functional) approach offers a number of advantages besides giving the student a reason to follow the discussion. For example, because the discussion is about how psychological processes solve problems, it naturally promotes critical thinking. The student sees the connection between the problem and the solution.
Perhaps the best part of the new edition of Psychology, though, is the addition of Dawn McBride as a co-author. I have known and respected Dawn as a scholar for over 20 years and writing with her has been a seamless collaboration. Dawn and I see the world in the same way and both demand rigor and accuracy in reporting. We value our reputations as scholars and care deeply about getting things right. Dawn is an experienced textbook writer as well, so she brings her considerable pedagogical expertise to the new edition. Among other things, she felt we needed to do a better job of teaching the process of discovery—how psychological scientists conduct research and generate their ideas. Dawn is responsible for bringing a new feature to Psychology—Thinking About Research—that introduces readers to cutting edge research and teaches them how to think critically about it. Dawn’s critical eye and effective prose have added considerably to the new edition.

Dawn and I are thrilled to present our vision of the introductory psychology textbook to you and instructors everywhere. We value your feedback as well, so please let us know what you think. We hope you like it.

From Dawn M. McBride

I’m excited to introduce you to the current, updated edition of Nairne’s (now Nairne and McBride’s) Psychology!

Jim Nairne’s Psychology was the text I chose the first time I taught Introductory Psychology. As a long-time instructor of this course at Illinois State University, I appreciated the perspective Jim took in writing the text because his approach of providing the students with the why of behavior gave them insight into the importance of the topics being taught in this course. Many introductory students see psychology as a collection of disparate fields that relate to behavior, but Jim’s theme of how these behaviors help humans (and other animals) successfully exist in and navigate the world coheres the different areas of psychology for students and helps them see the overlap in ideas between the topic different areas. I was also impressed with Jim’s ability to describe research in a way that is accessible to introductory students and his focus on research as the foundation of the field. This is a perspective that can be difficult to acclimate introductory students to (especially psychology majors) who come into the course seeing psychology primarily as the study of mental illness and/or with a clinical/counseling focus. My students have always responded well to the text, as the engaging writing style of the text draws students in, much like Jim’s award-winning teaching does. As someone with a background in cognitive psychology, particularly in human memory research, I could see strategies embedded within the text (e.g., retrieval practice, real-world examples) to help students learn and remember the concepts.

I’ve worked with Sage for a number of years on my own methods, statistics, and cognitive psychology texts, and was elated to hear that they would be publishing the 7th edition of Jim’s text. When I was asked to co-author this edition with Jim, I jumped at the chance to work with a valued colleague and friend on a text I admired so much already! Jim and I have worked closely together in updating the topics and research in the text over the past many months. The result is a work that I am proud to be a part of. This is a text that I believe is a great asset in teaching introductory psychology and providing students with an accurate representation of the current field and what the behaviors we study help us (and other animals) do.

With much gratitude,

James S. Nairne and Dawn M. McBride