Psychology 4180: Critical Thinking in Psychology

2018 - 2019

General Description

The basic skills required to gather, interpret, and critically evaluate research findings in Psychology are discussed and developed in the course. Alternative definitions of critical thinking are considered, as are the contributions of cognitive psychology to an understanding of critical thinking. Both contexts for enhancing critical thinking and contexts that impede it are explored. Emphasis is placed on the concepts of argument and rhetoric in the service of persuasion. Students practice applying their growing knowledge of critical thinking by evaluating research studies in Psychology - both correlational and experimental studies, both qualitative and quantitative studies. Critiques of Psychology itself are also considered.

Students apply their developing critical thinking skills in various contexts. Students present the results of primary source research articles in a manner appropriate for the general public - for example, preparation of guidelines for teachers on the use and misuse of the learning styles concept, or a brochure for lawyers regarding the reliability of eyewitness testimony. The actual topics explored are discussed in class and online and are mutually agreed upon by the students and the Course Director. Students also critically evaluate the accuracy and utility of current media reports about psychological findings.

Skills emphasized in the course include:

  • Locating research articles on emerging trends and demonstrating critical thinking about research findings in Psychology,

  • Critically assessing the methodology used to address specific research questions,

  • Effectively interpreting results from reported research,

  • Evaluating the credibility of scientific evidence and differentiating it from scientific conjecture,

  • Communicating, in writing and orally, the methods, results, and conclusions of research studies in lay terms,

  • Critically assessing and communicating, in writing and orally, the value of media reports about psychological concepts and studies.


Ron Sheese, Course Director


  • Attendance (10%)

  • Weekly exercises and reflections (10%)

  • Project 1 (15%), October 18. Critique of a popular article and its academic source.

  • Project 2 (15%), December 6. Critique of a psychology research article

  • Project 3 (25%), February 28. Critique of a set of related psychology articles

  • Project 4 (25%), April 18. Plain-language recommendations regarding an applied psychology issue.

Reading Assignments