Reviewed by Richard Deyo, Professor, Winona State University, on 8/22/2016.
If a comprehensive introduction to psychology as a biological science is expected from this 40-module open textbook, the reader will be disappointed.
Comprehensiveness rating: 1 read less
If a comprehensive introduction to psychology as a biological science is expected from this 40-module open textbook, the reader will be disappointed. This is because each topic has been given unexpectedly cursory coverage. For example, recalling that the title of the book promises to inform students about psychology as a biological science, the glossary contains no definitions for the terms neuron, nerve cell, or glial cell. Unfortunately, there really is very little about this book that would appeal to a professor wishing to take the neuroscience approach to the teaching of an Introductory Psychology course.
The lack of depth extends to most topics. For example, the discussion of research methods fails to include a discussion of the different types of research designs or their interpretation, nor is there even a discussion of independent or dependent variables despite the reference to those undefined terms in a later chapter.
The figures and graphics in this text are largely ineffective as tools for clarifying concepts. For example, there is no detailed diagram of how a neuron works, or even an image of how one looks, but there are two different photographs of a finger with a string tied around it (page 321 and page 342). The student is not provided with adequate information to understand difficult concepts such as neurotransmission, but is treated to numerous appealing images of babies, families, and puppies.
Accuracy rating: 4
The material that was included was generally accurate. However there were a few minor inaccuracies in the discussion of the brain that were mainly due to oversimplification.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 4
This book is no more vulnerable to longevity issues than any other. It will need to be updated annually. I did use the search feature on the PDF reader to check out the age of the sources and it appears that the chapters are largely updated thru the end of 2014 with three sources from 2015. So a revision will be needed at the end of 2016 to keep current.
Clarity rating: 1
The lack of depth in many of the early chapters creates serious issues with clarity in later chapters. For example, the failure to define and discuss research designs creates a problem in later chapters that refer to experimental designs (e.g. page 172) or correctly refer to the problems of interpreting correlational research (e.g., page 189). The authors of later chapters appear to assume that the students have a working knowledge that is probably not there unless it has been covered in supplemental materials outside of this book. An old idiom came to mind by the time I reached the fifth chapter: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This work has by my count 61 authors. To be fair, it is hard to write a book with more than two or three authors (Kandel’s Principles of Neural Science being one of the few successful examples). This work needed a strong editor.
Consistency rating: 1
Some chapters were very shallow and other chapters were assuming a depth of knowledge that was at a much higher level. The book reads as if it were aimed at two different groups of students.
Modularity rating: 1
The book is clearly organized into independent modules. The problem, however, is that the content in any one module is inadequate to cover that topic without extensive use of outside materials. Said another way the modules themselves fail to give the students adequate content to come prepared to discuss in lecture. In short, this book has many modules but not enough content within each module to support a lecture that would enrich a student’s knowledge.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4
There is a clear organization that is easy to follow (just not enough content).
Interface rating: 2
The free PDF version was cumbersome to navigate. The images and figures that are included (with one or two exceptions) are clear and can be enlarged without too much distortion.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
No problems here.
Cultural Relevance rating: 5
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It is inclusive of diverse races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
I read this text after completing a training webinar that had me fired up to try an open textbook. I was further encouraged by the fact that one of the contributors has written a textbook I had previously used and valued. Maybe my expectations were too high. I came in with over 25 years of experience teaching with high quality commercially edited and reviewed textbooks. This open textbook is not in any way comparable in quality to any text I have used previously. I now have a renewed appreciation for the editorial process and I guess it is true that you get what you pay for. Respectfully, I just cannot recommend adopting this book, especially if you are a professor at a MNSCU institution and need to be in compliance with the “Common Course Outcomes.”
Reviewed by Patti Harrison, Lecturer, Virginia Tech, on 6/21/2017.
I found this textbook to be quite comprehensive, including the "traditional" topics usually covered in a biopsychology text , but also adding
Comprehensiveness rating: 4 read less
I found this textbook to be quite comprehensive, including the "traditional" topics usually covered in a biopsychology text , but also adding fascinating chapters on topics such as epigenetics and aging. The coverage of the material seemed ideally appropriate for a 3000 or 4000 level course for psychology and biology majors, including higher level concepts that required understanding from other areas of science, not just biology and chemistry. Although the throughness of the content did vary by chapter/topic, overall I was impressed with the material that was presented and would certainly have no problem augmenting any area in which I considered the text to be deficient. I did notice one glaring absence - a chapter covering the neuron and how it fires, as well as the function of glial cells - also something I could easily provdie myself, but unusual to be missing from a biopsychology text. While many higher-order concepts were covered, it is highly unusual to find any physiological psychology text that does not discuss the neuron because it is the basic unit of the nervous system and understadning its physiology is essential to such areas as sensroy function and psychopharmacology.
The index at the end of the book was quite thorough. However the glossaries were placed at the end of each chapter, and, as with the content of the chapters, varied in thoroughness - also a very easily corrected problem for any adaptations of the text.
Accuracy rating: 5
Given the rate at which information changes in the field of neuroscience, I was impressed with its accuracy and inclusiveness. In this field accuracy often is not the issue, but new structures/concepts are being found every day, so they are more frequently the material that is easy to leave out. I found this book to contain coverage of topics that are currently on the front line of investigation, such as entrainment and the psychophysiology of emotion, with a high degree of accuracy.
Relevance/Longevity rating: 3
As I previously mentioned, the very basic concepts of cell firing and maintaining the resting potential of the neuron were completely absent from discussion anywhere int his text. Therefore by the time the student hits the chapter on psychopharmacology, he/she will be unprepared to understand the basic mechanisms of how different drugs work. I found the chapter on psychopharmacology to be particularly short, offering only the most simplistic introduction to the topic, whereas it is central to the field of psychology, particularly clinical psychology. Almost all clients are on psychoactive medications and the therapist should have a slightly better than average understanding of how these drugs work. This text will provide only an introductory psychology level perspective on that area.
Clarity rating: 5
The writing was very engaging, something to be treasured in the STEM fields, where emphasis is usually more on the information being presented than on the style in which it is being presented. Since each chapter had a different author(s), this varied, but only slightly across chapters.
Consistency rating: 3
The consistency across chapters is poor. Some writers are clearly masters of their fields and provide extremely well-written and detailed accounts of their field, while others write short, concise introductions to their area, but leave the reader with little "meat to chew on." The internal consistency within the chapters was high and I did not always feel as if I were being introduced to another voice as I moved from chapter to chapter.
Modularity rating: 5
The book's modularity is what contributes to the ease of which one could address its omissions. Modules were complete and did not rely on other modules in order to fit well into the scheme of things. I would find this book easy to adapt to my own purposes, supplementing when I thought necessary and omitting topics that I did not consider particularly relevant to the course, without taking away from the "book" quality of the text.
Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5
The overall flow of the book was good. Chapters were organized in such a way that the topics seemed to flow logically from one to the next. There was some duplication in coverage, but this makes omitting certain chapters easier if the instructor wants to include other material without losing all of the material from any particular chapter.
Interface rating: 5
I accessed the book as a pdf requiring Adobe Acrobat and printed selected topics for closer inspection. Both methods permitted me to find exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. It ws very easy to move throughout the book by just sliding my mouse. Between the table of contents and the index, I had no trouble locating particular terms or concepts.
Grammatical Errors rating: 5
The grammar was excellent - and I am a grammar gestapo, according to my students. These folks do not only write well, but they write in grammatically correct English - a rare finding in my opinion.
Cultural Relevance rating: 4
Given the biological nature of the book, I did not find it to be biased toward any particular culture. There were some discussions of social functioning and interpersonal relationships that were geared more toward Western European values than toward Easter/Mideastern values, but not offensively so.
I very much enjoyed reading this text and will probably adopt it for my physiological psychology text the next time I teach the course.