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.”