This is a new, somewhat “radical” introductory textbook for General Psychology and Neuroscience, based on a small set of core principles that cut across the full spectrum from neuroscience to social psychology. In short, this is an ambitious attempt to present a unified, principled perspective on the field, akin to what is standard in other fields.
The advantage to the student is that it is consistent, coherent, and concise (200 pages), in contrast to standard textbooks which run over 800 pages and are filled with topical stories and historical accounts, that, while fascinating, ultimately distract from the understanding of the core concepts in the field.
Please use the following links to download the formatted version of the book:
PDF — best for printing
ePub — opens in e.g., Mac iBooks
Kindle / MOBI — you can email this to yourself at your amazon kindle account to get it on your device: https://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle/email
Amazon.com — you can pay $2.99 (lowest price possible) to have Amazon upload the book to your kindle, or roughly $39 for them to send you an on-demand paperback print version (in color)
HTML — single big HTML file, readable in your browser.
Recorded lectures for this course are available on this YouTube Playlist. Here a Course Syllabus.
The Three-C Principles
The core principles are the Three C’s
Compression: The brain actively compresses the large amount of information flowing in through the senses, to extract the most relevant, salient information. This principle is essential for understanding the basic function of the neuron, the core principles of sensation and perception, attention, and stereotyping, among others.
Contrast: The brain encodes all information in a relative way, by constantly contrasting information over space and time. Again, this function is anchored in the basic function of the neuron, and explains many phenomena in sensation and perception (color contrast effects, etc), and the core mechanisms in reinforcement learning where the rewards we experience are always contrasted with our expectations, and in the fact that we don’t care what our absolute salary is — we only care about how much we make relative to our peer group.
Control: Above all, the brain seeks control. Loss of perceived control is an essential element in most mental disorders, and many aspects of social psychology are driven by the dynamics of control. The trajectory of development can be understood in terms of a progression in ability to control the environment and oneself. Large portions of the brain are devoted to control, and understanding how basic motor control works can help understand higher levels of self-control. A key element of control is the ability to predict what will happen next — prediction and control are two sides of the same coin.
With just these three principles, we can understand a huge swath of psychology and neuroscience, and do so in a much more connected, coherent manner than the jumble of facts and stories typically presented in standard textbooks.
Randall C. O’Reilly is Professor of Psychology and Computer Science in the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis. Internationally recognized as a founder of the field of Computational Cognitive Neuroscience, Dr. O’Reilly develops large-scale systems-neuroscience computational models of learning, memory, and motivated cognitive control, to learn how neurons give rise to human cognitive function and to inform our understanding of brain-based disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.
The source for this book is at: https://github.com/PsychNeuro/ed1