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PSY 139

PSY 139: PSYCHOPATHOLOGY (Abnormal Psychology)
William C. Sanderson, PhD
Professor of Psychology
221 Hauser Hall
Hofstra University
Telephone: 516-463-5633
Office Hours**: W: 2:00-3:00, F: 10:00-11:00 
     (**note. It is best to email me to schedule a time to meet rather than just showing up)
Class meets MWF 9:05-10:00
Required Text:

Ronald J. Comer; Jonathan S. Comer

©2018Tenth Edition  TextISBN-13: 9781319066949

(available in bookstore)

It is safe to say that no other subfield of psychology is associated with psychology in general as much as psychopathology (abnormal psychology).  Psychopathology is the focus of one of the largest branches of psychology: Clinical Psychology. For the most part, clinical psychologists are engaged in diagnosing and treating individuals suffering from psychopathology. Clinical researchers are involved in understanding the nature of the disorders and how to best treat them.   Psychopathology has become increasingly relevant as research has demonstrated that millions of individuals suffer from psychological disorders.  For example, it is estimated that about 1 out 4 individuals suffers from an anxiety disorder or depression at some point in their life.
The objective of this course is for students to gain awareness and understanding of the theories, principles, and practices that encompass the field of psychopathology.  Through readings, lectures, discussions and videos, students will learn about the scientific study of psychopathology  (abnormal behavior).  The professor will offer an integrative approach to understanding psychopathology – integrating the influences of biology as well as social-environmental factors.  Students are encouraged to think critically about the theories and concepts employed in the field, as well as the research methods utilized to investigate abnormal behavior.

Please Note: The following schedule is a broad outline and subject (and likely!) to change depending on the length of class discussions, the time to cover certain material, and other unforeseen events that can often altar plans. The professor has the right to change the curriculum to best maximize learning.
All readings should be completed prior to the expected class lecture. 
Exact exam dates (four exams) will be announced – approximate placement of exams is noted below (exam every 4 weeks).
WEEK TOPIC (Required reading)                                                                         
1 -2          Historical Context of Psychopathology (Ch 1)
               Integrative Approach to Psychopathology (Ch 3)                                     
3            Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis  (Ch 4)
              Research Methods used in Psychopathology (Ch 2)
4            Legal/Ethical Issues (Ch 19)
**Exam 1
5-6         Anxiety Disorders (Ch 5)
        (week 6 - read Ch 17 - child disorders - not covered in lecture)
PTSD (Ch 6 - only PTSD section - not dissociative disorders)

8-9         Mood Disorders, Suicide  (Ch 7,8,9)
**Exam 2
10           Eating Disorders   (Ch 11)
11           Substance Use and Addictive Disorders  (Ch 12)
12-13       Schizophrenia, Psychotic Disorders, Severe Mental Illnesses  (Ch 14, 15)
14            Personality Disorders (Ch 16)
**Exam 3
**Exam 4 – Finals week

1 - F 10/12
2 - W 11/7 -- changed to 11/9 Friday
3 - M 12/10
4 - W 12/19 9am (finals week)

Exams: Your grade will be based upon THREE exams.  Each exam will be worth 1/3 of your final grade (33 points each).  Exams will consist of multiple-choice questions (short answer may be included as well – you will be notified in advance about the exact format-- see the bottom of this syllabus for sample questions).  Any material covered in class lectures, assigned readings, videos played in class, etc. are “fair game” on the exams. There are NO make-up exams (see below).
The fourth exam is optional (if you have taken the first three exams).  If you are satisfied with your performance on the first three exams your grade will be based upon those.   However, if you miss and exam, or would like to replace your lowest score, you can take the final exam.  The final exam will also be worth 33 points – however, it will be cumulative and include questions from topics covered during the entire semester (strong emphasis on material covered in class).  
**Note. If you miss an exam you MUST take the final (4th) exam. 
Grading scale:
Final grades will be assigned according to the following numerical equivalents:
90-100 = A
87-89   = B+
83-86   = B
80-82   = B-
77-79   =  C+
73-76   = C
70-72   = C-
67-69   = D+
65-66   = D
Below 65 = F
For a description of what letter grades indicate see:

Please note that when you take an exam you must put your name and answers on BOTH the scantron sheet and the exam booklet itself. You also must sign the Hofstra Honor Code at the top of the exam. In the event of a dispute (e.g., a claim that the scantron was not scored correctly), for me to reverse the scoring on that item the correct answer must be on your exam booklet.

 **IMPORTANT:  CLASS ATTENDANCE**  I do not regularly take attendance.  However, this is NOT because class attendance is not important -- quite the contrary.  Regular class attendance is expected.  Exams will emphasize material covered in class (90% of questions on exams will come from material covered in class).    Getting notes from someone else will not always convey what was covered in class as we will view videos, graphs,  figures, etc.   Therefore, regular class attendance is absolutely necessary. Powerpoint presentations will not be distributed. Thus, if you do not believe you will attend class regularly it is suggested that you not take this class.


Do not multitask (e.g., check Facebook, text messages) in class -- see the following for an excellent review:

How to take good class notes:

Use handwritten notes rather than typing into a computer:

Academic Integrity:
Honesty is an essential aspect of academic integrity. Individual students are responsible for doing their own work and for not taking credit for the effort and ideas of others. This includes plagiarism, cheating, and not contributing to group projects. This obligation is based on mutual trust. Cheating of any type on exams, papers, or other graded work will not be tolerated.  Please familiarize your self with the Hofstra University policies on academic honesty. See below for details.
If you believe you need accommodations for a disability, please contact Student Access Services (SAS). In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, qualified individuals with disabilities will not be discriminated against in any programs, or services available at Hofstra University.  Individuals with disabilities are entitled to accommodations designed to facilitate full access to all programs and services. SAS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will provide students with documented disabilities accommodation letters, as appropriate.  Please note that accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive; please contact SAS as soon as possible. All students are responsible for providing accommodation letters to each instructor and for discussing with him or her the specific accommodations needed and how they can be best implemented in each course. For more information on services provided by the university and for submission of documentation, please contact Student Access Services, 107 Student Center, 516-463-7075 

Since many behaviors associated with the disorders we will address may seems familiar (e.g., checking the door to see if you locked it several times or being totally preoccupied by various issues at certain times in your life), you are forewarned and urged not to self-diagnose, or diagnose your loved ones.  It is “normal” to identify with many of the symptoms of the various disorders.  However, that alone does not mean that you fit the diagnostic criteria for a disorder, or that you are “abnormal.” For more information see the College Guide to Mental Health:
To contact Hofstra University Student Counseling Services:
Individual Honors Option Proposal
 Honors College students may choose this option.  Students will be required to write 3 brief papers (5 pages each - double spaced, 12 pt font, 1 inch margins) summarizing both sides of a controversy in the field.  Three pages will be devoted to summarizing both sides of the argument, the final two pages will be used to formulate the writer's own conclusion.  References must be cited (minimum of 4 references required).  Students will choose ONE topic from each category below.  Please confirm topic with me prior to working on it.  Please use latest version of APA Publication Manual (Style Guide) for format of references/citations.

EMAIL completed paper in PDF format to:
PART I: Psycholological Conditions and Treatment   -- due within one week of exam 1
Should individuals with Aneroxia have the right to refuse life sustaining treatment?
Is multiple personality disorder a valid diagnosis?
Does Attention Deficit Disorder really exist?
Should Abstinence be the goal of treating people with alcohol problems?
PART II. The Trend Toward Biological Interventions  -- due within one week of exam 2
Are Prozac and similar antidepressant medications safe and effective for long-term use?
Is Ritalin and other psychostimulants over prescribed to children, especially boys?
Should psychologists be able to prescribe medication?
Is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT - i.e., shock treatment) which is an effective treatment for depression ethical?
Part III. Social Issues  -- due within one week of exam 3
Is sexual orientation conversion therapy (therapy aimed at converting a homosexual to a heterosexual) ethical?
Does exposure to media violence promote aggressive behavior?
Is pornography harmful?
Does evolutionary theory explain why men rape?
Should mental health professionals serve as gatekeepers for physician-assisted suicide?


For specific policy wording relating to the following important matters: Academic Dishonesty; Student Access Services; Deadlines and Grading Policies; Absences for Religious Observance; Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct; see

For information about an array of Academic Support Services that you should be aware of see:

**This course was formerly PSY 39.  Therefore, if you have already earned credit for PSY 39 you can not earn credit for this course (PSY 139).


Learning Goals for Courses in the B.A. Program in Psychology
1. Learning Goal: Students in introductory psychology and biopsychology courses will gain an appreciation for how the brain governs the behavior of organisms.
Specific Objectives:
Students will learn about each primary brain structure and its function(s) in behavior.
Students will learn about different methods available for studying brain structure and function.
Students will gain an appreciation of the complexities of brain function and will discover how cognitive processes often require the coordinated activity of many brain areas.
Students will gain an understanding of the bidirectional interaction between brain function and behavior, i.e., how behaviors can influence brain function and vice versa.
2. Learning Goal: Students in biopsychology courses will learn about current issues and important research questions driving biological psychology.
Specific Objectives:
Students will learn about the scientific method and its value for psychological research;
Students will learn about the ethical use of animals and humans in research;
Students will learn about the value of conducting animal-based research;
Students will learn why research studies often show conflicting results and will learn to think critically about the methods used to obtain certain results;
Students will learn how research results are presented in the media and will learn how to approach these messages by critically evaluating the studies that are presented.
3. Learning Goal: Through extensive exposure to and experience with scientific methodology, psychology students in these courses will develop the critical thinking skills necessary to interpret fundamental research findings in the area of cognition and learning.  In addition, these skills will be useful in students' other areas of study and will contribute to the ability to make rational, informed decisions in everyday life.
Specific Objectives:
Students will demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate experimental research designs with respect to their appropriateness for evaluating a particular theory;
Given an experimental design, students will demonstrate an ability to identify the contrasting predictions derived from alternative theoretical accounts;
Students will demonstrate a clear understanding of the relationship between variables used in research, with a specific emphasis on understanding the relationship between the independent and dependent variable;
Students will be able to clearly and concisely present research to others.  The format for presentation will include either a written paper or a verbal presentation.
4. Learning Goal:  Students in introductory psychology and social courses will gain an understanding of current theories and concepts employed in studying social behavior.
Specific Objectives:
Students will: Understand and develop the ability to critically analyze how the power of the situation and cognitive processes act in concert to determine behavior; acquire knowledge about a number of specific domains of social psychology, including impression formation, the self-concept, aggression, helping, prejudice, group processes, attitudes, relationships, and social influence;
Learn to apply the acquired knowledge to improve their lives and the lives of others.
Instructors Learning Goals and Objectives:
1)  Students will gain an appreciation  for the multi-faceted nature of emotional disorders.
                        a. students will learn about biological theories of emotional disorders
                        b. students will learn about psychological theories of emotional disorders
                        c. studens will learn about the influence of the environment on the
                                                etiology of emotional disorders
                        d. students will learn an integrated view of the etiology of emotional disorders.
2)   Students will gain an understanding of the empirical basis of psychopathology.
                        a. students will learn about  research methods used to study abnormal behavior
                        b. students will be exposed to the existing scientific literature relevant to the
                                                wide-range of emotional disorders reviewed in this course.
3)  Students will learn the nature and diagnostic criteria for spectrum of psychopathology.
                        a. students will learn about the phenomenology for the emotional disorders
                                                specified in the DSM-IV.
                        b. students will learn the specific diagnostic criteria spelled out in the DSM-IV
                                              for each disorder.
4)  Students will learn about the evidence-based treatments for emotional disorders.
                        a. students will learn about psychological treatments for emotional disorders
                        b. students will learn about biological treatments for emotional disorders


William Sanderson,
Oct 18, 2017, 7:19 AM
William Sanderson,
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William Sanderson,
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William Sanderson,
Nov 27, 2013, 5:59 AM
William Sanderson,
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William Sanderson,
Oct 24, 2016, 8:10 AM
William Sanderson,
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William Sanderson,
Dec 9, 2016, 7:07 AM
William Sanderson,
Sep 7, 2016, 7:28 AM
William Sanderson,
Nov 27, 2017, 7:23 AM