Studying The Science Of The Mind


Once a person wakes up in the morning there is no getting away from the science that deals with mental processes, emotional processes and human behavior.

The science is psychology, and students taking the introductory course at Gila Community College are beginning to understand how these processes and behaviors affect communication.


Stephanie Vandruff, Amantha Neilsen, Dr. Douglas Herbster, Barbara Stewart, Kelsea Palace, Carrie Lusk and Miles Geller discuss brain pathways and whether or not they need to make visual aids in order to teach their home groups.

"Everything we do in life is psychological," said Dr. Douglas Herbster. "From meeting people to decision making to relationships."

"Transactional analysis (of communication) has three parts, the parent, the child and the adult. The child basically has to do with creativity, the parent had to do with rules and regulations and the adult mode is the reasoning process," Herbster said.

For instance, at first, student Scott Alexander said he had not applied his knowledge of communication styles to his life. But the more he talked with Herbster and his classmates, the more he realized how psychology applied to his past experiences and his current goals.

As a staff sergeant in the Army, Alexander recently served 16 months in Iraq.

"My superior officers taught me that ‘you will do it because I say you will do it,'" he said. "Military training teaches you not to ask why -- parent mode."

Adult mode requires reasoning, Alexander said. It is a skill he is learning to reapply to his life as he adjusts to life as a civilian.

"This time, I am going to college because I want to, not because it's where I'm supposed to be," he said.

Now, he thinks he is more accepting of people, as opposed to not caring why they are the way they are.

Psychology 101 is one of the first required classes for his criminal justice major.

"I want students to discover for themselves how to live happy, successful, complete lives," said Herbster. "This class helps them do that because they discover themselves. They learn about communication, self esteem and also working with their inner thoughts."

Herbster usually does not lecture directly from the textbook for the course. He said he has taught it at least 60 times in his career.

Herbster's current Psychology 101 students range in age from age 20-something to 60-something. There are more females than males. There are full-time students getting their prerequisites, working students, a senior in pursuit of her degree.

He meets the challenge of keeping the interest and attention of people with diverse goals and backgrounds by a method he calls "cooperative learning."

His students break into "expert groups," where they each learn specific chapters of the textbook, then the students teach that information to their larger "home groups."

One expert group of six had two students working on their associate degrees; two students with goals of going into the psychiatric profession; one who is between occupations, and did not want to stay home and do nothing; and one who is pursuing a nursing career.

Learning in smaller groups is more comfortable, according to Herbster. When students disseminate information back to their fellow students, it makes the whole learning structure for everyone more personally interactive than a dry lecture.

"Every moment of our life is psychological; you don't think about it, it just is," said Herbster.

Students will get the opportunity to analyze a moment or series of moments from their own lives. In order to complete the class, each one must write a research paper on a psychological topic that he or she deals with personally.

It is Herbster's belief that one benefit of student self-examination in the research paper process will be consistency added to their lives.

Analysis of these processes of mind and emotion is what psychology is all about.

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