Promoting Information Competency in Biological Psychology

Laura A Freberg, Gayle Brosnan-Watters


Information competency refers to skills that allow a student to identify appropriate sources of information, evaluate information critically, and use it ethically. Although the sudden increase of information available in electronic form has stimulated interest in information competency, the basic principles apply to all sources of information, including print. Information competency is especially critical in biological psychology. New discoveries in the neurosciences are featured every day by the mainstream media. As a society, we are being asked to make informed decisions about increasingly complex concepts, as in the case of the recent California proposition regarding stem cell research. Ideally, our students will become community leaders who will help shape these and other policy decisions, but the assumption of this role requires skills that extend long after the completion of a particular course or degree. Because of the perceived complexity of biological psychology, students new to the discipline may be reluctant to venture out into the experimental literature. A variety of activities are presented here that will build student confidence and shape information competency. Although these exercises can be used in a variety of disciplines, they are particularly well suited to biological psychology. The various exercises lend themselves to different levels of student expertise. Many of the exercises are quite appropriate for all levels and abilities, including graduate level students. As a bonus, these activities involve students in writing about biological psychology, providing a foundation for the writing of formal term papers or research reports.

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