la joie de vivre

From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!

Where’s my handbook?

I’ve heard multiple times before coming here to France to study abroad that it has a more philosophical bent (meaning: name, explain, and think through ideas) and America has a more experimental bent (form & then answer questions through experiments, trials, and errors).

Because I wasn’t taking any science based classes last semester, I didn’t really have to face this cultural difference.

But it clicked with me yesterday.

I went to the library at Bron (which sometimes takes a full hour to get to) after my class there because they house the psychology, communications, education, and linguistics books within the Lyon university system.

I went in looking for a handbook of psychology – a general one or one on a specific topic. In the States, books in the university library, are usually textbooks, handbooks (which is like a condensed version of a textbook that outlines major theories and experiments in the field), criticism/reviews, and books summarizing and interweaving scholarly knowledge. And then you have the general reference section, which has encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the like.

But I couldn’t find a handbook! They have textbooks and “manuals” – how to conduct psychological experiments, how to succeed in being a psych student, how to use statistical analyses – but weirdly enough (for me), they don’t reference a lot of studies. In fact, in a lot of the manuals I skimmed through, there were no experiments listed, just explanations of ideas. And to top it off, they have rows and rows of psychological dictionaries, listing terms and defining them without the context of a set of experiments. I’ve never seen these before in the States, so it was quite a shock to flip through them.

For me, this is absolutely unbelievable that they’re organized like this. Without the application of theories in life (or, well, the lab), many psychological concepts lose their weight and interesting aspects. But now that I think about it, the whole learning by doing seems to have been lacking throughout my time here, and when it has been applied, I’m not usually intellectually satisfied (or helped) by the example. This goes for many classes; I’m left wondering…uh, can we have more of those examples? (And make them consistently structured?) My Psycholinguistics class is definitely taught on an “American” bent: our professor spent time at UCSB and she organizes the class around the question-experiment-answer model typical of the other psychology classes I have had in the States.

The whole reason I was looking for a handbook was to look for interesting experiments, illusions, and effects – but in French.

So I did the most logical thing I could think of: I checked out a translated version of an American textbook!

Light bulb image credit:


P.S.: I changed the theme of my blog just to change things up a bit! :)


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This entry was posted on March 21, 2012 by in Books in French, Student Life abroad.
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