The Memorability of Introductory Psychology Revisited

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Almost 2 million students enroll in introductory psychology each year in the United States, making it the second most popular undergraduate course in the nation. Introductory psychology not only serves as a prerequisite for other courses in the discipline but for some students this course provides their only exposure to psychological science. Presently, when introductory psychology students are asked about what they believe they will learn in the course, students indicate becoming more insightful about their own behavior and expect to have improved critical thinking skills. However, what do students actually remember from introductory psychology? Two years after completing the course, a sample of students voluntarily retook their cumulative final exam, and we compared these scores to senior-level psychology majors enrolled in a Capstone course. We discuss the outcomes in relation to the knowledge retention expected for subsequent coursework as well as realistic expectations of faculty members about what their students know.