Psi man mascot

Gray Matter in this Book

An innovative feature in this book is the existence of two levels of material, one with a white background, the other with a gray background. (Apologies if you are accustomed to the British spelling: "grey.")

The labels white matter and gray matter are shameless puns based on the two types of brain tissue called white matter and gray matter. Initially I thought the gray matter would be only for the brainier students, but it turned out to be helpful for average students as well.

Why have the gray matter? Originally, in the year 2000 edition of the book, the gray matter was intended to be more difficult, extra credit material.

That did not work out. The students who needed extra credit tended to be doing worst in the course. This was a different group from the students who enjoyed additional, supplementary material.

The next term, I did not use the gray matter for extra credit. I just left it optional. There were no study questions for it, and only about 12% of the students said they always read it.

During a summer course on Personality Theories, I tried another approach. This time I used gray matter for com­mentaries and extra information. It was not optional; it was just extra.

The next time I revised the intro text, I implemented that plan. Gray matter did not have to be difficult. It added opinions or observations or stories or elaborations. If there was an essential point, I wrote a study question.

That worked. Students said they enjoyed getting stories and asides in a textbook just like they normally did in lectures.

Write to Dr. Dewey at

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.