Spring 2018 Course List • Fall 2018 Course List
Download the course requirements for majoring in Psychology here. Download a course planner form here.
PSY121: History and Systems in Psychology
Over the course of the semester we study theoretical insights and conceptual attempts to understand human behavior. These are traced from the speculations within the Ancient World to current scientific thinking and methods guiding the study of psychology and other social science disciplines. Importantly, because a discipline is also about people who advance it, students are introduced to the lives and times and ideas of individuals who have made significant contributions to the field. Particular attention is given to such figures as James, Pavlov, Freud, Skinner and Asch, to mention just a few. Illumination will also come from a consideration of correspondence between and among pivotal individuals in the field. Critical analyses and integrations are juxtaposed with historical renderings. Upper college students likely will benefit from this course because they already possess the foundational knowledge necessary to draw comparisons and critically evaluate varying points of view. Lower college students likely will use the course to greet the intellectual domains they enter.
PSY122: Psychology of Women
An integrated study of women’s behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and social experiences. The course offers a broad overview of relevant topics, among them sex differences and similarities in personality and cognition, gender development, media portrayals, and violence against women. Several disciplinary domains of psychology (e.g., personality, abnormal/clinical, social, developmental) provide the theoretical and research lenses through which these topics are contextualized.
PSY123: Cultural Perspectives of Human Development
This course explores the nature of culture as an environmental context within which development occurs across the life span. It examines cross-cultural research from two perspectives: cross-national comparisons and subcultures within a larger, dominant culture. Particular focus is placed on the contrasting of Western and non-Western cultures. Empirical investigations of cultural variability in development are strongly emphasized.
PSY124: Child Development
This course, geared toward nonmajors, considers development from conception through early adolescence, with an emphasis on how the changes in children’s minds, bodies, emotions, and social interactions work together to produce behaviors both universal to our species and unique to each individual. In considering what environments promote optimum development, the class relates empirical findings to the field’s theoretical models of the genetic, biological, cognitive, and cultural influences on development.
PSY125: Psychology of Good and Evil
Hannah Arendt observed that “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” In this course, we will examine why ordinary people can behave in extraordinarily deplorable ways (often, as Arendt notes, without intending to do so), yet at the same time have the capacity for exceptional acts of altruism and even heroism. We will take a social psychological approach to understanding the situational and personal causes of acts of social destruction and humanitarianism. Topics to be covered include aggression, prejudice, and genocide, as well as altruism, volunteerism, and morality. Sources will include empirical articles as well as review articles, videos, and case studies.
PSY126: Child Survival and Human Rights
In Africa, Asia and Latin America some eight million children under five die annually, the vast majority from causes that cost little to prevent or cure. In Western countries, child deaths are very rare except in cases of severe congenital abnormality, premature birth, or accident. But this was not always the case. One hundred years ago, death rates among children in New York were higher than they are in even the poorest countries today, and many who survived were physically and mentally stunted by the effects of poverty. What can our own past experience tell us about how to address the child mortality crisis in developing countries today? This issue is timely because 2015 is the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, set by the UN in 2000. The fourth of these Goals calls for a 60% decline in child mortality in 60 developing countries compared to 1990 levels, and some $20 billion dollars is now being spent annually by government aid agencies and foundations on programs aimed, in part, at meeting it. This course will describe efforts past and present by governments, health agencies and foundations to prevent child deaths and promote healthy child development in the West and in developing countries, and explore why some efforts have been more successful than others. Topics covered will include infectious diseases including malaria, polio and AIDS; nutrition; and the discovery of the cognitive and emotional needs of small children. The importance of prevailing social attitudes towards children and women, as well as the political and economic imperatives that drive government action, will be emphasized.
PSY127: Neuroscience of Everyday Life
This course will examine the role of neuroscience in everyday life activities. We will examine how the nervous system functions in activities such as sleeping, waking, attention, sensory processes, eating, drinking, and cognitive processes. Basic neuronal function and synaptic regulation will be discussed, as well as how neural systems are organized and regulated to give rise to everyday behaviors. The laboratory will use scientific approaches to answer questions about the relationship between brain and behavior. Prerequisite: passing score on part 1 of the Mathematics Diagnostic.
PSY128: The Science of Behavior
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. How does the mind create the reality we perceive? How do experiences shape the brain, and how do processes in the brain influence thought, emotion, and behavior? This course investigates these and similar questions by studying the science of the human mind and behavior. The course covers topics such as memory, perception, development, psychopathology, personality, and social behavior. We will focus on the biological, cognitive, and social/cultural roots that give rise to human experience, and consider how behavior differs among people, and across situations. Writing, speaking, group, and hands-on laboratory experiences will augment readings from the text, popular culture, and research journals.
PSY131: Foundations of Mind, Brain and Behavior
If an android can be programmed to behave just like me, does the android have a mind just like mine? If my dog has a big brain (and she does), how is her way of being conscious different from my conscious awareness? Will my clone, with a brain just like mine, behave just like me? (Will my clone’s brain really be just like mine?) If “the mind” simply “what the brain does”, can my mind be active while my brain is asleep or comatose? What about unconscious processes? This course provides a variety of empirical approaches to the study of mind, brain, and behavior, and together we will test answers to questions like these–questions that can only be addressed using the multidisciplinary methods of Cognitive Science. Rather than attempting a broad survey of an impossibly large field, we will delve deeply into a few topics. Special attention will be given to perception, human learning, robotics, language, neural networks, how gene expression influences behavior, the representation of knowledge, and philosophy of mind. Course work and readings emphasize analytic approaches, including practice in formulating questions that lead to testable hypotheses. Laboratories will provide hands-on experience, emphasizing data collection and data analysis. Pre-requisites: pre-calculus or its equivalent.
PSY141: Introduction to Psychological Science
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. How does the mind create the reality we perceive? How do experiences shape the brain, and how do processes in the brain influence thought, emotion and behavior? This course investigates these and similar questions by studying the science of the human mind and behavior. The course covers topics such as memory, perception, development, psychopathology, personality, and social behavior. A focus is on the biological, cognitive, and social/cultural roots that give rise to human experience. Additionally, the course will consider how behavior differs among people, and across situations.
PSY203: Statistics for Psychology
This course provides an introduction to the concepts and methods of statistics and is aimed at helping the student to gain a fundamental understanding of the tools needed to understand and conduct research in psychology. Topics to be covered include frequency distributions and probability, descriptive statistics, simple correlation and regression, sampling distributions, t-tests and basic and factorial analysis of variance. Non-parametric tests such as Chi-square will also be introduced. The course will focus on the interpretation and communication of statistics, and we will work with the SPSS software package to analyze data. This course is the first of a two-course sequence in statistics and research methods that is required of all prospective psychology majors. The course is ordinarily taken in the first semester of the sophomore year. Prerequisite: Introduction to Psychological Science or its equivalent.
PSY204: Research Methods in Psychology
This course provides an introduction to the research methods and data analyses used in the study of psychology. Students will gain an understanding of research methods and design through a combination of readings, lectures, class discussions, and hands-on laboratory experience. Students will work both individually and in groups to design and conduct observational studies, surveys, and experiments. There will be a strong emphasis on learning to present research results in different ways. Ethical issues will be discussed at each stage of the research process, and students will develop their ability to assess research critically. This course has a choice of labs; students must register separately for a lab. Prerequisite: PSY 203 or equivalent.
PSY210: Adult Abnormal Psychology
This course is designed to examine various forms of adult psychopathology (i.e., psychological disorders) within the contexts of theoretical conceptualizations, research, and treatment. Etiology and pathogenesis of symptoms (both core and associated), diagnostic classifications, and treatment applications will be addressed. Adult forms of psychopathology that will receive the primary emphasis of study include the anxiety, mood, psychotic, and substance-related disorders. Prerequisites Introduction to Psychological Science or permission of instructor.
PSY211: Child Abnormal Psychology
This course investigates the early and multiple factors contributing to psychopathology emerging in childhood, as well as the diagnostic and treatment standards now in practice. We will emphasize an empirically-based developmental psychopathology perspective, with an emphasis on the risk and protective factors that shape abnormal and normal developmental trajectories. We will explore various models for understanding maladaptive development (e.g, the role of genes, psychosocial influences) through the examination of current research and diagnostic practices in specific diagnostic areas (e.g., autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Throughout this course, students will be encouraged to relate empirical findings to the field’s theoretical models in considering the genetic, biological, cognitive, and cultural influences on child development.
PSY212: Personality Psychology
This course focuses on personality as a theoretical and empirical field. We will consider theoretical perspectives and their implications for personality development, psychological adjustment, and everyday behavior. Specific themes include psychodynamic, humanistic, trait, social-cognitive and biological perspectives. We will examine topics such as motivation and cognition, how we relate to others, the stress-depression link, and identity as we consider the biological, cultural and social context of personality. Particular focus will be given to the applications of personality theory to behavior in clinical (focusing on personality disorders) and healthy populations. Research methods and assessment strategies for understanding personality will be explored and critically evaluated. Prerequisite: Introduction to Psychological Science or permission of instructor.
PSY220: Social Psychology
Cross-listed: Gender and Sexuality Studies; Sociology. Social Psychology is the scientific study of human thought, behavior, and feelings in their social contexts. This class will survey many of the processes that influence and are influenced by our interactions with others, such as attitude formation and change, conformity and persuasion. We will also use principles of social psychology to understand the ordinary origins of benevolent (e.g., altruism, helping behavior) and malevolent (e.g., aggression, prejudice) aspects of human behavior. Throughout the course, we will emphasize the influence of culture, race, and gender on the topics addressed. Students should have completed Introduction to Psychological Science or its equivalent.
PSY221: Developmental Psychology
To develop is to change. What accounts for the individual differences between us, but also the similarities that define people of a certain age? How do developmental scientists frame these questions empirically, and interpret the answers they get? In this class, we will study the balance of growth and decline across the lifespan from birth to death, and think carefully about the unique characteristics of people at each life stage. We will explore the many causes of change from infancy through old age, including: cognition, physical maturation, social interaction, language, and cultural influence. Textbook, research articles, and popular writings will be used to facilitate discussion and writing. Prerequisite: PSY 141.
PSY222: Child Development
This is a specialized course that prepares students to understand the biological, motor, perceptual, cognitive (including intelligence), language, emotional, social, and gender development of children. The process of human development from conception through early adolescence is studied. Emphasis is placed on what enables children to reach physical, mental, emotional and social maturity, and helps us to address the question “What environments promote optimum development for children?” Child development history, theory, and research strategies will be discussed, as well as the effect of family, peers, media, and schooling. This class would be good for those interested in children, education, or the cognitive and social development of humans. This class is not appropriate for students who have already taken Psych 216 (Developmental Psychology).
PSY230: Cognitive Psychology
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. Cognitive psychology is the study of mind: how we perceive the world, remember, represent knowledge, acquire new information, become aware of our emotions, make plans, reason, and use language. In this course we examine the empirical foundations that determine our understanding of mind, including classic research designs, recent advances in computational modeling, philosophical perspectives, and changes in cognition throughout the lifespan. The course also considers the neural underpinning of these topics. Prerequisite: Introduction to Psychological Science or permission of instructor.
The ability to express thoughts and emotions and to interact with the environment largely depends on the function of the nervous system. This course examines basic concepts and methods in the study of brain, mind, and behavior. Topics include the structure and function of the central nervous system, brain development, learning and memory, emotion, sensory and motor systems, the assessment of human brain damage, and clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.
PSY237: Drugs and Human Behavior
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior; Science, Technology & Society. This course will explore the biological bases for the behavioral effects of several psychoactive substances including therapeutic compounds, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, and drugs of abuse. The course will focus on mechanisms of drug action and physiological and behavioral effects. Broader societal issues such as drug addiction, drug policies and drug testing, and controversial therapeutic interventions will be discussed in relation to selected compounds. Prerequisite: An introductory Psychology or Biology course, or consent of the instructor.
PSY241: Social Neuroscience
Social Neuroscience aims to elucidate the links among mind, brain and social behavior. We will focus on theories and methods from neuroscience used to address classic social psychological questions. You will gain a working knowledge of current findings while investigating the brain systems underlying social behavior. We will cover basic neuroanatomy and explore research on the neural underpinnings of social judgments, culture and cognition, emotion recognition, embodied cognition, empathy, attachment, theory of mind, sexual attraction, endocrine responses, love, and neuroeconomics, among other related topics. Through this process you will learn about a variety of neuroscience methods involving social psychology paradigms, lesion studies, patient research, and neuroimaging. Prerequisite: Introduction to Psychological Science or an Introductory Biology course or permission of Instructor.
PSY243: Human Memory
Memory is fundamental to all aspects of learning and behavior in all animal species. However, the study of human memory presents a special case because humans use language. Language provides a unique mechanism for encoding and retrieving memories, but language also biases memory. This course is an overview of classic theories and current research in human learning and memory. We will evaluate models of memory, including debates on the cognitive representations of knowledge. We will also examine the role of awareness in memory, false memory, the biological bases of memory, diseases and disorders of memory, and methods for brain imaging. Prerequisite: 100 level course in Psychology or Biology or permission of the instructor.
PSY244: Psychology of Emotion
Emotional experiences lie at the heart of what it means to be human. Emotions influence what we pay attention to, what we remember, and how we behave. In this course we will discuss current psychological understanding of emotional processing. We will discuss theories of emotion including evolutionary accounts, categorical theories, and dimensional approaches. We will learn about the neural and physiological processes underlying emotions as well as the psychological processes that affect emotional perception, expression, and regulation. We will also cover how breakdowns in emotional functioning can lead to psychopathology. Prerequisite: Introduction to Psychological Science or consent of the instructor.
PSY245: Evolutionary Psychology
All species are a product of evolution and Homo sapiensis no exception. Nevertheless, the Darwinian revolution that transformed biology a long time ago is only now taking place for the study of humans. Virtually every human-related subject (e.g., the social sciences, the health sciences, and the humanities) can be approached from an evolutionary perspective. Even better, evolutionary theory is dissolving the traditional disciplinary boundaries, for example by making knowledge of people in relation to their ancestral environments (anthropology, archaeology) essential for understanding the nature of the human mind (psychology) or modern health (medicine). Evolution is truly a passport for the study of all things animate and their productions, therefore all things human, in addition to other organisms. Evolutionary psychology is the scientific study of human nature, based on understanding the psychological adaptations that our ancestors evolved in prehistory to cope with the challenges of survival and reproduction. This course will investigate multiple facets of human behavior and cognition from an evolutionary perspective. While developing an appreciation of the ways in which evolutionary thinking can inform the study of human psychology and behavior, students in this course will also gain experience in understanding and evaluating primary research reports.
Language has been described as “the skill that makes us human” and “the foundation of conscious awareness.” In this course we investigate the properties of language from the perspective of human cognition. We examine how sentences are produced and understood, the relationship between concepts and the words we use to describe them, and how interpersonal contexts (shared knowledge, irony, humor) influence language comprehension. We also examine the neural basis of linguistic knowledge and the relationship between language and memory.
PSY251: The Man and Experiment that Shocked the World: The Work and Legacy of Stanley Milgram
Cross-listed: Human Rights; Social Studies. It has now been more than fifty years since the original work of Stanley Milgram demonstrated the remarkable and very widely unpredicted and unexpected finding that large numbers of individuals in multiple samples of American men and women studied were willing to “punish” another person when ordered to do so by an experimenter; this in the stated but false context of a psychology experiment on learning and memory. The prominence of the initial work and the continued salience of such study and accumulated findings in the domain of social psychology cannot be over-stated. And it very much has not reached the stage of dormancy as the publication of studies, literature reviews and conferences on the topic of obedience to authority continue to appear in unabated fashion. It is even the case that as recently as six years ago a replication of the original study, with slight modifications, and with concordant results was published (J. Burger, January 2009). Further revealing of prominence is that fact that a relatively new full-length movie version of the original study (a biopic) appeared this year. In addition, a diligent search of current psychology or cross-disciplinary archives uncovers further studies that provide evidence that obedience and indeed destructive obedience is very much prevalent in our society and in many others as well and in a myriad of contexts. The domain of the “Milgram study” is especially worthy of continuing interest. This because of the vastness of both criticism and praise of the original work but also because of historical and significant events in the intervening years between 1960s and stretching to our current time. The continuing study of obedience is vital for the betterment of institutions, even in a democratic society. Social scientists should and must find a way to safely and ethically investigate the conditions that promote destructive obedience and thereby begin to learn the rudiments of how such can be minimized. This is a college seminar. It is not limited to psychology or social studies or for that matter majors in any particular discipline. The two criteria for membership are a willingness to read with care and then with conviction share with others the results of such reading and study. Over the course of the semester a sizable portion of the work contained in the body of the obedience literature is reviewed. Admission by permission of the instructor.
Motivation concerns the processes that give behavior its energy and direction. The study of motivation endeavors to explain “why we want what we want” and “why we do what we do.” This course introduces students to theory, concepts and methods in the field of motivation. A variety of topics will be covered including the biological bases of motivation, behavioral approaches, including drive and learning theories, cognitive approaches with its emphasis on competence and attribution theories, and the influence of emotion on motivation. Students will encounter empirical research in classroom discussions, textbook readings, and primary research reports. Hands-on experience will be gained by designing a motivational intervention. Prerequisites: Introduction to Psychological Science or permission of instructor.
PSY260: Psychology of Gender
Psychology of Women involves an integrated study of women’s behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and social experiences, as well as a variety of issues faced by women both historically and currently. This course is designed to provide a broad overview of relevant topics including, but not limited to: sex differences and similarities in personality and cognition, gender development, sexuality, love relationships, media portrayals, physical and psychological health, and violence against women. Several disciplinary domains of psychology (e.g., personality, abnormal/clinical, social, developmental) will provide the theoretical and research lenses through which these topics are contextualized. Lectures, discussions, films, writings, and experiential exercises will be the primary vehicles for learning in this course; and critical examination and integration of material will be strongly encouraged. Prerequisite for this course is Permission of Instructor.
PSY 271: Judgement and Decision Making
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. What career will you choose? Is the person across the street likely to be a criminal? How do public policies affect decisions to save for retirement, seek preventive medical care, or conserve environmental resources? John F. Kennedy captured a truth about human decision-making when he noted that “the essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer – often, indeed to the decider himself.” In this course, we will heed Kennedy’s reminder that conscious reflection and verbal report often lead to inaccurate descriptions of the causes of our judgments and decisions. Our focus will be on trying to ascertain the underlying causes of these mental processes by relying on contemporary research in fields such as psychology, neuroscience, economics, political science that offer the systematic study of how people make decisions given limited time and vast uncertainty. Sources will include empirical articles as well as review papers, videos, and case studies. We will consider applications of this work to domains such as finance, politics, the environment, and medicine. This course is open to students with all backgrounds, although comfort with algebra will be assumed.
Upper College Seminars
PSY308: Seminar in Mind, Brain, and Behavior
Juniors and seniors concentrating in cognitive science are strongly urged to take this two-credit course. Each student will present research in progress or a significant paper from the current literature. The purpose of the seminar is to help students become familiar with a cross-section of current cognitive science research, including topics from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, computational modeling, philosophy of mind, linguistics, music cognition, and artificial intelligence. In addition to helping juniors select a senior project topic, the seminar is intended to enhance communication among seniors about their research projects. Prerequisite: permission of the instructors. (Can be taken no more than twice for credit.)
PSY314: Social & Emotional Development
This course will examine some of the main theories and topics in social and emotional development, such as the development of self-perception and empathy, emotional regulation and impulse control, and the ability of individuals to identify their own emotions as well as the emotional cues of others. These topics will ultimately be discussed in terms of how they influence the development of social relationships with caregivers and peers. The readings for this course will focus largely on primary research articles, and students will be expected to analyze and critique the methodology used in these studies. Students will submit reaction papers to weekly readings, as well as a final paper and presentation on a related topic of their choosing. Prerequisite: Moderation into Psychology.
PSY317: Bad is Stronger than Good
A photography/psychology student recently discovered, or at least conjectured, that photographically conveying a sad or negative scene was easier than doing so for a cheerful landscape. Why do we more easily recognize and register the bad, and why is it more salient in our lives than the good? The so-called negative bias that “bad is stronger than good” has been found across a wide array of psychological literature in both human and animal life. This Upper College seminar addresses some of these studies.
PSY319: Current Treatments of Psychological Disorders
The field of psychotherapy has changed significantly over the past 50 years, with new therapies focusing on helping people change their thinking or behaviors and in some instances placing a greater focus on the social and interpersonal context in which symptoms occur. Newer therapies, grounded in clinical psychological science, place a greater emphasis on the biopsychological bases of behavior, present functioning, achieving change within shorter time periods, and demonstrating treatment efficacy. In this course, we will focus on common treatments for common mental illnesses, including anxiety and mood disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders. Readings will consist of original research and both primary and secondary sources. Students will be expected to make oral presentations of material in class and to write a substantial research/review paper. Prerequisites: Moderated in psychology and a course in either Adult or Child Abnormal Psychology (PSY210 or PSY211), or permission of instructor.
PSY322: Executive Control of Thought and Action
Sit on a bus and you are immediately aware of a variety of stimuli: the sound of people talking, the sight of passing cars, the smell of the person next to you. Now imagine reading a newspaper on that bus. The conversation, cars, and passengers are now irrelevant sources of information. This demonstrates a fundamental function of executive control: the biasing of information processing in the service of internally generated goals. This course investigates the mechanisms that underlie executive control, particularly in situations where individuals must rapidly switch attention among multiple tasks.
PSY324: Psychophysiology: The Mind-Body Connection
Psychophysiology is the field of study correlating cognitive, emotional, and behavioral phenomena to physiological responses. A variety of response systems will be covered in this course, including heart rate, skin conductance, muscle activity (electromyography), changes in pupil diameter, and eye gaze. Special attention will be devoted to measures of brain activity, including electroencephalography, event-related potentials, functional magnetic resonance imaging, optical imaging, and magnetoencephalography. These types of psychophysical measures are widely used in studies of psychopathology, cognition, emotion, health, and social psychology. In addition, psychophysiological measures have been used for biofeedback, neurofeedback, and gaming applications. The course will involve a combination of lecture, discussion, demonstrations, and non-invasive laboratory experiences with biological recording technology. Tours of additional psychophysiology labs will occur outside of class meeting times. The course will emphasize theory, research methodology (strengths and limitations of each measure), and practical applications. Participants will complete a substantial literature review. Prerequisite: Moderation into psychology or consent of instructor.
PSY325: Anxiety and its Disorders
“…For [some] individuals, anxiety is a curse – something they could live without. But could we all live without anxiety? Many of our most prominent philosophers, psychologists, and psychiatrists think not (David Barlow).” Everyone feels anxious at various points in their lives. For some, however, such anxiousness becomes extreme, incapacitating, and perceived as beyond the person’s control. Similar to the pervasiveness of anxiety in general, anxiety disorders specifically are the most prevalent of all psychological illnesses. They also are among the most treatable. This course will provide a detailed overview and critical analysis of the anxiety disorders with particular focus on the etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of such disorders; and state-of-the-art psychological/cognitive-behavioral conceptualizations and approaches, and related empirical findings, will be emphasized. Prerequisite for this course is PSY 245 (Personality), PSY 241 (Abnormal Psychology), or PSY 264 (Adult Psychopathology).
PSY330:The Medial Temporal Lobe Memory System
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. The medial temporal lobe is central to the acquistion, storage, consolidation, and retrieval of memories of events. In this seminar, we will explore the development of this brain region—over the lifespan and evolution—in the context of the theories and tests developed to explain the cognitive processes supported by the hippocampus and surrounding cortex. From mapping space to linking together (or, conversely, separating) different aspects of experience, our discussions will consider data from animal and computer models, case studies in neuropsychology, and cognitive neuroscience experiments. The course is open to all moderated psychology or biology students, as well as members of the Upper College pursuing a concentration in Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
PSY331: Grounded Cognition/Representation of Knowledge
Grounded Cognition” proposes that cognitive systems evolved to support action, so that perceptual systems (neural structures that encode physical and sensory information) are the foundation of concepts in memory. Recent advances in neuroimaging methods, including event-related potentials and functional magnetic resonance imaging, provide strong support for this new perspective, driving a re-evaluation of many long-held assumptions regarding the representation of concepts, processes of memory, and the role of language in cognition. In this course we examine these new theories on the “embodiment” of knowledge in the context of prevailing paradigms. We will also explore laboratory demonstrations of non-invasive imaging techniques used to study embodiment, including eye-tracking and electrophysiology. The structure of this course encourages the development of analytic and empirical skills, with an emphasis on both writing and research methods. Each participant will prepare a literature review (a synthesis of theoretic perspectives) and a proposal for independent research (a creative design for future investigation). This is a Writing Intensive course. Prerequisite: Moderated students or consent of instructor.
PSY332: Cognitive Aging
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. Healthy aging is associated with changes in the efficiency of cognitive and neural processes. While particular processes decline (such as attention and memory), others improve (such as emotion regulation). In the current course, we will examine current theoretical accounts of cognitive aging with a primary focus on identifying and evaluating the strategies older adults implement to deal with age-related changes in cognition. Although the course will primarily look at healthy aging, it will also include an examination of age-related diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), allowing for a discussion of the ways in which the effects of disease differ from those of healthy aging. Readings in the course will be composed of theoretical articles as well as empirical studies that rely on a variety of research methods including behavioral testing and functional neuroimaging. The course will culminate in the proposal of a novel training paradigm designed to improve functioning of older adults in daily life. This course is open to moderated psychology majors, moderated MBB students, or with permission of the instructor.
PSY335: The Science of Forgetting
Forget something? Of course, we all have. From annoying tip-of-the-tongue moments to more embarrassing (or worse) memory lapses, forgetting is a regular and sometimes even advantageous occurrence. But we still have a lot learn about exactly how and why these episodes occur. In this seminar, we will consider leading psychological and neuroscientific theories of forgetting, as well as the empirical evidence for them. Do memories simply decay over time or is interference to blame? Can memories be repressed only later to be recovered? How do drugs, alcohol, and traumatic head injuries affect memory consolidation? By the end of the course, you will have acquired the scientific background necessary to address these questions in relation to forgetting in your own life, as well as notorious cases of memory failures in the public sphere. This course is open to moderated students who have completed at least one of the following prerequisites: Cognitive Psychology (PSY 230), Human Memory (PSY 243), Neuroscience (PSY 231), or with instructor’s permission.
PSY336: The Social Psychology of Emotion, Cognition, and Bias
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. There is a common misconception that cognition and emotion are two opposing psychological processes. Cognition is often thought of as cold, rational, and accurate. Emotion is seen as irrational and biased; as something that spoils our otherwise accurate cognitive processes. This course will be an exploration, from a social psychological perspective, of how emotions and cognition interact to influence our thoughts, perceptions, and behavior. The class will begin by examining the relationship between emotion and cognition from a variety of psychological perspectives. As the class progresses, we will focus more on how emotion and cognition influence social perceptions, social interactions, and intergroup relations. Students will be expected to read primary research articles in psychology. Prerequisite: Moderation in psychology or instructor permission.
PSY337: Psychology of Prejudice and Stereotyping
This course focuses on the empirical study of intergroup relations. It is designed to provide an overview of the social psychological study of issues in prejudice and stereotyping. The bulk of the course will examine the cognitive, affective, and motivational origins of stereotyping and prejudice, but we will also explore the experience of being a target of prejudice – how are members of disadvantaged groups affected by cultural stereotypes and prejudice? A broad range of social groups will be considered, including gender and ethnicity. Finally, we will discuss scientifically-based means of prejudice reduction.
PSY345: Recent Developments in Pharmacotherapies for Mental Illness
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior; Science, Technology & Society. This seminar will examine newly discovered drug treatments for several mental illnesses. Initial class meetings will focus on in-depth readings that will provide a background for understanding the methods used for identifying and testing potential new therapies. Subsequent meetings will consist of student-led discussions of topics of interest. This course is open to moderated psychology students and other students at the discretion of the instructor.
PSY346: No Train, No Gain: Using Brain Training to Prevent Cognitive Decline
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. The finding that the brain changes as a function of experience and that this neuroplasticity extends beyond critical periods in development raises the possibility that behavioral interventions might be able to improve cognitive processes such as attention and memory. In this course we will critically evaluate the evidence in favor of so-called “brain training” with an emphasis on behavioral interventions designed to delay or prevent cognitive declines associated with dementia and healthy aging. Readings for this course will primarily be empirical research, theoretical papers, and review articles. Assignments will include the submission of weekly discussion questions, presentation of empirical articles, and a final paper proposing a novel behavioral intervention. This course is open to moderated psychology students, moderated MBB students, or with permission of the instructor.
PSY347: Brain Mechanisms and Addictive Behaviors
Rapid strides have been made recently in our understanding of the neurological underpinnings of addiction. This research conference will begin with a brief history of our understanding of the mechanisms of brain reward systems and how the findings in this area have led to modern concepts of addictive behavior. An in-depth analysis will be made of contemporary theoretical and neurobiological approaches to conceptualizing and treating addictive behaviors, particularly drug abuse. Some consideration will be given to the extension of the addiction concept to such behaviors as gambling, eating, sexual activity and others. Primary source journal articles will be used in addition to excerpts from texts, and thus familiarity with research methods and statistics is required. Students will be expected to make frequent presentations in class.
PSY352: Race and the Law: A Psychological Perspective
Cross-listed: Human Rights. Recent high-profile deaths of African-Americans have brought issues about how race interacts with the law to the forefront of national dialogue. In this seminar we will explore how cognitive and social psychology, as well as neuroscience, contribute to this conversation. We will consider how research on ordinary human tendencies can help us answer questions such as: Why are we more likely to mistakenly “see” a weapon in the hand of an African-American than a European-American? How and why does sentencing differ based on racial factors? How do deliberations differ based on a jury’s racial composition? Broadly, we will grapple with how to reconcile legal doctrine that often demands evidence of conscious, deliberate intent to discriminate or harm with empirical data showing that behavior often operates outside of our awareness, and without intention or control. Although our focus will be primarily on issues of criminal law and law enforcement, we will cover topics such as voting rights and affirmative action as time and student interest provide. Prerequisites: Moderation into Psychology and one of the following: Social Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making.
PSY354: Causes and Consequences of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are characterized by a persistent disturbance in eating behavior that results in poor physical and mental well-being. Using animal models, human experimental data, and epidemiological studies, this course will provide an in-depth look at the pathogenesis, disease course, and psychological, biological, and social consequences of eating disorders. We will discuss anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and obesity at length; however, we will also touch on other psychological and medical disturbances in eating behavior such as binge eating, picky eating, and food allergies. Readings for this course will primarily be empirical research, theoretical papers, and review articles drawn from the scientific literature on eating disorders. Assignments will include original research article presentations, an experiment proposal paper, and a critical analysis of existing research. While we may touch on some aspects of treatment, the course will largely focus on causes and consequences of disordered eating. Prerequisites: one course in abnormal psychology or one course in neuroscience or consent of the instructor.
PSY358: Preschoolers Thinking: Cognitive Development Between 2-5 Years of Age
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain & Behavior The primary focus of this course will be the cognitive developmental underpinnings of children’s burgeoning concepts about the social and biological world around them. Children undergo enormous changes in their thinking in the years before they enter school, and these changes have alternately been described as continuous and discontinuous, qualitative and quantitative in nature. In particular, a large amount of research has targeted children’s theory of mind, or the understanding that outward behaviors are caused by internal states (thoughts, beliefs), and not necessarily the actual state of affairs. Does a 3-year old understand that two people can have different perceptions of the same experience? When do children realize that thoughts and dreams cant be touched, the way a toy can? Our discussions will focus on readings from empirical papers, theoretical essays, and books. Open to third and fourth year students with consent of the instructor.
PSY359: Comparative Cognition
Comparative cognition explores the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing the cognitive abilities of humans and other animals. The primary focus of this course will be the evolutionary underpinnings of social cognition. We will investigate this topic through discussion of scientific, empirical literature comparing the abilities of human children and nonhuman animals (including apes, monkeys, dolphins, birds, and dogs). In particular, a large amount of research has targeted “theory of mind”, or the understanding that outward behaviors are caused by internal states (thoughts, beliefs), and not necessarily the actual state of affairs. Do chimpanzees interpret others’ behaviors in the same way we do? Are there differences in the perspective-taking abilities of domesticated mammals and wild mammals? What experimental methodologies might be used to answer these questions, and how might these change based on the species we’re investigating? Our discussions will focus on readings from empirical papers, theoretical essays, and books. Open to upper college students with consent of the instructor.
PSY363: Wild Chimpanzees: Social Behavior In An Evolutionary Context
As our closest living phylogentic relative, chimpanzees are one of the best tools we have for understanding our own evolution. This course will explore the methods and findings of research devoted to chimpanzee natural social ecology, collected from the field over the past 60 years. What conditions and competencies give rise to complex social behavior, and how is this reflected in the physical body (and the physical environment)? We will augment our reading of literature on the complex behavior of non-human apes living in the wild with examples of studies reporting competencies of these animals living in captivity. This course is part of the Thinking Animals Initiative, an interdivisional collaboration among students and faculty to further the understanding of animals and human-animal relationships. Prerequisites: either Psych 141(Introduction to Psychological Science) or Bio 202 (Ecology & Evolution).
PSY364: Children with Autism
Within the last 25 years, autism has become one of the most widely recognized childhood disorders. Where did it come from? How have we grappled with its increased prevalence? What is the long-term outlook for these children? We will explore the major theories of autism, the predominant diagnostic methods, and a realistic, balanced view of these childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s everyday world. Readings will consist predominantly of primary empirical work, augmented by theoretical and popular writing. Prerequisites: PSY 103 in addition to at least one of the following courses: Developmental Psychology, Child Development, Development & Psychopathology, or Adult Psychopathology.
PSY365: Sex, Brain, & Behavior
Reproduction encompasses a broad range of behaviors that occur across the life cycle of an organism. From sexual differentiation to partner preference to parental care, sex-related behaviors help to shape and drive processes that allow an organism to adapt to its environment. This course will examine research related to sex-related behavior in human and non-human animals and discuss the neural and hormonal mechanisms that regulate these behaviors. Seminars will emphasize evolutionary, neuroendocrinological and social-psychological perspectives and explore topics related to male-female differences and similarities, the development of gender and sexual identity, therapeutic approaches to sexual pathology, and the interface between sex behavior and the law. Readings will consist of primary journal articles and text excerpts. Coursework will include critical reading and analysis, in-class presentations, and a final paper. Prerequisites: PSYCH 103 and at least one of the following courses: Neuroscience (230), Health Psychology (237), Social Neuroscience (223), or Drugs and Behavior (252) or permission of the instructor.
PSY367: Automaticity of Social Life
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. The idea that much of mental life occurs without conscious intention, awareness, or control has a long intellectual history in both psychology and philosophy, and has taken root as one of the central tenets of contemporary psychology. In this seminar, we will explore the ways in which large swaths of mental processes and behavior operate outside of conscious awareness. We will begin with the history of these ideas but place a special focus on the empirical research of the past 40 years. After reading work in cognitive psychology that introduces us to foundational concepts such as implicit learning, memory, and perception (i.e., subliminal perception), we will spend the bulk of our time engaging with how these processes unfold in our social worlds (e.g., attitudes, prejudices, emotions, goals, self-esteem, and relationships). We will conclude by considering the implications of this research for notions of free will and individual responsibility. Readings will draw from cognitive, social, and clinical psychology as well as neuroscience and philosophy. Prerequisites: 1. Moderation into Psychology or Cognitive Science plus one of the following courses: Social Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making, Human Memory, Cognitive Psychology; or 2. permission of the instructor.
PSY368: The Social Brain: Neuroscience of Attachment, Rejection, and Social Interaction
Social neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that draws on techniques and concepts from biology, psychology, and evolutionary anthropology to understand the neural bases of social interaction. In this course, we will cover some of the major topics of study in social neuroscience including the evolutionary origin of cooperation, attachment and bonding, social pain, and moral cognition. We will also discuss how the neural mechanisms of social functioning break down in psychiatric conditions (e.g., borderline personality disorder) and antisocial behavior (e.g., psychopathy). Class periods will be a combination of lectures, discussion, and group activities. Participants will also learn to use some of the tools social neuroscientists use to explore the brain. Prerequisite: one of the following: PSY 230, 252, 347, 365, PSY NEU, BIO 204, or permission of instructor.
PSY381: Classic and Contemporary Research in Social Psychology
The discipline of social psychology as we know it; that is as the scientific study of the effects of the presence of other people in our life space, can be traced around the beginning of the 20th century. Norman Triplett published the first research based article (1898) in the field. He investigated in a controlled manner the effects of the presence of other individuals on an aspect of timed human performance. More definitively the field of social psychology was established with the publication of two “textbooks” about the discipline in 1908. The English psychologist William McDougall and the American sociologist Edward Ross are given credit for establishing the original boundaries and cross discipline domain of the field of study. Beyond this Floyd Allport placed emphasis on the use of experimental methodology, and thus may be considered the founder of the discipline as we largely know it today. Social Psychology is thus a century in duration and as such it has been significantly marked by a recent publication by Psychology Press of “The Handbook of the History of Social Psychology” (2012). This seminar is designed primarily for moderated students in psychology, but is open to others across many disciplines who have a background in reading original source materials in the literature of their chosen field. Assignments will be paired classic and contemporary studies compiled from within topics investigated within the domain of social psychology; these drawn from persistent topics of the field namely, attitude measurement, theory and change and the study of social influence. Such topical studies are reviewed in order to assess the persistence over time of the issues explored by those who seek to understand the particulars of social behavior. In this manner we will also study the history of the discipline
PSY391: Psychobiology of Stress and Mental Illness
Recent advances in the understanding of the neurobiology and physiology of stress have changed the way stress is viewed, both as a primary phenomenon and as a secondary factor that precipitates or causes a variety of psychiatric disorders. The latter include phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and schizophrenia. This research conference will examine recent findings on the mechanisms and biological consequences of stress and will explore links between these effects and psychiatric disorders as reported in journal articles. Students will be expected to read and develop critiques of these articles as well as make class presentations. This seminar is intended for students who have moderated in psychology or biology, but is open to students with suitable background.
Advanced Methodology Courses
Advanced Methodology courses are 2-credit courses open to first-, second-, and third-year students with the permission of instructor. They can be taken for a maximum of eight credits, and must be taken twice to fulfill the Laboratory Science distribution requirement. Students are expected to enroll for at least two consecutive semesters.
PSY AB: Abnormal Psychology Advanced Methodology
In this course students will participate in laboratory research related to abnormal psychology. Specifically, students will work on projects relevant to understanding eating disorders or to understanding the basic psychological and physiological processes associated with disordered eating. There will be a weekly laboratory meeting in which we will discuss progress on ongoing projects in the lab, and students will take turns presenting relevant empirical articles. In addition to rotating weekly presentations, students will be required to complete two papers and perform tasks related to the day-to-day functioning of the laboratory.
PSY CLN: Clinical Psychology Advanced Methodology
This course will provide basic training and direct experience with research in Clinical Psychology in general, and research in the empirical domains of Anxiety- and Trauma-Related Disorders (e.g., Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) in particular. Rudiments of research planning, design, and conduction will be discussed; and relevant ethical issues will be considered. Theoretical paradigms and empirical findings – and relevant books and articles – will be reviewed and critiqued, and these will be used to create bases for the evaluation of existing research questions as well as the creation of new research questions. In addition, existing datasets will be analyzed, and new data will be collected. Ultimately, the goal is that projects – both preexisting and new – will lead to the generation of Senior Project ideas and plans, and ultimately to conference presentations and publications.
PSY COG: Cognitive Psychology Advanced Methodology
Cross-listed: Mind, Brain, Behavior. In this course, students will gain experience working in a cognitive neuroscience laboratory. Using controlled experiments and brainwave recordings, we will investigate the cognitive processes that allow for the adaptive encoding, consolidation, retrieval, and forgetting of associative memories. Students will participate in all phases of the research process including experiment design, stimulus development, programming, data collection, analysis, and presentation.
PSY DEV: Developmental Psychology Advanced Methodology
In this course, students will participate in laboratory research in child developmental psychology. Special emphasis will be placed on 3- to 5-year olds’ social cognition, perspective-taking, and memory in the context of games. The majority of time in this course will consist of independent laboratory work and research, and students will work with young children, parents, and members of the community to initiate research protocols in our Preston-based laboratory . There will be a weekly laboratory meeting, readings, assignments, two short papers (a literature review and a summary of your empirical project) and student presentations.
PSY NEU: Neuroscience Advanced Methodology
In this course, students will participate in laboratory research in developmental psychopharmacology, behavioral neuroscience, neuroanatomy and/or neurobehavioral teratology using the zebrafish as an animal model. Within these general fields, specific roles of neurotransmitter systems in normal behavioral development and the neurobehavioral effects of chemical insults during early development will be investigated. The majority of time in this course will consist of independent laboratory work and research. There will be a weekly laboratory meeting, readings, assignments, two short papers (a literature review and a summary of your empirical project) and student presentations.
PSY SOC: Social Psychology Advanced Methodology
This course provides hands-on experience in the practice of Social Psychology. Students will work individually and in teams on ongoing research projects in the Social Psychology Laboratory. The realm of topics to be studied includes the roots of unconscious bias, the gender disparity in the sciences, and behavior change. Students will participate in all phases of the research process, including developing stimuli, programming studies, conducting experimental sessions, and coding and analyzing research data. Requirements include attendance at weekly lab meetings, two papers, a lab presentation, and other assignments throughout the semester.