College Course Descriptions

Course information is subject to change.

20000. Fundamentals of Psychology. This course introduces basic concepts and research in the study of behavior. Principal topics are sensation, perception, cognition, learning, motivation, and personality theories. J. Cacioppo. Autumn. 

20100. Psychological Statistics. Psychological research typically involves the use of quantitative (statistical) methods. This course introduces the methods of quantitative inquiry that are most commonly used in psychology and related social sciences. PSYC 20100 and 20200 form a two-quarter sequence that is intended to be an integrated introduction to psychological research methods. PSYC 20100 introduces explanatory data analysis, models in quantitative psychology, concept of probability, elementary statistical methods for estimation and hypothesis testing, and sampling theory. PSYC 20200 builds on the foundation of PSYC 20100 and considers the logic of psychological inquiry and the analysis and criticism of psychological research. D. Yurovsky. Autumn.

20200. Psychological Research Methods. This course introduces concepts and methods used in behavioral research. Topics include the nature of behavioral research, testing of research ideas, quantitative and qualitative techniques of data collection, artifacts in behavioral research, analyzing and interpreting research data, and ethical considerations in research. A. Henly. Winter.

20300. Biological Psychology. PQ: Some background in biology and psychology. This course does not meet requirements for the biological sciences major. What are the relations between mind and brain? How do brains regulate mental, behavioral, and hormonal processes; and how do these influence brain organization and activity? This course introduces the anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of the brain; their changes in response to the experiential and sociocultural environment; and their relation to perception, attention, behavioral action, motivation, and emotion. PQ: Some background in biology and psychology. L. Kay, B. Prendergast. Winter.

20400. Cognitive Psychology. Viewing the brain globally as an information processing or computational system has revolutionized the study and understanding of intelligence. This course introduces the theory, methods, and empirical results that underlie this approach to psychology. Topics include categorization, attention, memory, knowledge, language, and thought. M.Berman. Spring.

20500. Developmental Psychology. (=CHDV 25900) This is an introductory course in developmental psychology, with a focus on cognitive and social development in infancy through early childhood. Example topics include children's early thinking about number, morality, and social relationships, as well as how early environments inform children's social and cognitive development. Where appropriate, we make links to both philosophical inquiries into the nature of the human mind, and to practical inquiries concerning education and public policy. K. O'Doherty. Spring.

20600. Social Psychology. (=CHDV 26000) PSYC 20000 recommended. This course examines social psychological theory and research that is based on both classic and contemporary contributions. Topics include conformity and deviance, the attitude-change process, social role and personality, social cognition, and political psychology. W. Goldstein. Autumn.

20700. Sensation and Perception. What we see and hear depends on energy that enters the eyes and ears, but what we actually experience – perception – follows from human neural responses. This course focuses on visual and auditory phenomena, including basic percepts (for example, acuity, brightness, color, loudness, pitch) and also more complex percepts such as movement and object recognition. Biological underpinnings of perception are an integral part of the course. S. Shevell. Autumn. (Winter, Paris)

20850. Introduction to Human Development. (=CHDV 20000) This course introduces the study of lives in context. The nature of human development from infancy through old age is explored through theory and empirical findings from various disciplines. Readings and discussions emphasize the interrelations of biological, psychological, and sociocultural forces at different points of the life cycle. TBA. Autumn.

21115. Social Cognitive Development. This advanced seminar will focus on the latest research at the intersection of social, cognitive, and developmental psychology and address the main question: How does our understanding of other people develop throughout early infancy and childhood? Topics will include face processing, understanding others’ intentions, Theory of Mind, imitation, social essentialism, and more. Recent research from developmental neuroscience will be discussed, as well as research on atypical social cognitive development such as congenital prosopagnosia and Autism spectrum disorder. K. O'Doherty. Winter.

21125. Conceptual Development. This course is an intensive foray into the contemporary literature on conceptual development. Through years of education and experience we come to understand increasingly complex and accurate theories of how the world works. However, how we come to comprehend the nuances of concepts like gravity or even how a child learns to grasp the concept of seven is still widely disagreed upon. Our exploration will combine theoretical and empirical papers to gain an appreciation for various theories of conceptual development and evaluate their ability to explain observed psychological phenomena. The ultimate goal is for students to become familiar with the major debates and issues of the field, understand the various mechanisms proposed as drivers of conceptual development and to come up with new and interesting paths and ideas. D. Gibson. Spring.

21690. Media and Psychology. This course will examine the influence of media on individuals and groups from both a developmental and socio-cultural perspective. Topics will include young children’s academic and social-emotional skill learning from television, video and tablets; adolescents’ social media identities and experiences including cyber-bullying; media influences on adults’ health behaviors, aggression, prejudice, and more.  Students will engage in both qualitative and quantitative research on media and psychology as part of this course. K. O'Doherty, Winter.

21750. Biological Clocks and Behavior. Biological Clocks and Behavior, will address physiological and molecular biological aspects of circadian and seasonal rhythms in biology and behavior. The course will primarily emphasize biological and molecular mechanisms of CNS function, and will be taught at a molecular level of analysis from the beginning of the quarter. Those students without a strong biology background are unlikely to resonate with the course material. Therefore, a quality grade in PSYC 20300 (Introduction to Biological Psychology) is a prerequisite for enrollment in this course; additional biology courses are also desirable. Completion of Core Biology will NOT suffice as a prerequisite.  Those students who will not have completed PSYC 20300 by the beginning of the Autumn 2014 should not enroll in this course. B. Prendergast. Spring.

21840. Advanced Seminar in Person Perception. This course will survey research relevant to the study of person perception. The readings and discussions will cover topics in person perception from different research perspectives. As such, some of the empirical and theoretical advances focusing on the perceptual determinants (i.e., face processing), social-cognitive processes and neural substrates of person perception will be introduced. Discussions and response papers will emphasize potential integration and extension of the contributions from these different perspectives. J. Cloutier. Winter.

22550. Windows to the Social Brain. The human brain is a composite wonder from which all affects, thoughts and experiences originate. Tailored by millions of years of evolution, nurtured by culture, and subserved by an intricately multi-faceted neural networks, the social brain is both the idea and embodiment of knowledge itself. This ten-week course will introduce various aspects of social cognition from a social neuroscience perspective. Many questions will be addressed, such as: How can we define the components of social cognition accurately and localize them to specific brain mechanisms? How did these components evolve? How does the brain's inborn social potential interact with the environment during development? Specifically, a series of lectures will open the following windows into the social brain: Evolution of the social brain, mating and sex, social hierarchies and dominance, motivation and rewards, aggression and prosocial behavior, empathy and caring, person perception, morality, mental health (psychiatric disorders), and ethical and legal issues. This class will seek to understand social phenomena in terms of interactions between three levels of analysis: 1) the social level, which is concerned with the motivational and social factors that influence behavior and experience; 2) the cognitive level, which is concerned with the information-processing mechanisms that give rise to the social-level phenomena, and; 3) the neurobiological level, which is concerned with the neural, hormonal and neuroendocrine mechanisms that instantiate cognitive-level processes. J. Decety. Winter.

22580. Child Development in the Classroom. This discussion-based, advanced seminar is designed to investigate how preschool and elementary students think, act, and learn, as well as examine developmentally appropriate practices and culturally responsive teaching in the classroom. This course emphasizes the application of theory and research from the field of psychology to the realm of teaching and learning in contemporary classrooms. Course concepts will be grounded in empirical research and activities geared towards understanding the nuances and complexities of topics such as cognitive development (memory, attention, language), early assessment systems, standardized testing, “mindset”, “grit”, exercise/nutrition, emotion regulation, and more. K. O'Doherty. Autumn.

23200. Introduction to Language Development. This course addresses the major issues involved in first-language acquisition. We deal with the child’s production and perception of speech sounds (phonology), the acquisition of the lexicon (semantics), the comprehension and production of structured word combinations (syntax), and the ability to use language to communicate (pragmatics). S. Goldin-Meadow. Winter.

23300. Cultural Psychology. There is a substantial portion of the psychological nature of human beings that is neither homogeneous nor fixed across time and space. At the heart of the discipline of cultural psychology is the tenet of psychological pluralism, which states that the study of "normal" psychology is the study of multiple psychologies and not just the study of a single or uniform fundamental psychology for all peoples of the world. Research findings in cultural psychology thus raise provocative questions about the integrity and value of alternative forms of subjectivity across cultural groups. In this course we analyze the concept of "culture" and examine ethnic and cross-cultural variations in mental functioning with special attention to the cultural psychology of emotions, self, moral judgment, categorization, and reasoning. R. Schweder. Autumn.

23165. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Morality: Evolution, Psychology, Neuroscience, Law, and Public Policy. The past decade has seen an explosion of empirical research in the study of morality. Amongst the most exciting and novel findings and theories, evolutionary biologists and comparative psychologists have shown that moral cognition has evolved to facilitate cooperation and smooth social interactions, and that certain components of morality are present in non-human animals. Developmental psychologists came up with ingenious paradigms, demonstrating that the elements that underpin morality are in place much earlier than we thought, and clearly in place before children turn two. Social neuroscientists have begun to map brain circuits implicated in moral decision-making and identify the contribution of neuropetides to moral sensitivity. Changes in the balance of brain chemistry, or in connectivity between regions can cause changes in moral behavior. The lesson from all this new knowledge is clear: human moral behavior cannot be separated from human biology, its development, and past evolutionary history. As our understanding of the human brain improves, society at large, and justice and the law in particular, are and will be increasingly challenged. Discoveries in neuroscience will soon impact our legal system in ways that hopefully lead to a more cost-effective, humane and flexible system than we have today. The intent of this class is to provide an overview of the current research on the morality, and examine this fascinating topic from a range of relevant interdisciplinary perspectives. These perspectives will include anthropology and neurophilosophy, evolution, development, social neuroscience, psychopathology, and justice and the law. J. Decety. Spring.

23800. Introduction to Learning and Memory. This course examines basic questions in learning and memory. We discuss the historical separation and division of these two areas as well as the paradigmatic differences in studying learning and memory. We also discuss basic research methods for investigating learning and memory and survey established and recent research findings, as well as consider several different kinds of models and theories of learning and memory. Topics include skill acquisition, perceptual learning, statistical learning, working memory, implicit memory, semantic vs. episodic memory, and memory disorders. D. Gallo. Winter.

23860. Beyond Good and Evil: The Psychology of Morality. Morality is a mysterious and possibly uniquely human capacity that influences how we make decisions in a number of domains. In this course we will explore how and why human beings have the moral intuitions that they do and also where these intuitions come from--what about our moral intuitions are built in and how are these intuitions shaped by experience? To achieve these goals, we will discuss literature from developmental, social, and evolutionary psychology as well as some literature from behavioral economics and experimental philosophy. We will briefly review the history of moral psychology, but spend the bulk of our time discussing contemporary debates and findings from research on moral psychology. A. Shaw. Autumn.

24050. Understanding Wisdom. Thinking about the nature of wisdom goes back to the Greek philosophers and the classical religious sages, but the concept of wisdom has changed in many ways over the history of thought. While wisdom has received less scholarly attention in modern times, it has recently re-emerged in popular discourse with a growing recognition of its potential importance for addressing complex issues in many domains. But what is wisdom? It’s often used with a meaning more akin to "smart" or "clever". Is it just vast knowledge? This course will examine the nature of wisdom—how it has been defined, how its meaning has changed, and what its essential components might be. We will examine how current psychological theories conceptualize wisdom and consider whether, and how, wisdom can be studied scientifically; that is, can wisdom be measured and experimentally manipulated to illuminate its underlying mechanisms and understand its functions? Finally, we will explore how concepts of wisdom can be applied in business, education, medicine, the law, and in the course of our everyday lives. Readings will be drawn from a wide array of disciplines including philosophy, classics, history, psychology, behavioral economics, medicine, and public policy. A. Henly, C. Gilpin.

25101. The Psychology of Decision Making. We constantly make decisions, determine our preferences and choose among alternatives. The importance of our decisions range from ordering a meal at a restaurant to choosing what college to attend. How do we make such decisions? What are the rules that guide us and the biases that shape our decisions? What determines our preferences? What impacts our willingness to take risks? In this course we consider how the way we go about gathering information affects our judgment, and how the way we frame problems affects our perceptions and shapes the solutions to problems. We learn what governs choice and the systematic way it deviates from normative rules. We consider how we think about the future and how we learn from the past. The course focuses on the psychology behind making decisions with implications for a wide range of areas such as public policy, law and medicine. This course is recommended for PSYC 25700 The Psychology of Negotiation. B. Keysar. Autumn.

25470. Cognitive Diversity. How is the diversity of human experience reflected in the mind? In this course, we will explore how subtle contrasts between languages and cultures can influence the way people perceive and conceptualize the world, and how differences between people’s bodies can give rise to differences in their brains and minds. The research we’ll discuss points toward a new understanding of how minds develop, and raises new questions about what’s universal in the human mind and what depends on the specifics of our physical and social experiences. D. Casasanto. Spring.

25670. Psychology of Class and Status. The US is confronted with unprecedented income inequality and lack of social mobility, resulting in deepening class divisions. Social class and status pervasively affect multiple aspects of our human existence. But, what is status? More importantly, how does it accomplish this? Status-based hierarchies are omnipresent and guide social organization for a broad range of species, from ants to humans. This course reviews theories and diverse conceptualizations of what constitutes social class and status among humans through the prism of experimental social and cognitive psychology. The class focuses on empirical evidence that describes how our own relative rank in society shapes who we are. It examines and analyzes the deep and far-reaching effects of class, as a social and environmental factor, on brain structure and functions. The course pays particular attention to how social class affects executive functions (i.e., planning, execution, reasoning, and problem solving), language, stress, and health. In addition, it evaluates competing theories that attempt to provide distinct pathways to achieving higher social rank. Course content explores how we perceive and respond to variations in social status among those who surround us, and how social class impacts morality, perspective taking, and individual differences. Discussions focus on how subjective social status influences our mental health outcomes, psychological, and physiological functioning. The course emphasizes multiple levels of analysis, and thus previous knowledge of biological psychology and social neurosciences is encouraged, but not required. I. Gyurovski. Spring.

25700. The Psychology of Negotiation.Negotiation is ubiquitous in interpersonal interactions, from making plans for a trip with friends or family, to determining working conditions with an employer, to managing international conflicts. In this course we examine the structure of different negotiations and the psychology that governs the processes and outcomes of a negotiation. For instance, we consider the role of perceptions, expectations, intuitions and biases. We evaluate the role of information processing, modes of communication and power in influencing a negotiated outcome. We see how the psychology of trust, reciprocity, fairness, cooperation and competition can affect our ability to benefit from an exchange or contribute to the escalation of conflict. To better understand the dynamics of the negotiation process, we learn both through engaging in a variety of negotiation role-plays and relating these experiences to research findings. It is highly recommended to take "25101 The Psychology of Decision Making" before taking this course, as it provides the conceptual foundations. B. Keysar. Winter.

25750. The Psychology and Neurobiology of Stress.This course explores the topic of stress and its influence on behavior and neurobiology. Specifically, the course will discuss how factors such as age, gender and social context interact to influence how we respond to stressors both physiologically and behaviorally. The course will also explore how stress influences mental and physical health. G. Norman. Autumn.

25901. Psychology for Citizens. This course will examine aspects of the psychology of judgment and decision making that are relevant to public life and citizenship. Judgment and decision making are involved when people evaluate information about electoral candidates or policy options, when they vote, and when they choose to behave in ways that affect the collective good. Topics considered in the course will include the following. (1) What is good for people? What do we know about happiness? Can/should happiness be a goal of public policy? (2) How do people evaluate information and make decisions? Why does public opinion remain so divided on so many issues? (3) How can people influence others and be influenced (e.g., by policy makers)? Beyond persuasion and coercion, what are more subtle means of influence? (4) How do individuals’ behaviors affect the collective good? What do we know about pro-social behavior (e.g., altruism/charitable giving) and anti-social behavior (e.g., cheating)? (5) How do people perceive and get along with each other? What affects tolerance and intolerance?B. Goldstein. Winter.

25950. The Psychology of Stereotyping and Prejudice. This Course introduces concepts and research in the study of stereotyping and Prejudice. Topics include the formation of stereotypes and prejudice; the processes that underlie stereotyping and prejudice; stereotyping and prejudice from the target’s perspective; and prejudice and stereotype reduction. The course will cover a variety of groups (e.g. race, gender, weight, and sexual orientation) and explore the implications of stereotyping and prejudice across a number of settings (e.g. educational, law, and health). J. Kubota. Spring.

27657. Sexual Development across the Life Course. (=CHDV 27657) This course aims to explore how humans develop as sexual beings across various stages in the life course. We will look at sexual determination, behavior, and function from a variety of perspectives, including biological, psychological, and cultural. By breaking up the course into various life stages, we will investigate the role of sex at various points including sex determination at birth, the role of puberty on sexual life, mating strategies, and post-sexual life (e.g., menopause). We will also investigate topics of gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as so-called “disorders,” such as when sex determination does not follow the typical progression. While the focus is on humans, we will also rely on animal models to compare and contrast with human health and behavior, in that development in non-humans can show us evolutionarily conserved aspects of sexual development and behavior, as well as ways in which humans are exceptional. S. Coyne. Winter.

PSYC 28910. Animal Models in the Study of Cognition. This course will be a combination of lecture and seminar. In the first half of the course we will read and discuss seminal literature in the study of cognitive questions using animal models (primarily rodents). In the second half of the course we will learn about study design and design two different types of studies in smaller groups. Evaluation will be through short weekly papers, class discussion and a final paper. PQ: PSYC 20300 or equivalent background in neuroscience and/or biological psychology. L. Kay. Spring.

29800. Honors Seminar. This course is a reading and discussion of general papers on writing and research, and individual students present their own projects to the group. A literature review, data from ongoing or completed empirical projects, or portions of the thesis paper itself can be presented. Students are expected to give thoughtful feedback to others on their presentations and written work. B. Prendergast. Winter.

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