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. K. O'Doherty. Spring. 

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. K. Ledoux. Autumn.

20250. Introduction to Statistical Concepts and Methods. Psychological research is a project of understanding the ways in which people are similar while grappling with the ways in which they are different. Statistical methods are a powerful tool for managing the tension between the two. This course introduces the statistical methods most commonly used in psychology, as well as their use in the R programming language. Topics involve exploratory data analysis, sampling and randomization, and hypothesis testing. It is recommended that students complete MATH 13100 and MATH 13200 (or higher) before taking this course. TBD. Winter.

20300. Biological Psychology. (= BIOS 29300, CHDV 20300) 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. S. London, G. Norman. 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. Rosenberg. 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. (NSCI 20140) 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. K. Ledoux. Spring. 

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. 

21260. Psychology Research Incubator. Answering questions about how minds work, how choices are made, or about the forces that shape behavior depends on understanding how to carry out research. This course guides you through the process of developing an original research project of your own design. Whether your questions come from research you are already working on in a lab or reflect independent interests of your own, this course will lead you through the process of designing an empirical study to address an issue that interests you. From the first stages of turning an idea into a study, you will work either individually or with a group to develop your research questions scientifically to address issues that can add new knowledge to psychological science. In this course you will learn to: (1) generate testable hypotheses that are informed by prior research, (2) design and implement methods for testing these hypotheses, and (3) write an IRB protocol in order to collect data. The course culminates with drafting a research grant proposal so you will be well positioned to take advantage of the increased funding opportunities available for undergraduate research. Prerequisites: PSYC 20200. Open to second and third year students only. A. Henly. Winter.

21510/31510. Neuroscience of Communication. (=NSCI 21510) We will read and discuss communication and how various kinds of communication are mediated by neural systems. The course will cover theories, methods, and empirical findings in communication neuroscience. Topics will include speech and language, emotional information, face perception, gesture, and music. H. Nusbaum. Spring.

21550. Behavioral Neuroscience Research. B. Prendergast, Autumn

21750. Biological Clocks and Behavior. (= BIOS 24248, NSCI 21400) 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. For Biology majors: Completion of three quarters of a Biological Sciences Fundamentals Sequence.B. Prendergast. Autumn.

22350. Social Neuroscience. (=BIOS 24137, CHDV 22350, NSCI 21000, ECON 21830) Social species, by definition, create emergent organizations beyond the individual — structures ranging from dyads and families to groups and cultures. Social neuroscience is the interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of neural, hormonal, cellular, and genetic mechanisms, and to the study of the associations and influences between social and biological levels of organization.The course provides a valuable interdisciplinary framework for students in psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics and comparative human development. Many aspects of social cognition will be examined, including but not limited to attachment, attraction, altruism, contagion, cooperation, competition, dominance, empathy, isolation, morality, and social decision-making. J. Decety. Autumn.

22580. Child Development in the Classroom. (= CHDV 22580) 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. Winter.

23000. 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.

23165/33165. Multidisciplinary Perpspectives in Morality. 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 social interactions, and that certain precursors of morality are present in non-human animals. Developmental psychologists came up with ingenious paradigms, demonstrating that the elements underpinning morality are in place much earlier than we thought. Social neuroscientists have begun to map brain circuits implicated in social decision-making and identify the contribution of specific neuropeptides to moral sensitivity. Changes in the balance of brain chemistry, and in anatomical connectivity between specific regions can cause drastic changes in moral behavior. The lesson from all this new knowledge is clear: human moral cognition and behavior cannot be separated from biology, its development, and 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. The intent of this class is to provide an overview of the current theories and research on morality, and examine this fascinating topic from a range of relevant interdisciplinary perspectives. These perspectives include anthropology and philosophy, evolution, development, social neuroscience, psychopathology, and justice and the law. J. Decety. Autumn.

23370. Bright and Dark Sides of Empathy. This course invites students to critically explore the science of empathy by examining its scope and its limits. It delves into cutting-edge research from evolutionary theory, neurobiology, developmental and social psychology, social neuroscience, clinical neuroscience, and behavioral economics to illuminate the mechanisms behind feeling for and with others. Questions explored in this course include: What are the evolutionary roots of empathy? What are the neural and neuro-endocrinological mechanisms that facilitate empathy? How does empathy develop in young children? Is empathy a limited-capacity resource? How is empathy modulated by unconscious processing and implicit attitudes (e.g., group dynamics, social status)? Is empathy necessarily a good thing for social decision-making? Why empathy can make us act unfairly? Why do some individuals (i.e., psychopaths) lack empathy and concern for the well-being of others? How does empathy improve the overall effectiveness of medical care? This course introduces undergraduate students to current research and theories of empathy. The study of empathy serves as the basis for integrating a variety of perspectives including evolutionary biology, behavioral economics, affective neuroscience, developmental psychology, social psychology, behavioral neurology and psychiatry. 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. Spring.

23820. Attention and Working Memory in the Mind and Brain. (=NSCI 20110) This course will provide a broad overview of current work in psychology and neuroscience related to attention and working memory. We will discuss evidence for sharp capacity limits in an individual's ability to actively monitor and maintain information in an "online" mental state. Readings will be primarily based on original source articles from peer-reviewed journals, with a focus on behavioral and neural approaches for measuring and understanding these basic cognitive processes. PQ: NSCI 20110 (Fundamental Neuroscience) is required for Neuroscience majors only. E. Awh; E. Vogel. 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.

24133/34133. Neuroscience of Seeing. (= BIOS 24133, NSCI 22400) This course focuses on the neural basis of vision, in the context of the following two questions: 1. How does the brain transform visual stimuli into neuronal responses? 2. How does the brain use visual information to guide behavior? The course covers signal transformation throughout the visual pathway, from retina to thalamus to cortex, and includes biophysical, anatomical and computational studies of the visual system, psychophysics and quantitative models of visual processing. PQ: BIOS 24203 or consent of instructor. Note(s): This course is designed as an advanced neuroscience course for undergraduate and graduate students. The students are expected to have a general background in neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. S. Shevell, W. Wang. Autumn.

24380. The Immune System and Behavior. Psychoneuroimmunology is a multidisciplinary field of study with connections to psychology, neuroscience, gastroenterology, chronobiology, and immunology. In this course, we will examine the bidirectional relationship between the immune system and the brain. Topics include inflammation and mental health, stress and immune function, and gut microbiota. The course emphasizes the study of integrative research and multilevel analysis, as well as critical evaluation of empirical research articles. Background in psychology and biology is recommended. PSYC 20300 Introduction to Biological Psychology or an equivalent course is recommended. K. Onishi. Spring.

24580. The Myth of Reality: Visual Perception of the Physical World. Do we see the world exactly as it is? Does our perception match reality? The short answer: no. This course will delve into the distinction between the physical environment and our visual perception of it as humans, with a focus on striking examples of when this distinction is most evident and adaptive. Topics include a brief introduction to the visual system including its incredible capabilities and its limitations, followed by specific in-depth examples of how the visual system creates our experience that differs from what is present in the physical world. These examples include a detailed look at human color vision with a focus on color constancy, chromatic and achromatic adaption, depth perception, face and object perception, attentional effects, and visual ambiguity. It is strongly recommended, but not required, to have taken PSYC 20700 Sensation and Perception. E. Slezak. Winter.

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. PQ: Third or fourth-year standing. This course is recommended for PSYC 25700 The Psychology of Negotiation. B. Keysar. Autumn.

25750. The Psychology and Neurobiology of Stress. (=BIOS 29271) 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. Note: This course does not meet the requirements for the Biological Sciences Major. G. Norman. Autumn.

25990. Stereotype Effects on Cognition. This course introduces the concept of stereotypes and how stereotypes about group difference affect members of stigmatized groups in terms of their physical and mental health, self-esteem, memory, and cognitive performance. We also discuss research methods for investigating stereotype effects and recent research findings, as well as consider several different kinds of models and theories of stereotype effect. We will cover different stereotypes, including race, gender, aging, mental illness, disabilities, sexual orientation, and social class. Y. Chen. 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. S. Levine. Winter.

29941. XCAP: The Experimental Capstone - The Affect System. (= KNOW 29941) The Affect System in Medicine and the Political Science is a multidisciplinary course that aims to explore the concept of “affect” from different angles and unique perspectives. Drawing broadly from Medicine, philosophy and the political science, this course seeks to understand the affect system in different cultures and environments. The term “affect” typically refers to feelings beyond those of the traditional senses, with an emphasis on the experience of emotions and variations in hedonic tone. The structure and processes underlying mental contents are not readily apparent, however, and most cognitive processes occur non-consciously with only selected outcomes reaching awareness. Over millions of years of evolution, efficient and manifold mechanisms have evolved for differentiating hostile from hospitable stimuli and for organizing adaptive responses to these stimuli. These are critically important functions for the evolution of mammals, and the integrated set of mechanisms that serve these functions can be thought of as an “affect system.” It is this affect system – its architecture and operating characteristics, as viewed from neural, psychological, social, and political perspectives, that is the focus of the course. This course is one of three offered in The Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in the 2019-20 academic year. Enrollment in this course is restricted to 3rd and 4th year undergraduates in the College. For more information about XCAP, visit https://sifk.uchicago.edu/courses/xcap/ S. Cacioppo, E. Oliver. Winter.

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