College Course Descriptions

Course information is subject to change.

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. Light. Autumn.

20209. Adolescent Development (CHDV 20209). Adolescence represents a period of unusually rapid growth and development. At the same time, under the best of social circumstances and contextual conditions, the teenage years represent a challenging period. The period also affords unparalleled opportunities with appropriate levels of support. Thus, the approach taken acknowledges the challenges and untoward outcomes, while also speculates about the predictors of resiliency and the sources of positive youth development. M. Spencer. Spring.

20250. Introduction to Statistical Concepts and Methods. Statistical techniques offer psychologists a way to build scientific theories from observations we make in the laboratory or in the world at large. As such, the ability to apply and interpret statistics in psychological research represents a foundational and necessary skill. This course will survey statistical techniques commonly used in psychological research. Attention will be given to both descriptive and inferential statistical methodology. It is recommended that students complete MATH 13100 and MATH 13200 (or higher) before taking this course. S. Heald, Winter.

20300. Biological Psychology. 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. This course does not meet requirements for the biological sciences major. PQ: Some background in biology and psychology. J. Yu, 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. 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.  This course introduces students to the field of social psychology - the scientific study of how people think about, feel about, interact with, influence, and relate to one another. Topics covered include self and social perception, social influence, beliefs and attitudes, altruism, and intergroup processes. Where relevant, we will discuss if and how findings in social psychology can be applied in real-world contexts such as health, work, and relationships. Y.C. Leong, 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. K. Ledoux and R. Lange, Autumn; R. Lange, Winter. 

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. Required course for Comparative Human Development majors. R. Shweder, Autumn.

21109. Concepts and Categories.  Despite how central categories and concepts are in theories of cognition, there is a lack of consensus within the scientific community as to the nature of concepts and categories. This course serves to introduce students to this ever-growing dialogue regarding concepts and categories. During the course we will analyze both classical and current theories of categorization. We will also briefly focus on how the process of categorization may change from infancy to adulthood. From this we will go on to discuss topics regarding the function and use of concepts and categories, as well as how concepts and categories may be acquired and maintained. S. Heald, Autumn.

21116. The Development of Social Cognition. Our species is notably social, with both positive and negative consequences: we thrive in groups, yet we often discriminate against those who are not like us. This course focuses on social cognitive development in childhood, with the goal of understanding the foundations of human nature in a social context. Topics include theories of mind, social learning, motivation and achievement, moral development, social categorization and the origins and development of our tendency to divide the world into "us" versus "them." K. Kinzler, Spring.

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. K. Ledoux, Winter.

21690. Media and Psychology: Causes and Consequences of Media Use across the Life Span.  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. For Biology majors: Completion of three quarters of a Biological Sciences Fundamentals Sequence. B. Prendergast. Autumn.

22350. Social Neuroscience. 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.  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.

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.

23120. Human Language and Interaction (CHDV 23100). Language may be learned by individuals, but we most often use it for communication between groups. How is it that we manage to transmit our internal thoughts to others' minds? How is it that we can understand what others mean to express to us? Whether we are greeting a passerby, ordering a meal, or debating politics, there are a number of invisible processes that bring language to life in the space between individuals. This course investigates the social and cognitive processes that enable us to successfully communicate with others. The theories we cover are built on observations of adult language use and child development in multiple cultural settings, taking inspiration also from non-human animal communication. It is expected that, by the end of the course, students will be able to explain the limitations of language for communication and will be able to elaborate on a number of social and other cognitive processes that critically support communicative language use. M. Casillas, Spring.

23200. Introduction to Language Acquisition. 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, Spring.

23360. Methods in Gesture and Sign Language Research (LING 23360). In this course we will explore methods of research used in the disciplines of linguistics and psychology to investigate sign language and gesture. We will choose a set of canonical topics from the gesture and sign literature such as pointing, use of the body in quotation, and the use of non-manuals, in order to understand the value of various effective methods in current use and the types of research questions they are best equipped to handle. S. Goldin-Meadow, D. Brentari, 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. Autumn.

23600. Cognition in Infancy. In this course, we explore the development of human perceptual, cognitive, motor, and social abilities during the first two years of life. The study of infants provides a window into issues of nature and nurture, and the ways in which structure in the organism and structure in the environment converge in developing systems. We cover both classical and current models, giving special attention to the role of changing empirical methods in informing theory. Prerequisite of PSYC 20500 or consent of instructor. A. Woodward, Autumn.

23660. The Disordered Mind. What are disorders of the mind? What are some of the theoretical and practical issues surrounding the identification, classification, and treatment of such disorders? What do mental disorders have to teach us about the typically-functioning mind? This seminar course will address these and other questions within biological, psychological, and sociocultural perspectives to attempt to understand the current and historical paradigms that have influenced our perception of what it means for the mind to be “disordered.” Included will be discussion of behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and developmental disorders. K. Ledoux, 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. A. Bakkour, Spring.

23820. Attention and Working Memory in the Mind and Brain.  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. Spring.

24010. Systems Neuroscience (NSCI 20130). This course covers vertebrate and invertebrate systems neuroscience with a focus on the anatomy, physiology, and development of sensory and motor control systems. The neural bases of form and motion perception, locomotion, memory, and other forms of neural plasticity are examined in detail. We also discuss clinical aspects of neurological didsorders. PQ: NSCI 20111, NSCI 20121 or consent of instructor. J. Maclean, Spring.

24133/34133. Neuroscience of Seeing. (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. W. Wei, J. Maunsell, M. Sherman, S. Shevell. Autumn.

24231. Methods in Computational Neuroscience. (CPNS 34231). Topics include (but are not limited to): relating neural data to behavior, Signal Detection theory, models of vision and artificial neural networks, Information Theory, Generalized Linear Models, dimensionality reduction, classification, and clustering. PQ: For Neuroscience Majors: NSCI 20130, BIOS 26210 and BIOS 26211 which must be taken concurrently, or consent of instructor.  M. Kaufman. Winter.

24450. Foundations of Neuroscience (NSCI 20101). This course is an introduction to the broad field of neuroscience. This is a lecture-based course that aims to introduce undergraduate students to concepts and principles that explain how the nervous system is built and how it functions. Examples of thematic areas covered in lectures include: (a) cellular anatomy of the nervous system, (b) development and evolution of the nervous system, (c) sensory systems, (d) motor systems, (e) cognition and behavior.  D. Freedman, P. Kratsios, M. Sheffield, Autumn.

25280. The Psychology of Close Relationships.  Humans are an innately social species, and our romantic partners, close friends, and family members are arguably the most central features of our social experience. In this seminar, we dive into the psychology of relationships. We will cover topics related to attraction, love, commitment, relationship satisfaction, and relationship dissolution. We will explore not only the factors that predict the success of a relationship, but will also delve into the ways that relationship partners can affect the individual's sense of self, success, and general well-being. We will focus primarily on romantic relationships, but will also discuss other influential relationships, including friends, family members, and social networks. A. Light, Spring.

25500. Cognitive and Social Neuroscience of Aging. As the baby boom generation ages, the rising prevalence of aging-related cognitive decline has become a major challenge for individuals, families and society. However, not all cognitive systems are negatively impacted by aging, and aging also causes complex social and emotional changes. How does aging affect our brains and our minds, and are these changes inevitable? This seminar provides an introduction to the scientific literature of the aging mind, focusing on both normal and pathological (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) changes in late adulthood. We will cover contemporary research from cognitive and social neuroscience perspectives. Topics include different psychological domains (e.g., attention, memory, metacognition, affective control) and applied issues (e.g., physical exercise, mental training, stereotype threat). D. Gallo, Winter.

25620. How Children Think. The goal of this course is to help you understand how children's thinking develops from infancy on. We will discuss the content of children's knowledge across a variety of domains and evaluate the major theories and explanations of intellectual growth. We will review and evaluate both classic findings and state-of-the-art research on cognitive development. We will also apply classroom knowledge to real-world issues that pertain to children's cognitive development. L. Bian, 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. Note: This course does not meet the requirements for the Biological Sciences Major. G. Norman. Spring.

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). A. Light, Winter.

26520. Mind, Brain, and Meaning. (=PHIL 26520, LING 26520). What is the relationship between physical processes in the brain and body and the processes of thought and consciousness that constitute our mental life? Philosophers and others have puzzled over this question for millenia. Many have concluded it to be intractable. In recent decades, the field of cognitive science--encompassing philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics and other disciplines--has proposed a new form of answer. The driving idea is that the interaction of the mental and the physical may be understood via a third level of analysis: that of the computational. This course offers a critical introduction to the elements of this approach, and surveys some of the alternatives models and theories that fall within it. Readings are drawn from a range of historical and contemporary sources in philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science. C. Kennedy, L. Kay, C. Bridges, Spring.

27010. Psycholinguistics (LING 27010). Language is a product of the human mind. In this course, we will ask a range of fundamental questions at the intersection of language and cognition: How do we manage to produce language on the fly, and how do we understand language in the moment? Do different languages lead to different information processing strategies in production and comprehension, and if so, why? How does our mental machinery shape natural language? How is language organized and implemented in the brain? These questions, and related questions, form the bedrock of the field of psycholinguistics. This course is a one-quarter introduction to this broad, interdisciplinary field of study. Over the course of this quarter, we will discuss some foundational issues on language production and comprehension. However, psycholinguistics is a young science, and we will come against the limits of our current knowledge very quickly. Thus, an important part of this class will be developing your scientific reasoning skills and toolkit, so you can critically evaluate the current state of the art for yourself. M. Xiang (Autumn); M. Do (Spring).

27950. Evolution and Economics of Human Behavior (CHDV 27950).  This course explores how evolutionary biology and behavioral economics explain many different aspects of human behavior. Specific topics include evolutionary theory, natural and sexual selection, game theory, cost-benefit analyses of behavior from an evolutionary and a behavioral economics perspective, aggression, power and dominance, cooperation and competition, biological markets, parental investment, life history and risk-taking, love and mating, physical attractiveness and the market, emotion and motivation, sex and consumer behavior, cognitive biases in decision-making, and personality and psychopathology. D. Maestripieri, Autumn.

28420. Problem Solving, Insight, and Creativity. Human problem-solving and creativity are frequently cited as the workhorses of progress across many different fields of science and engineering. This course surveys classic and recent literature exploring the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying problem solving and creativity. Students taking this class will: (1) develop critical thinking skills in evaluating psychological experiments, arguments, and practices commonly used in research on problem-solving and creativity; (2) develop an appreciation of the complexity of the research on problem-solving and creativity; and (3) be able to articulate the various ways researchers think and model the mechanisms underlying problem-solving and creativity at both a cognitive and neural level. S. Heald, Spring.

28791. Behavioral Science and Public Policy (PBPL 28791). Many policies are aimed at influencing people's behavior. The most well-intentioned policies can fail, however, if they are not designed to be compatible with the way people actually think and make decisions. This course will draw from the fields of cognitive, social, and environmental psychology to (1) examine the ways in which human behavior deviates from the standard rational actor model typically assumed by economics, and (2) provide strategies for improving the design, implementation, and evaluation of public-facing policies. The basic premise of this course is that a foundational understanding of human behavior can lead not only to more effective policies, but enhanced decision-making and well-being. K. Wolske, Spring.

28850. Biological Nature of Psychological Problems. (BIOS 16120). This course is based on the strong assumption that psychology is a biological science, albeit with elements of the social sciences. The course uses a combination of lectures and classroom discussion of primary and secondary source readings assigned for each class meeting. It presents a strong biological science perspective on individual differences in emotions, motivations, and cognitions that cause distress or interfere with adaptive life functioning, but does so in a non-stigmatizing manner. The course begins with a description and discussion of the nature of psychological problems. The course will survey what is known about the genetic, environmental, and epigenetic bases of such problems and the methods used to study genetic influences and gene-environment interactions. Next, students will review what is currently known about the neural and other biological mechanisms involved in maladaptive individual difference in emotion, motivation, and cognitive processes, with discussion of the methods of studying such mechanisms in humans and nonhumans. The pros and cons of the medical model of 'mental illness' will be discussed as the major contrast with the natural science view advocated by the instructor. PQ: BIOS 10130. NO BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES MAJORS OR NON-MAJOR PRE-MED STUDENTS, except by petition. B. Lahey, Spring.

28962. Principles and Methods of Measurement. Accurate measurement of key theoretical constructs with known and consistent psychometric properties is one of the essential steps in quantitative social and behavioral research. However, measurement of phenomena that are not directly observable (such as psychological attributes, perceptions of organizational climate, or quality of services) is difficult. Much of the research in psychometrics has been developed in an attempt to properly define and quantify such phenomena. This course is designed to introduce students to the relevant concepts, principles, and methods underlying the construction and interpretation of tests or measures. It provides in-depth coverage of test reliability and validity, topics in test theory, and statistical procedures applicable to psychometric methods. Such understanding is essential for rigorous practice in measurement as well as for proper interpretation of research. The course is highly recommended for students who plan to pursue careers in academic research or applied practice involving the use or development of tests or measures in the social and behavioral sciences.  Y. Sheng. Winter.

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.