Course Listing

PSYC 101(F, S) LEC Introductory Psychology

An introduction to the major subfields of psychology: behavioral neuroscience, cognitive, developmental, social, and psychological disorders and treatment. The course aims to acquaint students with the major methods, theoretical points of view, and findings of each subfield. Important concepts are exemplified by a study of selected topics and issues within each of these areas. [ more ]

PSYC 127 TUT The Psychology of Success

Last offered Spring 2024

This course will examine the psychology of success from a scientific perspective. After considering what success means, we will examine two broad influences on success: personality (e.g., intelligence, grit, and mental illness) and environment (e.g., schooling, parenting, and practice). We will talk about barriers to success, the search for success, and the cost of searching for success. Each week we will read a book or a set of articles (or possibly documentaries or podcasts). One partner will write a paper and the other will write a response. This course is not meant to make you more successful; the goal is to think critically about important issues, use evidence to make arguments, be skeptical, and practice writing and speaking in a convincing and engaging way. [ more ]

PSYC 161 SEM Nonviolence and Positive Psychology

Last offered Fall 2018

In this course we will explore the theory and practice of nonviolence in the context of research in Positive Psychology. Nonviolence means choosing not to threaten or injure others, and its practice requires cultivating personal qualities that enable such a choice. Positive Psychology refers to the scientific study of those qualities that enable people to live happy and fulfilling lives. We will begin by studying the history and moral theories of nonviolence. We will then evaluate the claims of those theories regarding the positive effects of nonviolence by discussing research on psychological benefits to the practitioner, attitude change in the adversary, and effects on the larger community. Topics will include self-control, empathy, forgiveness, tolerance, aggression, resisting violent assault, civil disobedience, and courage. Along the way we will introduce basic concepts in research design and interpretation of data to help us evaluate the research with a critical eye. This course is a part of a joint program between Williams' Center for Learning in Action and the Berkshire County Jail, in Pittsfield, MA. The class will be composed equally of nine Williams students and nine inmates. An important goal of the course is to encourage students from different backgrounds to think together about issues of common human concern. Classes will be held at the jail, with transportation provided by the college. * Please note the atypical class hours, Tuesday, 4:45-8:30 pm. [ more ]

PSYC 201(F, S) LEC Experimentation and Statistics

An introduction to the basic principles of research in psychology. We focus on how to design and execute experiments, analyze and interpret results, and write research reports. Students conduct a series of research studies in different areas of psychology that illustrate basic designs and methods of analysis. You must register for lab and lecture with the same instructor. [ more ]

PSYC 212(F) LEC Neuroscience

This course is designed to give an overview of the field of neuroscience progressing from a molecular level onwards to individual neurons, neural circuits, and ultimately regulated output behaviors of the nervous system. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology and neurochemistry, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, and clinical disorders. Throughout the course, many examples from current research in neuroscience are used to illustrate the concepts being considered. The lab portion of the course will emphasize a) practical hands-on exercises that amplify the material presented in class; b) interpreting and analyzing data; c) presenting the results in written form and placing them in the context of published work; and d) reading and critiquing scientific papers. [ more ]

PSYC 221(S) LEC Cognitive Psychology

This course surveys research on human cognition. Topics include perception, attention, learning, memory, categorization, language, judgment, decision making, reasoning, and problem solving. [ more ]

PSYC 222(F) LEC Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science

This course will emphasize interdisciplinary approaches to the study of intelligent systems, both natural and artificial. Cognitive science synthesizes research from cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, and contemporary philosophy. Special attention will be given to the philosophical foundations of cognitive science, representation and computation in symbolic and connectionist architectures, concept acquisition, problem solving, perception, language, semantics, reasoning, and artificial intelligence. [ more ]

PSYC 23 What Comes Next? Critical Approaches to Life After College

Last offered NA

Discussions of post-grad with college students are often limited to the topics of careers, life skills, personal finances, and reaching key milestones. This course will take up an expansive view of life after college that decenters these more conventional topics. Instead, we'll explore life beyond work, how to build and sustain communities, politics and civic engagement, learning outside of higher education institutions, identity formation, reimagined ambition, and much more. We'll engage with research, personal narratives, and fictional depictions relating to the years after college. Students will examine and critique cultural expectations and anxieties surrounding college graduates. Some class time will be reserved for topics chosen by students. Work outside of class will include weekly journal reflections, an interview assignment, preparation of two brief presentations, and a final five-page paper exploring selected ideas from the course. Students will finish the course with an expanded vision for life after college and a critical analysis of conventional narratives and wisdom about young adulthood. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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PSYC 232(F, S) LEC Developmental Psychology

An introduction to the study of human growth and development from conception through emerging adulthood. Topics for discussion include prenatal and infant development, perceptual and motor development, language acquisition, cognitive development, and social and emotional development. These topics form the basis for a discussion of the major theories of human development, including those about early experience, neural plasticity, dynamic systems, information processing, social learning, attachment, parenting, and family systems. [ more ]

PSYC 242(F, S) LEC Social Psychology

A survey of theory and research in social psychology. Topics include conformity, group dynamics, stereotyping and prejudice, aggression, altruism, attraction and love, the self, social perception, attitudes and attitude change, and cultural psychology. Applications in areas such as advertising, law, economics and business, and politics will also be discussed. [ more ]

PSYC 25 Exploring K-12 Education in the Berkshires

Last offered NA

Interested in education? Exploring K-12 Education in the Berkshires provides a wonderful opportunity to dive into a project in one of our local K-12 schools. Special projects ranging from curriculum development to project based learning are offered in collaboration with local teachers and administrators to provide an intensive rich learning and teaching experience for Williams students. Students will be mentored by host teachers and will have the opportunity to explore other topics in education as well through further connections at their host schools, a weekly dinner speaker series and weekly reflections sessions. Typical projects involve 15-20 hours/week. Hours in the school are coordinated between the Williams student and the teacher. Final project will be decided on a case by case in advance basis depending on the school. Orientation for this class will occur in fall so that students are well connected with their host teacher and their school prior to the start of winter study. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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PSYC 252(F, S) LEC Clinical Psychology

A study of the phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of psychopathology: depression, bipolar disorder, the schizophrenias, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and other health-related issues. The course emphasizes an integrative approach which analyzes theories and research from psychological, biological, interpersonal, and sociocultural perspectives. [ more ]

PSYC 272 LEC Psychology of Education

Last offered Spring 2023

This course introduces students to a broad range of theories and research on education. What can developmental research tell us about how children learn? What models of teaching work best, and for what purposes? How do we measure the success of various education practices? What is the best way to describe the psychological processes by which children gain information and expertise? What accounts for individual differences in learning, and how do teachers (and schools) address these individual needs? How do social and economic factors shape teaching practices and the educational experiences of individual students? The course will draw from a wide range of literature (research, theory, and first-hand accounts) to consider key questions in the psychology of education. Upon completion of the course, students should be familiar with central issues in pre-college education and know how educational research and the practice of teaching affect one another. [ more ]

PSYC 28 From "sketchy" to "abusive": Current research on harmful sexual behavior in college students

Last offered NA

There are many lenses to use when considering why sexual violence happens on college campuses, and no single one fully or correctly tells the whole story. This course will look at current research across the fields of psychology, sociology, and public health to consider what is known about how and why people engage in harmful sexual behaviors. We will also consider what the implications of that research are for everything from prevention programs, to policies in schools, to legislative action. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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PSYC 312(S) SEM From Order to Disorder(s): The Role of Genes & the Environment in Psychopathology

This course examines how experimental methods in neuroscience can be used to understand the role of nature (genes) and nurture (the environment) in shaping the brain and behavior. In particular, we will explore how neuroscience informs our understanding of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. We will investigate the biological underpinning of these disorders as well as their treatments. Readings will include human studies as well as work based on animal models. Topics will include: the ways in which environmental and genetic factors shape risk and resiliency in the context of psychiatric disease, the neural circuits and peripheral systems that contribute to psychopathology, and the mechanisms through which interventions may act. In the laboratory component of the course, students will gain hands-on experience in using animal models to study complex behavior and their associated neural mechanisms. [ more ]

PSYC 313(F) SEM Opioids and the Opioid Crisis: The Neuroscience Behind an Epidemic

Opioid misuse, including addiction, has emerged as a major health epidemic in the United States. This course will explore the science of opioids as well as the historical and societal context surrounding their use. We will examine the neurobiological mechanisms through which opioids interact with pain pathways and reward circuits within the brain and we will explore how changes in these systems contribute to opioid tolerance, dependence, and addiction. We will consider how genetic, environmental and behavioral factors can powerfully influence these processes. Finally, we will consider alternative approaches to pain management as well as interventions for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Critical evaluation of peer-reviewed primary literature from animal and human studies will serve as a foundation for class discussions. Evaluation will be based on class presentations, participation in discussions and written assignments. [ more ]

PSYC 314 SEM Learning and Memory in Health and Disease

Last offered Spring 2023

This class will examine the neuroscientific basis of different types of learning and memory (such as declarative memory, motor memory, and associative memory), including the brain circuits, cellar mechanisms, and signaling pathways that mediate these different processes. In addition, we will explore how these processes can be disrupted in different diseases and disorders (such as Alzheimer's disease or post-traumatic stress disorder) and we will discuss the strategies and targets for therapeutic intervention. Class meetings will include a mix of lectures, discussions, and student presentations. Critical evaluation of peer-reviewed studies involving both human and animal models will serve as a foundation for class discussions. Working in small teams, students will also design and conduct an empirical project related to the course material. [ more ]

Taught by: Shannon Moore

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PSYC 315 LEC Hormones and Behavior

Last offered Fall 2018

In all animals, hormones are essential for the coordination of basic functions such as development and reproduction. This course studies the dynamic relationship between hormones and behavior. We will review the mechanisms by which hormones act in the nervous system. We will also investigate the complex interactions between hormones and behavior. Specific topics to be examined include: sexual differentiation; reproductive and parental behaviors; stress; aggression; and learning and memory. Students will critically review data from both human and animal studies. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project as part of a small research team. [ more ]

PSYC 316 SEM Neuroscience of Decision-Making

Last offered Spring 2024

Humans are constantly making decisions: big and small, conscious and unconscious. This seminar will explore different aspects of the decision-making process, including (1) the algorithms for decision-making, (2) the neurological basis of decision-making and (3) the psychological, social, and physiological factors that influence our decision-making. We will examine how scientific approaches can help us understand complex social issues related to decision making. For example: how can stereotypes be understood as a failure in belief updating; how does confirmation bias lead to partisanship; and how to think of xenophobia from the "explore-exploit trade-off" perspective? In this course, we will explore how the brain and its neural networks contribute to these phenomena. The laboratory component of the course will introduce the research tools for studying different aspects of decision-making, including experimental paradigms, computational models and methods of analysis. Students will apply these tools to collaboratively design and conduct behavioral experiments and will analyze neural recording data to understand the relationship between neural activity and decision-making behaviors. Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop skills in computer programming to better understand computational models and data analysis. [ more ]

PSYC 319(S) TUT Neuroethics

Neuroscience studies the brain and mind, and thereby some of the most profound aspects of human existence. In the last decade, advances in our understanding of brain function and in our ability to manipulate brain function have raised significant ethical challenges. This tutorial will explore a variety of important neuroethical questions. Potential topics will include pharmacological manipulation of "abnormal" personality; the use of "cosmetic pharmacology" to enhance cognition; the use of brain imaging to detect deception or to understand the ability, personality or vulnerability of an individual; the relationship between brain activity and consciousness; manipulation of memories; the neuroscience of morality and decision making. In addition to exploring these and other ethical issues, we will explore the basic science underlying them. [ more ]

PSYC 322 SEM Concepts: Mind, Brain, and Culture

Last offered Spring 2020

Every time we see something as a kind of thing, every time that we decide that an object is a cup rather than a glass, when we recognize a picture of a familiar face as a picture of ourselves, or even when we understand speech, we are employing categories. Most categorization decisions are automatic and unconscious, and therefore have the illusion of simplicity. The complexity of these decisions, however, becomes apparent when we attempt to build machines to do what humans perform so effortlessly. What are the systems in place that allow us this extraordinary ability to segment the world? Are they universal? How does conceptual knowledge differ across cultural groups? How do concepts affect our perception? How do the categories of experts differ from the categories of novices? Do children have the same kind of conceptual knowledge as adults? How are categories represented in the brain? In this course, we explore various empirical findings from cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and anthropology that address these questions. [ more ]

PSYC 324 TUT Great Debates in Cognition

Last offered Spring 2018

The field of cognition is filled with controversies about how the mind really works. For example, is there sufficient evidence for a system in vision that can become aware of things without actually "seeing" them? Is it necessary to assume that babies come into the world armed with innate linguistic knowledge? Are humans inherently rational? Can we make inference about the mind using neuroimaging? These debates, and others that we will consider, help fuel scientific discovery in cognition in interesting ways. In this class, we will consider some of these contemporary debates, weigh evidence on both sides, and discuss the implications for what we know about the mind. [ more ]

PSYC 326(S) SEM Choice and Decision Making

Despite the impression many people have, we really are amazingly good decision makers most of the time. Even so, we do make mistakes; occasionally we even make choices that we know are likely to turn out badly for us. In this course we will survey theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding both our strengths and weaknesses as decision makers. Topics include adaptive rationality, the debate over cognitive biases, fast and frugal heuristics, impulsivity and self-control, addictions and bad habits, paternalism, and moral decision making. [ more ]

PSYC 327(S) SEM Cognition and Education

This class will examine two interrelated topics in education. One is societal issues in schooling, such recruiting teachers, tracking, international differences, and fads. The other is principles in the cognitive psychology of learning, such as metacognition, spacing effects, and retrieval practice, that can be used to enhance learning. Most of the readings will be scientific articles. [ more ]

PSYC 332(S) SEM Children's Mathematical Thinking and Learning

Are babies statistical experts? Will I ever be good at calculus? What are we born with and what do we learn? Before children are ever taught formal mathematics in a classroom, they are confronted with situations where they must use their informal understanding of geometry, space, and number to successfully navigate their environments. In this course we read and discuss both foundational and cutting-edge articles from neuroscience, cognitive science, education, and psychology to understand how humans bridge this gap between the informal and formal mathematical worlds. We will also tackle questions such as: How do culture and language affect numerical understanding? What are the sources of children's mathematical misconceptions? What are the effects of early environmental input or input deprivation on mathematical development? What do we know about gender differences in math achievement? How do stereotypes, prejudice, and math anxiety affect math performance? For your laboratory component, you will work with a small group of other students to develop an original research project that tests a specific hypothesis about children's mathematical thinking and learning. Data will be collected either online or in community schools, with the permission of parents, teachers, and children. Your results will be written-up in for your final paper, which will be in the style of an empirical journal article. [ more ]

PSYC 333 TUT Children's Minds

Last offered Spring 2022

Humans stand out in the animal world for their capacity to develop ideas and consider those of other people. Where does this capacity come from, and how does it develop? Why do some people seem more inclined to consider ideas than others? What can schools do to foster the pursuit of ideas? Young children ask questions, tell stories, speculate, invent, and predict. By middle childhood, they are capable of constructing ideas about any number of complex topics: death, justice, infinity, and the nature of time, to name four. Yet by adolescence only some people are disposed to pursue ideas. We will examine data on children who collect objects (such as bugs or rocks) and information (about things like dinosaurs, contagion, and death), and examine the role such collections play in the capacity to construct ideas. We will consider research on how and when children puzzle over philosophical problems (for example, identity and fairness), how they learn to plan, their ability to learn from thought experiments, their emerging conception of what an idea is, and what they know about knowledge and its role in shaping beliefs and making decisions. We will also spend time looking at individual and cultural variation, as well as the influence of adults. We will read work in developmental, educational and cognitive psychology, as well as anthropology. [ more ]

PSYC 335(F) SEM Early Experience and the Developing Infant

The period from conception to age three is marked by impressive rapidity in development and the plasticity of the developing brain affords both fetus and infant an exquisite sensitivity to context. This course delves into the literature that highlights the dynamic interactions between the developing fetus/infant and the environment. The course readings span a range of disciplines and cover a diversity of hot topics in the study of prenatal and infant development, including empirical research drawn from the developmental, neuroscience, psychopathology, and pediatric literatures. [ more ]

PSYC 336(S) SEM Identity Development in Adolescence and Young Adulthood

Who am I? How do others see me, and how do I want them to see me? What are my core values? Who do I want to become? These questions underlie what some theorists consider to be the fundamental developmental task of adolescence and young adulthood: Identity development. In this course, we will read and discuss the theoretical and empirical literature to understand how adolescents and young adults develop a unique, multifaceted sense of self. We'll explore how the biological, cognitive, and social transitions of this period prompt the development of identity. We'll also emphasize the role of family, peers, school, social media, and youths' own agency in informing their identity development. Special attention will be paid to the topics of gender identity, racial and ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and personality. [ more ]

PSYC 338 SEM Inquiry, Invention and Ideas

Last offered Spring 2024

Children tinker, explore and create, but some more than others, and under some conditions more than others. What leads children to investigate, invent and build their own ideas? We will examine the development of curiosity, invention, and the ability to have or construct an idea. We will also look at what accounts for individual differences between children, including the role of intelligence, creativity, social cues, and opportunity. We will look at how these processes unfold at home and in school, and discuss the educational implications of the research we read, and the research we conduct. [ more ]

PSYC 341(F) SEM The Social Psychology of Prejudice

This course will examine social psychological theories and research that are relevant to the understanding of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. We will take a variety of social psychological perspectives, emphasizing sociocultural, cognitive, personality, or motivational explanations. We will examine the impact that stereotypes and prejudice have on people's perceptions of and behaviors toward particular groups or group members and will explore a variety of factors that tend to exacerbate or weaken this impact. We also will consider sources of prejudice and processes through which it is maintained, strengthened, or revised. In addition, we will examine some of the effects that stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination can have on members of stereotyped groups, as well as some implications of the social psychological research findings for issues such as education, sports, and business and government policies. A major component of this course will be the examination of classic and ongoing empirical research. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

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PSYC 342(F) SEM Social Judgment

This course focuses on how people make judgments and decisions in their social lives and why they are sometimes biased and irrational in their choices. We will place a strong emphasis on exploring how ideas from the judgment and decision-making literature can aid in our understanding of social psychological phenomena, including planning for the future, understanding other people, and resolving interpersonal conflicts. We will also place an emphasis on people's judgments and decisions as they pertain to their happiness and well-being, exploring how concepts in the judgment and decision-making literature can help us to understand why certain types of outcomes are more satisfying than others and why people sometimes choose in ways that fail to maximize their well-being. As we explore these questions, we will survey a variety of methods and perspectives, ranging from classic social psychological experiments to techniques imported from behavioral economics and cognitive psychology. [ more ]

PSYC 344(S) SEM Contemporary Social Psychology

This course surveys recent and cutting-edge findings published in social psychology in the last few years--research that builds on old classics, as well as research that opens up new lines of inquiry. We'll consider the latest research in each of the major subareas of social psychology (social influence, social cognition, and social relations). We'll also consider recent applications of social psychological thinking in law, business, health, and well-being. Throughout the course, we'll think about not just new ideas and new content areas but also about new methods and scientific approaches, modern data analytic strategies, and novel data sources (such as behavior on social media or linguistic analyses of text). [ more ]

PSYC 345(S) SEM Psychology and Politics

This course will explore the field of political psychology primarily from a social psychological perspective, though also from a political science perspective. The goal of this course is to develop an understanding of how people's personalities, identities, and social contexts shape their political attitudes and behavior. Topics will include polarization, partisanship, political engagement, authoritarianism and belief in conspiracy theories, stereotyping and prejudice, media effects, and emotion. Throughout the course, we will consider the relationship between psychology and our political institutions. We will evaluate how psychology can be used to help our institutions better embody democratic values and, conversely, how it has been used to further anti-democratic actions as well. [ more ]

PSYC 346 SEM Environmental Psychology

Last offered Fall 2022

This is a course on contemporary social psychology as it pertains to the natural environment. Our two primary questions in this course are: (1) how can research and theory in social psychology help us understand the ways in which people engage with threats to the natural environment?, and (2) how can social psychology help us encourage environmentally responsible behavior and sustainable practices? Because human choice and behavior play such an important role in environmental problems, a consideration of human psychology may therefore be an important part of environmental solutions. [ more ]

PSYC 351 SEM Clinical Neuropsychology

Last offered Fall 2023

Clinical neuropsychology is a fascinating interdisciplinary subfield within clinical psychology that investigates the relationship between brain functions and behavior, including emotions and cognition. In this course, we will consider different cognitive functions, as well as an array of pediatric and adult neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Course goals include understanding the behavioral and cognitive characteristics associated with disorders and their underlying biology, how assessment tools are used in the diagnostic process, and how interventions may be implemented to improve function. To achieve these goals, we will discuss case studies and research articles, and we will take a hands-on approach by learning how to administer and interpret neuropsychological tests, paying particular attention to their strengths, limitations, and generalizability. We will also explore how neuropsychological test results can inform clinical interventions. Throughout these discussions, we will consider the ethical issues associated with neuropsychological testing and intervention. [ more ]

Taught by: Anna Miley Akerstedt

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PSYC 352 SEM Clinical and Community Psychology

Last offered Fall 2018

This course provides an overview of theory, methods, and professional issues in the fields of clinical and community psychology (and related fields). In addition to academic work (primary source readings and class discussions), students are encouraged to apply their experiences in academic psychology to field settings, and to use their fieldwork experience to critically evaluate theory and research. The course includes a supervised field-work placement arranged by the instructor in a local mental health or social service agency. Students must complete a brief survey about their interests and schedule in order to place them in an agency. Students should email the instructor to obtain the survey as well as receive permission to register for this course. [ more ]

PSYC 353(F) SEM Family and School-Based Interventions

The development of child psychopathology is influenced by a complex interplay of factors related to the individual (e.g., genetic risk), the family (e.g., instances of abuse), the school environment (e.g., incidents of bullying), and the broader context (e.g., socioeconomic factors like poverty). In comparison to adults, the manifestation of symptoms in children and adolescents is more directly linked to their immediate surroundings. Consequently, interventions primarily centered around the family and school settings are commonly employed in the prevention and treatment of psychological and behavioral issues. Throughout this course, we will delve into the associations between risk and protective factors from various settings and the emergence of externalizing and internalizing symptoms in children and adolescents. A comprehensive examination of the role of parenting and family dynamics in the origins of disorders in children will be undertaken. Our discussions will also encompass a spectrum of practical and ethical considerations associated with working with children and families. The objectives of this course include gaining an enhanced understanding of crucial risk and protective factors, exploring how such knowledge can be applied at the individual, family, and population levels, and grasping the utilization of behavior analysis and case conceptualization as tools for crafting precise and effective interventions for children and adolescents. To accomplish these objectives, we will analyze case studies and research articles, adopting a hands-on approach to applying knowledge of risk and protective factors in both assessment and intervention design. Emphasis will be placed on addressing the myriad practical and ethical challenges linked to working with children and families during these discussions. [ more ]

PSYC 354 SEM Health Psychology

Last offered Fall 2023

In this course, students will contrast the traditional biomedical model of health with the biopsychosocial model of health with a goal of understanding how biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors influence health and well-being. We will explore psychological theory and research that targets health promotion, disease prevention, and management of chronic illness. Course readings will include empirical articles, excerpts from popular science books, and news/media articles on public health issues. Discussions will center on using the biopsychosocial model to better understand health processes (e.g., stress, substance use, physical inactivity) and outcomes (e.g., insomnia, diabetes, heart disease), with a special focus on health disparities among historically disadvantaged groups in the United States. Students also will learn about cognitive, behavioral, and mindfulness-based treatments ("behavioral medicine") that promote healthy behavior and the management of chronic illness/disease (e.g., pain, HIV/AIDs, cancer). All students will design and conduct an empirical research project based on the course material. [ more ]

PSYC 355(S) SEM Psychotherapy: Theory and Research

Psychotherapy is young. Barely 100 years old, it is a psychological endeavor that attempts to promote change and healing through social interaction. How does talking with a psychotherapist facilitate change -- emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally? How exactly does psychotherapy help people achieve relief from psychological disorders and other identified problems? In this course, we will study some of the key modalities of psychotherapy by examining the theories and scientific research that surround them. We will also examine the sociocultural and political contexts in which these approaches evolved. We will engage in close reading and critical analysis of primary source theoretical papers, the "raw data" (videotapes and transcripts) of therapy sessions, case studies, and contemporary empirical research on the outcomes and change processes of psychotherapy. Students will learn how to evaluate the efficacy claims of both standard and new therapies and about the mechanisms by which those therapies work. Current controversies in psychotherapy and psychotherapy research will be addressed and debated as well. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project based on the course material. [ more ]

PSYC 356(F) SEM Asylum: Understanding the Psychological Effects of Persecution, Trauma, and the Migration Experience

Asylum is a specific form of humanitarian relief granted to an individual who can legally establish a history of previous persecution, or fear of future persecution, on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. What are the psychological effects of being physically and emotionally persecuted because of who you are, what you believe, and/or your identity? Using the framework of asylum, we will study the effects of persecution, loss, and displacement on mental health and well-being, and the psychological impacts of traumatic stress and of seeking asylum in the United States. Through close reading of empirical studies, case studies, narratives, and legal writing, we will consider the psychological outcomes most frequently reported by asylum seekers, as well as the effects of traumatic stress on attachment and interpersonal relationships, family functioning and the capacity for recovery and post-traumatic growth. We will explore various types of persecution (e.g., gender-based violence, gang-violence, political persecution, and family separation) and their global health context. Finally, we will examine the social determinants, legal frameworks, and social justice implications of therapeutic interventions and resettlement. Students will also explore the clinical literature on psychological outcomes and how this research is informing both psychotherapy and social service interventions in the US and humanitarian settings across the globe. Guest speakers will punctuate our time over the semester, so that students can understand the role of lawyers, clinicians (medical and psychological) and global mental health researchers in addressing issues of forced displacement. [ more ]

PSYC 357(F) SEM Clinical Psychology & Social Justice: Centering Marginalized Perspectives

In this course, students will evaluate the critical question of whether and how clinical psychology can address mental health disparities and promote social justice. Students will gain a substantive understanding of research and theory examining psychopathology, including historical perspectives, expression and conceptualization of psychopathology, etiological theories from varied disciplines, and intervention and prevention strategies. We will take a liberation psychology and intersectional approach to examine the ways in which various intersecting systems of oppression and privilege shape the mental health and lived experiences of individuals and communities. Throughout the course, we will center topics and people that have been epistemically excluded from the field of clinical psychology. Topics such as racism, discrimination, resistance, pride, collective care, and queer affirming interventions will be addressed and the voices of those with marginalized identities (for example, due to their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status) will be highlighted. Students will evaluate current research and theory with attention to bias, inequities, methodological rigor, and potential usefulness for promoting social justice, through prevention, intervention, and policy. [ more ]

PSYC 358 SEM Developmental Psychopathology: Trajectories of Risk and Resilience

Last offered Spring 2023

Why do some youth develop psychopathology in the face of adversity whereas others do not? How do we define psychological disorders in youth? Is resilience a static trait, or can it be promoted? How do we prevent youth from developing psychopathology? In this course, students will address these and other questions using a risk and resilience framework that examines the interactions among multiple risk and protective factors in the pathway to psychopathology. Specifically, students will examine the interactions between individual characteristics (e.g., neurobiological, interpersonal, cognitive, and emotional factors) and environmental contexts (e.g., family, school, peer, early adversity, poverty) in the development of risk and resiliency. Application of etiological models and empirical findings to prevention and intervention approaches will be explored. Throughout the course, students will evaluate current research based upon theory, methodological rigor, and clinical impact. [ more ]

PSYC 359 SEM Anxiety: Responses to Danger, Both Real and Imagined

Last offered Spring 2021

This is an advanced course on anxiety that takes an in depth look at the theory and research on the normative psychological processes that influence responses to danger, both real and imagined. Specifically, it examines the empirical research on psychological responses to traumatic experiences, such as combat, sexual assault, and natural and community disasters. Responses to perceived or imagined threats are also discussed as the underpinnings of such anxiety disorders as Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Specific Phobia and OCD. Discussions focus on commonalities and differences in empirically supported treatments for anxiety disorders as well as controversies in the field. [ more ]

PSYC 361 SEM Nonviolence and Positive Psychology

Last offered Fall 2023

In this course we will explore the theory and practice of nonviolence in the context of empirical research in Positive Psychology. Nonviolence refers to choosing not to threaten or injure others, and its practice requires cultivating personal qualities that enable such a choice. Positive Psychology refers to the scientific study of those personal qualities that enable people to live happy and fulfilling lives. We will begin by studying the history and moral theories of nonviolence. Using research from across the subdisciplines of psychology, we will then evaluate the empirical claims of those theories regarding psychological benefits of nonviolence to the practitioner, attitude change in the adversary, and effects on the larger community. An important focus of the course will be to critically assess the research methods and data analyses used in these studies. Topics will include self-control, gratitude, empathy, forgiveness, tolerance, courage, aggression, resisting violent assault, and civil disobedience. [ more ]

PSYC 362 SEM Cultural Psychology

Last offered Fall 2023

What is culture? How does culture influence the way we think and behave? How does it affect the neuro underpinnings in our brain? How is culture represented, impacted, and transformed in the digital age? This course will introduce you to the field of cultural psychology, and explore the role of cultural meanings, practices, and institutions on human psychology. We will discuss how culture emerges through evolution and examine how the same psychological processes that give rise to rich cultural practices also bear negative consequences on our society, such as stereotype and prejudice. We will also examine how human culture is transformed through digitalization, immigration, and globalization, and how it is represented on mass media and social media. Through the course, you will learn to critically examine human behaviors in the contexts of diverse cultural beliefs, to reflect on your own upbringings through a cultural lens, and to gain an appreciation for cultures other than your own. [ more ]

PSYC 372 SEM Advanced Seminar in Teaching and Learning

Last offered Fall 2023

This advanced seminar will give students an opportunity to connect theory to practice. Each student will have a teaching placement in a local school, and participate in both peer and individual supervision. In addition, we will read a range of texts that examine different approaches to teaching, as well as theory and research on the process of education. What is the best way to teach? How do various theories of child development and teaching translate into everyday practices with students? Students will be encouraged to reflect on and modify their own teaching practices as a result of what we read as well as their supervision. Questions we will discuss include: What is the relationship between educational goals and curriculum development? What is the relation between substance (knowledge, skills, content) and the interpersonal dynamic inherent in a classroom setting? How do we assess teaching practices and the students' learning? What does it take to be an educated person? [ more ]

PSYC 373 SEM Critical Issues in Learning and Teaching

Last offered Fall 2020

In this seminar we will take a deep dive into several key topics in education. We will examine psychological research as well as a range of other materials (essays, film, recordings of children and personal experiences) to help answer a series of questions, including: Does the kind or quality of schooling have a measurable impact on children? How do you create curriculum? How does one conduct high quality classroom observations? What do good teachers have in common? What is the best way to help teachers get better at what they do? Can remote learning work well in K-12 settings? [ more ]

PSYC 397(F) IND Independent Study: Psychology

Open to upperclass students with permission of the instructor and department. Students interested in doing an independent study should make prior arrangements with the appropriate professor. The student and professor then complete the independent study proposal form available at the Registrar's Office and should submit it to the department chair for approval prior to the beginning of the drop/add period. [ more ]

PSYC 398(S) IND Independent Study: Psychology

Open to upperclass students with permission of the instructor and department. Students interested in doing an independent study should make prior arrangements with the appropriate professor. The student and professor then complete the independent study proposal form available at the Registrar's Office and should submit it to the department chair for approval prior to the beginning of the drop/add period. [ more ]

PSYC 401 SEM Psychology in Popular Discourse: A Critical Examination

Last offered Fall 2019

This course considers several important contemporary topics from diverse psychological perspectives. These topics--which may include issues such as personal and external influences on success; technology and relationships; addiction--will be introduced via popular books, films, or podcasts, and we will analyze them more deeply with original research articles from across multiple approaches and sub-disciplines of psychology. A central goal in this course is for students to develop and apply the skills necessary to critically evaluate psychological ideas as they exist in the broader popular culture. The course will primarily be discussion based, and the students will lead these discussions. [ more ]

PSYC 403(F) SEM The Psychology of Love

This seminar will examine psychological approaches to the study of attraction, affiliative bonds, attachment, and relationship health across the lifespan. These topics will be introduced via review articles, books, and films. Students will analyze these topics more deeply with presentations and student-led discussions of original research articles from across multiple perspectives and subdisciplines of psychology. [ more ]

PSYC 405(F) SEM Why We Believe What We Believe

As scientists, we aspire to hold beliefs that are based in evidence. As humans, however, we are likely to embrace beliefs influenced by a variety of social, historical, cultural, political, racial, and religious factors. In this class, we will explore the question of why we cling to certain beliefs, even in the face of significant contradictory evidence. For example, what assumptions do we make about social situations and why are we so convinced these assumptions are correct? How does our culture affect our views of social phenomena such as psychological disorders, parenting, or educational systems and why do we hold on to them so fiercely? What assumptions do we make about the nature of memory, emotions, and cognitions and are these assumptions valid? Are there "defensive moves" that we make when we are challenged racially, even when we are committedly antiracist? And, if so, why? In class, we will explore source material from popular culture (books, films, podcasts, and popular press articles) related to some of these issues and we will examine claims made about different belief systems. We will then critically evaluate these claims by exploring the available empirical psychological evidence. The format of this class is student-led discussions. [ more ]

PSYC 406 SEM Are there any universal psychological phenomena?

Last offered Fall 2023

In this course, we will critically examine the ways culture, identities, power, systems, and privilege have shaped our understanding of human behavior as well as the consequences for policy, education, intervention, and prevention. Students will: a) evaluate the ways in which unmeasured cultural variables may have influenced the findings of seminal research articles and psychological theories; b) identify new methodological approaches, concepts, and processes that are revealed when we centralize people and topics that have been excluded from the research literature; c) examine ways the field has contributed to structural oppression and inequities; and d) design studies that provide robust tests of universality, elucidate the limits of universality, and have implications for addressing inequities. This student-led course will allow students to identify topics of interest in multiple sub-disciplines of psychology, select empirical readings, and lead class discussion. [ more ]

PSYC 407(F) SEM Success and Failure

The theme of this psychology senior seminar will be success. We will discuss the path to personal success, including the relative importance of hard work, genetic talent, and luck; barriers to success like poverty and discrimination; the importance of parents, family, teachers, and friends; and what we really mean by success. For each topic we cover, we will read a book or watch a film, then delve deeper by reading and discussing scientific journal articles. Class meetings will be student-led discussions. Students will write three 5-7 page papers. The larger goal will be to practice useful life skills such as how to lead and participate in a meeting (i.e., a class discussion), how to write engagingly and convincingly, and how to assess an argument skeptically and discuss it using evidence. [ more ]

PSYC 408 SEM The Psychology of College

Last offered Fall 2021

What happens to people while they're in college? Does it have an impact on people's core identity, the way they think, form relationships, or participate in society? Most people's ideas about the impact of college come from personal experience, and the strongly held views of journalists, filmmakers, college spokespeople, relatives and public figures. Those beliefs are often misguided. Yet research can help us develop an accurate picture of just what it is that college does and doesn't do. Drawing on films, popular books and articles, as well as research from across the subdisciplines within psychology, we will examine some of the most common beliefs, and then delve into the psychological evidence that supports or refutes them. Our goal will be to develop a scientifically-based understanding of the psychological impact of college, and redesign various features of college to reflect our conclusions. Empirical work on this topic presents unique methodological challenges, so we will also spend some time designing studies that overcome those challenges. [ more ]

PSYC 409 SEM Growing Up

Last offered Fall 2023

Growing up is a universal human experience, yet humans are shaped by distinct forces as they navigate infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. This seminar will zoom in on five key inflection points in the human lifespan (times when our environment or the choices we make may have an outsized impact on our life's trajectory): 1) birth/infancy, 2) school entry, 3) adolescence, 4) emerging adulthood, and 5) death/dying. We will discuss popular media depictions of humans in each of these transition points (such as the film Babies, and the book Being Mortal). We will then compare, contrast, and evaluate these popular depictions of "growing up" or "growing old" with accounts from empirical research from all sub-disciplines of psychology. The empirical evidence will take the form of journal articles that match the themes of the media depiction but use the scientific method to try to characterize the cultural and personal forces that most affect the human experience and shape a person's identity in key moments of the lifespan. The course will be guided by broad questions such as -- To what extent do humans shape their own destiny versus being shaped by cultural, environmental, or genetic forces beyond their control? Are there some types of experience that are stronger predictors of long-term outcomes than others? Are there any human experiences that are truly universal? What can psychology, as a field, tell us about "growing up" as a human on this planet, and where might it fall short? [ more ]

PSYC 410(F) SEM Psychology of the Internet

This course will explore the impact of the internet and digital technologies on human behavior, cognition, and society. We will draw from theoretical frameworks and empirical research across psychological subdisciplines as well as popular media sources. Specific topics will include online identity formation, digital communities, the psychological effects of social media, the proliferation of conspiracy theories and other extreme content, and the interplay between technology and mental health. Larger goals of the course include: using scientific data to understand real-world phenomena; crafting evidence-based arguments in conversation and in written form; leading and participating in productive group discussions; and equipping ourselves with analytical tools to navigate and contribute to the digital landscape thoughtfully and ethically. [ more ]

PSYC 411 SEM How do we think?

Last offered Fall 2023

In this seminar, we will seek to understand how the mind operates and how various factors shape our thinking. We will explore how emotion, values, and beliefs influence cognitive processes and consider the means by which rationality and heuristics influence decision-making. We will compare algorithms used by the brain with those used in artificial intelligence systems. We will also examine how the ways we think shape our interactions with society. Through student-facilitated discussions, we will explore how psychological research informs our understanding of cognition. We will examine how accurately (or inaccurately) popular media reflect research findings. Students will identify gaps in our knowledge and propose novel research to fill those gaps. Finally, we will apply findings from the literature to help develop interventions to combat cognitive blind spots, distortions, and biases, and to foster happiness, well-being, and deeper connections. [ more ]

PSYC 412 SEM Feelings & Emotions: Shaping the Brain and Society

Last offered Fall 2022

This course will explore what emotions are, the evolutionary origins of emotions, and the tools and techniques researchers use to study emotions both in humans and in animal models. We will examine how brain state(s) may underlie different emotions and challenge widely held notions about how an individual's emotion can influence behavior and social factors. Questions we will explore include: Is it better to be emotional or rational? What are 'gut feelings'? Are there gender differences in emotionality and, if so, what are their origins? Popular press literature and scientific studies will fuel student-led discussions as we seek to develop an evidence-based understanding of emotions and how they shape the world around us. [ more ]

PSYC 413 SEM The Resilient Mind

Last offered Fall 2020

In this seminar, we will explore the psychological, environmental, and biological variables that shape an individual's response to stress and/or adversity. We will discuss how factors such as personality, coping style, social network/community, gender, brain mechanisms, and genes can influence one's ability to adapt and recover from a crisis. Students will critically examine depictions of resilience in popular literature and film, and employ empirical scientific articles from across multiple approaches and sub-disciplines of psychology to delve deeper into their analyses. Class meetings will be primarily discussion based and student-led, with the central goal of developing skills in forming and communicating evidence-based arguments. [ more ]

PSYC 416 SEM Psychology of Nonviolence

Last offered Fall 2021

In this course we will explore the theory and practice of nonviolence in the context of empirical research in Positive Psychology. Nonviolence refers to choosing not to threaten or injure others, and its practice requires cultivating personal qualities that enable such a choice. Positive Psychology refers to the scientific study of those personal qualities that enable people to live happy and fulfilling lives. We will begin by studying the history and moral theories of nonviolence. Using research from across the subdisciplines of psychology, we will then evaluate the empirical claims of those theories regarding psychological benefits of nonviolence to the practitioner, attitude change in the adversary, and effects on the larger community. An important focus of the course will be to critically assess the research methods and data analyses used in these studies. Topics will include self-control, empathy, forgiveness, tolerance, courage, aggression, resisting violent assault, and civil disobedience. [ more ]

PSYC 418(F) SEM Suckers and Scammers

Virtually all of us are familiar with at least one account of a truly impressive scam - an event, device, or scheme that attracts attention, trust, and money, and then turns out to be a fake, sometimes with devastating consequences for everyone. What are the psychological processes and mechanisms employed by the scammers, as well as those who fall for such schemes? In this course we will consider several books and films that depict well-publicized recent examples (for instance, Bad Blood, The Rachel Divide, and The Talented Mr. Madoff). We'll use research from scientific journals to understand the psychology of both the scammer and those who fell for their schemes. We'll consider, among other things, the developmental origins of deception, what motivates people to pull one over on others, the role of identity maintenance, how we decide who to trust, and what it takes to convince oneself of something implausible. We'll use psychological research from all of the subdisciplines of psychology to find out what these cases might have in common, and also look at studies that illuminate unique features of each situation. Most class meetings will be student-led discussions. You will write three or four 5-7-page papers. The larger goals include: learning how to use scientific data to answer a wide range of questions about everyday life; how to engage in fruitful evidence-based argument; and how to write to think, and to persuade. [ more ]

PSYC 493(F) HON Senior Thesis: Psychology

Independent study and research for two semesters and a winter study period under the guidance of one or more members of the department. This is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). After exploring the literature of a relatively specialized field of psychology, the student will design and execute an original empirical research project, the results of which will be reported in a thesis. Detailed guidelines for pursuing a thesis are available from the department and on our website. [ more ]

PSYC 494(S) HON Senior Thesis: Psychology

Independent study and research for two semesters and a winter study period under the guidance of one or more members of the department. This is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). After exploring the literature of a relatively specialized field of psychology, the student will design and execute an original empirical research project, the results of which will be reported in a thesis. Detailed guidelines for pursuing a thesis are available from the department and on our website. [ more ]