Course Listing

PSYC 101(F, S)Introductory Psychology

An introduction to the major subfields of psychology: behavioral neuroscience, cognitive, developmental, social, personality, psychopathology, and health. 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 201(F, S)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 the results, and write research reports. Students conduct a series of research studies in different areas of psychology (e.g., social, personality, cognitive) that illustrate basic designs and methods of analysis. [ more ]

PSYC 212(F)Neuroscience

A study of the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, consciousness and clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson's disease, and addiction. The laboratory focuses on current topics in neuroscience. [ more ]

PSYC 221(F, S)Cognitive Psychology

This course will survey the experimental study of the structures and processes that make up normal human cognition. Topics include perception, attention, learning, memory, categorization, language, judgment, decision making, reasoning, and problem solving. [ more ]

PSYC 222(F)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 232(F, S)Developmental Psychology

An introduction to the study of human growth and development from conception through emerging adulthood. Topics for discussion include prenatal 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, social learning, and cognitive-development. [ more ]

PSYC 242(F, S)Social Psychology

A survey of theory and research in social psychology. Topics include the self, social perception, conformity, attitudes and attitude change, prejudice, aggression, altruism, attraction and love, intergroup conflict, and cultural psychology. Applications in the areas of advertising, law, business, and health will also be discussed. [ more ]

PSYC 252(F, S)Psychological Disorders

A study of the phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of the major forms of psychological disorders: the schizophrenias, dissociative disorders, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, addictions, alcoholism, and others. The course emphasizes an integrative approach which incorporates and analyzes theories and research from psychological, biological, interpersonal, and sociocultural perspectives. [ more ]

PSYC 272(S)Psychology of Education

This course introduces students to a broad range of theories and research on education. 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 312(S)Brain, Behavior, and the Immune System

In all animals, the immune system is the body's defense against the outside world. Immune function is strongly influenced by environmental and behavioral experiences, and the immune system has a dynamic relationship with the brain. We will study the interactions among the brain, behavior, and the immune system in models of health and disease. Specific topics to be examined include: immune cells and their signaling molecules, immune cells within the brain, sickness behaviors, learning and memory, nervous system development, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and nervous system injury and repair. 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 315Hormones and Behavior

Not offered this year

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(F)Clinical Neuroscience

Diagnosing and treating neurological diseases is the final frontier of medicine. Recent advances in neuroscience have had a profound impact on the understanding of diseases that affect cognition, behavior, and emotion. This course provides an in-depth analysis of the relationship between brain dysfunction and disease state. We will focus on neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. We will consider diagnosis of disease, treatment strategies, as well as social and ethical issues. The course provides students with the opportunity to present material based upon: (1) review of published literature, (2) analysis of case histories, and (3) observations of diagnosis and treatment of patients both live and on videotape. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project. [ more ]

PSYC 317 TNature via Nurture: Topics in Developmental Psychobiology

Not offered this year

Do your genes determine who you are? This course examines the relative contributions of nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) that lead to individual differences in behavior. Modern neuroscience techniques have discovered new relationships between genes and behavior. Conversely, recent studies on the effects of social factors suggest critical environmental influences on the expression of these genetic determinants. This tutorial will explore the theoretical and empirical issues in animal models of behavioral epigenetics. Topics include child neglect, antisocial behavior, addiction, anxiety, risk-taking, empathy, and depression. Each tutorial pair will design and conduct an empirical laboratory project that will explore their own experimental question about the interaction of genes and environment in determining behavioral phenotypes. [ more ]

PSYC 318(S)Image, Imaging, and Imagining: The Brain and Visual Arts

This course will study the intersections of neuroscience and art. The brain interprets the visual world and generates cognitive and emotional responses to what the eyes see. It is also responsible for creating mental images and then directing the artist's motor output. We will first examine the neural mechanisms of how we perceive what we see. We will investigate how visual artists have used or challenged perceptual cues in their work. Understanding how the brain perceives faces will be used to analyze portraiture. We will consider the influence of neurological and psychological disorders on artistic work. We will examine neuroimaging studies questioning whether the brains of visual artists are specialized differently from non-artists. Finally, we will explore how contemporary artists are using brain images in their artwork, and how "outsider" artists have portrayed brain syndromes and mental states. Students will conduct an empirical laboratory project that will explore their own experimental question in response to the course material. The class will include field trips to local museums. [ more ]

PSYC 319 T(S)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(F)Concepts: Mind, Brain, and Culture

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 ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSYC 324 TGreat Debates in Cognition

Not offered this year

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 ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSYC 326(F)Choice and Decision Making

One aspect of "being human" is that we often make choices that we know are bad for us. In this course we survey theoretical and experimental approaches to understanding our strengths and weaknesses as decision makers. Topics include normative decision theories, biases in probability judgments, "fast and frugal" heuristics, impulsiveness and self-control, addictions and bad habits, gambling, and moral decision making. [ more ]

PSYC 327(S)Cognition and Education

This class will focus on basic research into the cognitive processes underlying learning. How does the mind encode, store, and retrieve knowledge? How do learners (and teachers) manage their own learning? How do educational practices depart from what research recommends? The readings will be scientific articles. Students will do original research. [ more ]

PSYC 328(S)Understanding Attention and Distraction

The human brain is constantly bombarded by sensory information. For example, as you sit in class listening to a lecture, many other people and objects are visible, competing for your limited attention resources. How does your brain manage to avoid such distractions to focus attention on relevant sensory information (such as the lecture) in order to extract the information you need to accomplish important goals (such as passing the class)? This is a problem that confronts humans in a variety of ways, ranging from finding your keys or driving your car, to using your iPhone or iPad, to doctors looking for tumors on medical images or airport security screeners looking for weapons in baggage. In this course, students will read empirical studies that use both behavioral and brain imaging techniques to investigate the capabilities, limitations, and brain substrates of attention in human behavior. Topics include attentional control, how attention interacts with overt behaviors such as eye and hand movements, practical applications of attention research including topics such as smartphone technology design and training for medical image screeners, and dysfunction of attention in clinical populations. Students will conduct original empirical research, analyze data, and present their findings to their peers at the end of the semester. [ more ]

PSYC 332(S)Mathematical Development

Can monkeys do math? 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? [ more ]

PSYC 333Cognitive Development

Not offered this year

Can babies decide which bottle contains more milk? Can toddlers figure out who's lying? How do kids determine who's nice and who's mean? How do children develop the ability to make these decisions, and how do these abilities change over time? In this class, we'll be reading literature (both seminal and cutting-edge) and designing our own experiments to find the answers to these questions and more. The course will broadly cover aspects of early cognitive development such as memory, numerical cognition, language acquisition, and understanding of other social beings, focusing especially on aspects of the human mind that are present early in life and how they evolve. Students will participate in discussions about primary literature, think about effective science communication, and design and collect data for their own specific area of interest. [ more ]

PSYC 335(S)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 336Adolescence

Not offered this year

Why do we define adolescence as a distinct stage of development? What are its perils and accomplishments? What internal and external forces make adolescence such a volatile and formative stage of life? The course considers a range of empirical and theoretical material, as well as fiction and film, in order to identify and understand the behavior and experience of adolescents. Topics include: identity, sexuality, romantic love, intellectual growth, family relationships, psychological problems, education, and variation between cultures. [ more ]

PSYC 337Temperament and Biobehavioral Development

Not offered this year

This class will explore individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation in infancy and childhood. Developmental, ethological, and neuroscience models will serve as the foundation for the exploration of the construct of temperament. Topics will include biobehavioral models of reactivity to stress and novelty, including research examining individual differences in neuroendocrine, electrophysiological, and emotional responding. Individual differences in self-regulation will be explored, and will focus heavily on the literature examining the development of attention and other executive control processes in infancy and early childhood. Longitudinal research that examines continuity and change in temperament from infancy through adulthood will be examined. The contributions of genetics and the contextual influences on temperament trajectories will be explored, including research demonstrating the influence of caregivers and gene-by-environment interactions. [ more ]

PSYC 338(F)Inquiry, Invention and Ideas

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 340 TInterdisciplinary Approaches to Social Psychology

Not offered this year

This tutorial will examine new and emerging interdisciplinary approaches to the study of important social psychological issues. Its focus will be on the connections between social psychology and disciplines such as neuroscience, biology, cognitive psychology, political science, organizational behavior, educational psychology, and cross-cultural and multi-cultural psychology. Examples of topics to be examined include: Neuroscience and prejudice; culture and the self; education and diversity; biology and altruism; politics and attitude change. We will explore the benefits and challenges of taking interdisciplinary approaches to studying these issues. [ more ]

PSYC 341Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination

Not offered this year

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 some of the sources of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination and some of the processes through which they are 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 and business and government policies. A major component of this course will be the examination of classic and ongoing empirical research. [ more ]

PSYC 342(S)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 344Advanced Research in Social Psychology

Not offered this year

This course will focus on the process of doing original, empirical social psychological research. We will concentrate on a few social psychological topics, such as stereotyping and prejudice, media influences, political biases, and sports psychology. Students will research and critically analyze and integrate the relevant literatures, and they will design and conduct original research to test hypotheses that emerge from these literatures. We will examine a variety of types of research designs, how to conduct online and in-person research, and how to analyze and understand results, including using SPSS to analyze data. [ more ]

PSYC 345(S)Political Psychology

What kinds of politics are humans capable of engaging to govern themselves? For millennium political philosophers have asserted different foundational claims about "human nature" that in turn led them to their vision of politics. For example, the enlightenment thinkers held that science and technology would strengthen rationality and thereby making democracy more viable. On the other hand, those who defend authoritarian regimes often do so by proclaiming that the general public is incapable of rationality and of self-rule and should therefor accept rule by their betters (previously nobility, now experts). Many of the disputes turn on how rational people are and on their capacity to pursue justice for all people. We explore what political psychology tells us about political citizens and political leaders. We find intriguing new answers from neuroscience. The course pays special attention to the powerful and surprising, roles that emotions play in all aspects of politics. Central to politics in all its variety is the issue of political judgment. If we are to trust ourselves to rule ourselves, how well will we be able to secure justice and liberty for one and all among us? Political psychology is one of the very oldest disciplines (it can be dated at least back to the early classic Greeks, among them Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle). But in its current form is very influenced by neuroscience. Nonetheless, the issue of citizen competence, then as now, was at the center of their attention. So, it shall be in this course. [ more ]

PSYC 346(F)Environmental Psychology

This is a course in social psychology as it pertains to the natural environment. We will consider how the environment influences aspects of human psychology (e.g., the psychological implications of humans' disconnect with nature), as well as how human psychology influences the environment (e.g., why some people engage in environmentally destructive behaviors despite holding proenvironmental attitudes). At the core of this course is an attempt to examine various ways in which research and theory in social psychology can contribute insights to understanding (and encouraging) environmentally responsible behavior and sustainable practices, both here at Williams and globally. 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 the solution. [ more ]

PSYC 349(S)Psychology and Law

This course examines the legal system in light of psychological research findings, Supreme Court rulings, wrongful conviction cases and illustrative crimes. The law's informal theories of human behavior will be compared to what psychologists know on the basis of theories and research regarding such topics as Miranda, lie detection, police interrogation, false confessions, eyewitness identification, repressed and recovered memories, forensic evidence, juries and criminal insanity. Students will conduct an empirical research project, analyze data and present their findings to their peers at the end of the semester. [ more ]

PSYC 350Child Psychopathology

Not offered this year

This course explores the rapidly evolving field of psychological disorders in childhood and adolescence. We will examine the intertwined effects of individual characteristics (e.g., genetics, neurobiological factors), relationship processes (e.g., parenting, family functioning, peers), community settings (e.g., schools, neighborhoods), and the broader cultural context (e.g., poverty, stigma, media). Using a developmental framework, we will examine the emergence and maintenance of specific psychological disorders, as well as variations in how children cope with cataclysmic stressors (chronic illness, physical and sexual abuse). The goals of this course include (1) appreciation of the dynamic interplay between biology and experience in the unfolding of psychopathology, (2) exploration of diagnostic criteria and phenomenology of specific disorders, and (3) exposure to a wide range of research-based strategies for prevention and intervention. [ more ]

PSYC 351Childhood Peer Relations and Clinical Issues

Not offered this year

An exploration of the important ways peer relationships influence children's emotional, cognitive, and social development. We consider various aspects of childhood peer rejection, including emergence and maintenance of peer difficulties, short- and long-term consequences, and intervention and prevention programs. A variety of research methodologies and assessment strategies will be considered. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project based on the concepts discussed. [ more ]

PSYC 352(F)Clinical and Community Psychology

A study of the theory, methods, and professional issues in clinical and community psychology. In addition to academic work (primary source readings and class discussions), the course aims to enable students to apply their experience 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. [ more ]

PSYC 355(F)Psychotherapy: Theory and Research

Psychotherapy is a young, barely 100-year old psychological endeavor which attempts to promote change and healing through social interaction. How can it be that talking with a psychotherapist can help people change -- emotionally, cognitively, and/or behaviorally -- and how exactly does it help people achieve relief from psychological disorders and problems? In this course, we will study some of the key approaches to psychotherapy by examining the theories and scientific research that surround them, and considering theory and research in juxtaposition. This will be accomplished by a 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 how to evaluate claims 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 357Depression

Not offered this year

This course will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of depression. Topics will include assessment, models of etiology and course, effective approaches to prevention and intervention, and depression in specific populations. Readings will expose students to seminal works in the field as well as current methods and research findings. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project based on the readings and concepts discussed. Throughout the course, students will evaluate current research based on theory, methodological rigor, and potential impact on prevention and intervention efforts. [ more ]

PSYC 359(S)Anxiety: Responses to Danger, Both Real and Imagined

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, rape, and natural 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(S)Psychology of Nonviolence

Nonviolence refers to choice behavior in interpersonal interactions in which physical and psychological injury to others is rejected as an option. In this course we will study moral and psychological theories of nonviolence, and evaluate the empirical support for their central empirical claims of psychological benefits to the practitioner, attitude change in the adversary, and positive exemplary effects on social interaction. Topics include anger and self-control, aggression, evil, conflict resolution, empathy, and forgiveness. [ more ]

PSYC 372Advanced Seminar in Teaching and Learning

Not offered this year

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 397(F)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)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(F)Perspectives on Psychological Issues

This course--the psychology department's senior seminar--considers several important contemporary topics from diverse psychological perspectives. These topics will be introduced via popular books or films, and we will analyze them more deeply with original research articles from across multiple perspectives and subdisciplines of psychology. The course will primarily be discussion based, and the students will lead these discussions. [ more ]

PSYC 493(F)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. 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 web site. [ more ]

PSYC 494(S)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. 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 web site. [ more ]