Course Listing

PSYC 101(F, S)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 TThe Psychology of Success

Last offered Fall 2017

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). Other topics will include how discrimination affects success, cross-cultural differences in how children are cared for, and the self-help industry. [ more ]

PSYC 161(F)Nonviolence and Positive Psychology

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)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. [ 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 ]

Taught by: Matthew Clasen, Heather Williams

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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 222Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science

Last offered Fall 2017

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)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, and family systems. [ 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 ]

Taught by: Amanda Bergold, Steven Fein

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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 258(S)Language and Literacy Development

Language is uniquely a human function and fundamental to one's participation in society. Children learn to talk in the first three years of life at an impressive speed. However, in order to successfully participate in academic and social life, it is critical for one to develop literacy skills. Learning to read is a multifaceted process that involves various cognitive resources. This course is an introduction to language development and literacy acquisition in first language and in a cross-linguistic environment including Japanese, Chinese and English. Linguistic concepts such as phonology, syntax and morphology will be introduced as we discuss the acquisition processes. Questions to be addressed include: How does a child develop oral language from birth? How does a child learn the meaning of words? How is learning to talk and read similar or different across various languages? How is learning to read different from learning to speak? How "natural" is it to learn to read? [ more ]

PSYC 272(S)Psychology of Education

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 314(S)Drug Addiction and Obesity: Tales of a Disordered Brain

Drug addiction and obesity are two of the biggest health problems facing our world today. Although obesity and drug addiction are two qualitatively different disorders, recent literature suggests that they share similar neural substrates. The first third of this class will discuss the behavioral and neural underpinnings of drug addiction, the second third of this class will discuss the behavioral and neural underpinnings of obesity, and the last third of the class will discuss their interaction in many different facets. In so doing, students will learn about the animal models used to study drug addiction and obesity (i.e., intravenous self-administration, intracranial self-stimulation, conditioned place preference, conditioned taste avoidance, and locomotor sensitization) and the neurobiological techniques used to understand their underlying mechanisms (i.e., DREADDs, optogenetics, and immunohistochemistry). Utilizing these tools, students will design and conduct an empirical laboratory experiment to study these dysregulated behaviors. [ more ]

Taught by: Matthew Clasen

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PSYC 315(F)Hormones and Behavior

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 317 T(S)Nature via Nurture: Topics in Developmental Psychobiology

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 318Image, Imaging, and Imagining: The Brain and Visual Arts

Last offered Spring 2017

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 TNeuroethics

Last offered Spring 2017

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 322Concepts: Mind, Brain, and Culture

Last offered Fall 2017

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 TGreat 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 ]

Taught by: TBA

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PSYC 326Choice and Decision Making

Last offered Fall 2016

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(F)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 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 338Inquiry, Invention and Ideas

Last offered Spring 2018

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(S)Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination

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 342Social Judgment

Last offered Fall 2017

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 346Environmental Psychology

Last offered Fall 2016

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, and juries. The course will also explore the psychological mechanisms underlying legal decisions, and demonstrate how psychological findings can contribute to legal system reform. [ more ]

Taught by: Amanda Bergold

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PSYC 352(F)Clinical and Community Psychology

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 354(F)Beyond Symptoms: Cognitive and Perceptual Changes in Mental Disorder

When we think of mental disorders, the first things that come to mind are often the symptoms that define them, like hallucinations, delusions, mood disturbances, or anxiety. Interestingly, in addition to these cardinal symptoms, many disorders are accompanied by other mental changes that are simpler and therefore more scientifically approachable, like problems in perception or in working memory. This course will delve into how our minds and brains perceive and understand the world in a very basic sense, and then explore how perceptual and cognitive processes are altered in mental disorders like schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety disorders, and whether and why such alterations are important. Readings will explore seminal and current findings in the field, as well as theoretical papers. [ more ]

PSYC 355(S)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

Last offered Spring 2018

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 361Psychology of Nonviolence

Last offered Spring 2018

Nonviolence refers to choice behavior in interpersonal interactions in which physical 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 claims of psychological benefits to the practitioner, attitude change in the adversary, and positive exemplary effects on social interaction. Topics include empathy, tolerance, forgiveness, aggression, courage, resisting violent assault, and civil resistance. [ more ]

PSYC 372(F)Advanced Seminar in Teaching and Learning

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 ]

Taught by: Amanda Bergold, Matthew Clasen, Nicole Harrington, Nate Kornell, Dan Norton

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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 website. [ 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 website. [ more ]