Spring Term 2013 Courses
This course is an introduction to philosophy concentrating on the skills necessary to evaluate philosophical claims about minds, brains and information. Topics will be chosen from the following: language, sentences, and logic; meaning, reference and thought; relativism and theories of truth; personal identity, the self and the brain; knowledge and belief; consciousness and the neural correlates of consciousness; dreaming and skepticism; materialism or physicalism, concepts and the mind-body problem; freewill and neurological determinism.
The majority of adults are able to read fluently. However, when children learn to read, the process is dependent on a number of skills and requires a great deal of adult guidance. In this course we will discuss the cultural importance of literacy across societies and throughout childhood. We will focus on the development of the complex skill of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and higher-order processes that contribute to decoding and text comprehension. Because instruction can play a determining factor in children's acquisition of literacy skills, we will study early reading materials and examine strategies that are employed in the classroom to facilitate the acquisition of these skills. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project.
This course is designed to give students a strong introduction to computer programming, with an emphasis on programming computer games. As the title reveals, we will be working in the Python programming language. By the end of the course successful students will be able to write programs of moderate difficulty, and will be able to use the Python pygames library to make use of graphic utilities with which to implement computer games. As a course that can provide a strong foundation for further computer science courses, this class will expose students to input/output operations, if-else structures, loops, functions, objects, and classes.
This course will be an in depth examination, from a social psychological perspective, of how stereotypes are formed, how stereotypes influence our perceptions, and how these perceptions influence our relationship with others. Classic and contemporary research will be examined. Students will be expected to write brief reaction papers to weekly readings, as well as complete a final paper and presentation on a topic of their choosing.
This course will provide an introduction to theoretical linguistics addressing basic questions about the nature of human language. It will focus on the linguistic knowledge needed to speak a language, and how this knowledge is represented in the brain. Topics we will pursue include observing the principles at work that allow speakers to combine words into sentences (syntax), identify the patterns of sound (phonology), form sound patterns into words (morphology), and decipher the meaning of sentences (semantics). Students will engage in linguistic description and analysis.
This course is an introduction to the psychology and neuroscience of music. We will study the psychological and brain processes that underlie the perception and production of music, current theories about why and how music evokes emotion, and the evolutionary and developmental roots of the variation and commonalities of music across cultures and traditions. Students will be required to complete a series of short assignments and a final paper or project.
This course offers a critical appraisal of the concepts of time, history, and memory in the social and cognitive sciences. We will start by defining our field of research at the intersection of sociology, psychology, history, anthropology, and cognitive neuroscience. We will examine the emergence of memory as an object of study within these disciplines, and focus on the interplay of individual and collected/collective memory. We will discuss the social marking of time and temporal ordering, as well as the individual and collective processes of attention and dis-attention in conjunction with historical narrative. We will analyze the processes by which individual memories are shared by larger collectivities, and the ways in which practices, spaces, and objects become means to articulate, legitimate, and construct personal biographies and collective identities. Additionally, we will explore issues of cultural transmission and cultural continuity.
Every society offers public rituals, formal instruction and places of sacred memory whose purpose is to foster a common political identity like nationalism. Some of these devices appear natural and timeless; others are obviously invented. Some exist in peaceful periods; others are meant to galvanize people for warfare. This course, whose focus is the contemporary US, introduces their analysis.
Language is paramount among the capacities that characterize humans. We hold language as a marker of our humanity, and by understanding language we assume that we will understand something important about ourselves. In this course we will ask, and try to answer questions such as the following: What's so special about language? How do we produce sentences? How do we understand them? What might cause us to fail at either task? What is meaning, and how does language express it? Is our capacity for language a biological endowment unique to the human species?
Words are the basic linguistics units of a language and the ability to recognize a word is a fundamental component of reading. For many years most of the research in reading was conducted in English, and it was assumed that what was true for reading English words would also be true for words in other languages. However, many languages differ in striking ways from English and studying these languages can be useful in illustrating the different ways that people approach reading. In this class we will look at the structure of words in the Semitic languages-Hebrew and Arabic-and consider how differences in word structure can influence the ways in which we read. Students will learn how to read and critically evaluate the scholarly literature on the psychology of reading.
This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to many of the research methods used in social psychological research. The main focus of this course will not only be to learn about research methods, but also when it is most appropriate to use one specific method or technique over another. These skills are essential to understanding research articles and performing your own research. Students will be expected to design, implement, and write up their own experiments.
Students in this course will become members of research teams focusing on projects designated by the instructor. Projects will involve open research questions in artificial intelligence, artificial life, or computational models of cognitive systems. They will be oriented toward the production of publishable results and/or distributable software systems. Students will gain skills that will be useful for Division III project work and graduate-level research. Prerequisite: one programming course (any language)
This course will expose students to several mayor artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. For each of these techniques we will start by looking at basic definitions and theoretical considerations, followed by looking at open source software packages that implement the AI approach, and then how to use these software packages for decision-making step within larger applications. Techniques we will look at include: searching, decision trees, Bayesian networks, artificial neural networks, evolutionary computation, and programmable logic. By the end of the semester successful student will understand the theoretical foundations of each approach, and will be equipped to correctly choose which approach to use for different needs. Prerequisite: a semester of college level programming
This course is study of the key fundamental problems in metaphysics. What is a thing? Is it the same as what it is made of? What is the difference between a thing a property? What kind of thing is a cause? Do necessity and possibility exist, like things, or what is their status in the world of being? Possible worlds. In what way do space and time exist? Persistence through time: does anything endure? Do space and time have a beginning and an end? What is the relationship between the mental and the physical? Freewill. The problem of universals: does anything universal exist, or is everything a particular? Prerequisite: A course in philosophy.
This class will help refine your knowledge of research methods needed to propose and carry out studies of animal behavior, with emphasis on avian behavior. We will read papers from the primary literature that emphasize the use of particular methods, and we will discuss the main techniques that are used to design and carry out behavioral studies on birds. We will collect data on both wild (ducks, passerines) and domesticated birds (chickens). Students will carry out a project during the semester, including data collection, analysis and presentation, and submit a paper. The paper will include proposal of an experiment that could form the basis of continuing your research further. We will have three birding trips on Saturday mornings, and students are expected to attend unless they have a documented conflict. Although the class will emphasize techniques to study avian behavior, projects on other taxa will be considered, particularly if the student has demonstrated interest in a particular group. We will spend time outdoors in cold weather. Students will need to collect data independently and out of class hours. We will analyze data using common statistical techniques.
Domesticated animals - agricultural livestock such as sheep, cattle, pigs, and chickens as well as companion animals like dogs and cats - are of deep importance to human life. The primary focus of this course is on how domestication shapes the mental and behavioral characteristics of these animals. We also explore related issues in human-animal interaction, animal welfare, and agricultural practice. Learning, socialization, biological development, and evolution are central themes. In addition we undertake some comparative discussion of the wild counterparts of domesticated animals, explore the nature of feralization, and look at cases (like the elephant) which raise questions about how domestication is defined.
One definition of "research" is that it is a systematic investigation to solve new or existing problems or to develop new ideas. In this research course, we will have learning at Hampshire as the subject of our research, developing explanations about what excites students and faculty about the pedagogy and educational structure at Hampshire College and what leads to strong student learning. We will use a variety of research methods - from interview to observation, survey to content analysis (as appropriate to our questions) to understand teaching and learning here. Of course, in order to carry out our research, we will read relevant literature on human learning, what promotes learning, and how to help more students succeed. Students will work as a research team along with the professor.
Why are there so many programming languages and how do they differ? What is an appropriate programming paradigm to solve a particular task? In this course, we will learn about common programming paradigms, such as object-oriented programming, functional programming, and logic programming, while using different languages that demonstrate these paradigms. We will also discuss core programming languages concepts such as syntax and semantics, typing, compiling vs. interpreting, and context-free grammars. Students will be expected to write small programs in a variety of languages, complete a small number of non-programming problem sets, and conduct a final project in which they research and present a language of their choice not covered in class. Prerequisite: One previous programming course (in any language).
Philosophers have long debated the nature of happiness and its contribution to the good life. Happiness is something we all want, but what is it, and why do we all want it so much? Are some people naturally happier than others? What makes us happy and why? This course will examine happiness from a number of different perspectives. We will look at what philosophers have said about the nature and importance of happiness in our lives. We will also examine psychological and neuroscientific literature on pleasure, subjective well-being, positive affect, and whether we can make ourselves happier.
Human behavior and culture have displayed remarkable variation across groups and over time, yet the human brain is highly similar to the brains of other primates, and it has not evolved significantly since the ice age. In this course we will consider contemporary approaches to the question of how the human mind/brain evolved to support cultural variation. We will consider how processes of individual neurological and psychological development are related to processes of cultural stability and change. We will attempt to integrate insights from neuroscience, psychology, evolutionary theory, and anthropology to develop a more subtle account of human nature than any of these disciplines has been able to give on its own. We will explore these possibilities by reading and discussing key recent work. A major term paper and several shorter essays will be required. This course is restricted to advanced Division II and Division III students in relevant fields.