100 Level Courses
Culture, Brain, And Development: Developmental Psychopathology
Until the last 10 years or so autism, a disorder with known biological correlates, was almost unheard of. Why is this disorder suddenly so prevalent? Is it something in our culture? our environment? our genetics? This course will examine developmental psychopathologies such as ADHD, autism, conduct disorder, Tourettes, and others from multiple perspectives. We will examine the role of culture, experience, and brain development in the development of these disorders in children using psychological and neuroscientific perspectives. Students do not need to have any specific background, but should be willing to read scientific articles and be open to understanding not only the role of culture and society in development but the biological underpinnings as well. Students will be expected to read primary research, write several short papers, as well as complete a course-long project that will be presented to the class. This is a course in the Culture, Brain, and Development Program.
The Social Mind: Evidence From Autism And Williams Syndrome
Human social interaction relies upon the ability to correctly attribute beliefs, goals, and percepts to other people. This set of metarepresentational abilities—a "theory of mind"—allows us to understand the behavior of others. Individuals with autism are often thought to lack a theory of mind, while individuals with Williams syndrome—a disorder that afflicts about one in 25,000 children in the US, seem to have no impairment in social interaction despite other cognitive deficits. In this course, we will examine the cognitive substrates of social interaction by looking in detail at these two disorders.
Philosophy Of Education
This course explores central questions in the philosophy of education: What is education, and what is it for? What is the meaning and value of education to individuals and society? What should the aims and content of education be? Are there things that everyone should know or be able to do? Should education promote moral virtue? What are alternative methods of education? How should educational opportunities and resources be distributed? What roles should the individual, family, community, and state have in education? What should the role of education be in democratic societies? We will examine alternative perspectives on these and related issues of educational theory and practice. Readings will include selections from a variety of influential historical thinkers, such as Plato, Locke, Rousseau, and Dewey, as well as more recent educational theorists and critics, such as Illich and Kozol, among others.
Do non-human animals have minds? If so, are they anything like human minds? Can animals plan, remember, solve new problems, experience emotions? In this course we will explore cognition and behavior in a wide variety of species—vervet monkeys, bottle-nosed dolphins, crows, sheep, honeybees and more—from the joint perspectives of cognitive science, animal behavior, and evolutionary biology. Students will read a series of papers from the professional scientific literature, and develop a final project (a research paper or experiment) of their own choosing.
Science And Religion: Origins
This course will examine science and religion interaction, with the goal of understanding the history of their relationship from the Greeks to the modern day. Both science and religion struggle to explain the natural world and the origin of humanity. We will discuss how and when these efforts have overlapped and been in tension. We will specifically focus on origin questions, including the origin of the universe, life, and humans and examining scientific and religious approaches to these questions.
Philosophy And Emotions
In one sense we are all experts on emotions. After all, we experience them every day. Nonetheless, we would be hard-pressed to say precisely what emotions are. Are they bodily responses? Feelings? Thoughts? Why do we have them? What functions do they serve? Are emotions rational? Controllable? Are there universal emotions found across cultures? Do non-human animals have emotions? What are the relationships between emotions, moods and temperament? To answer these questions we need to look beyond our personal experiences and examine evidence and arguments offered by philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary theory. In the past decade there has been an explosion of research on emotions across the cognitive sciences. This class will focus on some of this recent literature. Students will read and critically analyze philosophical works and primary research articles, and will write a series of short papers and several longer papers.
Introduction To Neuropsychology
With brain imaging technology increasingly available, more and more of our behaviors are being attributed to physiology. Neuropsychology explores the link between the physical structures of the brain and the less tangible attributes of the mind. This course will introduce the student to the basic anatomy and physiology of the brain, explore how those structures interact to form a functional mind, and examine what happens when something goes wrong. Students will be expected to read and summarize journal papers, as well as finding and reporting on additional materials on a chosen topic.
We humans are the only animals that learn and use language naturally. Why is that? Is it a matter of genetics? Brain size? Culture? Is it really just a matter of how we define 'language'? We will look at the past several decades of experimental evidence on attempts to teach non-human primates such as chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans to learn and use something like human languages, as well as examine naturally-occurring primate and animal communication systems. We will address a wide of cognitive, evolutionary, and other biological issues that bear on these matters. The course will focus primarily on non-human primates, but also include parrots, bees, and more.
The content of popular media—news, feature films, recorded music—is the product of people's labor. Bringing specialized skills to bear on complex technology, usually in the context of a formal organization, media workers create cultural products on an almost continuous basis. This course explores this process of cultural production, with a focus on the division of labor among media workers. Students will study selected media industry sectors, such as journalism, motion pictures, book publishing, and popular music. The goal will be to understand the distribution of power and authority in the content production process. This may require some attention to the structure of media ownership and the legacy of organized labor. But mainly students will investigate the actual work and production routines that result in media content. Students will write a couple of essays and a longer final paper.
Exploring The Unconscious Mind
This course will investigate the unconscious mind and how its properties and functions. It will consider unconscious processes in perception, attention, memory, judgment, emotion, motivation, social interactions, intuition, and expertise. It will ask three major and interrelated questions: First, what is the relationship between unconscious and conscious mental processes? Second, how much of what the mind does requires no conscious awareness and is, in fact, inaccessible to consciousness? Third, how much can introspection inform us about what the mind is doing, and are there other means that can allow us to identify or infer how the mind works? After examining the unconscious mind, the final part of the course will consider what the functions and purposes of consciousness might be. Students will complete a series of short papers and a longer final project.
Psychology Of Perception
There is frequently a dramatic difference between our subjective experience of the world around us and the physical reality of our surroundings. This course will explore how we receive information from our environment and the cognitive processes we then undertake in order to transform that information into a subjective perception. Our focus will be primarily on visual, auditory, and nociceptive (pain) sensation and perception, but we will be considering all available sources of information input from the environment. Illusions and mis-perceptions will be examined alongside normal perception. We will also be devoting considerable effort to exploring the methods used to examine differences and links between physical sensation and psychological perception.
Minority Languages And Linguistic Descriptions
One of the major goals of linguistics is to describe languages; doing this allows us to ask which structures are possible and impossible in human language. Intellectually, this is a relatively simple, straightforward goal. Culturally and politically, however, it is extraordinarily complex. What counts as a distinct, independently describable language? Who should decide which languages to investigate? Answers to these questions have far-reaching social, cultural, political, and educational consequences, particularly for minority languages: languages spoken by relatively few people, languages that aren't officially politically recognized, languages that aren't traditionally written down, etc. The course will explore linguistic descriptions and language issues in educational, political, and cultural contexts. We will explore these ideas through detailed case studies of languages including American Sign Language, African American English, Welsh, and endangered languages of Australia and North America.
In this course students will learn to program computers through a process of continuous immersion in the reading, writing, and running of program code. Lectures will be kept to a minimum; whenever possible we will communicate in the language of program code. No previous experience with programming or with computer science is required, although experienced programmers are also welcome and should expect to improve their fluency.
Judgement And Decision Making
Throughout our daily lives we make judgments about people and situations, and decisions regarding our actions and future plans. Some of our judgments and decisions are based on largely unconscious intuition, while others occur only after conscious deliberation. Many are made under conditions of uncertainty. In this course we will investigate what experimental psychologists have learned about how people make judgments and decisions. We will examine the roles of perception, attention, memory, and other cognitive and emotional processes in judgment and decision making, with special attention to our vulnerability to errors or biases in everyday social situations. We will also consider theories of judgment and decision making, which propose that we use intuition, reason, or both, depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Students will complete a series of short assignments and a longer final project.
Consumption And Happiness
This course will explore the increase in human consumption from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Specifically, it will focus on the consequences of this increased consumption (as well as exclusion from this consumption) on the happiness of human beings, including the role of consumption on relative well-being of individuals across cultures. It will also make connection between economics and other disciplines including sociology, political science, and psychology. The course topics and questions will include how economic theory describes (or prescribes) the relation between consumption and happiness. How the quest to satisfy (or create) consumption needs influences production, labor, employment, and the environment both domestically and internationally. Throughout the course, we will consider methodologies from psychology and economics for assessing well being and examining its relation to consumption. The course will also require students to reflect on their own experiences and those of their peers.
Introduction To Experimental Psychology
The goal of experimental psychology is to try to understand why people think and act as they do. How do we interpret and use the information gathered by our senses? Why do we pay attention to some things and not others? How do we learn things? How do we remember things, and why are some things forgotten? What is the source of our beliefs? What is the process by which we make decisions? This course will focus on the ways in which psychologists have attempted to answer these questions over the past century and a half using scientific methods. Readings will consist of a comprehensive text and selected journal articles.
Computer Animation I
This course will introduce students to the production of animated short films with the tools and techniques of three-dimensional (3D) computer graphics. Readings and lectures will cover the theoretical foundations of the field, and the homework assignments will provide hands-on, project-based experience with production. The topics covered will include modeling (the building of 3D objects); shading (assignment of surface reflectance properties); animation (moving the objects over time); and lighting (placing and setting the properties of virtual light sources). Due to the large amount of material being covered, additional workshops outside of class may be scheduled. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.
Aliens: Close Encounters Of A Multidisciplinary Kind
This course can be summed up as: everything you wanted to know about aliens but were afraid to ask (a scientist). The course will explore the topic of extraterrestrial intelligence from the perspective of several different fields. We will look at the history of UFO sighting claims and analyze the reliability of eye-witness testimonies, explore psychological and sociological reasons behind claims of alien abductions, and analyze the current state of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from the perspective of astronomy and planetary research. We will also examine how film and television have shaped our view of aliens in popular culture. We will conclude the course by looking at religions that have been inspired by UFOs and extraterrestrials.
Field Methods In Animal Behavior
This class will emphasize research methods for observing, coding, and analyzing animal behavior. We will practice behavior sampling and recording techniques on both domestic animals at the farm and wild animals in the campus woods. Students will carry out independent team projects on a species in the Hampshire woods as well as a class project on a study of the communication behavior of a local species such as squirrels or crows. We will examine how to summarize, analyze, and present data. Students will be required to learn graphical techniques for presenting data as well as statistical techniques for calculating inter-observer reliability scores.