student in media lab

CS 200 Level Courses

200-Level Courses

Research Experience In Artificial Intelligence
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. This class meets once a week for two hours and 40 minutes. Prerequisite: one programming course (in any language). This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Philosophy Of Mind
This course makes a study of twentieth-century attempts to understand the relationship between things physical and things mental. Things mental include thoughts, sensations, emotions, and consciousness. How are they related to the physical body, in particular to the activities of our brains? Are they, for example, the same things as these activities? Readings will come from journal articles in contemporary philosophy of mind. We will discuss the approaches of twentieth-century dualism, behaviorism, functionalism, the mind-brain identity theory, eliminative materialism, embodied cognition, and recent mysterianism. Students will write a series of short papers and one longer paper on a topic of their choosing. Prerequisite: This course assumes some familiarity with the methods of philosophical inquiry and analysis; it is recommended that students have one prior course in philosophy or psychology, or the consent of the instructor.

How People Learn
In recent years, as a result of interactions between cognitive psychology and education, we now have many ideas about classroom learning, and approaches to teaching, testing, and assessment. We also have strong evidence that implementing these ideas could really improve learning for all children and youth, including those who are under-resourced. In this seminar we will try to understand the findings by reading and discussing a selection of theoretical works from cognitive psychology and examine their practical applications to education. We will also learn how to evaluate educational claims. Students will be evaluated on 2-3 shorter papers and a longer final paper. The final paper will be on a topic related to the course that leads to recommendations for a school's instructional practice. This course can be used to satisfy the educational psychology requirement for licensure students (those students will have support in arranging an accompanying weekly pre-practicum). This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Art Programming
This is a programming-based art course in which students will learn about and create artwork through the medium of computer code. Students must have prior programming experience. They will be introduced to a variety of tools that facilitate the code-driven production of artworks, along with historical approaches to the creation of algorithmic art. Project work may involve graphics, animation, sound, interactivity, and other media. Prerequisite: one programming course (in any language). This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Basic Animal Behavior Theory
This course will survey the main theoretical ideas in animal behavior. We will cover physiological, developmental, functional, and evolutionary explanations of behavior. The reading will be John Alcock's "Animal Behavior: an Evolutionary Approach" text. This class will serve as a prerequisite for subsequent upper level animal behavior classes. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Research Experience In Psychology: Understanding Autobiographical Memory
In this course students will gain first-hand experience in the process of conducting research in autobiographical memory. Students will be exposed to some of the main issues in autobiographical memory for personal past events throughout the childhood years and into adulthood. We will consider the potential roles social interaction, self, culture, and emotionality of events as well as developmental changes in autobiographical memory reports. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles, and designing and executing an original research project. This is an intensive course comprising instruction in all areas of the research process, including collecting, coding, and analysis of data.

Birth Of Mind: Biological Foundations Of Psychological Development
This course provides students with a solid background in brain/behavior relations across development. Goals of the course include developing a working knowledge of developmental systems neuroscience, as well as developing skills in finding and reading research articles and in thinking and writing critically about research. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles, library research, and writing several short integrative review papers. Topics covered by the course will include the organization and development of the brain, the structure, function, and development of motor and sensory systems, and the development of some higher cognitive functions, including memory, language, executive functions (e.g. attention), and emotion. This is a core course in the Culture, Brain, and Development Program. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Freedom Of Expression
Should there be limits to what people can say in speech and writing, through the media and in other forms of social communication? This course will investigate a range of legal issues relating to free speech for individuals, groups, and the media, including some comparison with other countries' approaches to freedom of expression. The crucial context of history will be emphasized, since concepts of free speech change, often dramatically, over time. Special emphasis will be given to the application of U. S. First Amendment law to the media. College speech codes, textbook selection, flag burning, and other such issues will be examined. Students will read actual court decisions and the texts of laws in addition to analyses from several disciplines. Students will help lead class discussions; write short response papers and two essays; and conduct a final research project. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Psychology Of Language
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? This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Child Psychology:  How Did I Get Like This?
Have you ever wondered why a three-year-old doesn't get metaphors or why 9-month-olds freak out when their parents leave the room? Developmental psychology (sometimes called child psychology) is a field that tries to get to the bottom of these types of questions and we will do the same in this course. This course provides students with a general background in developmental psychology. Goals of the course include developing a working knowledge of developmental psychology, as well as developing skills in finding and reading research articles and in thinking and writing critically about research. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles, library research, and writing several short integrative review papers. Topics covered by the course will include the organization and development of the brain, cognition, socialization, and acculturation across childhood. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements. 

Journalism In Crisis
Name this field. Consumers of its hallmark product (newspapers) are steadily diminishing. Its practitioners are regularly revealed to break its most hallowed rules (scandals of plagiarism or fabrication). Its flashiest, least substantial examples are the most popular (Fox News). New forms, produced by amateurs (citizen journalism), are challenging its claims to professionalism. Critics say that despite its pretenses to neutrality, it is fundamentally biased. The answer, of course, is mainstream American journalism. This is a journalism in crisis, torn by controversy and uncertain how to proceed. This course will explore a range of issues affecting news making, including high-profile reform efforts, increasing commercialization, debates over the nature and enforcement of ethics, and the export of U.S.-style journalism to other parts of the world. Students will help lead class discussions; write short response papers and two essays; and conduct a final research project. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Cognitive Development
In this course we will discuss the processes by which children come to acquire, recall, and use knowledge. This course will focus on development from infancy to middle childhood. By reading primary literature, we will examine the emergence and refinement of children's ability to form concepts, recall the past, and extend knowledge to new situations. We will consider methodological challenges and approaches to studying children's abilities, including naturalistic observations, and controlled laboratory studies. We will review literature on findings and theories of development in each area and discuss how changes in children's representational abilities contribute to these abilities. Students will make class presentations based on research articles, write short papers in response to class topics, and develop a research proposal on a topic of interest discussed in the course. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Designing Curriculum For Learning In Formal And Non-Formal Settings
In the current political climate, schools are pressed to teach a curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Yet evidence from cognitive psychology shows that such a curriculum does not result in conceptual understanding or the acquisition of higher order thinking. In addition, much important learning is taking place in after-school and alternative settings. In this course students learn how to develop curriculums that help young people become capable of critical thinking and engaging deeply in learning opportunities. Each student develops a curriculum unit on a topic of their choice. In addition, students get some practice teaching. This course is designed for Division II and III students who are interested in teaching in formal or non-formal settings or who are developing curriculum as part of their independent work. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Minds, Brains, And Machines: The 50 Key Ideas
All students in the cognitive, neural, and psychological sciences should be familiar with certain key concepts. This course surveys these central ideas to give students the vocabulary needed to approach the research literature without being intimidated by a barrage of technical terms and to hold intelligent conversations with other students and faculty members who are interested in matters of mind, brain, and machine. Readings in the course will be drawn from books and journals in the field. Students will complete a series of short assignments concerning the concepts covered in the course. There will be no final project. Prerequisite: At least one prior course in psychology, linguistics, computer science/AI, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, or animal behavior. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements. 

Adolescent Development
Adolescence is often thought of as a time of great change and upheaval as children navigate the transition into adulthood. Raging hormones, changing social expectations and relationships, and developing autonomy all contribute to this tumultuous time. This course will examine the biological, cognitive, and social changes that occur during adolescence to develop a better understanding of this unique period of development. Using psychological as well as neuroscience and social science literatures the course will examine adolescence through multiple perspective to develop a well rounded picture of this developmental period. Students will be asked to read primary literature in psychology and neuroscience as well as from other relevant fields such as anthropology and sociology. Requirements will include short papers throughout the semester as well as a major research project. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements. 

Linguistic Variation
The study of linguistic variation is crucial for our understanding of the general nature of language as well for explicating the mechanisms of linguistic change. In this course we will focus intensively on a single aspect of variation in English: the dialects spoken in Ireland. The stereotypical "brogue" of Irish English (or Hiberno-English) is actually a set of regional and social variants that differ significantly from one another in their phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. They are also quite different in many respects from familiar American (or even British) dialects. None have been well-described in the professional literature. Using primary recorded and written materials, students will work closely with the instructor and contribute to an on-going research project aimed at characterizing Irish English more fully. Prerequisite: At least one course in linguistics or related area. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Genetic Programming
Genetic programming is a computational technique that harnesses the mechanisms of natural evolution--including genetic recombination, mutation, and natural selection--to synthesize computer programs automatically from input/output specifications. It has been applied to a wide range of problems spanning several areas of science, engineering, and the arts. In this course students will explore several variations of the genetic programming technique and apply them to problems of their choosing. Prerequisite: one programming course (in any language). This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Political Culture
Every society offers public rituals, formal instruction, and places of sacred memory whose purpose is to foster a common political identity such as 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 will examine such expressions of political culture as history textbooks, in the U.S. and in Europe, where they are intended to promote harmony among former enemies; children's literature under the Nazis; American monuments and civic ceremonies; and recent attempts to create "democratic citizenship" in post-communist Central Europe. Students will write short essays; carry out a group project; and write a final paper. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Storytelling, Mind, And Culture
This course will explore the relationship between mind and culture through the study of storytelling from evolutionary, developmental, cognitive, and cultural perspectives. Some of the questions the course will address are: What role did storytelling play in the evolution of mind and culture? How do storytelling abilities develop in young children, and how do these abilities contribute to a child's cognitive and social development? Do metaphor and story represent fundamental ways in which the mind works, and do narrative thinking and scientific thinking constitute distinct modes of thought? What do various forms of storytelling reveal about how mind and culture influence one another? The course will examine recent work in psychology, biology, and anthropology that attempts to answer these questions. It has a prerequisite of at least two courses in psychology, anthropology, evolutionary theory, or literary studies. Students will complete a series of short papers and a longer final project.  Prerequisite: At least two courses in psychology, anthropology, evolutionary theory, or literary studies. 

Video Game Building
This programming-based course will teach students to design and build video games. Students will learn to conceive, design, and build game frameworks. They will also learn the basics of creating the art necessary for the game environment and how to define game play. By the end of the semester, each student will have built at least one video game that is ready to be played. Prerequisite: Students are required to have at least one semester of college-level programming in a high-level programming language, e.g., C, C++, or Java. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Animals, Robots, And Applied Design
This is a hands-on course in which students will create mechanical animal models based on their observations of live animal behaviors. Mechanical models of animals are used in both art and science. Students will learn animal observation techniques, design and fabrication skills, basic electronics and simple programming. This is a class for students with skills or interests in any of the following: electronics, robotics, animal behavior, programming, metal, wood, or plastics fabrication. This will be a highly collaborative setting in which students will be responsible for sharing their own specialized skills. Students can expect introductory assignments to learn basic skills, followed by a term project. We will also examine work being done by scientists and artists who combine the study of animals with robotics and mechanical design. 

Artificial Intelligence In 3d Virtual Worlds
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science concerned with the construction of computer systems that "think." This course introduces the core ideas of AI through the development of programs for "intelligent agents" that inhabit three-dimensional virtual worlds. A high-level simulation and graphics package will be used to provide realistic physics and 3D animation for experiments in intelligent agent design. AI topics to be covered include pattern matching and production systems, heuristic search, genetic algorithms, neural networks, and logic-based approaches. We will also discuss the philosophical foundations of AI and the implications of AI for cognitive science more broadly. Prerequisite: one programming course (in any language). This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Cultural Citizenship
People in the West increasingly experience politics at a remove from daily life.They know politics mainly as representations and simulations, and less in terms of direct actions such as attending meetings, organizing, and, even, voting. Politics has become for many just another realm of mediatized culture. As such, politics competes for attention with a multitude of other realms that promise pleasure. This is the essence of cultural citizenship, an element of the contemporary "aesthetization of politics." In this course we will explore this newly emerging theory and its implications for democracy. Students will write a couple of essays and carry out a final project.

Cognitive Psychology
Cognition encompasses a range of phenomena that define our mental lives. This course covers a broad spectrum of topics in cognitive psychology, including perception; attention; learning and memory; language; decision-making; creativity; and problem-solving. While these types of mental events and processes cannot be directly observed, they can be studied scientifically. Emphasis will be placed on critical evaluation of objective evidence in the study of cognition. A primary text will be supplemented by additional readings, classroom demonstrations, and exercises. Students in this course should have some previous academic background in scientific psychology prior to enrollment. Prerequisite: Must have at least one prior course in psychology.

Computer Animation II
This course will cover intermediate topics that pertain to the production of visual imagery with the tools of three-dimensional computer graphics (CG). Lectures, screenings, readings, and homework assignments will explore subjects including organic shape modeling, character articulation, character animation, extensions to the basic shading and lighting models, and procedural animation. Students will be expected to complete individual projects and participate in group exercises that explore CG as both a standalone medium and as an integral part of modern film/video production. Prerequisite: CS 174 or its equivalent. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

The Plastic Brain
This course explores the mechanisms of plasticity within the brain from conception through childhood and the factors that influence them. The goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding of how the brain can be shaped through biological development and experience and how these processes are reflected in behavior. For example, topics will include reorganization of the brain following injury and effects of environmental toxins on the brain, as well as how these changes in the brain affect behavior. In addition the course emphasizes learning to analyze and write about the diverse lines of research that are influencing ideas in the field. Course requirements include reading primary research articles, library research, and a final research project. Background in psychology, cognitive science, neuropsychology, or neuroscience is highly recommended but not required. This is a core course in the Culture, Brain, and Development Program.

Public Diplomacy
Public diplomacy is the use of culture in relations between nations. Cultural exchanges of various kinds are meant to augment the principal means of international relations, which are political, economic, and military. Increasingly, however, culture is seen as an important example of "soft power," a way of exerting global influence without seeming to be threatening. Some of this influence occurs when big countries seek to modernize or Westernize smaller countries that are said to be in transition--post-communist, democratizing, developing, etc. This one-way flow raises important questions about cultural imperialism, claims that some cultural practices or forms are universal, and notions that some culture fosters democracy or freedom while others do not, etc. This course will explore mainly U.S. public diplomacy but also efforts by multilateral organizations such as the UN and international NGOs. Students will help lead class discussions; write short response papers; two essays; and conduct a final research project. 

Advanced Web Design
This 200-level course will cover advanced concepts in web design and will start where CS106 left off. This course assumes an understanding of client-side web design and covers server-side design. Students will learn to set up dynamic websites that can create content based on stored information as well as to create websites that can dynamically store user information. A variety of server-side programming languages for scripting, page generation, and database interaction will be covered. Students are required to have a working knowledge of and ability to write HTML, JavaScript, and cascading style sheets. Prerequisite: CS106 web design or significant knowledge of code-based web page design including HTML, JavaScript, and cascading style sheets. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Sound plays a critical role in the life of many biological organisms. In this course we will examine the physical nature of acoustic events, the anatomy and physiology of sound production and perception in a variety of species, and the functional and evolutionary significance of bioacoustic behavior. Among the special topics to be considered are the relationship of acoustic structure and behavioral function in communicative signals; neurophysiological and behavioral characteristics of ultrasonic echolocation systems (as in bats and cetaceans); and information-gathering through the acoustic channel, in domains such as predation, predator-avoidance, population assessment, mate selection, and social interaction. Students will be expected to carry out an experiment and/or instrumental analysis bearing on issues raised in the course. Prerequisite: course work in animal cognition or animal behavior or strong relevant background in general cognitive science or biology. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

Science In The Islamic World From Almagest To The "Islamic" Bomb
The history of western science would be incomplete without the inclusion of Arab and Muslim contributions in the Middle Ages. In this course we will explore some of the reasons behind the outstanding growth of scientific reasoning in the Islamic world, including the motivation for translating Greek works and the role of religion in the early progress of science. While we are familiar with prominent Greek philosophers and scientific personalities of the post-Renaissance era, the lives of many Muslim scientists such as Al-Haytham (Alhazen), Ibn-Sina (Avicena), Ibn-Rushd (Averros) and their contributions remain largely unknown to many students. We will also explore the fascinating philosophical struggle between the rationalist and the traditionalist (orthodox) philosophers. The course will conclude with a look at the reasons for the later decline of scientific thinking in the Islamic world and the contemporary struggles to reconcile modern science with traditional religious systems. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements. 

Sex On The Brain: Gender, Sex, And Biology
This course is designed to examine sex, gender, and sexuality in multiple contexts. The primary aim of this course is to develop an understanding of the biology and neuropsychology of sex gender and sexuality. Additionally the course will examine how biological and environmental factors influence sex gender and sexuality across development and how these factors influence differences in brain and behavior. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, sociology, anthropology, and women's studies. Students will also be asked to conduct library research; write several short response and review papers; and conduct a larger research project. Students are not required to have a scientific background, but they are asked to be open to reading and evaluating scientific research. This is a core course in the Culture, Brain, and Development Program.

Looking At Classrooms: Educational Research, Program Evaluation, And Improvement
There are many opinions about how to improve teaching from kindergarten through college. Without evaluation of classes and programs, individual teachers and institutions are left with personal opinion and anecdotes to guide their curriculum and instructional choices. Students in this course learn methods for evaluating teaching and learning by designing and carrying out a small research project in a classroom and making recommendations for improvement in curriculum, instruction,  and/or other institutional variables. Methods used include classroom observation, interview, survey, and assessment of learning outcomes. This course is particularly helpful for students interested in education who are in their last semester of Div II and wanting to start thinking about a Div III project.

Journalism And Modernism
Since about the 1920s, mainstream journalism, the kind associated with serious newspapers, has aspired to be a science, or at least to adapt scientific practices and principles to reporting the news. News of this sort aims to be objective, fact-based and reliably accurate. Journalists employ standard practices in making the news, they behave according to ethical codes and, most of all, they present the news in conventionalized forms, like the breaking news story. News language is impersonal and sounds authoritative. All this regularity may be "scientific," but it also something else: culturally modernist. In this course, we will explore the novel idea that mainstream journalism is best understood as an example of "high modernism." We will draw especially on the theory and criticism of modernist architecture to provide our analytical vocabulary. Working as a research seminar, students will pursue their own semester-long projects, guiding our discussions and discovering literatures. 

Software Engineering
Bigger-sized software programs require looking into aspects of the software development cycle that are not necessary for smaller projects. This course will expose students to the design, implementation, testing, and maintenance of big software projects. There will be emphasis on several topics other than coding per se. Additionally, students will be involved in the actual GROUP implementation of a major piece of software, in conditions similar to those found in industry. End-of-semester evaluations will be based on a series of documents to be handed in throughout the design process and on how well software engineering procedures were followed, as well as on evaluations generated by other students in their group and the Hampshire client they are working for. Prerequisite: Students have ample experience with the C, C++, or Java, or some other high level languages before the beginning of the course. This course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

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