Topics Courses


Issues in Neuroscience

Courses with this number consider topics that bring to bear knowledge in the fields of psychology, neurology, and physiology. Topics are treated at an intermediate level and the focus will be on topics not covered in detail in Psychology 26 and 65. The selection of issues is at the discretion of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 35 students.  Dist: SCI.

In 13F at 11, Neuroethology

A rose smells sweet, and rotting food smells bad -- to you, but not to a fly.  The neural mechanisms that cause such diffrences reflect the conditions under which each species evolved.  By comparing the nervous systems of many animal species we will discover the conditions  under which each species evolved.  By comparing the nervous systems of many animal species we will discover the conditions and constraints that led to the neural mechanisms of species typical behaviors, including our own.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 1 or 6.  Kralik

In 13F at 2A, Sleep and Sleep Disorders

This course will explore the basic biological mechanisms of sleep and circadian rhythms, including neuroanatomical and neurophysiological aspects of sleep/wake, as well as the behavioral and social aspects of normal sleep. The course will then build upon this basic understanding of normal sleep and circadian rhythm to develop an overview of major sleep and circadian rhythm disorders. The importance of sleep to adequate daytime neuropsychological functioning and the social, public policy and economic issues pertinent to sleep and circadian rhythms will be addressed. Prerequisite: Psyc 1 or 6. Sateia.

In 14W at 12, Neuroscience of Mental Illness

The goal of this course is to explore the neurological correlates of psychopathology.For each mental illness covered in the class, we will first review the characteristics and diagnostic criteria of the disorder and will then explore the neurological correlates in terms of etiology, manifestation, and treatment. We will examine evidence from a variety of sources, including neuroanatomical studies, neuroimaging experiments, and neurodevelopmental studies, with a focus on current research findings. Case histories and video footage will be used to illustrate the experience of psychopathology with the goal of elucidating the links between the brain and behavior.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 6 or 26 or Bio 34. Funnell.

In 14W at , Decision making: linking behavior to brain

In this course we examine decision making from both behavioral and neurobiological points of view. Specifically, we learn about different methods used in psychology and neuroscience (e.g. operant conditioning, signal detection theory, reinforcement learning) to study decision making at various levels, from cognitive processes to underpinning neural activity. We also learn about the notion of rationality and heuristics in decision making (e.g. why do we show risk aversion?). Overall, this course introduces students to specific topics in behavioral psychology, neurobiology, system and computational neuroscience, and economics.


Issues in Information Processing

Courses with this number consider topics from the areas of perception, memory, cognition, and quantitative models from the point of view of information processing. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues not covered in Psychology 21 and 28. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but specific emphasis is given to methodology. Enrollment limited to 35 students.  Dist: SOC.

In 14S at 10, Neuroscience of Motivation

This course will explore how the brain controls different motivated behaviors. Topics will include hunger and thirst, fear and aggression, and sex and affiliation. We will learn about some historical perspectives of motivation as well as modern neuroscience work showing how areas of the brain like the limbic system might contribute to motivations. We will also touch on how dysfunction in these brain areas can give rise to pathologies of motivation like addiction or obesity. Prerequisite: one of the following: Psyc 6, Psyc 26, Psyc 45, Bio 34. Smith.

In 13F at 10, Mind and Brain

It is believed that the mind is a manifestation of the brain. Think of computers. The brain is hardware, the mind is software. Is it possible to understand algorithms of the software by investigating physical activity of the hardware? This course will take the mind and brain problem as a theme to guide discussions about neural underpinnings of various mental phenomena. Cutting-edge research across Psychology, Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy of Mind will be covered.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 1 or 6 Meng.

In 13F at 11, Face Perception

This course will focus on person perception and the mental processes we use to make sense of other people, including their thoughts, attitudes, personal traits, social connections, and personal history. The course will examine the role that person perception plays in face and voice recognition and social interactions. Particular relevance will be put on the neural systems for representation of person knowledge and the mental states of others focusing also on what happens when these systems are impaired. At the end of the course, the students will have a written exam.   Prerequisites:  Psyc1 or 6.  Gobbini.

In 14W at 2A, The Neuroscience of the mind-body problem:  neural bases of consciousness, free will and mental causation

Neuroscience has learned a great deal about how neurons function, and Psychologists have learned a lot about the contents and processes of the mind. But we lack a deep understanding of the bridge that must link these two sides of the "mind-body" problem. We do not yet fully understand (1) how information is processed, transformed and communicated by neurons, (2) how consciousness can be realized in physical neuronal activity, or (3) how mental events realized in physical brain events can be causal of subsequent mental and physical events. This course will focus on what is known about the neural code and the neural bases of consciousness, mental causation and free will and what is not yet understood. We will focus on reading original research articles and chapters from books that attempt to get at these deep and challenging conceptual and empirical issues.  A particular focus will be the relationship of attentional processing to consciousness, and its neural bases. Students will be expected to write up critiques of readings, and present on topics of common interest.  Prerequisites: Psych 6 or one of the following: 21, 26, 27 or 28.  Tse.


Issues in Learning and Development

Courses with this number consider several important sub-fields of learning and psychological development. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues not covered in Psychology 22 and 25. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but they will be selected with emphasis upon the psychological principles emerging from the study of humans and animals in the context of learning, early experience, and maturations. Enrollment limited to 35 students. Dist: Soc.

In 14S at 12, Evolutionary Psychology

In this course we examine the human mind and behavior from a broad evolutionary perspective. We start by covering the main principles of evolution and Darwin's most extraordinary insight: the evolution of all species from a single, common ancestor. Then we make the important causal connection to our minds by building up from genes to mind and brain. Next, we look at the influence of evolution on our cognitive, social and emotional processes. Limitations in our cognitive processing, and universals in social and emotional processing provide evidence for evolved adaptations. We next consider how sex and reproductive strategies influence male and female behavior in a variety of species, including humans. Throughout the course, we will consider how the most enigmatic and compelling of human qualities, such as love, aggression, morality and modern culture, are influenced by our evolutionary history.  Prerequisites:  Psych 1 or 6. Kralik.  SCI

In 14S at 9L, Developmental Psychopsychology

This course will provide an Introduction to childhood Psychopathology using a developmental perspective. Written materials and lectures will focus on the diagnosis, etiology and treatment of a variety of childhood problems, including autism, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, depression, attachment disorders, conduct disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Prerequisite: Psyc 1 or 6 and 24, 25, or 59. Scheiner.  SOC


Issues in Social Psychology

Courses with this number consider several important sub-fields of social psychology. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues that are not covered in Psychology 23. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but specific emphasis is given to individual and group attitudes, modes of interpersonal communication, and behavior control in humans and animals. Dist: SOC.

In 13X at 2A, The Laughing Animal

After World War II the field of psychology was primarily focused on pathology, on how to repair psychological damage (i.e., the disease model). As a result, most research on emotion focused on negative emotional states, their expressions, and their negative social consequences. In 1998 the president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, launched a new era of inquiry that he coined "Positive Psychology", which focuses instead on a preventative model of psychological well being. As a result, there has been a burgeoning interest in the psychological mechanisms that underlie healthy functioning. Critically, this new focus has brought forth a revival of research examining humor and laughter. This course offers a survey of this field utilizing a three-prong approach including: a) exploring the origins of these presumably uniquely human qualities of humor and laughter from phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspectives, b) examining their contribution to positive psychology, and c) explicating their potential dangers and pitfalls in social functioning. Humor and laughter can be healing, but also can be wielded as weapons of exclusion and disparagement helping to establish and maintain stereotypes and prejudices. Clarifying when humor and laughter are healing and when hurtful will be of special emphasis in this course as we explore in depth the marriage of comedy and tragedy. Finally, insights gained from examining the nature of humor and laughter will be applied, when applicable, more broadly to social psychological theories of cognitive appraisal, creativity, attribution, and emotion regulation.  Prerequisite:  Psyc23.  Adams.

In 13F at 3B, Social Neuroscience.

This course will provide an overview of the rapidly growing field of social neuroscience. We will consider primarily how social processes are implemented at the neural level, but also how neural mechanisms help give rise to social phenomena and constrain culture. Many believe that the large expansion of the human brain evolved due to the complex demands of dealing with social others—competing or cooperating with them, deceiving or empathizing with them, understanding or misjudging them. What kind of "social brain" has this evolutionary past left us with? In this course, we will review current theories and methods guiding social neuroscience and recent research examining the brain basis of social processes, including theory of mind; empathy; emotion; reading faces, bodies, and voices; morality; among others. Overall, this course will introduce students to the emerging field of social neuroscience and its multi-level approach to understanding the brain in its social context. Prerequisites:  Psyc1 or 6.  Freeman.

In 14S at 10A, Adolescent Risk Behaviors

Heart disease, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung disease are chronic health conditions that kill the vast majority of people in developed countries today.  Those diseases are a result of behaviors—smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol consumption and unsafe sexual practices—adopted during childhood and adolescence.  This course begins with an overview of these behaviors and their relationship with disease.  Then we examine individual, family, and community risk factors (e.g, marketing), as well as psychological and cognitive mediators of these exposures.  Sargent.

In 14S at 2, Social Perception

In a fleeting glance, we can identify a person, infer their emotional state, determine their gender, estimate their age, assess their attractiveness, and surmise the focus of their thoughts. Social perception is fundamental to social interaction in humans as well as other animals. This course will examine social perception in humans and other species and in doing so will touch on issues including functional specialization and neurocognitive development and evolution. Faces have received much of the attention in social perception and we'll spend significant time on face perception, but we'll also cover body perception, biological motion perception, voice perception, and some of the various types of social perception in non-human animals. We will draw on a range of approaches including psychophysics, neuropsychology, single-cell recording, transcranial magnetic stimulation, fMRI, and twin studies. Prerequisites:  One of the following courses:  Psyc6, 21, 26, 27 or 28.  Duchaine.


Issues in Applied Psychology

Courses in this number consider several important sub-fields of applied psychology, such as environmental psychology and consumer behavior. Material is treated at an intermediate level. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the insrtuctor, but they will be selected with emphasis upon the extension of established psychological principles to problems of contemporary society. Enrollment to 35 students. Dist: SOC.

In 13X at 10A, Forms of Therapy

Each year, millions of people vow to make a change.  Some may wish to end their habit of procrastination, others to improve a significant relationship, or still others may commit to combat a mental illness.  Whatever their goal, people often discover how challenging personal change can be.  At its core, clinical psychology facilitates such change through the scientific application of psychological principles.  The purpose of this course is to introduce you to various scientifically-validated modalities of individual psychotherapy, with an emphasis on how psychotherapies utilize psychological principles to produce change.  Over the course of the semester we also will explore special topics in the field of clinical psychology such as: human connection, empathy, emotion, ethics, psychological assessment, pharmacological treatments, and treatment evaluation.  Prereqs:  Psyc 24.  Hudenko.

In 14W at 3A, Health Psychology

How do psychological states impact immune system functioning?  Why does the same illness affect different children, adults and their families in such different ways?  Why are there gender differences in the treatment outcomes for heart disease?  Why do people engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking?  What are the most effective ways to promote healthy behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating?  What are the psychological implications of medical advances such as organ transplantation  These are among the questions considered in the sub-specialty area of Health Psychology.  This course will take an empirical research approach as we explore the role of psychology in addressing the key area of:  1) health promotion, and 2) living with chronic physical illness.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 1 or 6.  Detzer


An Introduction to Psychological Assessment

This course is an overview of current approaches to the psychological assessment of individual differences in development, intelligence, personality and special abilities.  It will consider the strengths, weaknesses, and issues associated with each approach and will cover the basic principles of test construction, evaluation, and interpretation.  The course will also include a history of psychological testing, and a consideration of the important theoretical, ethical and social issues which psychological assessment has raised. 14W, 9L Prerequisite:  Psychology 1 and 10.   Dist.  Soc. Scheiner