Spring 2023

Permission forms will be accepted for Spring 2023 courses beginning on May 1, 2022. Note that all the PSYC courses listed below are accepted towards the Psychology major, but only some are accepted towards the Neuroscience major.


Experimental Study of Human Interaction

In 23S at 10, Arjen Stolk

Insight into how human brains work in their most ubiquitous and biologically meaningful context, social interaction, has remained largely elusive. This course ventures into this "dark matter" of social neuroscience, pursuing the question of what constitutes a meeting of minds. Conceptual and methodological challenges of studying human interaction are dealt with in-class discussions, laboratories, and small group research projects on selected topics. Students will be expected to design, run, analyze, and write up an interaction study answering a question of their choosing. Example research projects include but are not limited to studies of human interactive behavior in the real world, the lab, simulated scenarios, or on social media.

Prerequisites: PSYC 11 and PSYC 23 and instructor permission via the department website.

PSYC 80.06

Advanced Seminar on Brain Evolution

In 23S at 10A, Richard Granger

For the first 200 million years of mammalian evolution, most animals' brain sizes were highly predictable from their body size. In the past four million years, an evolutionary blink of the eye, primates rapidly evolved brains that are several times larger than previously would have been predicted for their body size. How did this occur? What are the effects of these substantial brain changes? What are the contents of human brains, and how do they differ from the brains of other primates (and other mammals, and non-mammals)? Evolution acts on genes, not on organisms; what are the genetic factors that have been identified in recent primate brain growth? What relationships may obtain between anatomical and functional brain characteristics? What mechanisms are at play, including extrinsic factors and evolutionary "pressures"? What differential predictions do various theories make, and how are they tested? How would we know if a hypothesis is false; how do we know if they are falsifiable? The class will critically examine a set of related topics including brain structure, anthropology, evolution, genetics, development, cognition, race, intelligence.

Approved course for the neuroscience major/minor.

Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6; and instructor permission via the department website

PSYC 81.08

Animal Cognition

In 23S at 3A, Matthijs van der Meer​

Can rats empathize with others, or experience regret? Can birds grasp the intentions of others, or imagine the future? Do dogs deliberately deceive their human companions? This seminar will explore the cognitive abilities of a range of animals through the careful analysis of behavior, defining rigorous and measurable criteria for inferring complex behaviors, and contrasting them with simpler alternatives. We will draw on neural data, asking if phenomena such as creativity, mental time travel, and theory of mind can be detected based on the observation of brain activity. Finally, we will consider questions relevant to human health: can mice become schizophrenic, chronically depressed, or develop post-traumatic stress disorder? Lively discussion in the classroom is encouraged.

Approved course for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 22 or PSYC 28; and instructor permission via the department website

PSYC 81.13

Persuasion and Propaganda

In 23S Peter Tse

We all change our minds about various issues over the course of our lives. This course will examine how minds are changed. What are the most effective means of changing someone's mind? How do people attempt to persuade one another of the rightness or wrongness of a position? How do governments use propaganda and other forms of inculcation to convince people of the rightness of their positions? How do advertisers manipulate consumers into wanting to buy their products? How do religions and cults convince people to dedicate their lives and resources to their cause? What happened in cases of collective transformation of a society that to us, now, seem irrational, as happened, for example, in the rise of nazism? What are the roles of conformity, peer pressure, and force in enhancing mindsets and belief systems. What role do dissenters play in the propagation of ideas, and the limits placed on inculcation and mind control? This seminar is exploratory and discussion-based. We will view media and read articles or books outside of class and then discuss associated ideas in class. There will be one or two oral presentations in front of the class, and associated writing projects, in which the student deeply investigates some aspect of one of the questions above.

Prerequisites: PSYC 21 or PSYC 28; and instructor permission via the department website

PSYC 83.08

Social and Neural Networks

In 23S at 10A, Mark Thornton

Networks exert profound influences on our lives. We are each embedded within social networks that influence our emotional wellbeing, the information we can access, and even which diseases we might catch. Likewise, each of us has a complex network of neurons embedded within our head: our brain. The structures of these neural networks reflect our cognitive abilities, mental health, and how we form our social networks. Despite the superficial dissimilarities between these types of networks, we can use a common framework – graph theory – to describe and understand both social and neural networks. This course will explore social psychology and neuroscience through the lens of networks, providing students with novel perspectives on and powerful tools for analyzing these subjects. Students will come away with a firm grasp of graph theory, social networks, brain networks, and artificial neural networks.

Prerequisites: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6, and PSYC 10 or equivalent, and one of the following: PSYC 23, PSYC 38, a course in the PSYC 53 series, or PSYC 60; and instructor permission through the department website