Course Summary

Course Description

The Psychological Science and Neuroscience concentration helps students understand themselves and others. It prepares students for graduate work in experimental and clinical psychology and the brain sciences, and for a wide range of careers including industrial/organizational positions such as in human resources, any career that requires data-analytic skills, and the helping professions (e.g., social work).

Career Possibilities

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Neuroscientist
  • Human Resources Director
  • Consultant, Organizational Design
  • Medical Researcher
  • Case Manager for a Social Services Agency

Major Foundation Requirements

SS300 / Boom, Bust, and Bubbles: The Free Enterprise System

Market inefficiencies are critical drivers of global financial instability. Study the utility of specific economic principles by examining systemic market failures such as the Japanese boom and bust of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the various asset price bubbles (equity, housing, commodities, etc.), and periods of relative market calm and prosperity. What trigger events turn market vulnerabilities into panics or manias? What impact can regulation have on lessening or heightening market volatility? Students predict the next "bubble" in the global economy.

SS301 / Cognitive Neuroscience

How does the brain give rise to the mind? Learn about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain, and consider the role of this physical substrate in neural computation. The focus is on higher cognitive functions. Topics include the effects of exercise on the brain, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, sex differences in brain structure and organization, and the brain basis of mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia

SS302 / Social Inequality

Do the same factors underlie inequality in different countries or at different points in history? Examine key empirical findings and theories about social inequality, with an international focus. Look at mechanisms for upward mobility and ways in which those mechanisms are constrained by various economic, psychological and cultural factors. Includes political and economic implications of inequality throughout history and in contemporary societies.

Concentration Core Requirements

SS351 / Social Psychology in Action

Apply concepts from social psychology to contemporary issues such as decreasing aggression, encouraging helping behaviors, reducing racism and stigma, and encouraging green-friendly behaviors. Public policy implications and pro-social messaging (public service announcements) are an integral part of the material.

SS352 / Memory, Learning and Cognition: From Laboratory to Practice

What is the impact of our knowledge about memory, learning, and cognition? Research and applications from the fields of law, education, business, politics, artificial intelligence, aging, and other areas are discussed. Students will devise original applications from this core area of psychology.

SS451 / Motivation and Emotion

Explore the origin, identification and explanation of different human affective states, evolutionary theories about emotion and motivation, and the James-Lange theory. Learn about reading emotion from facial expressions, neuroimaging techniques and psychobiological measures as well as biological, social and cognitive forces that influence goal-seeking behavior as well as the neurological regulation of drives and mood disorders. Students also discuss success and failure in meeting goals.

Concentration Electives

SS354 / Philosophy of Mind

Explore the nature of mind, mental events and mental functions — for example, consciousness, altered states, the mind-body problem, awareness, the Libet phenomenon, and the qualia problem. Also investigate the mind as computer, robots, intelligence, and Turing tests. Key readings include those from Descartes, Berkeley, Dennett, Chalmers, Block, Quine, Churchland, and Searle.

SS452 / Psychology of Sex and Gender

Study the biology of sexual differentiation, gender roles, human sexuality, and psychosocial factors that affect the expression of being male or female. Stereotypes and political and social influences on how people think about and "live" gendered lives — get a cross-disciplinary perspective on what is an essential part of most people’s identities. Also consider intra- and inter-gender variations, focusing on how these variations shed light on what it means to be female or male in various cultural contexts.

SS453 / Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Work is central to people’s lives. Industrial/organizational psychologists study the research, theory and practice relating to workplace organizations and employees — for example, prejudice, best practices for hiring and promotion, and workforce management. Explore topics such as women and men as leaders, employing individuals with disabilities, sexual harassment, effective workplace policies, and workplace violence. Because the modern workplace is a collaborative environment, activities involve teamwork, cooperation and competition. New models include leaderless organizations and managing the new work force including crowd sourcing.

SS550 / Intelligence, Tests and Measurements

Analyze historical and contemporary approaches to the study of individual differences, with an emphasis on the test instruments used to measure fluid and crystallized intelligence, ability, achievement, and capacity. Study the theories of Galton, Binet and Gardner, and discuss test-retest reliability, construct validity and face validity.

SS551 / Mental Disorders

Mental disorders encompass a wide range of mental health conditions. Research biological and psychosocial bases of mental disorders, including diagnosis and effective treatments. Look into various medications and types of psychotherapy, and determine what might be effective treatments for different types of disorders. Also discuss pseudo-therapies that promise good outcomes but are not grounded in the scientific method.

SS552 / Evolutionary Psychology

When people think of evolution, they typically think of physical traits such as hair color, height and weight. Yet, evolutionary processes also work on the architecture of the brain and on mental capacities. Examine the evidence for an evolutionary biology of cognition, emotion and perception.

SS553 / Principles of Visual Design

Visual designs based on psychological principles can often prove highly effective. Zoom in on graphic design that has commercial and marketing applications using principles from perceptual psychology. Assignments incorporate Fitts’s Law and readings by Gestalt psychologists — J.J. Gibson, Kubovy and Shepard — as well as contemporary leaders in art criticism.

SS554 / The Bioethics of Enhancement

Examine bioethics from both historical and contemporary perspectives with a special emphasis on cutting-edge technologies that increase cognitive processing. Is there a difference between a hearing aid and an auditory prosthetic that increases hearing capacity above normal limits? Should cognitive enhancing drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall be banned in Universities and Chess competitions? Applying ethics studies to the biological sciences and health care more generally. [Recommended: ArtsHum 330]

SS556 / At the Interface Between Human and Machine

Any product — hardware or software — that requires a user manual suffers from a failure of design. Explore how methodologies in the cognitive sciences can aid in designing better products. Readings and class discussions shed light on the ways people think about activities, as well as reason, remember and perceive auditory and visual stimuli. Students apply what they learn to the design of their own user interfaces.

SS557 / The Russian Writers, Identity and Human Nature

Study the primary Russian novelists of the last 150 years — Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Pushkin, and the short stories and plays of Chekhov — and what they can teach about human nature based on contemporary conceptions of the self and identity. Analyze their conclusions about human nature and cross-reference to contemporary theories in psychological science [Recommended: ArtsHum 351]

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