Cognitive and Brain Science

2018-2019 Courses

Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open , Seminar—Spring

How does a chronic illness affect a person’s orientation to the everyday? What are the social and political forces that underpin life in a homeless shelter? What is the experiential world of a deaf person, a musician, a refugee, or a child at play? In an effort to answer these and like-minded questions, anthropologists in recent years have become increasingly interested in developing phenomenological accounts of particular “lifeworlds” in order to understand—and convey to others—the nuances and underpinnings of such worlds in terms that more orthodox social or symbolic analyses cannot achieve. In this context, phenomenology entails an analytic method that works to understand and describe in words phenomena as they appear to the consciousnesses of certain peoples. Phenomenology, put simply, is the study of experience. The phenomena most often in question for anthropologists include the workings of time, perception, emotions, selfhood, language, bodies, suffering, and morality as they take form in particular lives within the context of any number of social, linguistic, and political forces. In this course, we will explore phenomenological approaches in anthropology by reading and discussing some of the most significant efforts along these lines. Each student will also try her or his hand at developing a phenomenological account of a specific subjective or intersubjective lifeworld through a combination of interviewing, participant observation research, and ethnographic writing.

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Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced , Seminar—Year

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. As his interlocutor Bernard Stiegler phrases the main idea behind this statement, “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the Internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida's observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida's punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, Internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and thus craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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General Biology Series: Genes, Cells, and Evolution

Open , Lecture—Fall

Biology, the study of life on Earth, encompasses structures and forms ranging from the very minute to the very large. In order to grasp the complexities of life, we begin this study with the cellular and molecular forms and mechanisms that serve as the foundation for all living organisms. The initial part of the semester will introduce the fundamental molecules critical to the biochemistry of life processes. From there, we branch out to investigate the major ideas, structures, and concepts central to the biology of cells, genetics, and the chromosomal basis of inheritance. Finally, we conclude the semester by examining how these principles relate to the mechanisms of evolution. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the individuals responsible for major discoveries, as well as the experimental techniques and process by which such advances in biological understanding are made. Classes will be supplemented with weekly laboratory work.

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Introduction to Genetics

Open , Seminar—Fall

Genetics is the study of the basic unit of all life: genes. Genes are composed of DNA, intricately packaged in structures called chromosomes that ultimately encode proteins that are key for the normal development and homeostasis of all of the cellular and molecular processes in the cell. These process are crucial to maintain the optimal function of all the organs and systems that comprise the human body. Changes such as mutations in genes can lead to a plethora of defects and, hence, diseases and disorders. This course will not only introduce the amazing variety and diversity found in life due to the changes at the genetic level but also how many of those genetic changes are responsible for numerous disease states, as well. We will learn about and discuss the basic molecular mechanisms that determine heredity, such as mitosis and meiosis, leading into Mendelian genetics, various kinds of mutations, population and evolutionary genetics. We will also introduce and discuss some of the exciting genetic techniques that present great promise to increase our ability to further explore the vast treasure chest of information that lies in our genes. Classes will be supplemented with weekly laboratory work.

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Sensory Biology

Open , Seminar—Spring

Why do chili peppers taste “hot,” while peppermint gum tastes “cold”? How can humans distinguish between a trillion different odors? Scallops have dozens of eyes...really? Can onions be confused with apples if our noses are plugged? Why do flowers appear different to humans and to bees? Why can’t we hear the echolocation calls of most bats? The answers to these questions lie in our understanding of how animals interact with their environments via sensory perception. In this course, we will study the sensory systems underlying hearing, balance, vision, smell, taste, and touch. We will explore senses from a neurobiological perspective and, therefore, will begin with an overview of the nervous system and the structure and function of neurons. We will then study how each sense is based on the perception of a particular stimulus by specialized sensory neurons within specialized sensory tissues. We will discuss how stimuli are converted to cellular information and how this is communicated to the brain, leading to perception. We will also explore the remarkable abilities that underlie animal navigation, including the magnetoreception used by butterflies and sea turtles during migration.

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Neurons and the Nervous System

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The brain is the most complex organ. The human brain contains 100 billion neurons whose functions underlie our remarkable capacities, including the ability to sense our environment, communicate via language, learn and remember, perform precise movements, and experience emotions. In this introduction to neuroscience, we will focus on the structure and function of the nervous system, considering molecular, cellular, systems, and cognitive perspectives. We will learn how the nervous system develops and how the major cells of the nervous system—neurons and glia—function. We will examine the chemical and electrical modes of communication between neurons, with a focus on the action potential and neurotransmission. We will consider the major subdivisions of the brain and how those regions control neural functions, including learning and memory, attention, emotion, language, sleep, movement, and sensory perception. Finally, we will study disorders of the nervous system and consider how they inform our understanding of healthy brain function.

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Introduction to Computer Programming

Open , Lecture—Fall

This lecture presents a rigorous introduction to computer science and the art of computer programming, using the elegant, eminently practical, yet easy-to-learn programming language Python. We will learn the principles of problem solving with a computer while gaining the programming skills necessary for further study in the discipline. We will emphasize the power of abstraction, the theory of algorithms, and the benefits of clearly written, well-structured programs. Fundamental topics include: how computers represent and manipulate numbers, text and other data (such as images and sound); variables and symbolic abstraction; Boolean logic; conditional, iterative, and recursive computation; functional abstraction (“black boxes”); and standard data structures such as arrays, lists, and dictionaries. We will learn introductory computer graphics and how to process simple user interactions via mouse and keyboard. We will also consider the role of randomness in otherwise deterministic computation, basic sorting and searching algorithms, how programs can communicate across networks, and some principles of game design. Toward the end of the semester, we will investigate somewhat larger programming projects and so will discuss file processing; modules and data abstraction; and object-oriented concepts such as classes, methods, and inheritance. As we proceed, we will debate the relative merits of writing programs from scratch versus leveraging existing libraries of code. Discussion topics will also include the distinction between decidable and tractable problems, the relationship between programming and artificial intelligence, the importance of algorithmic efficiency to computer security, and Moore’s Law and its impact on the evolution of programming languages and programming style. Weekly hands-on laboratory sessions will reinforce the programming concepts covered in class.

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Introduction to Web Programming

Open , Lecture—Spring

This lecture introduces the fundamental principles of computer science via the creation of interactive Web pages. We will focus on the core triumvirate of Web technologies: HTML for content, CSS for layout, and—most important for us—JavaScript for interactivity. Examples of the kinds of Web applications that we will build include a virtual art gallery; a password generator and validator; and an old-school, arcade-style game. We will learn programming from the ground up and demonstrate how it can be used as a general-purpose, problem-solving tool. Throughout the course, we will emphasize the power of abstraction and the benefits of clearly written, well-structured code. We will cover variables, conditionals, loops, functions, recursion, arrays, objects, JSON notation, and event handling. We will also discuss how JavaScript communicates with HyperText Markup Language (HTML) via the Document Object Model (DOM) and the relationship of HTML, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Along the way, we will discuss the history of the Web, the challenge of establishing standards, and the evolution of tools and techniques that drive the Web’s success. We will learn about client-server architectures and the differences between client-side and server-side Web programming. We will consider when it makes sense to design from the ground up and when it might be more prudent to make use of existing libraries and frameworks rather than reinvent the wheel. We will also discuss the aesthetics of Web design: Why are some pages elegant (even art) when others are loud, awkward to use, or—worse yet—boring. Weekly hands-on laboratory sessions will reinforce the programming concepts covered in lecture. No prior experience with programming or Web design is necessary (nor expected nor even desirable).

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Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

At least one semester of prior programming experience is expected. Students should be very comfortable programming in a high-level, object-oriented language such as Python, Java, or C++.

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is concerned with reproducing in computers the abilities of human intelligence. In recent years, exciting new approaches to AI have been developed—inspired by a wide variety of biological processes and structures that are capable of self-organization, adaptation, and learning. Examples of those new approaches include evolutionary computation, artificial neural networks, autonomous robots, and swarm intelligence. This course will provide a hands-on introduction to the algorithms and techniques of biologically-inspired AI—focusing primarily on genetic algorithms, neural networks, deep learning, reinforcement learning, and robotics—from both a theoretical and practical perspective. We will use the Python programming language to implement and experiment with those techniques in detail and test them out using both simulated and real robots. Students will have many opportunities for extended exploration through open-ended, hands-on, lab exercises and conference work.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error...you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? An introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course; specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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First-Year Studies: The Developing Child: Perspectives and Contexts

Open , FYS—Year

Developmental psychology often focuses on early childhood as the context in which the foundations of all kinds of later psychological functioning can be seen—from thinking and feeling and imagining to social interaction, attachment relationships, emotional life, and personality organization. This course is about how children develop from birth through adolescence, with special emphasis on the first seven years. We will look at this from various perspectives: the perspective of our own and other people’s memories of childhood—the perspective of experience; the perspective of what we see when we carefully watch children in natural settings and listen to their words—the perspective of observation; and the perspective of the concepts psychologists have formulated about development based on their empirical research and reflections—the perspective of theory. The various contexts in which children develop will be considered throughout the course. We will draw on various sources as we study the developing child. Readings will be drawn from developmental psychology (theory and research); from memoir and literature; from anthropology and cultural psychology; from education (addressing children’s learning processes and schooling); from clinical psychology (about the challenges children may face and how to help them); and from media accounts about children, childhood, and social policy. Reflections on our experiences, past and present, will begin the year and be returned to periodically. Observations of children will be ongoing, both formal ones as assigned periodically for class and informally every time we have the opportunity to see children. Fieldwork is a central and ongoing core of the course—each student will work all year in an Early Childhood Center (ECC) preschool classroom two mornings or afternoons a week, serving as part of the teaching team—being participant observers so as to have the best view possible of children’s individual development and ongoing lives at school. Previous experience with children is not required, but the desire to immerse oneself in children’s lives in the classroom is a must. Discussion will take place—in the seminar, before and after ECC class time with the teaching team, in conference, among classmates—about all you are reading and seeing and wondering about. Writing will include seminar writing assignments, from observations to short essays, and conference papers. Conference work first semester will draw on the fieldwork, with accompanying readings on a topic of individual interest. In the second semester, conference work may continue to focus on fieldwork but may also move away from it into various domains of developmental psychology.

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Anxiety, Stress, and Health

Open , Lecture—Fall

This lecture is a super-lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

This course is a multidisciplinary overview of anxiety. What exactly is anxiety? How is the concept of stress related? There are countless articles warning of the dangers of stress for human physical and psychological health. This class aims to start slightly earlier and examine the topic in depth. Are we talking about an emotional condition? A body process gone awry? Are we in the “Age of Anxiety,” as some have suggested? Can you feel your own anxiety reading this? We will trace the progression of related conditions, from post-traumatic stress disorder to substance abuse, psychosis, and other conditions. The class will explore anxiety and stress as concepts, with special attention to what is known of the related neuroscience.

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Sleep and Health: Clinical Conditions and Wellness

Open , Lecture—Fall

A key and often-overlooked aspect of recharging is also one of the most obvious: getting enough sleep. There is nothing that negatively affects my productivity and efficiency more than lack of sleep. After years of burning the candle on both ends, my eyes have been opened to the value of getting some serious shuteye. —Arianna Huffington, Sarah Lawrence College Commencement Address, 2012

Sleep is an incredibly powerful piece of the human experience—one everyone does or does not do enough—that is often marginalized in contemporary culture. This open-level lecture examines historical, developmental, neuropsychological, physiological, and cultural perspectives on the construct of sleep and explores the role of sleep in psychopathology, relevant medical conditions, and wellness. How sleep impacts, and is impacted by, clinical conditions will be examined, along with Eastern and Western approaches to understanding sleep phases, body clocks, and sleep regulation. Historical and contemporary theories of dreaming—including dream structure and the role of dreaming in memory consolidation, creative problem-solving, and preparing for the future—will be considered. Differences in developmental sleep needs will be considered, as well as gender differences in sleep behaviors. The impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, school/work performance, mood, and social functioning will be examined, as well as socioeconomic barriers to adequate sleep (e.g., shift work), pressures of 24-hour culture, and use of digital devices. The course will conclude with a look at the powerful benefits of sleeping well, including evidence from electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroimaging data, as well as from examination of cultures with exceptionally high levels of well-being. This class will meet for one lecture section and one smaller seminar section per week, plus A/B-week group conference sections. Weekly lectures will focus on the neuropsychological, cognitive, and clinical aspects of sleep phenomena. Weekly seminar sections will offer deeper discussion of lecture material and related psychosocial topics. Conference groups will meet every other week for supervision on group conference work. Weekly reading assignments will include literature in sleep science, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, physiology, positive psychology, clinical theory and research, relevant case studies, essays, and memoir. Select film and documentary material will be included for class discussion. Additionally, class members will follow the topic of sleep in popular media. All class members will be asked to monitor their sleep patterns using available sleep apps and/or observation logs. Group conference work will be based on sleep-log observations and experience with sleep strategies related to class material. Group conference projects will include a group presentation and written summary of key observation themes supported by relevant empirical literature. Projects will consider developmental sleep needs, quality of sleep environment, light/dark exposure, use of digital devices, and bedtime routine. Project themes may also include topics related to sleep, such as dreaming, memory/other cognitive functions, cultural aspects of sleep, and/or mindfulness meditation. Students interested in developmental aspects of sleep in children may complete a weekly fieldwork placement at the Early Childhood Center.

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Art and Visual Perception

Open , Lecture—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how visual neuroscience and art-making can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as for students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

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It’s Complicated: The Nature of Emotions

Open , Lecture—Spring

In the words of Jonathan Swift, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” In the words of another Swift: “Shake it off.” How do those quotations from popular discourse contribute to our understanding of emotions? Can emotions be defined as simply the opposite of reason? Do they function outside of our control, or can they be regulated? And if they can be regulated, which strategy is best: one that shifts our attention away from emotional stimuli or one that avoids them altogether? These questions represent only part of the curiosity in understanding the complex nature of emotions. In this open-level lecture, our broad aim is to answer, as best we can, the question of what emotions are. We will explore this question through readings from cognitive science, neurobiology, psychology, and the creative arts. The course will begin with a review of historical and contemporary theories of emotion to facilitate discussion about the way each perspective defines emotion. Course themes include explorations of the tension between emotion and cognition, the relationship between emotion and the body, the interplay between emotion and relationships, the intersection of emotion and psychopathology, and emotion regulation. Students are encouraged to contemplate their own emotion-regulation strategies and to reflect on their effectiveness in dealing with challenging emotional situations. Students will be given the opportunity to delve deeper into these course themes through group conference projects. Course content will be infused with discussions of emotion in popular culture. Together, we will look at the ways in which emotions are discussed in music, literature, and film and what studies in this area have to offer by way of increasing our understanding of emotions in everyday life. Lecture.

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Virtually Yours: Relating and Reality in the Digital Age

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong seminar will examine relating and reality in the digital age. In the fall semester, we will focus on ways in which humans have evolved to relate to each other and to be related to and how our innate relational patterns fit (or do not fit) within the rapidly evolving digital world. We will consider ways in which digital life is changing how people relate and ways in which this may be challenging for some but beneficial for others. We will begin with relevant historical and developmental perspectives on attachment theory, human bonding, and shifting relational expectations. We will move on to consider how various realms of the digital world (e.g., social media, messaging, dating apps, video chats, artificial intelligence, virtual reality) impact our relational patterns, as well as aspects of self- and identity expression (e.g., of gender, sexuality, values, beliefs, interests). We will consider the role of digital spaces in making new connections, building friendships, falling in love, and maintaining romantic bonds, along with bullying, revenge, trolling, and potential barriers to empathy that may occur when our gazes are fixed on screens and not on each other. We will also consider our emerging engagement with artificial intelligence and our attachment to digital devices themselves. In the spring semester, we will examine how reality has been defined historically, clinically, and culturally; how one’s sense of reality is shaped through development; and what internal, environmental, social, and cultural factors contribute to one’s sense of reality. Can reality ever truly be objective? Building on material from the first semester, we will examine the innate, developmental, cultural, and social psychological factors that shape our perception of reality and our choice of reliable sources, including the roles of race, gender, and ethnicity in these processes. We will consider how psychological constructs and psychometric measures of reality have taken those factors into consideration, both currently and historically. We will next consider ways in which one’s sense of reality may be impacted by clinical conditions such as brain injury, psychosis, depression, trauma, and anxiety; altered by substances such as psychedelics; influenced by dreams; and potentially enhanced through meditation. We will then consider how the content, pace, and sheer volume of information currently cycling through social media and 24-hour news outlets may impact our perception of reality. Classes will be both discussion-based and experiential, with opportunities for observation (e.g., observing children relating/engaging in play in the SLC Early Childhood Center free from digital devices) and in-class activities related to weekly topics (e.g., comparing experiences engaging with early logic-based digital toys such as Simon and Speak ’n’ Spell vs. digital toys that express affection such as Furby and contemporary AI). Class reading will include primary- and secondary-source academic material from diverse perspectives in developmental, neuropsychological, clinical, and cultural psychology and related fields. Supplemental material will include relevant literature, memoir, TedTalks, and popular media coverage of related topics. Conference topics may include, but are not limited to, the role of digital spaces in forming and maintaining relationships; relationships formed to artificial intelligence and/or digital devices; and/or developmental, neuropsychological, clinical, social, and/or cultural perspectives on/shifts in relating in the digital age. Conference projects may be completed in the form of an APA-style literature review, original data collection, and/or a creative piece with academic justification and will include a class presentation. All students will be required to make a one-time observational visit to the SLC Early Childhood Center (ECC) and to the Wartburg, a center for older adults. Optional weekly fieldwork is available and encouraged for any interested students. When placed at the Early Childhood Center (ECC), for example, students will work closely with classroom teachers one hour per week and will become part of the classroom (as advised and supervised by classroom teachers) while maintaining weekly observation logs relevant to seminar objectives and conference work. When placed at the Institute for Music and Neurological Function at Wartburg, students, working with staff, will use digital tablets to help residents in dementia and Alzheimer’s care develop individualized playlists of meaningful songs and music in order to help them connect with important memories and important relationships throughout their lives. Students will help residents access these playlists and write up a playlist protocol to be shared with future caregivers and family members for continued use. Optional fieldwork requires a two-hour weekly time commitment plus 15-20 minutes travel time.

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What’s in a Name? Perspectives on Poverty

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Previous coursework in psychology, sociology, or economics or instructor permission required.

Poverty, misery or want is a phantom with a thousand faces that vents its fury primarily among the majority of people who live in what is referred to as the Third World and among the pockets of poor people living on the fringes of the large industrialized cities… —Santiago Barquín

What is poverty? Does it have a face? Is it confined to a particular space? What does it mean to be poor? This seminar challenges students to confront their individual conceptualizations of poverty through a cross-disciplinary study into its dynamics. Readings will survey the way poverty has been defined by economists, psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists. Students will gain an understanding of how these definitions bear on the methodological approaches used to study both the prevalence of poverty and the severity of its effects. Students are expected to discuss the merits and demerits of each perspective and the practical consequences they engender. The course will move to situate poverty into context in order to examine how it is expressed across different environments. How is urban poverty similar to or different from rural poverty? Does suburban poverty even exist? The course will trace the origin of stereotypes about poor people and how they are perpetuated and supported by popular discourse through readings from White Trash: The 200-year Untold History of Class in America. Readings from $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America will ask students to interrogate the factuality of myths about who is poor. Together, the course will ponder the differential impact of poverty on racial and ethnic groups in America. Students will be asked to evaluate state-level welfare policies to observe the variation in state legislatures and the consequences for individuals and families. In thinking about the consequences of poverty, the course will also cover the way individuals are shaped by poverty, charting its effects on the brain and the body. Conference projects will give students the opportunity to research poverty-related social issues such as the poverty-obesity paradox and the income-academic achievement gap. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to be mindful of the way poverty is operationalized and to consider what psychological perspectives have to offer by way of improving our understanding of how people are affected by life in poverty.

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Research Seminar: 21st-Century Sleep

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Technological advancements in the last century helped build an understanding of the neurophysiological and neuropsychological processes of sleep; technological advancements in the current century have made understanding and monitoring one’s own sleep widely accessible using digital devices and apps. Having been long marginalized or seen as a weakness, indulgent luxury, or barrier to productivity, the value of sleep as a physiological a psychological asset is gaining prominence. Consideration of sleep as central to well-being, cognitive function, creativity, and productivity is entering the mainstream discourse; and advocacy for sleep as a human right is gaining voice. Nap chairs are popping up in workplaces, the discovery of body clocks was awarded a Nobel Prize, and sleep deprivation has become a noted public-health concern. In a time where we are surrounded by digital screens, electric light, all-day coffee culture, and demanding expectations on time—and access to quality sleep is impacted by socioeconomic disparity—a culture is emerging in which sleep is regarded as a valued asset, not merely time spent “off” from waking life. What is the research supporting this emerging sleep narrative? What are the social, emotional, cognitive, and neuropsychological benefits of sleep? What is the impact of impaired sleep? What are the barriers to sleep and sleep access? What is an optimal sleep environment? And what new questions do we pose? Is there a relationship among sleep quality, anxiety, and attention challenges? Is there a relationship between sleepwalking and stress? How do attitudes toward sleep impact the experience of people with chronic fatigue? Do children who get regular and adequate sleep demonstrate greater social competence? How does attachment security impact sleep quality? What is the relationship between gender and sleep needs? How does sleeping in alignment with seasonal light/dark patterns impact mood? How does access to digital devices impact sleep quality? Is adequate sleep stigmatized in a 24-hour culture? How do attitudes toward caffeine use differ from attitudes toward nootropics (“smart drugs” intended to reduce the need for sleep)? How does sleep quality impact productivity? Do high-school classes start too early for teenagers? Will napping after studying improve memory? How does sleep quality impact athletic performance? Does sleep quality impact how dance students learn new choreography? Do artists, musicians, and writers find creative solutions in dreams? Does meditation lead to more lucid dreams? How does room temperature impact sleep quality? How does working night shifts impact mood and cognitive functioning? How do socioeconomic barriers to adequate sleep and homelessness impact academic performance and well-being in school-age children? In this intermediate-level course, we will attempt to better understand questions such as these and others related to the broad topic of sleep. Through examining established research/theory and pursuing new lines of research, students will consider the impact of sleep quality on physical and emotional well-being, productivity, academic/work performance, cognitive and social functioning; the impact of physical illness and/or mental illness on sleep quality; the role of sleep and dreaming in memory, learning, and other functions; developmental sleep needs and patterns; gender differences in sleep needs and sleep quality; the impact of sleep environment on sleep quality; sleep in the digital age; and the impact of psychosocial factors/economic disparity on sleep quality. Over the course of the semester, students will design an independent research project related to one of those topics or another topic relevant to sleep. Students will learn how to conduct an academic literature review, formulate the rationale for a research project, develop an effective research methodology, collect data, analyze data, interpret the results, and communicate the findings in an APA-style paper. This course serves as an introduction to research methods, with a specific focus on sleep-related phenomena through your own research. Topics will include experimental research design, case studies, observational techniques, survey development, and hypothesis testing. In addition to individual A/B-week conference meetings, students will discuss conference research projects in class throughout the semester, providing and obtaining feedback to/from peers on formulating research questions, methods, data analysis, and interpretation of results. Projects could include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or another setting relevant to the project.

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Neurodiversity and Clinical Psychology

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment? —Harvey Blume, The Atlantic, 1998

Defects, disorders, diseases can play a paradoxical role by bringing out latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life that might never be seen, or even be imaginable, in their absence. —Oliver Sacks

This seminar focuses on the concept of neurodiversity and the potential impact of this concept in understanding certain clinical concerns. To some authors, the concept of neurodiversity is of simple relation to the concepts of biodiversity or genetic diversity, with the focus on different ways in which brains might develop. To other authors, the term describes a social/political stance in viewing difference. This is the concept of neurodiversity that will be explored in the course, as it relates to current and developing ways of understanding difference related to several ways of presenting traditionally-termed “disorders” within mental-health treatment. Definitions of the term “neurodiversity” vary, with one conference defining it as: “A concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. (National Symposium on Neurodiversity, 2011). From this point of view, such differences are not necessarily pathology but, rather, differences to be celebrated and respected. This is in stark contrast to deficit models of taxonomy of mental illness, such as catalogued in the DSM 5. The course will provide an overview of this form of disorder description in order to frame those points of view, which contain distinctly different and sometimes opposed assumptions. We will explore ways in which those views have influence regarding the spirit of intervention (i.e., correction versus accommodation). Readings will explore important related continuums of essentialist versus contextualist understandings of those presentations that help us understand how focus of interventions vary based on underlying assumptions. The course begins with a focus on those points of view regarding autism, as that is the area where the neurodiversity movement first gained the powerful momentum of self-advocacy and framed the larger debate regarding challenges to the deficit model. Since that initial momentum, the neurodiversity concept has also been applied to other areas of difference: dyslexia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and others. The course also incorporates an older literature regarding the sometimes assumed link between mental illness and creativity, which is complex, as well as literature focused on potential overlooked strengths and abilities that may exist within those populations. We will consider work in this domain such as Kay Jamison, Oliver Sacks, Naoki Higashida, and others. Most of all, the course aims to increase student understanding regarding potential heightened abilities, as well as challenges, in neurodiverse populations.

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Language Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

A previous course in psychology or a social science is expected.

Learning language is a fundamental aspect of the human experience that is reproduced from generation to generation all over the world. Yet how similar are the processes of language development among people of different places and backgrounds? This course will explore the nature of language and its relation to thinking, meaning-making, and culture. We will begin with a look at the phenomena of first language acquisition—naming, categorizing, conversation, private speech, storytelling, metaphor—and how they constitute and express children’s experiences in their worlds. We will then consider topics such as language and gender, early literacy, second-language learning in the contexts of bilingualism, transitions from home to school, and immigration. Readings will be drawn from psychological studies and observational and ethnographic accounts. Students will be encouraged to do fieldwork in settings, including our Early Childhood Center, where they can observe and record language to investigate and document the processes we will be studying or as the basis for conference projects.

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Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate/Advanced , 3-credit seminar—Year

Permission of the instructor is required.

In this research seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly seminar meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly lab meeting with one of the faculty members leading the research seminar; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on a regular, as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics, both broad and specific to the research in which students are involved, as well as the discussion of contemporary research articles that are relevant to student and faculty research projects. All faculty and students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research, with faculty taking the lead at the beginning of the semester and students taking the lead as their expertise develops. Weekly lab meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student and faculty member. Students will be expected to learn the current research approaches being employed by their supervising faculty member, contribute toward ongoing research in the form of a research practicum, and develop and implement their own independent research projects within the labs in which they are working. Faculty supervising each lab will also be available to meet with students individually and in small groups on an ongoing basis, as needed and at least every other week, in addition to the regular weekly, hour-long lab meeting. Students participating in the Psychology Advanced Research Seminar will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly full group seminars, weekly lab meetings, and regular (typically, at least biweekly) individual and group conference meetings; keep an ongoing journal and/or scientific lab notebook; select and facilitate group and lab discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least 5 hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community settings; develop, implement, and report on (in the form of a short paper prepared for possible publication and a poster at the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Poster Session) an independent research project; and provide their colleagues with ongoing verbal and written feedback on their projects.

Faculty
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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

We live in a society that often seems preoccupied with labeling people and their characteristics as “normal” or “abnormal.” This course covers some of the material usually found in “Abnormal Psychology” courses by addressing the multiple factors that play a role in shaping a child’s development, particularly as those factors may result in what we think of as psychopathology. Starting with a consideration of what the terms “normality” and “pathology” may refer to in our culture, we will read about and discuss a variety of situations that illustrate different interactions of inborn, environmental, and experiential influences on developing lives. For example, we will read theory and case material addressing congenital conditions such as deafness and life events such as acute trauma and abuse, as well as the range of less clear-cut circumstances and complex interactions of variables that have an impact on growth and adaptation in childhood and adolescence. We will try, however, to bring both critical lenses and a range of individual perspectives to bear on our discussion of readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies. In this process, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnostic/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be required to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere and may choose whether to focus conference projects on aspects of that experience.

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Personality Development

Advanced , Small seminar—Fall

A century ago, Sigmund Freud postulated a complex theory of the development of the person. While some aspects of his theory have come into question, many of the basic principles of psychoanalytic theory have become part of our common culture and worldview. This course will explore developmental concepts about how personality comes to be through reading and discussion of the work of key contributors to psychoanalytic developmental theory since Freud. We will trace the evolution of what Pine has called the “four psychologies of psychoanalysis”—drive, ego, object, and self-psychologies—as well as the more recent integrative “relational perspective.” This is a different approach from the social personality work done on trait psychology, and we will consider its value for developmental understanding of the person. We will also consider the issues that this approach raises about children’s development into individuals with unique personalities within broad, shared developmental patterns in a given culture. Readings will include the work of Anna Freud, Erik Erikson, Margaret Mahler, Daniel Stern, Steven Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, and George Vaillant. Throughout the semester, we will return to fundamental themes such as the complex interaction of nature and nurture, the unanswered questions about the development of personal style, and the cultural dimensions of personality development. An interest in theory and its applications is important, as is some background in psychology. Fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or another appropriate setting is required, although conference projects may or may not center on aspects of that experience, depending on the individual student’s interest.

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Color

Open , Seminar—Fall

Color is primordial. It is life itself, and a world without color would appear dead and barren to us. Nothing affects our entire being more dramatically than color. The children of light, colors reveal and add meaning—giving richness and fullness to all that surrounds us. A vehicle for expressing emotions and concepts, as well as information, color soothes us and excites us. Our response to color is both biological and cultural. It changes how we live, how we dream, and what we desire. Using a variety of methods and materials, this course will focus on an exploration of color, its agents, and their effects. Not a painting course, this class will explore relationships between the theory, perception, use, and physiology of color. Clearly-defined problems and exercises will concentrate on understanding and controlling the principles and strategies common to the visual vocabulary of color, as well as its personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences.

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First-Year Studies: The New Narrative Photography

Open , FYS—Year

A photograph presented alone and without a descriptive caption is like a simple utterance: “ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” When pictures are presented in groups with accompanying text and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies, however, any statement becomes possible. Collectively, photographs can begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or a larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Collectively, they have created a medium: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to forge a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

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The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is a hybrid. Each week of the first semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form through slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics include personal dress-up/narrative, composite photography/photographic collage, the directorial mode, fashion/art photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction/”new photography,” the typology in photography, the photograph in color, and the use of words and images in combination. In the second semester, the emphasis will shift as students choose to work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas that they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any special equipment. A desire to explore, to experiment, and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

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Our World, Other Worlds

Open , Seminar—Year

This course explores prose writing, with an emphasis on the creation of a world. The writing can be fiction or nonfiction and can take place in this world, another, or several. We will explore ideas about this world and writing about this world and others and work on our writing to make it livelier and more real no matter how imaginary our world is. This course runs in two parts, one semester each. You can take one or both parts. One part will involve writing episodes to build a world that, revised, will become a conference project; the other part will work on craft and content exercises of all kinds, with the conference project distinct from the exercises. Readings include folk tales, religious writing, philosophy, fiction, and newspaper items.

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