Psychology

How do infants navigate their world? How do factors as diverse as genetics, socioeconomic status, social networks, mindfulness practices, and access to open spaces contribute to how people cope with the problems of living? How do technology, architecture, language, and cultural practices affect how we think? What accounts for the global epidemic of mental health issues? What has psychology contributed to understanding genocide and torture? In what ways can psychologists illuminate the mystery of the creative process in science and art? How does morality develop? What factors determine our political, economic, and moral decisions? What happens in mind and body as we experience emotions? These reflect just a few of the questions discussed in our psychology courses, a sampling of the broad range covered in the psychology curriculum.

We offer courses from the domains of biological, clinical, cognitive, community, cultural, developmental, educational, experimental, health, personality, and social psychology. Our courses emphasize the interplay of theory and observation, research and analysis, understanding and applications. Our courses are also inherently interdisciplinary, making connections between psychology and other fields such as biology, anthropology, education, linguistics, public policy, public health, women’s studies, philosophy, and the arts. Students have a variety of choices as they design their independent conference work.

Some conference projects consist of reviewing and analyzing the primary research literature on a topic of interest. Others make experiential learning central to the independent work. We will offer these as they become available over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year. ​ Opportunities open to students include: assisting at our Early Childhood Center, in local schools, or at clinics; planning and carrying out original research in one of three psychology lab spaces on campus (the Child Study Lab, the Cognition and Emotion Lab, and the Adult Experimental Psychology Lab); working with community organizations in Yonkers, New York; and participating in environmental education at our Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB). Psychology is also a core component of two focused, semester-long, community-based academic programs: the Intensive Semester in Yonkers and Sarah Lawrence College’s Study Abroad Program in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ideas and skills developed in class and in conference often play a formative role in the intellectual and professional trajectories of students who go on to pursue these ideas in a wide range of fields, including clinical and research psychology, education, medicine, law, the arts, social work, human rights, and politics. Our alums tell us that the seminar and independent conference work here prepared them well for the challenges of both graduate school and their careers.

The college has two psychology-related graduate programs: Art of Teaching and Child Development. These offer the possibility for our undergraduate students to pursue both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years of study. The college also offers a dual-degree program with the New York University Silver School of Social Work, allowing Sarah Lawrence undergraduates to obtain a BA, a Master of Social Work, and an MA in Child Development in six years.

2020-2021 Courses

Psychology

Introduction to Social Psychology

Open, Small Lecture—Year

This yearlong lecture course introduces students to the key ideas of social psychology. We will review the social dimensions underlying the cognitive existence of individuals by examining some theories, methodologies, and key findings of social psychology. We will look at human relations at various levels, with a primary focus on the tension between the individual and society. For that purpose, we will compare different theoretical (cognitive, interpersonal, and cultural) perspectives. Social cognition: During the first semester, the course will investigate the role of unconscious processes in our interpretations and explanations of the social world, emphasizing in particular our mistakes in judgment and our misperceptions of causation. The individual as a social “cognizer” will be explored further to see how we derive interpretations for our own behavior in comparison to those attributed to others’ behavior. Group and interpersonal dynamics and social influence: In the second semester, we will begin with an analysis of the crowd to capture the more social dimension of social psychology. We will then focus on the contextualization of different processes reviewed the previous semester in order to analyze the defining characteristics of groups and the extent to which we are, indeed, shaped by our groups. Our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are influenced by others.

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Intersectionality and the Matrix of Race

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us....You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television....It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. Neo: What truth? Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo.... The Matrix (1999)

....the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil and gifted with second-sight in this American world—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. —W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

The construct of race is adaptive and healthy but can also lead to human misery through deception about our (hierarchical) relationship to each other. Racially organized hierarchies, such as The Matrix or DuBois’ veil metaphor, interfere with our ability to clearly perceive our relationships to ourselves and to each other as racial/ethnic beings. In this lecture, we will examine the social construction of the matrix of racialized hierarchy, race, social class, and ethnicity within a historical perspective and how those constructs implicitly and explicitly inform psychological inquiry. We will use an intersectional frame to examine identity and social structure and will include readings by Morrison, Appiah, Haney Lopez, and Hill Collins, among others. We will also examine the development of racial/ethnic identity in childhood and adolescence, as well as gendered and sexual aspects of race/ethnicity. Finally, we will move toward a broader understanding of psychological aspects of prejudice, ethnic conflict, and immigration and how those themes are expressed within the United States and abroad.

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Finding Happiness and Keeping It: Insights From Psychology and Neuroscience

Open, Lecture—Fall

Happiness is more than a feeling; rather, it is a state of well-being that should ideally last a lifetime. We all want happy lives filled with meaning and satisfaction. Yet, for many of us, happiness can be hard to obtain with regularity or to sustain over a long period of time. Why is that? We can look to years of evidence from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, which tell us that, on average, we are mentally unprepared to: (1) predict what will make us happy, and (2) engage in behaviors that are known to make us happier. Like exercising to improve physical health, it takes real cognitive effort to overcome these tendencies in order to improve our mental health. This course will cover the psychological and brain-based factors for why happiness feels so fleeting and what we can do to build better and more productive habits that have been shown to lead to longer-term maintenance of positive mood and well-being. Students will read foundational work in the field of positive psychology by Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Edward Diener, Ilona Boniwell, Daniel Kahneman, and others; and as part of the course assignments, students will apply evidence-based practices, such as bringing order and organization to their daily lives, expressing gratitude, and building social bonds (i.e., “cross training” for the mind). We will also discuss studies in neuroscience that show how behavioral interventions like those and others actually work by altering the brain’s structure and function (just like building stronger muscles after exercising). Related to this, we will explore the neurodevelopmental bases for the peaks and valleys observed in mood during adolescence and early adulthood as critical periods for cultivating evidence-based healthy habits. By the end of this course, students will have gained the ability to sift through the ever-booming literature on positive psychology and neuroscience to find what practices work best for them, as well as an appreciation that deriving and sustaining happiness and well-being requires intentional practice and maintenance.

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International Perspectives of Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

What does psychology look like outside of the United States? How does psychology operate across multiple cultures? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions as we explore multiple international perspectives of psychology. First, we will begin with an examination of the history of psychology as a field. Next, we will grapple with arguments for and against international psychology. Our course will explore the development of psychology in multiple parts of the world. Our readings will focus on tracing the roots of specific schools of psychology, such as liberation psychology and South African psychology, and examining case studies in India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Readings may include perspectives from theorists such as Martin-Baro (liberation psychology), Sunil Bhatia (decolonizing psychology), Frantz Fanon (postcolonial theory and psychology), and Lev Vygotsky (cultural-historical psychology). Lastly, we will explore the role of international organizations and mental health, such as the WHO and the UN. In conference work, students will be encouraged to explore international perspectives of psychology beyond the examples discussed in class. This course is open to students interested in psychology, mental health, international relations, politics, regional studies, and anthropology.

 

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Anxiety, Stress, and Health

Open, Lecture—Spring

This course is a multidisciplinary overview of anxiety.  What exactly is anxiety? How is the concept of stress related? Countless articles warn 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

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

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 a powerful part of human experience that is often marginalized in contemporary contemporary culture. This 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 also 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, along with socioeconomic barriers to adequate sleep (e.g., shift work), pressures of a 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 and from an examination of cultures with exceptionally high levels of well-being.

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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 the study of visual neuroscience and art 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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Child and Adolescent Development

Open, Seminar—Year

In this course, we will study the psychological growth of the child from birth through adolescence. In the process, we will read about some of the major theories that have shaped our thinking concerning children, including psychoanalytic (Freud and Erikson), behaviorist (Skinner), social learning (Bandura), and cognitive developmental (Piaget). A number of aspects of child development will be considered, including: the capabilities of the infant; the growth of language, thinking, and memory; various themes of parent-child relations, including attachment, separation, and different parenting styles; peer relations (friendships, the “rejected child”); sex role development; some of the “real-world” challenges facing today’s children and adolescents (e.g., “pushing” young children, divorce, and single-parent/blended families); and the modern study of childhood resilience in the face of difficult circumstances.

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Cognition Through the Lens of Neuropsychology

Open, Seminar—Fall

What would life be like if you grew up without a large chunk of brain tissue, your prefrontal cortex, located at the front of the brain? Or without, your amygdala, a structure buried deep in the brain? Rare cases, past and present, of patients with damage to these and other areas of the brain give us crucial insights into the ways in which specific parts of the brain support various aspects of cognition, from experiencing emotions to generating speech to making complex decisions. Neuropsychology is the specific field of study conducted in laboratory, clinical, and forensic settings that serves to deepen our understanding of how the brain forms the “stuff of thought.” This course will introduce students to the foundations of neuropsychology, starting with the historical arc of neuropsychology from Ancient Egypt to the present day, as a way to appreciate that a seemingly widely accepted concept—that the brain gives rise to behavior—was, and in some cultures and groups still is, the topic of many theoretical and philosophical debates. We will also survey the sub-branches of neuropsychology, including clinical neuropsychology (the study of patients with brain damage and illness, as described above), experimental neuropsychology (the study of similarities/variations in behavior among so-called “neurotypical” individuals), and comparative neuropsychology (studies across different species that inform our understanding of how the human brain works). Insights from patients with brain injuries and illnesses—including individuals studied by leading researchers and physicians in the field such as Paul Broca, Carl Wernike, Brenda Milner, Antonio Damasio, Oliver Sacks, Lesley Fellows, and others—have, by far, generated the clearest inroads to understanding how the brain works and will inform the largest part of the course material. Throughout the course, students will also explore experimental tools and methods that have been developed and are still being used today to plumb the depths of the brain’s functions.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language that we speak or the communities in which we live influence the ways that we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, as well as films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Food Environments, Health, and Social Justice

Open, Seminar—Fall

With obesity and diabetes rising at alarming rates and growing awareness of disparities in food access, researchers and policymakers are rethinking the role of the environment in shaping our diets and health. This course takes a collaborative approach to investigating some of the key issues guiding this area of research and action. Students will critically review literature on food environments, food access, and health inequalities and explore how modes of food production and distribution shape patterns of food availability in cities. Students will use voice, photography, and video to examine foods available in the neighborhoods where they live and review media related to the course themes in order to reflect on the ways in which their own eating habits are influenced by the social and material settings of their day-to-day lives. The course concludes with students writing letters to the editor/Op-Eds to a news outlet of their choice with suggestions about how to move forward with action to improve food access, public health, and social justice in the places where they live.

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Environmental Psychology: An Exploration of Space and Place

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course explores human-environment interactions and the relationships between natural, social, and built environments in shaping us as individuals. We will critically explore human interactions from the body, the home, and the local to the globalized world, with a return to the individual experience of our physical and social environments. As a survey course, we will cover myriad topics that may include informal family caregiving, urban/rural/suburban relationships, gentrification, urban planning, environmental sustainability, globalization, social justice, and varying conceptualizations and experiences of “home,” based on gender, race, class, age, and people with disabilities. As a discussion-based seminar, topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Films and a field trip will be incorporated.

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Neurodiversity and Clinical Psychology

Open, Seminar—Fall

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 a 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 overview of this form of disorder description in order to frame these points of view, which contain distinctly different and sometimes opposed assumptions. We will explore ways in which these 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 these presentations that help us to understand how the focus of interventions varies based on underlying assumptions. The course begins with a focus on these points of view regarding autism, as this 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 debate, which is complex, as well as literature focused on potential overlooked strengths and abilities that may exist within these 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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Virtually Yours: Relating and Reality in the Digital Age

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, 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 the ways in which people relate and how that 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 the digital world (e.g., social media, messaging, dating apps, video chats, artificial intelligence, virtual reality) impacts our relationships, sense of self, and identity expression (e.g., of race, 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, as well as empathy, bullying, revenge, trolling, and cancel culture. We will also consider our emerging engagement with artificial intelligence and our attachment to digital devices themselves. We will examine how the content, pace, and 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 and in-class activities related to weekly topics. Class reading will include 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, neuro-psychological, 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.

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The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Decisions, Decisions: The Neuroscience of Decision-Making

Open, Seminar—Spring

No decision that we make is truly simple. We have to account for an infinite number of factors when deciding on something as “simple” as whether to take a left or right turn on the street; e.g., Am I going the right way? Is the crosswalk symbol on? Am I too tired to continue walking? Several areas of the brain must work together to tie all of this information together into a final “action” output: the decision itself. A sub-field of neuroscience, called decision neuroscience or neuroeconomics, has emerged in the past few decades to address key questions about how our brains weigh information such as risk, ambiguity, probability, confidence, and subjective preference (i.e., what we like and don’t like), among other factors, to ultimately form an executable decision. In this course, students will learn about the emotional, social, and cultural factors that drive the decision-making process primarily through readings from psychology and behavioral economics, neuroimaging research in humans, and case studies of patients with damage to areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex (from work by Antonio Damasio and others). We will address the following questions and more: How do we develop subjective preferences (i.e., “liking”) about people, places, and things? Do emotions help us make decisions, or do they get in the way? How can we become better decision-makers and consumers on a daily basis? The answers to these and related questions have led to real-world applications in policy, marketing, finance, and public health, which will also be discussed throughout the course.

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Culture and Mental Health

Open, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche, the exportation of Western mental disorders, and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re-)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Public Health Psychology

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course will address the intersection of public health and psychology—an approach with the potential to positively impact health experiences and outcomes, although the disciplines are not often considered together. Because health is determined by the interaction of myriad complex factors—including biology, lifestyle, environmental factors, and social and political conditions—multidisciplinary approaches are needed to address our most pressing public health problems. Community psychology is particularly interested in social change, activism, reducing oppression, and empowerment; public health focuses on assessing prevalence and incidence, as well as identifying risk and protective factors and changing individual health behaviors. Our approach will look at health and community psychology, in combination with public health, to explore various perspectives and interventions related to current health and social problems. The two disciplines vary in their approaches to interventions, with individualistic approaches on the one hand and population level on the other. Students will be invited to explore issues related to personal health and illness, population-level approaches to health promotion in order to identify macro-level structures, and individual-level barriers to achieving health equity. Topics of inquiry will be led by student interest and will include environmental, occupational, and behavioral health; housing and displacement; aging; physical and cognitive disabilities; and food and health.

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The Senses: Art and Science

Open, Seminar—Spring

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. In psychology and neuroscience, the investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for our developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected, with each other—and with the fundamental psychological processes of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin;, and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: the sense of balance, of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works, and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art.

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Mobilization and Social Change

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

In light of recent national—as well as international—calls for racial justice, which have propelled several movements, this course will analyze the chronology of the various theories and research in both cultural and social psychology, highlighting the need to re-examine intolerance not only in the heads of people but also in the world. Given that these biases are often defined as individual prejudice, even though their persistence is systemic, we will see how they crystallize in ways that are marked in the cultural fabric, the various artifacts, the ideological discourse, and most institutional realities that all work in synchronicity with individual biases. In this class, we will highlight various examples of historically derived ideas and cultural patterns that maintain present-day inequalities (gender, sexualities, class, persons with disabilities, and various other forms of social injustice). We will first explore the theory of minority influence, a theory that stands in contra-distinction to conformity, providing a model to develop and articulate change. With the help of cultural psychology, we will then see how injustices are anchored and objectified in our everyday world. We will analyze how our preferences and selections are maintained through the contexts of our interactions. This perspective will lead us to explore the theory of social representations, moving us away from individual tendencies to focus on changing the structures in which collectively elaborated understanding is maintained and reproduced as a system.

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Mindfulness: Science and Practice

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Mindfulness can be described as nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. For thousands of years, mindfulness has been cultivated through the practice of meditation. More recently, developments in neuroimaging technologies have allowed scientists to explore the brain changes that result from the pursuit of this ancient practice, laying the foundations of the new field of contemplative neuroscience. Study of the neurology of mindfulness meditation provides a useful lens for study of the brain in general, because so many aspects of psychological functioning are affected by the practice. Some of the topics that we will address are attention, perception, emotion and its regulation, mental imaging, habit, and consciousness. This is a good course for those interested in scientific study of the mind. One of our two weekly meetings will be devoted to a mindful yoga practice.

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Theories of Development

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

For graduate students and seniors with permission of the instructor.

“Knowledge is there in the seeing.” What we observe when we look at children is related to adult assumptions, expectations, and naïve theories that we carry with us from our own families and childhoods. How are those theories related to the ways that theorists have framed their questions and understandings of children’s experiences? Competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Bowlby, Piaget, Vygotsky, Werner, and others have shaped the field of developmental psychology and have been used by parents and educators to determine child-care practice and education. In this course, we will read the classic theories in their primary sources (psychoanalytic, behaviorist, attachment, and cognitive-developmental) as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions that we will consider include: Are there patterns in our emotional, thinking, or social lives that can be seen as universal, or are these always culture-specific? Can life experiences be conceptualized in a series of stages? How else can we understand change over time? We will use theoretical perspectives as lenses through which to view different aspects of experience—the origins of wishes and desires, early parent-child attachments, intersubjectivity in the emergence of self, symbolic and imaginative thinking, and the role of play in learning. For conference work, students will be encouraged to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children, as one goal of the course is to bridge theory and practice.

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Children’s Friendships

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: prior course in psychology 

Making friends, losing friends, keeping friends...through the use of psychological and literary texts, we will explore the important functions of friendship for children and adolescents. During much of the 20th century, psychologists had assumed that adults serve as the major social influence on a child’s developing sense of self and personality, that perhaps only toward adolescence would children’s social relations with peers come to play an important role in their lives. We now know better. In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the study of friendships and peer relations throughout childhood, even in toddlerhood. The important psychological benefits of having friends are increasingly recognized. So, too, are the potential problems of its obverse: Children who are truly without friends are at greater risk for later social-emotional difficulties. We will explore the writings of major theorists such as Sullivan, Youniss, Selman, and Rubin; read and discuss the recent studies that have observed “friendship in the making”; and examine what friendship means to children and adolescents in their own words.

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Health in a Multicultural Context

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

A background in social sciences or education is recommended.

This course offers, within a cultural context, an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness and will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. We will also explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the frame of these theoretical perspectives. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. Community partnership/service-learning work may be an option in this class.

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Psychophysiology Research Seminar

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Previous coursework in biology and psychology is required, and a previous course in statistics is highly recommended.

Your heart beats faster, your palms sweat, and your pupils dilate—all at once. Is this because you are exercising? Or did someone you really like just enter the room? Psychophysiology is the experimental study of these bodily, or peripheral, signals, which are theorized to be important “read-outs” of a person’s mood (e.g., fear, happiness, anger). In this course, students will gain a foundational understanding of the biological processes that give rise to peripheral autonomic arousal and how these responses are naturally regulated by the brain and body in a process called homeostasis. We will then survey the brain areas that may be responsible for “catching” or incorporating signals from the periphery and ascribing meaning to those signals, which can often happen much later than the time of the event that provoked those bodily responses. We will focus on studies in human neuroimaging, as well as case studies of individuals with brain damage, specifically in brain areas such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (from work by Antonio Damasio and others) and the insula (from work by Sahib Khalsa and others). In so doing, we will discuss major theories of emotion and the mind-body connection, including the James-Lange Theory, the Somatic Marker Hypothesis (Damasio), and the Neurovisceral Integration Model (Thayer & Lane), among others. Through conference work, students will learn how to measure peripheral markers of arousal (e.g., heart rate, respiration, electrodermal activity to measure sweating, pupillary responses) and relate those signals to emotionally provocative events and brain activity.

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Children’s Literature: Developmental and Literary Perspectives

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Children’s books are an important bridge between adults and the world of children. In this course, we will ask questions such as: What are the purposes of literature for children? What makes a children’s book developmentally appropriate for a child of a particular age? What is important to children as they read or listen? How do children become readers? How can children’s books portray the uniqueness of a particular culture or subculture, allowing those within to see their experience reflected in books and those outside to gain insight into the lives of others? To what extent can books transcend the particularities of a given period and place? Course readings include writings about child development, works about children’s literature, and, most centrally, children’s books themselves—picture books, fairy tales, and novels for children. Class emphasis will be on books for children up to the age of about 12. Among our children’s book authors will be Margaret Wise Brown, C. S. Lewis, Katherine Paterson, Maurice Sendak, Mildred Taylor, E. B. White, and Vera B. Williams. Many different kinds of conference projects are appropriate for this course. In past years, for example, students have worked with children (and their books) in fieldwork and service-learning settings, written original work for children (sometimes illustrating it, as well), traced a theme in children’s books, explored children’s books that illuminate particular racial or ethnic experiences, or examined books that capture the challenge of various disabilities.

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Becoming Oneself: The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Theories of Personality Development

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

Open to graduates and upperclass students with previous course work in psychology.

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 psychodynamic 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,” as well as the more recent integrative relational perspective. This is a different approach from the social psychology 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 a child’s development into an individual with a unique personality 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, Peter Fonagy, Nancy Chodorow, George Vaillant, and others. Throughout the semester, we will return to fundamental themes, such as the complex interaction of nature and nurture, as yet unanswered questions (for example, 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 recommended, if possible, although conference projects may or may not center on aspects of that experience, depending on the individual student’s interest.

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Research Methods Practicum

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Fall

In this seminar, students will gain valuable research experience through a weekly meeting focused on research methods, research ethics, and contemporary research questions and approaches; a weekly collaborative group workshop; and individual and group conference meetings with faculty supervisors on either a regular or an as-needed basis. The seminar component will include readings on, and discussions of, research methods and ethics that are 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 students involved in the research experience will take turns leading the discussion of current research related to their group’s work. Weekly seminars will also be led by invited faculty in psychology and related disciplines. Weekly collaborative group meetings will also involve reading and discussing research articles and research methods papers specific to the topics of research being undertaken by each student member. Students participating in the Research Methods Practicum will be expected to attend and actively participate in weekly, full-group seminars and weekly collaborative group workshop meetings; select and facilitate full-class and group discussions of relevant contemporary research articles (at least once for each meeting type); work at least five hours within a lab and/or community setting appropriate for their projects or otherwise engage in active research; contribute toward ongoing research and practice within their lab or community setting; 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.

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Advanced Behavioral Statistics Practicum

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

This course will be offered based on student need and interest. Prerequisite: previous college-level statistics course

The primary objective of this course is to understand and apply various statistical analysis techniques when conducting your own independent research. As such, it is a useful companion to the completion of an independent research project as part of a senior thesis, independent study, or research seminar course. The course covers core statistical methods that are essential in the behavioral sciences, including ANOVA, ANCOVA, and linear, logistic, and multiple regression. Relevant non-parametric statistics, such as chi square, will also be discussed. This course will meet weekly in a workshop format to learn and apply various statistical techniques to sample, as well as real, data sets. Weekly assignments will utilize SPSS, a standard data analysis program utilized in behavioral statistics. Students will be responsible for working collaboratively with their colleagues—in this course in regular weekly meetings outside of the class meeting time—to further develop their understanding of each statistical technique, as well as to develop their ability to utilize SPSS. Students will also be required to apply statistical concepts to the development of thesis or other research proposals, including a discussion of potential analyses and the relevant data to be collected that might utilize these techniques. Students will meet regularly with the instructor to discuss an ongoing project for which they will utilize some of the statistical techniques learned throughout the course. By the end of the semester, students should have completed their analyses and incorporated a report of the work completed into a final project report, be it a thesis, independent study, or other conference project. 

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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 either “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 is often thought 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 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 that process, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnosis/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be encouraged to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere, although conference work need not draw on that experience.

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Social Development Research Seminar

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: prior course in psychology

The goal of this course is to have each student propose and conduct an original piece of research within the broad sphere of social development in childhood and adolescence. The course is intended for students who have completed a previous conference project in the social sciences that raised interesting questions for them, questions that could be addressed by taking the next step of conducting their own study of the subject. The work could be done, for example, through quantitative testing, observation, direct interviews, or questionnaires. The course will be divided into three parts. In the first part, we will be reading a range of past studies that exemplify different types of research approaches to the study of children and adolescents—and we will discuss the strengths and possible weaknesses of each approach. At the same time, in conference, students will begin the planning process for their own study. In the second part of the course, students will take turns serving as the facilitator of class discussion by assigning the readings for that particular week (on studies relevant to their own project) while sharing with the class the current progress on their own research ideas. In that week, the classmates will serve as a “working group” to provide feedback and helpful suggestions on the student’s project. In subsequent weeks, each student will serve as part of the “working group,” while another student presents his/her “project-in-the-making.” The final portion of the course will involve students presenting the findings of their studies.

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Global Kinships Into the New Millennium

Open, Seminar—Year

A common feature of human societies is the enforcement of rules that determine social relations, particularly regarding kinship: With whom may one be sexual? Whom can a person marry? Which children are “legitimate”? To marry a close relative or someone of the same gender may be deemed unnaturally close in some societies, but marriage across great differences—such as age, race, nation, culture, or class—can also be problematic. Social rules govern the acceptance or rejection of children in particular social groups, depending on factors such as the marital status of their parents or the enactment of appropriate rituals. And configurations of gender are always key to family arrangements. Kinship has always been plastic, but the range and speed of transformations in gender and kinship are accelerating due to globalization and to new medical and digital technologies. New medical technologies create multiple routes to conceiving a child both within and without the “mother’s” womb. New understandings of the varieties of gender and new techniques in surgery permit sex/gender confirmations and changes. Digital media permit searches for babies to adopt, surrogates to carry an embryo, blood kin separated through adoption, and siblings sharing the same sperm-donor father. Globalization permits the movement of new spouses, infants, genetic material, embryos, and family members. Kin who are separated by great distance easily chat with each other in virtual family conversations on Skype. In this yearlong seminar, we will look at many sites of gender and kinship through a variety of conceptual approaches, including theories of race, gender, queerness, the postcolonial, and anthropological kinship studies. Our topics will include transnational adoption between Sweden and Chile, the return of adoptees from China and Korea to their countries of birth, commercial surrogacy in India, polygamy in East and West Africa, cross-class marriage in Victorian England, incest regulation cross-culturally, African migrations to Europe, and same-sex marriage. Questions to explore will include: Who are “real” kin? Why do we hear so little about birth mothers? Why were intelligence tests administered to young babies in 1930s adoption proceedings? What is the experience of families with transgender parents or children? What is the compulsion to find genetically connected “kin”? How many mothers can a person have? How is marriage connected to labor migration? Why are the people who care for children in foster care called “parents”? How is kinship negotiated in interracial families? Our materials for this class include ethnographies, scholarly articles, films, memoirs, and digital media. Due to the interconnectedness of all the materials, students should be committed to the class for the entire school year.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal, or distinct, in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language that we speak or the communities in which we live influence the ways that we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Culture and Mental Health

Open, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche, the exportation of Western mental disorders, and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Illegality and Immigration

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course will explore how social categories, law, and public policy shape processes of immigration and migrant lives across the globe. Drawing upon recent work in anthropology, sociology, psychology, public policy, critical ethnic studies, and critical indigenous studies, we will examine the ramifications of immigration policies and public discourses that demarcate citizenship, membership, and belonging in diverse contexts. We will analyze how the experience of unauthorized migration is affected by the particular intersections of racial, ethnic, class, gender, generational, and legal boundaries that migrants cross. In so doing, we will pose a range of questions. For example, how do undocumented youth navigate the constraints imposed by “illegalized” identities, and how do they come to construct new self-perceptions as emerging adults? How do families navigate transnational migration, separation, and the threat of arrest, detention, and deportation in places like Ghana, Nicaragua, Italy, Israel, and the United States? What forms do resistance and protest take, and how do migrants participate in social movements and social change? These questions will allow us to analyze how different forms of power—implemented across realms that include state-sponsored surveillance and immigration enforcement, language and educational policy, health and social services—shape and constrain immigrants’ understanding of their place in the world and their experience of exclusion and belonging. The questions will also lead us to ask how the categories of legal status or citizenship help us to understand the sociocultural, economic, and political structures that shape all of our lives. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar-activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central themes of the course and may conduct service learning as part of their conference work.

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Artificial Intelligence and Society

Open, Seminar—Fall

In recent years, the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has made astonishing technical progress and has begun to assume an increasingly widespread and important role in society. AI systems can now (at least to some extent) drive cars; recognize human faces, speech, and gestures; diagnose diseases; control autonomous robots; instantly translate text from one language to another; beat world-champion human players at chess, Go, and other games; and perform many other amazing feats that just a few decades ago were only possible within the realm of science fiction. This progress has led to extravagant expectations, claims, hopes, and fears about the future of AI technology and its potential impact on society. In this course, we will attempt to peer beyond the hype and to come to grips with both the promise and the peril of AI. We will consider AI from many angles, including historical, philosophical, ethical, and public-policy perspectives. We will also examine many of the technical concepts and achievements of the field in detail, as well as its many failures and setbacks. Throughout the course, students will be asked to read texts, write responses, do follow-up research, and participate in classroom discussions. This is not a programming course, and no background in computer programming is expected or required.

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Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Students should have at least one semester of programming experience in a high-level, object-oriented language such as Python, Java, or C++.

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is concerned with reproducing the abilities of human intelligence in computers. 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. This course is a hands-on introduction to the algorithms and techniques of biologically-inspired AI and is intended for students with prior programming experience. Examples of these new approaches include evolutionary computation, artificial neural networks, autonomous robots, and swarm intelligence. We will focus, from both theoretical and practical perspectives, primarily on genetic algorithms, neural networks, deep learning, and reinforcement learning. We will use the Python programming language to implement and experiment with these techniques in detail and to test them out on 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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Landscapes in Translation

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

This course investigates the multiple ways in which landscapes have been imagined, interpreted, physically shaped, and controlled in a variety of historical and contemporary sites. The literatures of environmental humanities, landscape design, and political ecology provide theory and cases. The first section, Cartographies, explores ideas of landscape in Euro-America, Southeast Asia, and colonial-era Africa. We examine how landscapes on a variety of scales, from “bioregions” to nations, are imagined, codified, and transformed through representational processes and material moves ranging from mapping to making walls. The second section, Visions, investigates how landscapes are imagined and embodied in fine arts and literature, as well as in garden and urban design. Readings draw on examples of landscape making and design in colonial New England, Indonesia, and other sites. We examine contemporary examples of landscape design in response to climate change, especially sea-level rise in the Netherlands, United States, Indonesia, and China. We also study reworkings of the urban landscape to integrate more productive, biologically diverse “fringes,” as well as rooftop farms and apiaries. The third section, Security-Scapes: Landscape Imaginaries and Embodiments, investigates the rise of “security-scapes” or “surveillance-scapes,” dating from slavery in the United States to the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 era. Contemporary urban-design imaginaries and plans for “resilience” and “smart cities” are investigated. We draw upon websites, advertisements, and new scholarship in security studies, landscape design, and critical political theory. This course is open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and the analysis of texts and other representational forms.

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First-Year Studies: Mythology in Literature

Open, FYS—Year

In this course, we will define myths, broadly, as recurring narrative energy fields of great intensity and durability that supply cultures and persons with universal patterns by which to reflect on their origins and destinies. We will consider ways in which writers, primarily in Western literary traditions, have used certain mythic patterns—odysseys in the first term and metamorphoses in the second term—to explore their questions and concerns about the operations of the cosmos and the psyche, history, and morality. Those patterns provide both archetypal structures for the articulation of plot and tropes for the implication of meaning in literary texts. We will proceed chronologically through texts from ancient, through medieval and Renaissance, to Romantic and contemporary periods. Tracking the same narrative pattern through this sequence of literary periods will provide us with insights into the way in which literature represents changing understandings of the way the world is structured and the way that the human mind and human culture engage with it. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between and among literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to the lectures, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

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The World According to Ariyoshi Sawako

Open, Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies or literature is required for this course.

In this seminar, we will read a variety of works by Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984), one of Japan’s most talented storytellers in the last century. Ariyoshi’s novels vividly portray the lives of women in different historical moments, such as the dancer Okuni, the originator of kabuki theatre, in Kabuki Dancer; the wife and mother of Hanako Seishu, the first surgeon to perform surgery using general anesthesia, in The Doctor’s Wife; and a mother, daughter, and granddaughter whose lives reflect changes in modern Japan in The River Ki. Many of Ariyoshi’s works also expose social issues, such as The Twilight Years, her immensely popular novel on the challenges of caring for aging parents, and Compound Pollution, her environmental novel that brought greater public attention to the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Early in her writing career, Ariyoshi received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to study at Sarah Lawrence College, and we will also consider how her experiences at Sarah Lawrence may have influenced the directions she took in her subsequent writing. Ariyoshi’s literature will provide us with a lens to consider various topics, such as Japanese performing arts, history, gender, social issues, and translation. In addition to these readings, we will view some film adaptations of Ariyoshi’s literary works.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Fall

Prerequisites: basic high-school algebra and plane-coordinate geometry

Variance, correlation coefficient, regression analysis, statistical significance, 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 so important? Serving as 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 theory, 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. Given that this is a presidential election year, we will also be closely watching the national polls and discussing the difficulties of projecting future results with accuracy (and why pollsters got it wrong in 2016). Conference work, conducted in workshop mode, will serve to reinforce student understanding of the course material. 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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Game Theory: The Study of Conflict and Strategy

Open, Lecture—Spring

Prerequisite: one-year each of high-school algebra and geometry

Warfare, elections, auctions, labor/management negotiations, inheritance disputes, even divorce—these and many other conflicts can be successfully understood and studied as games. A game, in the parlance of social scientists and mathematicians, is any situation involving two or more participants (players) capable of rationally choosing among a set of possible actions (strategies) that lead to some final result (outcome) of typically unequal value (payoff or utility) to the players. Game theory is the interdisciplinary study of conflict, whose primary goal is the answer to the single, simply-stated but surprisingly complex question: What is the best way to play? Although the principles of game theory have been widely applied throughout the social and natural sciences, their greatest impact has been felt in the fields of economics, political science, and biology. This course represents a survey of the basic techniques and principles in the field. Of primary interest will be the applications of the theory to real-world conflicts of historical or current interest.

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Nietzsche: The Philosophical Personality

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

What is my personality? What kind of personality is it? Do I have control over my personality? Is it something I am, or is it something I do? We will reflect on these questions with philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche as our guide. In one of his aphorisms, Nietzsche argued that the most important thing one can do is “give style” to his/her character. But what is “style” in this sense, and how does one “give” or develop it? In this course, Nietzsche will be our guide not only in terms of his ideas but also in terms of his example: his own “personality.” This does not simply mean his biography but, rather, his personality as it comes across and develops through his writing and his art. The course is, therefore, titled “philosophical personality”—the personality of a thinker and author. To this end, we will begin from Nietzsche’s earliest forays as a writer: his studies of Homer and Pre-Socratic philosophy and his groundbreaking theses on Greek tragedy. We will conclude by reading one of Nietzsche’s latest texts, his intellectual autobiography, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is. Conference work should engage the guiding question of the course—What is personality, and how does it develop?—through a prism of the student’s choice: work/s of literature, art, psychology, or philosophy.

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Exploring the Work of Community-Based Agencies: Linking Theory and Practice

Sophomore and above, Practicum—Fall and Spring

A maximum of 12 students will be able to join this course each semester. This course may be taken for either two or three credits.

According to NonProfit Westchester, a local advocacy group, nonprofits make up 13.6 percent of the total workforce in Westchester County. The goal of this two- or three-credit course is to offer students the chance to develop, through readings and direct work, a deeper understanding of community-based work and of a nonprofit that has a strong partnership with the College. Largely through journal writing, students will engage in the process of action and reflection to explore and learn about community-based work. Some questions that this course will address include: What is a community, what is community-based work, and what is a nonprofit? Who are the people served by the agency? What are some of the complexities that the agency faces? What is the agency’s mission? How does a nonprofit agency develop and change over time, and how does it determine the kind of community-based work it will do? How does an agency determine the success of its work? What are the funding sources, and what are the some of the social forces that impact the work of each agency and the people it serves? Students will meet throughout the term for a weekly, one-hour seminar with the director of the Office of Community Partnerships. Students will also select a faculty sponsor with whom to discuss articles and journal entries throughout the semester. All students will participate in the end-of-semester poster session and write a 7- to 10-page paper on an aspect of their work over the semester, which brings together their reflections and experiences and readings. The number of students who will be able to take this course will vary according to the number of faculty available for any given semester.

Intensive Semester in Yonkers: Communities Learning Together: Engaged Research in Yonkers

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

What benefits should research offer to communities? Can research done on communities produce knowledge or change structures that improve the lived realities of community members? In this course, students will grapple with these and additional questions as they explore community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) and examples of social movements that have turned to CBPAR. We will examine the intersections of policy, global reform efforts on education, immigration, and structural oppression in theory, research, and practice. Based on your understandings of the principles and research methods of CBPAR, you will develop a proposal for a CBPAR project for your internship organization. Through your work in the City of Yonkers, this course invites you to examine the practices of an engaged researcher in service to others seeking to build community. Students may take this course individually or apply to participate in the Intensive Semester in Yonkers.

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio: Our Nine Senses

Advanced, Seminar—Year

This course is intended for advanced visual-arts students interested in working across disciplines and in more deeply pursuing their own artmaking processes. Students making work in and across painting, drawing, sculpture, video, photography, sound, new genres, and performance are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During the fall semester, students will be given open-ended, exploratory prompts based on nine human senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, temperature, proprioception, and pain) from which they will be asked to experiment with how they make work and will be encouraged to work within new mediums. In the spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by two group exhibitions. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to galleries and artists’ studios and will participate integrally within the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making work in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Drawing Faces

Open, Seminar—Fall

Portraiture has a rich and complex history. The act of drawing a face gives artists an understanding of how to translate what they see onto paper through line, light, shadow, volume, and space. Intentionally manipulating this same graphic language can embed portraits with the complex emotional and psychological states that lie beyond mere visual representation. Politically, socially, and historically, portraits have been a means to establish class and gender, provide immortality, and document the human condition. In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of drawing through the subject of the portrait. The act of looking will be primary for us, as seeing the face accurately, as it truly exists, is a constant challenge for artists. As the semester progresses, we’ll move from observational, realistic portraits into interpreted, experimental drawings that challenge traditions and norms of portraiture. As you learn to draw what you see, you’ll simultaneously begin to reveal qualities that are not visible—those psychological, political, symbolic, and personal aspects of portraits that make them individual and unique. Students will work on daily drawing exercises both inside and outside the studio in order to build a disciplined drawing practice that allows them to work in transformative ways. For context, we will look at a range of historical and contemporary examples of portraiture and will visit New York City exhibitions to see art works in the flesh. A visiting artist working in portraiture will visit class, as well.

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: From the Known to the Unknown: Getting to Know the World Through Writing

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Students may take this course individually or apply to participate in the Intensive Semester in Yonkers.

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

We will begin the semester by writing about the familiar—how it becomes beloved, despised, forgotten, lived within. We will explore how we experience the familiar at different ages while we take notes on the new, using words, photographs and sketches at our sites, on bus rides and walks, and in restaurants, parks, and churches. We will move from writing about the known to writing about how we get familiar with the new. We will pick five or more pieces to finish, revise, and edit for conference work and make chapbooks, using sketches and photographs to illuminate the world of our words. We will read other people’s explorations of their worlds, known and new, in an anthology that includes these writers, graphic novelists, and oral tale tellers: Dominican-American Junot Diaz, Iranian Marjane Satrapi, Malaysian Lat, Russian Isaac Babel, Italian Natalia Ginsberg, The Arabian Nights, African American folk tales, and poems from three languages—both ancient and modern.

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The Episode: A Course in Connections

Open, Seminar—Spring

This will be a course in the episode, a flexible way of putting together content—fictional or nonfictional—in this world or another. The episodes that we know best are streamed online. We also read them, often without noticing their form. They are different from chapters or short stories. We will start by introducing each other to our favorites. Then we will do enough exercises to catch ourselves doing something right and continue until we have six episodes that connect, not necessarily conventionally. These will be supported and critiqued in small groups, while weekly exercises get presented to everyone. This course is a sneaky way to get people to write and revise something long over time. Students can write fiction or nonfiction, for adults or children, and include poetry, songs, or drawings in their work. 

Faculty

Ecopoetry

Open, Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined our attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation; Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the Earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

Faculty