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. 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.

2017-2018 Courses

Psychology

First-Year Studies: Child and Adolescent Development

Open , FYS—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. Direct experience with children will be an integral part of this course, including fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or other venues. Written observational diaries will be used as a way of integrating these direct experiences with seminar topics and conference readings.

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First-Year Studies: Health, Illness, and Medicine in a Multicultural Context: A Service-Learning Course

Open , FYS—Year

What is the difference between disease and illness? Do people in different cultures manifest the same illness similarly? Has the biomedical model resulted in better health for all? Why do women get sicker but men die quicker? This course offers an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness within a cultural context. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness. We will also examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment. A lifespan approach examining child, adolescent, and adult issues will provide additional insight. Issues of sexuality, gender, race, and ethnicity are a central focus, as well. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or in public health. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. The community partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class. We will work with local agencies to promote healthy and adaptive person-environment interactions within our community.

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Related Disciplines

History of Social Psychology

Open , Lecture—Fall

Before the emergence of social psychology as a formal discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is clear that some philosophers, religious authorities, and various individuals using their conventional wisdom had already articulated many different perspectives on human interactions with others and with their social environments. The roots of the discipline point to an embedding of the field in both sociology and psychology at the same time. This resulted in the development of two different social psychologies, which evolved differently and were more likely organized along a geographical axis between Europe and North America. Such a division made it difficult to have an integrative and independent social psychology, rendering it very complicated to reach a common definition. This lecture explores the origins and evolution of social psychology in the United States. More specifically, we will look at three interrelated issues in the evolution of the field. First, we will review the various definitions of the field and what impact these have had on the type of research we have designed. Second, we will analyze the succession of crises that the field has faced throughout its history and how those have contributed to a lack of cohesion between the different perspectives. Finally, we will look at how the field has evolved in other parts of the world, often marked and structured by a history of colonialism.

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Who am I? Clinical Perspectives of Psychology of the Self

Open , Lecture—Fall

What do any of us mean when we say our ”self”? What is the self? Multiple perspectives on this topic have emerged in the literature of psychology, psychotherapy, and beyond. Self-concept, self-esteem, self-worth, real-self, false-self, self-control, self-estrangement, among other terms and concepts, will be considered here. And what of the loss of self, as noted by the above statement? What was lost? (Has something been lost?) Is the person’s brain different? Is that where the self is? The person notes that “things” are different. Perhaps that’s some change with relation to the environment, some new development in emotion, habits, or perhaps relationships? Is “the self” a stable concept? We will consider both clinical cases regarding perceived loss of self and cases from neuroscience where some authors have perceived a change in a person’s concept of “self.” We will consider readings that stem from a primarily Western, individuality-oriented, self perspective, as well as non-Western and other challenges to these notions of self. This is an open lecture course format; however, students in the course will be expected to engage actively in discussions as part of every lecture. We will consider writings from a variety of perspectives: Heinz Kohut, Donald Winnicott, Eric Berne, Karen Horney, Martin Seligman, Joseph Ledoux, Oliver Sacks, and others.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Lecture—Spring

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. —Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where 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 begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as the intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.​

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Trauma, Loss, and Resilience

Open , Lecture—Spring

How people remember and respond to stress and trauma has garnered much attention and controversy in the field of psychology. These debates have reached well beyond therapists’ offices and academic departments, figuring prominently in the media, policy debates, and judicial decisions. Through a review of theory, research, and clinical case reports, this course aims to provide a nuanced examination of traumatic stress research. The course will begin with a historical exploration of how the mental-health community has defined and treated trauma over the past century, including the sociocultural forces that shaped these definitions and interventions. We will also delve into more current issues involving trauma, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Readings will survey a range of topics, drawing on cognitive, developmental, neuroscientific, and psychoanalytic perspectives. We will discuss and question: What are the impacts of stress and trauma across the life span? How is trauma processed cognitively, and what brain regions are involved in trauma-related distress? What is the impact of trauma and loss on mental and physical health? What is an appropriate response to trauma (and who decides)? Are there outcomes to stress and trauma other than distress? Is memory for trauma special? Are horrific experiences indelibly fixed in a victim’s memory, or does the mind protect itself by banishing traumatic memories from consciousness? How do those working in the field of traumatic stress cope with secondary exposure? Why are some people able to experience repeated exposure to trauma without significant impairment? Conference work will offer students the opportunity to apply ongoing issues in trauma and resilience research to a wide range of disciplines, including science, law, medicine, art, media, politics, and ethics.

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Ways of Knowing Each Other: Psychotherapeutic Models and the Restoration of Freedom

Open , Seminar—Year

What are the narratives of people who have no reason to fear being negatively judged? We will review therapeutic transcripts such as these: 1. “Can I be what I have never been?” (comment by Alice in first therapeutic session) “I no longer wonder what I ought to be but only what I can be.” (comment by Alice in 10th therapeutic session) Is this progress? 2. Therapist: “How do you know your relationship is over?” Client: “Our conflicts are not interesting!” Is this an excellent measure of the health or illness of a relationship? 3. The client has terminal cancer. Client: “My family believes I am in denial.” Therapist: “And you?” Client: “For me, dying is just my final experience. I won't give it any more respect than that.” Is this wisdom or denial? 4. Break up of a relationship: Client: “I feel so guilty for hurting him.” Therapist: “For no longer loving Jeff?” Client: “Exactly...” Therapist: “But wasn't loving Jeff a pleasure?” (“Uh huh”) “If so, then why would you feel guilty over losing a pleasure?” Does the therapist make good sense to you? Over the past century, the concepts of “wisdom” and “ignorance” have been replaced by “health” and “illness.” Vanity has been replaced by narcissism and our pretensions by insecurities. We are asked to accept the seeming paradox that a person “can always make something out of what is made of him.” We consult psychologists and psychiatrists rather than philosophers to become cured rather than educated. The cure is presumably accomplished through a series of conversations between patient and doctor, but these are not ordinary conversations. Despite more than a century of practice, there remains little agreement among these practitioners of “health” regarding what the content of the conversations should be or the proper roles of doctor and patient. Moreover, the relationship between one psychologist and patient is vastly different from the relationship of another psychologist and client. Consequently, the patient who sees a psychoanalyst has a very different kind of experience from a patient who seeks the help of a person-centered therapist or a behaviorally-oriented psychotherapist. This course will examine the rules of conversation that govern various psychotherapeutic relationships and compare those rules with those that govern other kinds of relationships, such as those between friends, teachers and students, and family members.

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Virtually Yours: Evolution and Technology of Relationships in the Digital Age

Open , Seminar—Fall

This seminar seeks to examine ways in which humans have evolved to relate to each other and 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, as well as 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 the digital devices themselves. Classes will be both discussion-based and experiential, with opportunities for observation (e.g., observing children relating/engaging in play in the 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). 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 through artificial intelligence and/or digital devices; and/or developmental, neuropsychological, clinical, social and/or cultural perspectives on, or shifts in, relating in the digital age. Conference projects may be completed in the form of an academic literature review, in original data collection, and/or in a creative piece with academic justification and will include a class presentation.

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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 the social determinants of health and 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 and inequities in the food system. Students will use photography and video to examine foods available in the neighborhoods where they live, review media related to the course themes, and use a time/space food diary 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. Students may have the opportunity to engage in community-based service learning and/or research, with the possibility of conference projects resulting from that experience.

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Amandla! Power, Prejudice, Privilege, and South African Human Development Under and After Apartheid

Open , Seminar—Fall

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. —Nelson Mandela (1994), Long Walk to Freedom

For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret. —Alan Paton (1948), Cry, the Beloved Country

How do the contexts in which we live influence our development? And how do these contexts influence the questions that we ask about development and the ways in which we interpret our observations? In this course, we will evaluate from a cultural-ecological perspective these and other key questions about development through a discussion of human development in South Africa during and after the apartheid era. We will discuss ways in which cognitive, language, and socioemotional development and mental and physical health are influenced by the environments in which we live—which, during apartheid, was determined by the governmental classification of race. Key topics will include fear, racial stereotyping and discrimination, identity formation, acculturation and globalization, crime and violence, and forgiveness and reconciliation. We will also take a broader view of these topics in discussing what human development in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa can tell us about human development in general. In thinking about human development in South African contexts, we will also discuss South African psychological research during and after apartheid, with a view toward understanding more broadly how psychological research can both influence and be influenced by public policy. How did researchers’ political affiliations, race, ethnicity and cultural beliefs and practices affect the questions they asked, the measures they used, the ways in which they interpreted their data, and even whether and where they published their research findings? Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in psychology, human development, anthropology, sociology, and public health; from memoirs and other first-hand accounts (including Nelson Mandela’s autobiography); and from classic and contemporary South African literature. We will also view and analyze several classic and contemporary films, including: The Power of One, Tsotsi, Catch a Fire, and Cry, the Beloved Country.

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The Synapse to Self: The Neuroscience of Self-Identity

Open , Seminar—Fall

It has long been believed that “you are what you remember.” Autobiographical memories are central to how we construct self-identity and experience a sense of self-continuity. They figure prominently in every aspect of our lives: earliest childhood recollections, developmental milestones and achievements, personal loss and public tragedy, and the breakdown of these memories across the life span. Conversely, self-identity plays a key role in how memories are selectively encoded, retrieved, or forgotten. Although these complex relations are far from being understood, neuropsychology and neuroscience research are illuminating the neural regions and networks underlying autobiographical memories and self-related processing. In this course, we will examine neuropsychological research—looking at how the loss of autobiographical memory impacts the integrity of identity such as in cases of amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. We will also discuss how different memory systems support self-continuity and the capacity to “mentally time travel” back to the past and into the imagined future. We will examine how shifts in self-identity alter the accessibility of our memories and, in turn, our social and emotional functioning. Emphasis will also be placed on autobiographical memory and self-identity disturbances associated with mental illness and the way in which neuropsychologists and neuroscientists study these changes following therapeutic interventions.

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Reality in an Age of Uncertainty: Clinical, Developmental, and Sociocultural Perspectives

Open , Seminar—Spring

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. —John Lennon

This course seeks to 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? What internal factors shape our perception of reality? How does our mind determine if an external source is reliable? What happens when an individual’s ability to perceive reality is impaired or altered? How is one’s sense of reality impacted when trusted sources distribute lies, misinformation, and fake news and/or serve as echo chambers—only reinforcing, never challenging, particular biases and distortions? How can a sense of center be found in a time of uncertainty? We will begin the semester by examining 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 these 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; or 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. Seminar classes will meet twice weekly and be discussion-based, informed by weekly reading assignments. Class reading will include primary- and secondary-source academic material from diverse perspectives in developmental, clinical, cultural psychology and related fields. Supplemental material will include relevant literature, memoir, TedTalks and popular media coverage of related topics. Conference work may include, but is not limited to, developmental, clinical, cultural, environmental, and/or historical perspectives on reality. Conference projects may be completed in in the form of an academic literature review, original data collection, and/or a creative piece with academic justification and will include a class presentation.

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Wherever You Go, There You Are: An Exploration of Environmental Psychology

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course explores the relationship between physical and social environments and human behavior. Utilizing qualitative methodologies (autoethnography and photovoice), 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 food (in)security and alternative food networks, 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, and people with disabilities. Topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Films and a field trip will be incorporated. Students are encouraged to participate in service learning through local community involvement facilitated by the Office of Community Partnerships, with the possibility of conference projects resulting from that experience.

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Psychological Illness, Neurodiversity, and Human Creativity: Perspectives From Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience

Open , Seminar—Spring

This seminar considers that difficult-to-identify dividing line between psychological illness and human variation that contributes to our creative leaps (artistic or other creativity) from the vantage point of clinical psychology. A quick Internet search will reveal historical creative luminaries proposed to have suffered from some form of psychological illness. We will consider that slippery clinical evaluation of “normal limits” that is often evoked as an ill-defined and subjective comparative standard in taxonomies of psychological illness. We will consider the notions/movement of neurodiversity. We will incorporate views from the anti-psychiatry/anti-psychology movements while also not losing sight of the suffering involved for many who are identified with various psychological disorders. To understand these movements against the current format of diagnosis, we will also have the class objective of understanding the use, usefulness, scientific backing, and aim of current taxonomies of those diagnoses that we explore for the class. We will consider work in this domain by experts such as Kay Jamison, Oliver Sacks, John Elder Robinson, and others. We will explore historical views regarding the connection between “madness and genius,” as well as contemporary psychology explorations of the topics involved in this proposed connection.

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Babies, Birds, and ’Bots: An Introduction to Developmental Cognitive Science

Open , Seminar—Spring

Do lemurs see red? Do you? What about newborns? Do you really have déjà vu? Does listening to Mozart in the womb really make children more intelligent? What about Metallica? What is intelligence, anyway? Why are phone numbers seven digits long? And why do children learn language better from an adult, in-person, than from the same adult on television? In this course, we will attempt to answer all of these questions and many more that you may have about how we process visual and auditory information, first put things in categories, solve simple and complex problems, communicate with each other and with our pets, and remember how to ride a bicycle and how to get to New York City. To answer these questions, we will read and discuss both theory and research in developmental psychology, psychobiology, linguistics, anthropology, cognitive neuroscience, and philosophy on various aspects of cognitive development across the life span in different cultural contexts, focusing on infancy, childhood, and adolescence. We will also discuss both the usefulness and the limitations of this research in light of the populations studied and the methodologies employed. Topics will include perception, categorization, reasoning, theory of mind and autism, language and thought, multilingualism and second-language acquisition, social cognition, memory, metacognition and metamemory, consciousness, and competence in context.

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Perspectives on Child Development

Open , Seminar—Spring

A noted psychologist once said, “What you see depends on how you look.” Our subject is the worlds of childhood; and in this class, we try out the lenses of different psychological theories to highlight different aspects of those worlds. Freud, Erikson, Bowlby, and Stern provide differing perspectives on emotional development. Skinner, Bandura, Piaget, and Vygotsky present various approaches to the problems of learning and cognition. Chess and her colleagues take up the issues of temperament and its interaction with experience. Chomsky and others deal with the development of language. We will read the theorists closely for their answers but also for their questions, asking which aspects of childhood each theory throws into focus. We will also examine some systematic studies that developmental psychologists have carried out to confirm, test, and critique various theories: studies of mother-infant relationships, the development of cognition and language, and the emergence of intersubjectivity. In several of these domains, studies done in cultures other than our own cast light on the question of universality versus cultural specificity in development. Direct observation is an important complement to theoretical readings. In this class, all students will do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center. At times, we will draw on student observations to support or critique theoretical concepts as part of the seminar. The fieldwork will also provide the basis for developing conference work. Ideally, conference projects combine the interests of the student, some library reading, and some aspect of fieldwork observation. Among the many diverse projects students have designed in the past are topics such as children’s friendships, the meanings of block building, and how young children use language.

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Advanced Research Seminar

Intermediate , 3-credit seminar—Year

Permission of the instructor is required.

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 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 in 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 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 five hours within a lab and/or community setting, as appropriate for their projects; 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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The Epistemological Relevance of Social Psychology

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

This class is dedicated to Clarence Edwin Ayres (1891-1972), who nearly a century ago (1918) started asking questions about the role of social psychology in the social sciences, as well as its relevance to everyday life. He questioned the duality between a quantitative and a qualitative social psychology. In other words, one type of social psychology systematically uses the purity of the scientific method (commonly referred to as “Methodenreinheit”), rooted in the perceived objectivity of experimentation, to explain the social world. Yet, at the same time, another type of social psychology tries to capture the complexity of individual humans as social beings, which often escapes standard methods of quantitative measurements and, therefore, calls for a different methodology. This seminar is an epistemological exploration of the duality between the sociological forms of social psychology and the psychological forms of social psychology. In fostering the emergence of social psychology, the psychological perspective encouraged greater collaboration with the natural sciences and the pursuit of truth with the use of the scientific method. Similarly in sociology, key thinkers of the discipline have failed to recognize the role of social psychology in the social sciences and quickly discarded it as simply a “subfield.” Social psychology is still struggling with how to reconcile this dichotomy into a more productive synthesis. We will examine some of the issues that have prevented social psychology from playing a more important role in dealing with the complexities of human affairs in relation to their social world.

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Theories of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

For graduate students and for seniors with permission of the instructor.

“There’s nothing so practical as a good theory,” suggested Kurt Lewin almost 100 years ago. Since then, the competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky, 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 study the classic theories—psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions 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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Bullies and Their Victims: Social and Physical Aggression in Childhood and Adolescence

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prior coursework in psychology is required.

It can be the bane of our existence in childhood: the bully who simply will not leave us alone. Until fairly recently, the image that came to mind—in both the popular imagination and the world of psychological study—was that of a physically imposing and physically aggressive boy, someone who found the littlest, most defenseless boy to pick on. In recent years, however, that image has begun to change. Now we realize that the ability to harm a person’s social relationships and social “standing,” usually through the manipulation of others, can be every bit as devastating to the victim. And in this new world of social aggression, girls’ expertise has come to the fore. In this course, we will study the nature of bullies and victims—in both the physical and social sense—and the possible long-term consequences of such bullying for both the perpetrator and the picked upon. We will explore recent evidence that bullying and victimization begin even in the preschool years, far earlier than previously thought; and we will examine some modern approaches used to break this vicious cycle, such as peer programs and interpersonal problem solving. Conference work may include field placement at the Early Childhood Center or other venues, as interactions with real children will be encouraged.

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Abnormal Psychology

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

According to recent data, approximately half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a psychological disorder at some point in their lives, and about 25% of adults in the United States may have suffered from a mental illness in the past year. Why are rates of mental illness so high, and what can we do to reduce these figures? What does it mean to be mentally ill, and who decides? Where do we draw the line between normal and abnormal, and what kinds of methods do we use in psychology and neuroscience to make this determination? This course will serve as an introduction to the field of abnormal psychology. We will cover theoretical frameworks, research methods, and treatments associated with a range of psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and personality disorders. In addition, we will discuss historical, political, and cultural influences that shape the way in which mental illness has been defined, represented, and treated. Course materials will draw on experimental and theoretical research, memoirs, films, and clinical case studies. This course will be of particular interest to students interested in pursuing graduate school or careers working in fields related to clinical psychology.

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Theories of the Creative Process

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Background in college-level psychology or philosophy is required.

The creative process is paradoxical. It involves freedom and spontaneity yet requires expertise and hard work. The creative process is self-expressive yet tends to unfold most easily when the creator forgets about self. The creative process brings joy yet is fraught with fear, frustration, and even terror. The creative process is its own reward yet depends on social support and encouragement. In this class, we look at how various thinkers conceptualize the creative process—chiefly in the arts but in other domains, as well. We see how various psychological theorists describe the process, its source, its motivation, its roots in a particular domain or skill, its cultural context, and its developmental history in the life of the individual. Among the thinkers that we consider are Freud, Jung, Arnheim, Franklin, and Gardner. Different theorists emphasize different aspects of the process. In particular, we see how some thinkers emphasize persistent work and expert knowledge as essential features, while others emphasize the need for the psychic freedom to “let it happen”and speculate on what emerges when the creative person “lets go.” Still others identify cultural context or biological factors as critical. To concretize theoretical approaches, we look at how various ideas can contribute to understanding specific creative people and their work. In particular, we consider works written by or about Picasso, Woolf, Welty, Darwin, and some contemporary artists and writers. Though creativity is most frequently explored in individuals, we also consider group improvisation in music and theatre. Some past conference projects have involved interviewing people engaged in creative work. Others consisted of library studies centering on the life and work of a particular creative person. Some students chose to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and focus on an aspect of creative activity in young children.

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Personality Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

For graduate students and for juniors and seniors with permission of the instructor.

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 and clinical 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 integrative “relational perspective”; and we will consider the issues they raise 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. 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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Individualism Reconsidered: Beyond Pride and Shame

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you.” Can anything be further from the truth? This course will examine how reputation in all its guises shadows our lives. Do we not dispense praise and blame to control the lives of others? Can we deny that pride and shame represent the rewards and punishments that we employ to imprison ourselves? Can we inhabit a world that goes beyond pride and shame? For example, consider the following tale: Alexander the Great allegedly came across the philosopher Diogenes, clothed in rags and taking a sunbath while reclining on the street. According to one version of this tale, Alexander asked Diogenes if there were anything he desired. If there were, then certainly Alexander would grant his wish. Diogenes waved his hand and replied: “Stand out of my light.” Addressing his troops, Alexander exclaimed, “If I were not Alexander the Great, I would like to be Diogenes.” What of you, dear student?

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Art and Visual Perception

Intermediate , Seminar—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 students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

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Play in Developmental and Cultural Context

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Previous coursework in psychology or a related social science.

For many years, the conviction has grown upon me that civilization arises and unfolds in and as play. —Huizinga, Homo Ludens

Many adults look back fondly on their memories of childhood play and the rich imaginary worlds created. Yet, play in our current sociopolitical climate is threatened by the many demands of our over-regimented lives and standardized goals of education. In this course, we will look closely at the amazing complexity of those playworlds and at the many aspects of children’s experiences through play. Observing and reading about play offer the opportunity to understand children’s thinking, communicating, problem solving, nascent storytelling, and emotional and imaginative lives. We will also consider the variations in play within different family and cultural contexts, as well as play’s relationship to scientific and aesthetic activities of adult life. Other topics will include therapeutic uses of play, importance of play for early literacy, and the re-invigoration of the phenomenon of adventure play in the United States, at SLC in the form of our CAPEs, and abroad. Students will be encouraged to choose a context in which to observe and/or participate in play either at our Early Childhood Center or in other settings with children or adults.

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Moral Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prior course in psychology is required.

For thousands of years, philosophers have struggled with the questions surrounding the issue of morality. Over the past hundred years, psychologists have joined the fray. While many theories exist, a unifying theme centers upon the notion that childhood is the crucible in which morality is formed and forged. In this course, we will explore the major theories dealing with three aspects of the development of morality: moral thought, or reasoning (e.g., Piaget, Kohlberg); moral feelings (psychoanalytic approaches, including Freud, and the modern work on the importance of empathy and mirror neurons); and moral actions, or behavior (behaviorism, social-learning theory). In addition, we will investigate the possible relations among these three aspects of moral development. For example, how is moral thought connected to moral action? Throughout the course, we will relate moral development theory to the results of research investigations into this crucial aspect of child development. Conference work may include direct experience with children or adolescents in the form of either detailed observations or direct interaction (interviews, etc.).

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Language Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Previous course work in psychology or permission of the instructor is required.

The baby, assailed by eye, ear, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion. —William James (1890)

The acquisition of our first language is “doubtless the greatest intellectual feat any of us is ever required to perform” (Bloomfield), yet this feat was essentially accomplished by the time we were three years old—and we likely have no memory of it. Furthermore, human language fundamentally influences human ecology, culture, and evolution. Thus, many contemporary researchers in the interdisciplinary field of psycholinguistics argue that our language abilities are a large part of what makes us uniquely human. Are we, in fact, the only species with true language? And how would we begin to answer this question? In this course, we will attempt to answer this and other key questions in the broad field of language development through both our discussions of current and contemporary research and theory and the development of new research in this field. Current “hot” research topics include whether bilingual children have better control over what they pay attention to than monolingual children (attention and language); whether language influences thought; whether language acquisition is biologically programmed; and why children learn language better from an adult, in-person, rather than the same adult on television. Over the course of the semester, you will have the opportunity to design an independent research project that investigates either one of these key questions or another question of interest to you in the broad area of language development. In doing this, you will learn how to outline the rationale for a research project, develop an effective research methodology, collect data, analyze the data, interpret your results, and communicate your findings in a persuasive, yet objective, manner. This course thus serves as an introduction to research methods, with a specific focus on research methods in psycholinguistics, through your own research. Topics will include experimental research design, case studies, observational techniques, survey development, and hypothesis testing. To help you design and implement your own research, we will discuss your conference research projects in class throughout the semester. You will obtain feedback from your colleagues on your questions, methods, analyses of the data, and interpretation of the results. This project could include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children.

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Experimental Psychology Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Students do not need a background in statistics, but prior coursework in psychology is required.

Psychological science attempts to study complex human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes through research and experimentation. Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop both a strong foundation in the theories, techniques, and ethical questions that have guided psychology research and the opportunity to put their ideas into practice. A major component of this course will involve generating hypotheses and designing studies, carrying out original research, learning how to analyze and interpret data, and writing up and presenting findings. Readings will span research from a variety of subfields in psychology (clinical, developmental, social), and assignments will involve both individual and group work. A variety of research designs will be discussed and evaluated throughout the semester, such as case studies and observational, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental approaches.

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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

For graduate students and for juniors and seniors by permission of the instructor.

This course addresses 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. In discussing readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies, 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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The Empathic Attitude

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. —Joseph Conrad

We mark with light in the memory the few interviews we have had, in the dreary years of routine and of sin, with souls that made our soul’s wiser; that spoke what we thought; that told us what we knew; that gave us leave to be what we…were. —Emerson, Divinity School Address, 1838

After graphically describing her predicament to her cousin Molly, Sarah asked: “So, do you understand?” “Yes, I do, I certainly do,” her cousin replied. “You do?” Sarah asked again. “Most emphatically, I do.” “Then you agree with me?” “Oh no.” “You sympathize with me then?” “No, I don’t.” “Then you at least see it from my point of view.” “Hardly.” “Then what do you understand?” “You are simply a fool!” “How dare you judge me?” “If I see it from your point of view, I shall only be a different kind of judge. My dear Sarah, don’t you see that there is no escaping judgment?”

For Conrad, the other is so shrouded in mists that our empathic understanding must necessarily fall short. For Emerson, an empathic rapport is rare but possible. As for Sarah and Molly, what can we say? Do they completely fail to understand each other, or do they understand each other only too well? Indeed, what do we mean by understanding in this context? Too often, understanding is confused with agreement or the absence of judgment. This course will examine what an empathic understanding entails and the function of empathy in defining areas of conflict, as well as in the resolution of conflict. In brief, the empathic attitude requires us to enjoy and appreciate the differences between ourselves and others even as we attempt to bridge those differences.

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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, and 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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Body and Soul: Drawing From Life

Open , Seminar—Year

For a visual artist, the human form provides a subject unlike no other. Descriptively, emotively, biologically, and culturally, the figure is a mirror, the representation of who we are as well as who we wish to be. For the artist, a true understanding of the human form—its unique formal, symbolic, narrative, psychological, and historical role—comes through prolonged and detailed exploration. The potential of the human form as an artistic resource will be the focus of this yearlong course. Daily exercises, both in and outside the studio, that stress the development of personal vision and disciplined work habits will be key to growing each student’s observational and technical skills. Over the course of the year—using both observation and memory, as well as a variety of materials and methods and an analysis of the relationships between gesture and form, rhythm and movement, and structure and biology—will lay the foundation necessary for individual expression.

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Color

Open , Seminar—Year

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, (hue, value, saturation, form, context, texture, pattern, space, continuity, repetition, rhythm, gestalt, and unity), as well as the personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences of that visual vocabulary.

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