2015-2016 Psychology Courses
“We have time, energy, questions, and few responsibilities. We want to push the envelope, resist compromise, lead revolutions, and turn the world upside down. Because we do not yet know quite how to be, we have not settled and will not let the dust settle around us.” —Karlin and Borofsky
Many traditional psychological theories of development posit a brief transition from adolescence to adulthood; however, many people moving into their twenties experience anything but a brief transition to “feeling like an adult,” pondering questions such as “How many SLC alums can live in a Brooklyn sublet?” or “What will I do when I finish the Peace Corps next year?” In this course, we will explore the psychological literature concerning emerging adulthood, the period from the late teens through the twenties (Arnett, 2000), examining the different techniques used to study development during this time. We will then study further development into adulthood and old age. Gender, sexuality, social class, and culture will also serve as contexts for further analysis. A previous course in psychology is required.
Experimental Psychology Research Seminar
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 individual and group work. A variety of research designs will be discussed and evaluated throughout the semester, such as case studies, observational, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental approaches. Students do not need a background in statistics, but prior coursework in psychology is required.
The Psychology and Neuroscience of Addictions
This course is a multidisciplinary overview of addiction. Although the primary focus of the course is substance-related addictions and use, the emerging literature regarding nonsubstance addictive behaviors will also be discussed (food, gambling, internet, gaming). Explanations for addiction—spiritual, emotional, biological—have spanned the ages and remain controversial today. This course will explore the study of addiction from historical roots to contemporary theory. Competing theories of substance abuse/addiction will be examined, focusing on the individual with regard to cultural and societal concerns. This course presents a framework for understanding models of substance use and addiction, including neuropsychological advances, with a critical review of the evidence and controversies regarding each. Students will be asked to think critically and constructively about the topic, eschewing dogma of any one approach to the treatment and understanding of substance abuse. Readings will include literature from psychology and medicine to the arts, ethics, and the press. As this is a yearlong course, adequate time will be spent introducing basic social and brain science as it pertains to a later, more advanced examination of exciting neurological research.
The Human Legacy
Our "human legacy" is the result of a long journey. Considering our physiological, psychological, and social changes over time, these evolutionary transformations point to the fundamentally social nature of our human history. We have always had an incessant need to articulate common systems and points of reference in order to make sense of our world. Such common understanding of social reality requires the elaboration of representations around which groups form. These representations are social and serve the purpose of structuring our relations with one another and validating our common reality. In so doing, our social reality is constructed and social identities are created. Against this background, we will explore in this course how we, as humans, have been driven to develop into what we are today. To help us understand the constructive, dynamic, and social nature of our evolution, we will revisit one of the more obscure books in social psychology, The Human Legacy, written by Leon Festinger—one of the most famous social psychologists of the 20th century. This book analyzes some of the crucial elements of our evolution that have permitted the steady and continuous progress in our history. Key questions addressed in this book are more than relevant for our time, including the development of technology and its relation to religion, the implications of sedentary living, the production of food, and the human race's self-destructive propensity for warfare.
First-Year Studies: Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration
“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 class explores the crucial role of social 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 and immigration. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes by which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting 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.
Cultural Psychology of Development
Cultural psychology is the study of the ways in which individual and culture, subject and object, person and world constitute each other. This course will explore how children and adolescents make meaning of their experiences in the contexts in which they live—assuming that, for all of us, development is an ongoing response to the cultural life around us and that culture is a dynamic process of engagement. We will consider topics such as: language and culture, early storytelling in families, transitions from home to school, and gendered and racial identities. We will read a combination of psychological and anthropological texts. Questions to be explored include: How is a sense of self and place constituted in early childhood? How are these values expressed in children’s stories, art, and play? How do adolescents navigate differing language communities and cultural values in forging their identities? What are some of the implications for public education in this country? Students will have the opportunity to do fieldwork in school or community settings and to use conference work to bridge reading and practical experience. Prerequisite: Previous course in psychology or another social science.
Theories of Development
“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 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. For graduate students and for seniors with permission of the instructor.
Play and Imagination in Early Childhood: Developmental, Educational, and Clinical Perspectives
Adults often look at children and say, “They are just playing.” Yet play is seen by developmental and clinical psychologists and educators as one of the richest domains of young children’s experience. It is in play that they explore the world, construct knowledge, try out ideas, develop social interaction and self-regulation, expand and test out creativity. In this course, students will reflect on their own play experiences, serve as participant observers in twice-weekly fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center campus laboratory preschool, and explore in seminar and written work the ideas of theorists and practitioners who see play as crucial to intellectual, as well as social-emotional, development. Among other topics, we will consider the cultural contexts of play, clinical uses of play in therapy, play and literacy development, and the current threats to children’s opportunities for deep play. Conference work may, but need not, center on some aspect of the fieldwork experience.
“The Final Solution”: Psychological Perspectives on Inhumanity
“I also want to speak very frankly about an extremely important subject...the extermination of the Jewish people. This is something that is easy to talk about...Most of you know what it is to see a pile of 100 or 500 or 1,000 bodies. To have stuck it out and at the same time, barring exceptions caused by human weakness, to have remained decent: this is what has made us tough…This is a glorious page in our history which never has and never will be written.” —Speech by SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler to a meeting of SS generals in Posen, October 4, 1943.
What can psychology offer us by way of a perspective for understanding the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general? We will explore the following themes in some depth: Is it possible to sustain a sense of personal integrity in a world that strips you of the right to have a personal identity? How can the killing of millions be viewed as a sign of moral purity? Has evolution created a “universal neural circuitry” that disposes human beings to always perceive a hostile and murderous opposition between “us” and “them”? If so, can education dissolve such antagonistic oppositions? If not, under what kinds of social conditions does contempt for others yield pleasure? This course will not provide entirely satisfying answers.
The Senses: Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives
“The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind.” —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964
A great deal of brain activity is devoted to the processing of sensory information from both the outside and the inside of the body. Although, following Aristotle, we traditionally conceive of the senses as five discrete systems, they are more various and interconnected than this view suggests: What we call “taste” is a multi-sensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on “smell.” “Vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout. “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—the sense of balance, the sense of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold—are not covered by the standard five. 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 emotions. Some of the questions that 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? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art.
Child and Adolescent Development
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.
For thousands of years, philosophers have struggled with the questions surrounding the issue of morality. Over the past 100 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, including the ideas of Hoffman); and moral actions, or behavior (behaviorism, social-learning theory). In addition, we will investigate the possible relations among these three aspects of moral development. Throughout the course, we will connect 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 either in the form of detailed observations or direct interaction (interviews, etc.).
Puzzling Over People: Social Reasoning in Childhood and Adolescence
We humans tend to find other people the most interesting “objects” in our lives—and for good reason. As infants, we are completely dependent upon them for our very survival; and throughout our lives, other people serve as the social bedrock of our existence. We are a social species, one that derives “fitness” through our abilities to read the social terrain and figure out social meaning in our interactions with others. There is a range of timely questions to address: How do we do this, and how does it develop throughout childhood? Are we “hardwired” in some ways to feel what other people are feeling? What about the special case of childhood autism? How do our emotions interact with our cognitions about the social world to affect our views of self and other and our future social lives? What would cause us to have a relatively good or poor “emotional IQ,” and what are the consequences? What are the roles of family and childhood friends in this process? These are some of the issues that we will address in this course. The opportunity will be available for hands-on fieldwork with children to observe them puzzling over people in real life. Prior course in psychology is required.
Art and Visual Perception
“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 groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by neuroscientist Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight, 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.
Memory Research Seminar
The experimental study of remembering has been a vital part of psychology since the beginning of the discipline. The most productive experimental approach to this subject has been a matter of intense debate and controversy. The disputes have centered on the relationship between the forms of memory studied in the laboratory and the uses of memory in everyday life. We will engage this debate through the study of extraordinary memories, autobiographical memories, the role of visual imagery in memory, accuracy of memory, expertise, eyewitness testimony, metaphors of memory, and the anatomy of memory. Frederic Bartlett’s constructive theory of memory will form the theoretical backbone of the course. Most conference work will involve experimental explorations of memory. Some previous coursework in psychology is required.
Mindfulness: Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives
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.
Talking Cures: The Restoration of Freedom
Over the past century, the concepts of “wisdom” and “ignorance” have been replaced by “health” and “illness.” Vanity has been replaced by narcissism and pretensions by insecurities. We consult psychologists and psychiatrists rather than philosophers in the hope of living “the good life.” We 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. Moreover, the relationship between one psychologist and patient is vastly different from the relationship of another psychologist and client. 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. 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.
The Empathic Attitude
“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 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.
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 such fundamental themes 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. For graduate students and for juniors and seniors with permission of the instructor.
The Developing Child: Theory and Observation
This course introduces students to the study of how children develop by considering the perspectives on the process afforded by the experience of one’s own life, careful observation of children in natural settings, and readings in developmental psychology. All students will carry out fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and learn to observe the language and thought, play, social interaction, and evolving personalities of the preschool children with whom they work, taking into account the immediate context of their observations and the broader cultural contexts in which development is occurring. Readings for the seminar will be drawn from primary and secondary theoretical and research sources. Each student will carry out a conference project related to an aspect of development, often one connected to the fieldwork experience. All students must have two full mornings or afternoons a week free for fieldwork.
Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
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. For graduate students and for juniors and seniors by permission of the instructor.
Care in Space and Place: An Exploration of Environmental Psychology
This course explores the relationship between physical and social environments and human behavior. Care, in the broadest sense of the term, will be utilized as a lens through which we examine conceptualizations of environmental psychology. Utilizing qualitative methodologies (photovoice and autoethnography), we will engage with an ethic of care to critically explore levels of human interaction from the body and home and from the local to the globalized world, with a return to the individual experience of receiving and providing care within our social environments. Topics to be considered will include food (in)security and alternative food networks, informal family caregiving, paid caregiving, environmental sustainability, globalization, structural violence, social determinants of health, and social justice—but ultimately will be driven by student interest. Field trips will be incorporated to provide experiential learning, and digital essays will be introduced as a method to apply course material.
First-Year Studies: Approaches to Child Development
What are the worlds of children like? How can we come closer to understanding those worlds? In this class, we will use different modalities to cast light on them. One set of lenses is provided by psychological theory. Various psychologists (Piaget, Vygotsky, Freud, Erikson, Bowlby, Skinner, Bandura, Chess) have raised particular questions and suggested conceptual answers. 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 examine systematic studies carried out by developmental psychologists in areas such as the development of thinking, social understanding, language, gender and race awareness, friendship, and morality. We will take up the development of the brain and nervous system and consider the implications for important psychological questions. An important counterpoint to reading about children is direct observation. All students will do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and make notes on what they observe. At times, we will draw on student observations to support or critique theoretical concepts. Fieldwork also will provide the basis for conference work. Ideally, conference projects will combine the interests of the student, some library reading, and some aspect of fieldwork observation. Among the projects students have designed in the past are exploring children’s friendships, observing what children say as they are painting, following a child as he is learning English as a second language, and writing a children’s book text. The world of childhood is magical. This course is for students who understand that the magic won’t disappear if we take a close, intellectually rigorous look.
Trauma, Loss, and Resilience
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.
The Synapse to Self: The Neuroscience of Self-Identity
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.
Sleep and Health: Clinical Conditions and Wellness
“A key and often overlooked aspect of recharging is also one of the most obvious: getting enough sleep. There is nothing that negatively affects my productivity and efficiency more than lack of sleep. After years of burning the candle on both ends, my eyes have been opened to the value of getting some serious shuteye.” —Arianna Huffington, Sarah Lawrence College Commencement Address, 2012
Sleep is an incredibly powerful piece of the human experience—one that everyone does or does not do enough—that is often marginalized in contemporary culture. This class examines historical, developmental, 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 the mysterious world of sleep. We will consider nonclinical phenomena such as innate sleep cycles and dreaming, as well as gender differences in sleep behavior. The course will conclude with a look at the powerful benefits of sleeping well, including evidence from electroencephalogram (EEG) and neuroimaging data and from the examination of cultures with exceptionally high levels of wellbeing. Weekly reading assignments will include literature in sleep science, developmental psychology, physiology, and clinical research, as well as relevant case studies, essays, and memoir. Additionally, class members will follow the topic of sleep in popular media—including WNYC’s recent sleep project, Clock Your Sleep!—and will have the opportunity to monitor their own sleep patterns using popular sleep apps. Select film and documentary material will be included for class discussion. Conference work may include projects on clinical, developmental, physiological, and/or cultural aspects of sleep. Projects may also be focused on topics related to sleep such as dreaming, memory/other cognitive functions, and/or mindfulness meditation. Students interested in developmental aspects of sleep in children may complete a weekly fieldwork placement at the Early Childhood Center.
Attachment Across the Life Cycle: How Relationships Shape Us from Infancy to Older Adulthood
Throughout life, people may experience a varied and complex range of attraction, intimacy, and loss. From intense desire to profound grief, the relationships that people find themselves in—and out of—can consume much of their attention. What is it about connecting to certain others that can hold such power? Why are people drawn to certain relationships and not to others? Do these important relationships affect a person’s development? Pioneered by John Bowlby, attachment theory emphasizes the impact of infant and early childhood attachment on social, emotional, and cognitive development. Attachment theory has become a widely accepted cornerstone of early human development. Current research in human bonding has grown to include key relationships throughout the lifespan. Beginning with attachments established in infancy and early childhood, this course will examine the impact of important relationships through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and older adulthood. We will consider how the fulfillment or deprivation of important relationships may impact development and wellbeing. Landmark discoveries and emerging studies in attachment theory and human bonding will be covered, including relevant aspects of neuropsychological development, autism, adoption, queer families, resilience, spiritual identification, social affiliation, and parenting. Readings will include classical attachment literature, contemporary human-bonding research, developmental psychopathology, feminist critique, identity theory, social psychology, neuropsychology, object relations, and psychoanalytic literature. Film, case studies, and examples from popular media will be included for reflection and class discussion. A one-time observation in the Early Childhood Center (ECC) is required; weekly fieldwork in the ECC is encouraged. Conference work may include observations from the ECC (child or parent-child interactions observed during fieldwork) or observations from other settings such as youth/adolescent programs or older adult community centers.
“Sex is not a Natural Act”: Social Science Explorations of Human Sexuality
When is sex NOT a natural act? Every time a human engages in sexual activity. In sex, what is done by whom, with whom, where, when, why, and with what has very little to do with biology. Human sexuality poses a significant challenge in theory. The study of its disparate elements (biological, social, and individual/psychological) is inherently an interdisciplinary undertaking: From anthropologists to zoologists, all add something to our understanding of sexual behaviors and meanings. In this class, we will study sexualities in social contexts across the lifespan, from infancy to old age. Within each period, we will examine biological, social, and psychological factors that inform the experience of sexuality for individuals. We will also examine broader aspects of sexuality, including sexual health and sexual abuse. Conference projects may range from empirical research to a bibliographic research project. Service learning may also be supported in this class. A background in social sciences is recommended.
Studying Men and Masculinities
Do men have an innate nature? How have changing social conditions affected the phenomenological experience of being a man? In this intermediate class, we will engage in a critical study of gender by examining the social construction of biological sex and the construction of categories/conceptions of “man” and “masculinity.” An interdisciplinary approach will inform our examination. We will read from anthropology, critical race theory, feminist theory, masculinity studies, psychology, public health, queer theory, and sexuality studies to create a contextualized understanding of men and masculinity. Major topic areas will include biological and social perspectives on males and gender, intersectionality, ethnic identities and masculinities, and sexual orientation/desire and its relation to gender identity. Students with a background in psychology or other social sciences or LBGT studies will be given preference.
The Psychology of Gender: From Social Structure to Individual Lives
This course examines the category of gender within and beyond the discipline of psychology and aims to familiarize students with major theoretical perspectives on gender, including social constructionism, feminism, Marxism, queer theories, critical race theories, and various psychological traditions. The course also draws from empirical research on gender in the United States and abroad that emphasizes the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, ability, and immigration in women’s experiences and identities. We will explore how gender and gendered practices have been studied in relation to macro-social processes such as patriarchy, capitalism, and globalization but also how they form meanings in the physical and psychological lives of individuals. We will look at how gender is embedded in contested relations of power in diverse communities and how feminists and psychologists have explored the possibilities for change within and beyond academia.