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Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

Psychological Science: I. Introductory

105a and b. Introduction to Psychology: A Survey 1

This course is designed to introduce the student to fundamental psychological processes, their nature and development, and contemporary methods for their study through a survey of the major research areas in the field. Areas covered include the biological and evolutionary bases of thought and behavior, motivation and emotion, learning, memory, thinking, personality, developmental, and social psychology. Some sections of this course are taught as a traditional introductory survey.  Other sections may take a more topical focus to their survey.  In all sections, students are expected to participate in three hours of psychological research during the semester. The department.

Topical section options for 2017/18b:

Sex on the Brain. The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the science of psychology via an exploration of contemporary research and theory on sex and sexuality. Special attention is devoted to scientific methodology in the study of sex and sexuality in order to give you a solid understanding of how psychologists and other scientists conduct their research and build theories about phenomena associated with sex. 

Please note: This is not a human sexuality course; it is a psychology course that uses the study of human sexuality to introduce you to psychology. You leave the course not only with an understanding of the physiological, evolutionary, learning, developmental, personality and social psychological perspectives on human sexual behavior, among other topics, but also with the necessary knowledge and conceptual tools to continue your explorations in psychology and other experimental sciences. Randy Cornelius.

Health and Happiness. This is an introductory psychology course. The processes by which we think, feel, and behave are inextricably linked, and together, they play important roles in explaining health and well-being. Students learn a variety of scientific approaches to understanding the mind/body connection. We take a biopsychosocial approach and consider research on stress and coping, and focus on empirical evidence to investigate what makes people flourish and thrive.

The goal of Introduction to Psychology is to allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the diverse areas of psychology and the methods employed by psychologists. Students gain a basic understanding of psychology as a biopsychosocial science, the aim of which is to understand, predict, and control behavior. In addition, students are exposed to basic quantitative and critical analysis skills important to psychological science. Through class discussions and study, students learn how psychological principles operate in their own lives. Michele Tugade. 

Students may not take both 105 and PSYC 106   . Open to all classes. Enrollment limited. AP credit is not accepted as a substitute for this course in Psychology.

184 Living Rhythms 1

Human activity is rhythmic. We engage in cycles of eating, loving, working, resting, walking, talking, learning, and sleeping. We multitask, nesting and switching cycles within cycles. Our activity entrains to cycles of the sun, moon, weather, natural and cultural seasons, and human-made devices. In this course, students explore and write about the psychology of rhythmic activity by means of participation, observation, interview, and literature review. Carolyn Palmer.  

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

186 Moving, Contemplating & Transforming 1

Engaging in a variety of active practices, students explore processes of personal and institutional transformation. We share activities involving movement, awareness, imagination, contemplative practices, and reflection on experiences. Students pursue a personal transformation project, such as learning a new skill or deepening an existing practice. We also consider how these activities can contribute to group or institutional transformation. Carolyn Palmer.

 

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

Psychological Science: II. Intermediate

200a and b. Statistics and Experimental Design 1

An overview of principles of statistical analysis and research design applicable to psychology and related fields. Topics include descriptive statistics and inferential statistics, concepts of reliability and validity, and basic concepts of sampling and probability theory. Students learn when and how to apply such statistical procedures as chi-square, z-tests, t-tests, Pearson product-moment correlations, regression analysis, and analysis of variance. The goal of the course is to develop a basic understanding of research design, data collection and analysis, interpretation of results, and the appropriate use of statistical software for performing complex analyses. Janet Andrews, Allan Clifton.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

201a and b. Principles of Social Psychology 1

The study of the individual under social influences, including such topics as attitude formation and change, prosocial behavior, aggression, social influence processes, group dynamics, attribution theory, and interpersonal communication processes. Psychology 201 may NOT be taken if PSYC 205 has already been taken. Dara Greenwood

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

205 Topics in Social Psychology 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

209a. Research Methods in Social Psychology 1

A survey of research methods in social psychology. Every stage of the research process is considered including hypothesis generation, operationalization of variables, data collection and analysis, and communication of results. Observational, questionnaire, and experimental approaches are considered. The focus is on the development of skills necessary for evaluating, designing, and conducting research. Jannay Morrow. 

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 201 or PSYC 205.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

221a and b. Learning and Behavior 1

A survey of major principles that determine the acquisition and modification of behavior. Topics include the relation of learning and evolution, habituation and sensitization, classical and operant conditioning, reinforcement and punishment, stimulus control, choice behavior, animal cognition, concept formation, perceptual learning, language, reasoning, and self-control.  Kevin Holloway.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

222 Psychological Perspectives on the Holocaust 1

(Same as JWST 222) The Holocaust has spawned several now classic programs of psychological research. This course considers topics such as: anti-Semitism and stereotypes of Jews; the authoritarian and altruistic personalities; conformity, obedience, and dissent; humanistic and existential psychology; and individual differences in stress, coping and resiliency. The broader implications of Holocaust-inspired research is explored in terms of traditional debates within psychology such as those on the role of the individual versus the situation in producing behavior and the essence of human nature. The ethical and logical constraints involved in translating human experiences and historical events into measurable/quantifiable scientific terms are also considered. Debra Zeifman.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

Not offered in 2017/18.

223a. Evolutionary Psychology 1

The study of evolutionary theory, with attention to how it informs the developmental, ecological, genetic, and physiological explanations of behavior. John Mark Cleaveland.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

229 Research Methods in Learning and Behavior 1

(Same as NEUR 229) An introduction to experimental and observational methods in animal learning and behavior. Laboratory experiences have included audio recording and quantitative analysis of animal sounds (bat echolocation and birdsong), operant conditioning, census taking, determining dominance hierarchies, and human visual and auditory psychophysics. John Mark Cleaveland.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 221 or PSYC 223.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

231b. Principles of Development 1

The study of principles and processes in developmental psychology, surveying changes in physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development during the life span. Major theoretical orientations to the growing person are illustrated by empirical material and supplemented by periodic observations of children in natural settings. Carolyn Palmer.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

233a. Health Psychology 1

Health Psychology is the scientific study that applies psychological theory and empirical research to examine the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of illness. Students taking this course will gain a firm foundation in health psychology, and learn about the various scientific approaches to understanding the mind/body connection. This course takes a biopsychosocial approach and considers research and theory related to health promotion, illness prevention, and behavior change. Students learn about psychophysiological processes relevant to health psychology (e.g., immunology) and sexamine health processes in diverse populations with regard to age, ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and health status. Topics may include health enhancing and health damaging behaviors, pain management, stress and coping. Emphasis is placed on critically evaluating primary sources, drawing from empirical studies in psychology, public health, and behavioral medicine. Michelle Tugade.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

2017-18

Two 75-minute periods.

237b. Early Childhood Education: Theory and Practice 1

(Same as EDUC 237) What is the connection between a textbook description of preschool development and what teachers do every day in the preschool classroom? This course examines curriculum development based on contemporary theory and research in early childhood. The emphasis is on implementing developmental and educational research to create optimal learning environments for young children. Major theories of cognitive development are considered and specific attention is given to the literatures on memory development; concepts and categories; cognitive strategies; peer teaching; early reading, math, and scientific literacy; and technology in early childhood classrooms. Julie Riess.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 231 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period; 4 hours of laboratory participation.

239b. Research Methods in Developmental Psychology 1

Problems and procedures in developmental research are examined. The course considers issues in the design of developmental research, basic observational and experimental techniques, and reliability and validity of developmental data. Students may work with children of different ages in both laboratory and naturalistic settings. Debra Zeifman.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 231.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

241b. Principles of Physiological Psychology 1

(Same as NEUR 241) The role of physiological systems, especially the brain, in the regulation of behavior. In addition to basic topics in neuroscience (neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry and pharmacology), topics may include: sensory mechanisms, motivational systems (e.g., sleep, eating, reproductive behaviors), emotion, learning and memory, language, stress and psychopathology. Kevin Holloway, TBA

Psychology 241 may NOT be taken if PSYC 243 has already been taken.

243b. Topics in Physiological Psychology 1

(Same as NEUR 243) The study of the functions of particular brain structures and their relation to behavior and mental activity. In addition to basic topics in neuroscience the course focuses on such topics as: perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, control of action, and consciousness. Neural alterations related to learning disabilities, neurological and psychiatric disorders may be examined as well. Abigail Baird.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

Psychology 243 may NOT be taken if PSYC 241 has already been taken.

249a and b. Research Methods in Physiological Psychology 1

(Same as NEUR 249) The study of experimental methods in physiological psychology. In addition to exploring issues related to the ethics, design, measurement, analysis and reporting of research, laboratory topics may include: neuroanatomy, behavioral responses to pharmacological and/or surgical interventions, electrophysiology, neuropsychology, neurochemistry and histology. Bojana Zupan, TBA.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200, and PSYC 241 or PSYC 243.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

253b. Individual Differences and Personality 1

An introduction to contemporary approaches to understanding personality. The focus of the course is on evaluating recent theories and research that attempt to uncover the underlying dimensions that distinguish one person from another. Emphasis is placed on understanding behavior in interactions with others; the development of personality over time; and people's intuitive theories about personality, including their own. Randy Cornelius.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

254b. Emotional Engagement with Film 1

(Same as FILM 254 and MEDS 254) While movies engage our emotions in psychologically significant ways, scholarship on the psychological allure and impact of film has existed primarily at the interdisciplinary margins. This course aims to bring such scholarship into the foreground. We begin with a careful examination of the appeal and power of narrative, as well as processes of identification and imagined intimacy with characters, before taking a closer analytical look at specific film genres (e.g., melodrama, horror, comedy, action, social commentary) both in their own right and in terms of their psychological significance (e.g., why do we enjoy sad movies? How do violent movies influence viewer aggression? How might socially conscious films inspire activism or altruism?) In addition to delving into theoretical and empirical papers, a secondary goal of the course is to engage students as collaborators; brainstorm and propose innovative experimental methods for testing research questions and hypotheses that emerge in step with course materials. Dara Greenwood and Sarah Kozloff.

Prerequisite(s): for Psychology majors - PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   ; for Film majors - FILM 175 or FILM 210; for Media Studies majors - MEDS 160.

Two 75-minute periods plus outside screenings.

259b. Research Methods in Personality and Individual Differences 1

The study of research methods in personality and individual differences. Every stage of research is considered: the generation of hypotheses; the operationalization of variables; the collection, analysis, and evaluation of data; and the communication of results. The focus is on the development of skills necessary for evaluating, designing, and conducting research. Michele Tugade.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 253.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

262a and b. Principles of Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1

A survey of research and theory concerning the nature, origins, and treatment of major psychological disorders. The course considers behavioral, biological, cognitive and psychodynamic approaches to understanding psychopathology. Topics may include schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, childhood disorders, and personality disorders. Jannay Morrow, Susan Trumbetta. 

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or PSYC 106   .

269a. Research Methods in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1

The study of research methods in psychopathology and clinical psychology. Every stage of research is considered: the generation of hypotheses, operationalization of variables, data collection, analysis and evaluation, and presentation of results. The focus is on the development of skills particular to research with clinical populations including ethical considerations, structured clinical interviews, behavioral observations, reliable and valid assessment, and measurement of change over time. Allan Clifton.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 262.

Two 2-hour periods.

280 Social Psychological Approaches to Mass Media: Understanding Content, Motivation, and Impact 1

(Same as MEDS 280) This course is designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of "media psychology," which applies social scientific theory and methodology to the study media use, content, and impact. We first review theoretical contributions from both Communication Studies and Social Psychology before moving into a range of "hot topics" in the field (e.g., violent media, persuasion and advertising, news, politics, representations of social groups, social media). Along the way, we consider: psychological processes relevant to media use and impact, individual differences that motivate selective exposure and reception, the positive and negative effect that media may have on our attitudes and behaviors, and the complexities of developing and executing media effects research. Dara Greenwood.

 

Two 75-minute periods.

290a and b. Field Work 0.5 to 2

Individuals or group field projects or internships, with prior approval of the adviser and the instructor who supervises the work. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. The department.

298a and b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Individual or group studies with prior approval of the adviser and of the instructor who supervises the work. May be elected during the college year or during the summer. The department.

Psychological Science: III. Advanced

301a. Seminar in Social Psychology 1

An intensive study of selected topics in social psychology. Emphasis is placed on current theories, issues, and research areas. Randy Cornelius.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 201 or PSYC 205, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

321a. Seminar in Animal Learning and Behavior 1

An in-depth analysis of selected mechanisms of learning and behavior. Topics can vary from year to year, but may include animal cognition, language and communication, behavioral ecology, and recent advances in the theory and neurophysiology of learning and behavior. Kevin Holloway.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 221 or PSYC 223, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

323b. Seminar in Evolutionary Psychology 1

Applications of comparative psychology to a specific topic. Topics can vary from year to year, and have in the past included altruism, sex differences, aggression, language, etc. The focus is how theory and data from other species inform questions about human functioning. John Mark Cleaveland.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 221 or PSYC 223 or BIOL 340, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

331b. Seminar in Developmental Psychology 1

Seminar in current issues, research, and theory in developmental psychology. Topics vary and may include laboratory work. Debra Zeifman.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 231, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

336 Childhood Development: Observation and Research Application 1

(Same as EDUC 336) What differentiates the behavior of one young child from that of another? What characteristics do young children have in common? This course provides students with direct experience in applying contemporary theory and research to the understanding of an individual child. Topics include attachment; temperament; parent, sibling and peer relationships; language and humor development; perspective taking; and the social-emotional connection to learning. Each student selects an individual child in a classroom setting and collects data about the child from multiple sources (direct observation, teacher interviews, parent-teacher conferences, archival records). During class periods, students discuss the primary topic literature, incorporating and comparing observations across children to understand broader developmental trends and individual differences. Synthesis of this information with critical analysis of primary sources in the early childhood and developmental literature culminates in comprehensive written and oral presentations. Julie Riess.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 231 and permission of the instructor. For Psychology Majors: completion of a research methods course.

Not offered in 2016/17.

One 3-hour period. and 4 hours of laboratory observation work.

341b. Seminar in Physiological Psychology 1

Analysis of selected topics in physiological psychology. Topics vary from year to year but may include learning, memory, human neuropsychology, neuropharmacology, psychopharmacology, sensory processes, emotion, and motivation. N. Jay Bean.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 241 or PSYC 243, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18

343 Seminar on States of Consciousness 1

A consideration of conditions giving rise to disruptions of awareness and implications for behavioral integration. Topics serving as areas of discussion may include: sleep and dreaming; hypnosis and hypnagogic phenomena; drug behavior and biochemistry; cerebral damage; dissociations of consciousness such as blindsight; psychopathologic states. N. Jay Bean, Carol Christensen.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 241 or PSYC 243.

Not offered in 2017/18

353 Seminar in Individual Differences and Personality 1

Intensive study of selected topics in personality and individual differences. Theory and empirical research form the core of required readings. Topics studied reflect the interests of both the instructor and the students. Michelle Tugade.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 253, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

362a. Seminar in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1

An intensive study of research and theory concerning the nature, origins, and treatment of major psychological disorders. Topics vary but may include schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, childhood disorders, and personality disorders. Abigail Baird, Susan Trumbetta.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 262, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

364 Seminar in Behavior Genetics 1

This course explores genetic contributions to complex behavioral phenotypes. Its primary focus is on genetic contributions to human behavior with some attention to comparative and evolutionary genetics. Quantitative methods are emphasized. Susan Trumbetta.

Prerequisite(s): a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

380 Neurolaw: "My Brain Made Me Do It" 1

This course critically examines the increasing presence of brain-based evidence in the courtroom. We explore how advances in our understand of the human brain, as well as its maturation, have contributed to both individual legal cases and public policy, going so far as to even influence rulings of the Supreme Court. The course also takes a critical look at how and when Neurolaw is being misused by improving students scientific literacy regarding the strengths and limitations of various neuropsychological tests and neuroimaging techniques. While there is an emphasis on the brain and its function, students with interests in Law and/or Public Policy are encouraged to enroll. Abigail Baird.

One 2-hour period.

386 Tools for Transformation 1

What's the science behind self-help? What processes keep us mired in habit, and what processes help us transform? And why do we need so many guides? In this seminar we explore methods of awareness and self-transformation, particularly examining theory and research evidence of effectiveness. Additionally, we sample a variety of evidence-based practices, in class and course projects. Students engage in a project of personal value, and interview others about methods that work for them. We consider principles of motivation, development, neuropsychology, creativity, cognition, relationship, individual differences, and topics of specific interest to enrolled students. Carolyn Palmer.

Prerequisite(s): at least two 200-level psychological science courses, and a research methods course (may be concurrent).

One 2-hour period.

390b. Senior Research 1

Graded independent research. A student wishing to take this course must first gain the support of a member of the psychology faculty, who supervises the student as they design and carry out an empirical investigation of some psychological phenomenon. In addition to a final paper and regular meetings with their faculty sponsor, students also attend weekly meetings organized by the course instructor. Both the course instructor and the supervising faculty member participate in the planning of the research and in final evaluation. The department.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 298.

395a and/or b. Senior Thesis 0.5 to 1

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 298, PSYC 399.

Open to seniors by invitation of instructor.

397a. Senior Empirical Thesis 1

This is a year-long thesis project conducted collaboratively with a participating faculty member on an empirical research project. In Psychology 397, students work to identify a conceptual question of interest, read and integrate background literature on that topic, and formulate a novel research plan. In Psychology 398, students carry out their proposed studies by collecting data, statistically analyzing the results of the study, and interpreting how the results relate to the study's original hypothesis and existing findings in the field. Both semesters involve intensive writing, with detailed feedback from the primary faculty adviser and a second faculty reader, as well as a formal presentation of the research findings to other students and faculty. Completion of Psychology 398 is required to receive credit for Psychology 397. The department.

Prerequisite(s): Psychology research methods course and permission of the instructor.

One 4-hour period.

398b. Senior Empirical Thesis 1

This is a year-long thesis project conducted collaboratively with a participating faculty member on an empirical research project. In Psychology 397, students work to identify a conceptual question of interest, read and integrate background literature on that topic, and formulate a novel research plan. In Psychology 398, students carry out their proposed studies by collecting data, statistically analyzing the results of the study, and interpreting how the results relate to the study's original hypothesis and existing findings in the field. Both semesters involve intensive writing, with detailed feedback from the primary faculty adviser and a second faculty reader, as well as a formal presentation of the research findings to other students and faculty. Completion of Psychology 398 is required to receive credit for Psychology 397. The department.

Prerequisite(s): Psychology research methods course and permission of the instructor.

One 4-hour period.

399a and/or b. Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Individual or group studies with prior approval of the adviser and of the instructor who supervises the work. The department.

May be elected during the college year or during the summer.