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Courses

The following information is from the 2018-19 Vassar College Catalogue.

Psychological Science: I. Introductory

105 Introduction to Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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.

Topic for 2018/19a: 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.  

Topic for 2018/19b: 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.

 

Open to all classes. Enrollment limited. AP credit is not accepted as a substitute for this course in Psychology.

Two 75-minute periods.

108 Reading and Writing in Psychological Science 1Semester Offered: Fall

This first-year writing seminar is designed to develop critical reading skills across a range of work in Psychological Science and to practice different kinds of writing. Open only to first year students, this course satisfies the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar. The specific topics of these first-year writing seminars in Psychological Science will vary, and despite its variety of topics, this course may not be repeated for credit.

Topic for 2018/19a : Living Rhythms. 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 first year students; satisfies the college requirement for a First Year Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

Psychological Science: II. Intermediate

200 Statistics and Experimental Design 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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, Lori Newman, Bojana Zupan.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or COGS 100.

Two 75-minute periods.

201 Principles of Social Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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, Jannay Morrow.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105.

205 Topics in Social Psychology 1

Not offered in 2018/19.

209 Research Methods in Social Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall

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. Michele Tugade.

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

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

221 Learning and Behavior 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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, Mark Cleaveland.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105.

222 Psychological Perspectives on the Holocaust 1Semester Offered: Spring

(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.

223 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.

Not offered in 2018/19.

229 Research Methods in Learning and Behavior 1Semester Offered: Spring

(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. Kevin Holloway.

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

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

231 Principles of Development 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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.

233 Health Psychology 1Semester Offered: Spring

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.

Two 75-minute periods.

237 Early Childhood Education: Theory and Practice 1Semester Offered: Spring

(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.

239 Research Methods in Developmental Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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. Nick de Leeuw, Debra Zeifman. 

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 231.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

241 Principles of Physiological Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

(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. Hadley Bergstrom, Bojana Zupan. 

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

243 Topics in Physiological Psychology 1Semester Offered: Spring

(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.

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

249 Research Methods in Physiological Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

(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, Lori Newman. 

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

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

253 Individual Differences and Personality 1Semester Offered: Fall

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.

254 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; for Film majors - FILM 175 or FILM 210; for Media Studies majors - MEDS 160.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods plus outside screenings.

259 Research Methods in Personality and Individual Differences 1Semester Offered: Spring

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. Jannay Morrow.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200 and PSYC 253.

Regular laboratory work. Enrollment limited.

262 Principles of Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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. Allan Clifton, Susan Trumbetta.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105.

269 Research Methods in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1Semester Offered: Fall

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 1Semester Offered: Spring

(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.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 is required. MEDS 160 is recommended but not required. 

Two 75-minute periods.

286 Moral Psychology: Empirical and Philosophical 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as PHIL 286 and STS 286) "Moral Psychology" is the name of a sub-discipline crossing the fields of psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience; it is also the name of a sub-discipline within philosophy. Both of these sub-disciplines investigate the psychology behind moral (and immoral) action. Both ask, for instance, why a moral agent acts as she does. What is the role of emotion in moral action?  What are the roles of reasoning and deliberation in moral action?  But these fields approach these questions with very different tools, and also, often, with different assumptions. 

In this course, we ask whether, and how, we can draw philosophical conclusions from experimental results. Has psychology, or evolutionary theory, or neuroscience, shown that all of our actions are fundamentally self-interested? Have experiments in neuroscience shown that free will is an illusion, or that utilitarianism is the only rational ethical view? And we ask whether and how conclusions from philosophy should inform empirical research. Randy Cornelius and Jeff Seidman.

Prerequisite(s): one 100-level course either in Philosophy or in Psychology or in Cognitive Science.

Two 75-minute periods.

289 Introduction to Neuroanatomy 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

This course is a lab-based 0.5 credit, 6-week course strongly focused on comparative neuroanatomy, from neurocytology to neural pathways/systems and gross anatomy. It is designed for Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior, and Biology majors as well as other students interested in gaining a more thorough, hands-on understanding of central nervous system (and to a small extent peripheral nervous system) structure and function. Laboratory exercises are the focus of the course and include tissue dissection, slide preparation and analysis, as well as evaluation of published micrographs, prepared tissue slides and virtual neuroanatomy tools. Bojana Zupan.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 105 or BIOL 105 or BIOL 106.

Both first and second six-week course.

One 3-hour period.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 2Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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.

298 Independent Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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

301 Seminar in Social Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

An intensive study of selected topics in social psychology. Emphasis is placed on current theories, issues, and research areas. Dara Greenwood,  Michele Tugade.

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

321 Seminar in Animal Learning and Behavior 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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. Hadley Bergstrom, Kevin Holloway.

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

One 2-hour period.

323 Seminar in Evolutionary Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall

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.

One 2-hour period.

331 Seminar in Developmental Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

Seminar in current issues, research, and theory in developmental psychology. Topics vary and may include laboratory work. Abigail Baird, Carolyn Palmer.

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

336 Childhood Development: Observation and Research Application 1Semester Offered: Fall

(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.

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

341 Seminar in Physiological Psychology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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. Lori Newman, Bojana Zupan.

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

One 2-hour period.

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. 

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 241 or PSYC 243.

Not offered in 2018/19.

353 Seminar in Individual Differences and Personality 1Semester Offered: Spring

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. Randy Cornelius.

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

One 2-hour period.

362 Seminar in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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. Allan Clifton, Susan Trumbetta.

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

364 Seminar in Behavior Genetics 1Semester Offered: Spring

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.

382 Seminar: The Person in Context 1Semester Offered: Fall

This seminar explores the influence of individual differences and situational variables on behavior. This courses focuses on empirical research in personality and social psychology. Jannay Morrow.

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 200, a research methods course in Psychological Science, and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

390 Senior Research 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

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.

395 Senior Integrative Thesis 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall and/or Spring

Prerequisite(s): PSYC 298, PSYC 399.

Open to seniors by invitation of instructor.

397 Senior Empirical Thesis 1Semester Offered: Fall

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.

398 Senior Empirical Thesis 1Semester Offered: Spring

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.

399 a and/or Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall and/or Spring

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.