Courses

Psych 125: Principles of Psychology

Course overview: This general survey course provides students with a comprehensive introduction to the field of Psychology, including some of the foundational principles, theoretical approaches, and major areas of study within the broader discipline. Unfortunately, we will not be able to cover each topic in great depth, but I hope that students will use this course as a jumping off point to continue their exploration of the field in future coursework. To refer to Psychology as a single discipline does not do it justice. As we will see, there are many different areas within the field, many of which are seemingly disparate and independent from each other (indeed, some may seem like different disciplines altogether). I have three overarching goals for this course: 1. To introduce students to Psychology as a science. 2. To familiarize students with the many subdisciplines within the field, the general questions with which each is concerned, and the scientific methods that each uses to answer these questions. 3. To get students thinking about the internal (biological, physiological, and genetic) and external (environmental, familial, societal and cultural) pressures that affect our behaviors and experiences as humans.

Psych 222: Psychology of Hearing

Course overview: Hearing is an amazing ability many of us take for granted. In this course, I will take an integrative approach to introduce students to a variety of topics related to hearing. We will start by discussing sound itself (physics), the physical mechanisms that we have to change sound from vibrations in the environment into electrical energy used by the brain (biology, psychology and neuroscience), and what we do with that information once we have it (cognitive psychology and neuroscience). We will also discuss hearing loss, treatments for the loss of auditory acuity (hearing aids), and surgical treatments for when the hearing mechanism fails altogether (cochlear implants). We will have an extensive discussion of deafness, the differences between being deaf and being Deaf, and the cultural and societal implications that accompany. We will discuss speech production and perception and music, highlighting how some of the same neural and cognitive mechanisms are involved in both, and discuss whether the two abilities are really that different. The first part of the course will include an in-depth treatment of the physiological and neural mechanisms of hearing. DON’T PANIC! I will tell you everything you need to know, and it all makes sense, as you will soon see (or rather hear). Prerequisites: Psych 125 is recommended but not required (to include linguistics and music folks). Students who have not taken Psych 125 should consult with me.

Psych 235: Sensation and Perception (with lab)

Course overview: This course will feature an in depth discussion of the processes of sensation and perception. Our interactions with the world are very fragile. Without our senses, we would be completely cut-off from the outside world (much like a brain in a jar). It is only through our sensory systems that we have evidence of the outside world, and we use these senses to gather the information required to manipulate and interact with it. In this course, strong emphasis will be placed on the physiological underpinnings of sensation and perception, so that you will gain a foundational understanding of how the sensory epithelia change physical information in the environment, into electrical impulses in our brains, and how we use that information to form a percept of our surroundings. In the lab component of the course, we will cover many approaches to the study of perception, allowing you to explore and understand these processes first hand (eye, nose, tongue, and ear too).

The course will be divided into two parts, a lecture session and a lab session. In the lecture sessions, we will cover some of the more interesting and fundamental areas of sensation and perception. The lab sessions will serve to clarify the lecture topics through activities, demonstrations and experiments where each of you will serve as investigators. My overarching goal for the lab sessions is to provide you with an in-depth understanding of some of the standard sensory equipment that each of comes with as humans, so that you can truly appreciate how amazing it is. Prerequisites: Psych 125.

Psych 237: Cognitive Psychology (with lab)

Course overview: This course will introduce you to Cognitive Psychology: the scientific study of human mental processes. Given that human mental processes could imply almost anything, the topic area is rather broad. Major topics will include how we acquire knowledge (perception, attention, learning, language), how we store knowledge (memory, language), and how we utilize that knowledge (retrieval, thinking, judgment, problem solving, decision making). In this course, strong emphasis will be placed on the higher-level aspects of human cognitive processes (as opposed to the lower-level physiological or sensory aspects that you might have encountered in Psych 235 or 238), so that you will gain a foundational understanding of human thought. In the lab component, we will cover many approaches to the study of cognition (EEG, ERP, eye tracking, etc.), culminating with a final research project where you design and conduct an experiment on an area of cognition of your choosing.

The course will be divided into two parts: a lecture session and a lab session. In the lecture sessions, we will discuss some of the more interesting and fundamental areas of cognition. The lab sessions will serve to clarify the lecture topics through hands on activities, demonstrations and experiments where you will serve as investigators. My overarching goal for the lab sessions is to provide you with an in-depth understanding of Cognition that cannot be gained through lecture or discussion.

Psych 238: Biological Psychology

Course overview: This course will introduce students to the (sometimes) strange and (always) fascinating world of Biological Psychology. Biological Psychology is a very broad field that is concerned with understanding the biological bases of behavior (how the brain influences behavior, and how behavior influences the brain). In this course, we will embark upon a journey to understand how exactly this gray, mushy, three-pound lump of tissue in our skulls allows us to do all of the complex things that we do (see, hear, touch, smell, learn, remember, speak, regulate drives, etc.). We will be approaching the field from both a micro (single cell) and macro (large scale neural networks and complex behaviors) level, and while this may seem rather reductionistic at times, it has profound “big picture” implications which will become clear as we go along. To me, Biological Psychology is one of the most fascinating areas in Psychology, and I hope that by the end of the course you will be as engrossed in and astounded by the field as I am. Prerequisites: Psych 125 or Biology 123/125.

Psych 339: Cognitive Neuroscience

Course overview: This course will introduce students to the fascinating world of Cognitive Neuroscience. Cognitive Neuroscience investigates the biological bases of higher order cognition and complex human behavior (or more simply put, how the brain enables the mind). Discussion topics will include methodology, perception, attention, learning, memory, language, executive function, emotion, social cognition, and consciousness. While many of these topics have been covered in other classes (like Biological Psychology for instance), we will be approaching them from a very different angle (a much higher level, holistic approach). This course will likely be a very different experience for many students. It is designed after a graduate level seminar course where you will all be responsible for presenting and discussing the course materials. Prerequisites: Psych 125 and Psych 230.

Psych 395: Advanced Research Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience

Course overview: Cognitive Neuroscience investigates the biological bases of higher order cognition and complex human behavior (or more simply put, how the brain enables the mind). Like all branches of neuroscience, familiarity with the various methodologies is critical to understanding the structure and function of the brain itself. Therefore, in this class we will focus on content and methodology together. This course will be a lecture, lab, and seminar all in one. By moving into the primary literature, we have a great deal of freedom to explore interesting topics in a much more fluid manner, while learning about the different methodologies at the same time. In the lab, we will work with some of these techniques together, and you will design and conduct your own research. The end result is the best of all three worlds: a chimera of a course where we have some lecture, but will mostly feature presentations and discussions of primary research articles, along with an active laboratory experience. Prerequisites: Psych 125, Psych 230 and consultation with me.

Psych 396: Research in Auditory Cognition

Course overview: This course provides students with the opportunity to participate in an auditory cognitive neuroscience research laboratory, and gain hands-on experience in designing and conducting experiments, as well as collecting, analyzing and interpreting data, and thinking about what it all means. Research topics vary each term but are within the general interests and approaches of the Speech and Cognition Laboratory. Prerequisites: Psych 125, Psych 230 and consultation with me.

Psych 298/398: Independent Study/Independent Research

Course overview: I routinely supervise student IS and IR projects on topics related to my area specialization. Past topics have included aphasia, context effects on speech perception, embodied cognition/neuroscience, lip-reading, multimodal integration, music and emotion, music performance and stress, and speech perception.  Psych 298 prerequisites: Psych 125, 3 additional courses in the department, and consultation with me. Psych 398 prerequisites: Stats 110/212/263, Psych 230, 4 additional courses in the department, and consultation with me.