About PSY102

What is the course about?

How do psychologists today study the mind and how it works? This is a course for anyone interested in what the mind is, how contemporary researchers study the mind, and what researchers have discovered about how the mind works.

In our first module, we will examine what constitutes engaging story-telling and scientific knowledge (Science Communication), why some methods are better for investigating specific research questions than others as well as current methodological issues within psychology (Cognitive Methods), and how you construct the world you see and feel around you (Perception). We will begin to critically consume academic journal articles and science communication pieces.

Next we will consider how our brain prioritizes and processes information in a world that bombards our senses (Attention), in addition to how we feel and construct emotions (Emotion) and how these constructs shape and are shaped by perception. The third module will consider how we communicate (Language), remember information over varying durations (Working Memory), conjure possible and impossible scenarios as well as past events (LTM: Structure, Processes & Mechanisms). We will evaluate how to convey these core cognitive psychology concepts to a broad audience with science communication pieces.

We will then apply our theories and skills to understanding more complex feats of the human mind, such as how we construct our own life stories (Autobiographical Memory) and make decisions (Decision-Making, Motivated Reasoning). In our final modules, we will think about how we take shortcuts when making choices (Cognitive Biases), how our memory and mind can be tricked and shaped by external events (False Memory, Misinformation, Collective Memory), how our mind processes information (Imagery) and solves problems (Creativity & Problem-Solving), and what factors promote better learning (Education, Learning & Motivation).

The first half of the course is primarily focused on basic science concepts within cognitive psychology, while the second half considers how these concepts are interlinked and directly applicable to other aspects of life (e.g., policy, education, history). Through weekly quizzes and several writing assignments, you will have many opportunities to reflect on course material and receive prompt feedback on your learning. The bulk of your grade will be determined by (1) your ability to identify and apply rigorous concepts in cognitive psychology, as assessed with class discussion, reading worksheets, and quizzes, and (2) the clarity and ingenuity with which you can explain scientific findings to a broad and academic audience, as assessed by your science communication and summary pieces.

The only prerequisite for this course is Introductory Psychology (or some equivalent). Because our time is abbreviated during Summer Term, this course is intensive in its pace through material. You should expect to spend between 2 and 4 hours daily outside of meeting time on course materials.

What are the goals of this course?

The first goal of this course is for you, students, to develop skills as critical consumers of empirical findings within cognitive psychology through academic and news readings as well as facilitated discussions. You will learn to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various research methods, and to judge whether the conclusions drawn from using particular methods and obtaining specific findings are justified. You will also learn to identify common behavioral results and paradigms within the field.

The second goal is to develop your skills as communicators of empirical research within cognitive psychology. Through science communication and summary pieces, peer feedback, and reading responses to empirical articles, you will hone your ability to communicate effectively about cognitive psychology and learn how to synthesize academic findings.

The third goal is to apply your skills as critical consumers of cognitive psychology to current issues in psychology and neuroscience, such as open science, good pedagogical practices, and diversity. For example, you will write a Wikipedia page for a current female or underrepresented cognitive scientist, including their biography and three of their most cited findings, to promote a more visibly inclusive face of cognitive psychology (e.g., project first started by Jess Wade). At the end of the course, the instructor will email the scientist who you profiled, with you CC’d and your profile attached, so that you can continue to belong to the cognitive psychology community.

How do I contact the instructor?

Christina Bejjani (she/her/hers)

christina DOT bejjani @ duke.edu

I usually respond to emails within 48 hours.

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