Fulfills general education Social Science requirement
Psychological methods involved in problem solving, complex learning, and various forms of rational and irrational reasoning and belief systems.
Direct scientific investigation of the nature of mental life emerged explosively in the late 1950’s and 60’s in reaction to a long period of determined neglect of all things mental by psychology and related social sciences. In the ensuing years, methodological innovations have radically reshaped current understanding of thinking. Mental life is of course diverse, including many different kinds of knowledge, representations, mechanisms of learning, memory, attention, and inhibition, as well as skills such as decision-making, problem solving, and abstract reasoning. As well, mental life is notably error prone, with predictable failures in everyday thinking and reasoning. One goal of the course is to enhance students’ understanding of the structures and mechanisms that make possible all aspects of mental functioning, from writing heart-wrenching prose to learning the skills that enable one to tie one’s shoes. Many different disciplines participate in this endeavor, including linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, human physiology, communication disorders, and of course, cognitive and developmental psychology. We will sample the diversity of issues, perspectives, and approaches at play within this rich, interdisciplinary venture. Students will learn about historical shifts in theories of thought as well as cutting-edge research and unanswered questions shaping emerging research. We will also apply knowledge of the principles of thinking and problem solving for the purpose of critically evaluating our own and others’ thinking processes, with the goal of becoming better thinkers and consumers of information.