Political Science: International Relations (Professor Montero)
Students will analyze research questions of central concern to political scientists such as whether the quality of democratic governance is fundamentally determined by economic and social development. A wide variety of democratic institutions correlate with socio-economic outcomes. Our section will be interested in testing theories concerning whether majoritarian or proportional/consensual types of democracy provide better conditions for health and human development in advanced capitalist and developing countries. But regardless of the hypotheses under study, the central learning goals are an understanding of how to use comparative data to form and test hypotheses about how institutions, organizations, and voters respond to differences in political forms and social and economic development across countries and over time.
Potential Research Topics: Students in this section will test hypotheses concerning the political determinants of different levels of social welfare spending, human development indicators such as literacy and life expectancy in a survey of European, Latin American, Asian, and African countries. Do left-of-center governments produce better outcomes or are right-of-center governments just as good or better in generating improvements to human development? Are electoral systems based on proportional representation better for socio-economic development than those based on majoritarian formulas?
Economics (Professor Swoboda)
Economics is the study of decision-making under scarcity. This course will expose students to the ways in which economists look at the many important decisions we make as individuals and as a society. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which data analysis and visualization can help us make better decisions across many areas, ranging from: health care, higher education, the US budget, trade, and environmental policy. The course emphasizes active learning - students should expect to spend much of their time conducting simulations, participating in discussions, and working “hands-on” with appropriate data.
Cognitive Psychology (Professor Strand)
Students will explore the ways humans perceive the world, remember information, make decisions, and use language. Some topics of study include why false memories form, how we recognize faces, what optical illusions reveal about the perceptual system, why learning a second language is harder as an adult, and how our decisions can be influenced by factors outside conscious processing. We will discuss the application of these topics to eyewitness testimony, educational policy, and public health. In the afternoon research sections, students will be introduced to the various methods of study and data analysis used by psychologists in different sub-disciplines (e.g., lab experimentation, observation, surveys) and will be given the opportunity in teams to formulate a research hypothesis, design a study, and analyze data. Some possible projects include how musical training influences pitch perception, how eyewitness reliability influences the decisions juries make, and how memory for faces can be distorted through experience.
Science and Pseudoscience in Psychology (Professor Abrams)
In this age of scientific advancement, why do so many individuals visit astrologers and palm readers to learn about themselves and their futures? What leads individuals when ill to pursue homeopathy, magnet therapy, or faith healings? How do people come to believe they can communicate through extrasensory channels or have been abducted by aliens? Generally, how can one soundly evaluate claims to knowledge? In this seminar we will explore the differences between scientific and pseudoscientific approaches to the study of human behavior. Common characteristics of pseudoscientific approaches as well as tools for critically evaluating claims to knowledge will be identified. Topics will include controversial means of assessment, treatment, and communication. Students will be encouraged to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism toward controversial claims and utilize a high standard of evidence before accepting them. In the afternoon labs, students in small groups will develop small-scale experiments to test the validity of parapsychological phenomena of interest. Groups, for example, might replicate the Rhine clairvoyance studies, create a remote-viewing study, or evaluate precognition.