Assignments

Half of the grade is determined by the writing assignments.
Papers
  1. The first paper (PDF) will require you to research some topic in psychology that is directly relevant to the humanities, arts, or social sciences. Your topic must meet two requirements: there must be a substantial body of empirical research on the topic (conforming to the methodological standards of psychology, as outlined in Chapter 2 of Gray), and it must be relevant to some issue in law, society, politics, the arts, religion, philosophy, education, or related fields. Papers that speculate or debate some issue without discussing relevant research from scientific psychology, and papers that are just reviews of the scientific literature, without discussing their larger implications, are not suitable for this assignment.
    You can flip through the textbook, come up with a topic that interests you, or talk to the instructor or your TA to find a suitable topic. The paper is due about four weeks into the semester and should be about six to eight pages (1800-2400 words) long. Possible topics include:
    • perception and the reliability of eyewitness testimony in court;
    • memory and the reliability of recovered memories of sexual abuse;
    • genetic influences on behavior and their possible abuses in eugenics;
    • the effectiveness of psychotherapy, how it compares to drug treatments, and whether it should be covered by health insurance;
    • the source of dreams and how their relevance to psychotherapy, religion, and/or literature;
    • the treatment of schizophrenia and its relevance, if any, to homelessness;
    • the nature of human rationality and its implications for social and political decision-making (e.g., should nuclear power plants be built becaufears of their dangers are exaggerated?);
    • the psychology of language and its implications for the teaching of reading;
    • language and thought and its implications for reforming the language (e.g., eliminating sexist terms);
    • brain chemistry and its implications for drug policy (or for future drugs that might improve mental functioning); the sources of homosexuality and its implications for gay rights;
    • the source of male-female differences in some psychological ability and its implications for gender-based affirmative action;
    • the nature of child development and its implications for programs directed at children;
      There are countless other possibilities.

  2. The second assignment will require you to revise your first paper in light of comments from the teaching assistant. Out in the world, the work spent revising a product is more important to its final quality than the work spent on the first version, and that is especially true of writing. It is due about a week after you get feedback on the first paper and should be about eight to ten pages (2400-3000 words). The grades for the two assignments are independent: you can get a high grade for the first version and a low grade for the second, or vice versa.

  3. The third assignment will ask you to explore a major controversy about some aspect of the mind and try to resolve it. It is due the second to last week of class and should be about twelve to fifteen pages (3600-4500 words).

  4. In addition, you will be asked to submit two or three short (one-page) assignments (PDF) during the semester. They may include requests for you to think about some issue, and previews of what you plan to write for your major papers.