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S S 301 • Hon Soc Sci: Psychology

42840 • Domjan, Wendy
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 220
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Psychology is a discipline that is broadly concerned with the ways in which people perceive, understand and interact with the world. As such, it addresses questions that range from the micro level of perception within the eye to the macro level of social interactions among people. The SS 301 in psychology is designed to introduce students to a representative range of the topics subsumed within this discipline. We will be taking a levels-of-explanation approach, in which we will simultaneously explore the biological, environmental, and cultural aspects of each of the selected problems. We will also specifically consider the ways in which psychology investigates these problems, in terms of both methodology and epistemology. The hope is that students will leave the SS 301 with an understanding not only of what psychology studies, but also of how and why.


Schacter, Gilbert & Weber.Psychology

Marcus. The Norton Psychology Reader

Keith. Cross Cultural Psychology


This class contains a substantial amount of writing and will involve both papers and exams. Students will write a series of four short (3-5 pages) reaction papers. For each paper, students will choose one of about five alternative questions, related to what is currently happening in class, to address. These papers are intended to involve analysis and opinion, not factual recitation. There will also be a midterm and a final exam. Both of these exams will have a short answer/short essay format, and will be take-home exams.


Final grades will be computed on the following basis:

Exams:                 50% (25% each)

Papers:                 40% (10% each)

Participation:         10%


Example paper topics:

  • An inevitable trade-off exists in research between control and ecological validity. This trade-off can be seen in a wide variety of ways in psychology: a lab versus a natural location for research, a randomly chosen versus a naturally occurring group of subjects, focusing on a limited set of factors at the expense of the diversity of influences on any behavior. In your view, how should psychology deal with this issue? For example, is psychology a science? Should it be? Should it adopt the same constraints (control) as natural sciences? You can make a strong argument for one approach or the other, or present a balanced middle ground.
  • The argument has been made that, in principle, it would be impossible for human beings to fully understand the nature of their own brain. What is your view of this argument, and why?
  • The current zeitgeist in psychology is to find the neurological mechanism associated with a given cognition, emotion or behavior. Does finding such a mechanism constitute an explanation for the given cognition/emotion/behavior? Why or why not?
  • A major issue in psychology, practically since its inception, has concerned the relative influence of genetics and environment. Originally, this was seen as an either-or question, later as a matter of degrees of influence, and most recently in terms of the components of an interaction. Though it is rarely asked, it is worth considering whether this is really an important question, and why? What is your position on this issue?
  • The research on hemisphere specialization led to the popular conception of people who are right-brained or left-brained. In light of what you have learned about hemisphere specialization, do you find this to be a useful concept? Why or why not?


About the Professor:

Wendy Domjan has a Ph.D. in psychology from The University of Wisconsin, with specialties in perception and cognition, and currently has a major focus on psychology of religion and positive psychology.

S S 301 • Hon Soc Sci: Soc Sci Theory

42845 • Gregg, Benjamin
Meets W 4:00PM-7:00PM GDC 1.406
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When we, as individuals and as members of various groups, construct our own “sense of self,” we might think we are in control of ourselves. When other people, and institutions and forces beyond them, define us, we might think we are being controlled, as individuals as well as members of various groups. The problem of whether and to what extent we humans are in control, or can be in control, of ourselves – of our identities but also of our behavior and understanding, both public and private – is what in this course I refer to as the “problem of the subject.” The problem of the subject is the never completed social task of constructing intersubjectively valid understandings of fundamental human identity. For example, are human beings moved by social, emotional, and psychological forces beyond their control or can they control themselves and their environment through the power of their own reasoning? This seminar explores different answers to this question by analyzing seminal works of European and American thinkers of the late modern and contemporary eras, works that have powerfully influenced our notions of the subject today.

The European Enlightenment of the 18th century gave rise to master narratives of the subject as a sovereign figure capable of rational control of his or her worlds. We begin with the “modern, enlightenment self” (Kant, Rousseau, and Marx), taken as an individual, then examine the “solidary self” (Tönnies, Durkheim, and Mauss), or the self as a communal member. Next we turn to the “modern self fragmented” (Kierkegaard, Simmel, and Weber), whether for better or worse. Then we examine the “interior self” (Freud), and subsequently the “self as the other of the socially dominant one,” with one examples from sex (de Beauvoir) and one from “race” (Du Bois). Finally we discuss the “symbolically or strategically interacting self” (Mead and Goffman). In lectures introducing each author, I will develop the specific conception of social science offered by each of our authors. The last hour of each session will be devoted to student-organized and –led discussion among students, in this student-centered seminar.

Required Books

[1] W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, [2] Søren Kierkegaard. Either/Or, [3] Max Weber, From Max Weber, [4] Marcel Mauss, The Gift, [5] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, [6]George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society, [7] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, [8] Erving Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

TEXTS available as pdf-files on our Canvas site

[1] Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, [2] Immanuel Kant, “What Is Enlightenment?,” [3] Karl Marx, “Estranged Labor,” [4] Émile Durkheim, “Forms of Social Solidarity,” [5] Georg Simmel, “The Metropolis and Mental Life” and “The Stranger”

About the Professor:
Benjamin Gregg teaches social and political theory informed by political science and sociology, not only at UT but also in Germany, Japan, Austria, and China. Two books, Thick Moralities, Thin Politics (2003) and Coping in Politics with Indeterminate Norms (2003), confront challenges of social justice in complex modern societies, especially in liberal democratic states. Another two books, Human Rights as Social Construction (2012) and The Human Rights State (2016), analyze problems and prospects for justice across national borders. Current book-in-progress, Human Nature as Cultural Design: The Political Challenge of Genetic Enhancement, explores core issues in bioethics. Rapid advances in genetic engineering, particularly of human embryos and fetuses, pose difficult social, political, moral, and legal questions that challenge a range of different conceptions of a just society.

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    University of Texas at Austin
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