Intellectual Inquiry courses taught by psychology faculty

INQ 110 Marijuana: Science, Politics and Culture
Marijuana is a drug that has a new focus and attention, but it is far from a new drug. Marijuana and laws regarding it have been part of our history for at least 100 years. In this course we will ask: What does marijuana do? Is it a legitimately useful drug, or are claims about its usefulness overblown? Is it potentially dangerous, or are claims about its dangers unlikely? How has marijuana use and laws regarding it shaped our political landscape? How has marijuana use been part of our culture? Students will read scientific sources to assess the usefulness and dangers of marijuana and will balance the two issues to make informed decisions about the relative merits on it. Students will also examine historical perspectives of marijuana and how those perspectives reflect attitudes of the time, especially attitudes about ethnic minorities. Students will see how those perspectives fed and continue to feed into narratives about political and cultural issues.    

INQ 110 You’re Not as Right as You Think You Are 
Have you ever done something with no idea why you did it? Have you ever seen a friend
keep believing in something that was clearly disproven? How good are we at estimating our
skills and abilities? These questions make more sense when you have an understanding of
cognitive biases. This class will show you how common cognitive biases can affect a
person’s thinking, and we will examine their effect on current and historical events.

INQ 110 Convicted but Innocent
In this course we will explore the causes of wrongful conviction. Who are most likely to be the defendants in these cases? What biases exist in our current system? Why do people falsely confess? Why do jurors believe jailhouse informants? We will examine specific cases of wrongful conviction and specifically why these convictions happened. In addition, we will explore how the social sciences can help inform and potentially change the criminal justice system. 

INQ/HNRS 120 A Perfect World
What would a perfect world look like? How should society be structured to achieve that ideal? What prevents our existing social, economic, and political structures from operating as intended? Scholars have been dreaming up different visions of a Utopian society for centuries. In this course, students will ponder these questions anew through reading both classic philosophical texts and modern psychological research. This course is not intended to arrive at a single conception of an ideal society, but to consider deeply how different visions of society reflect specific assumptions about human nature, and to scrutinize those assumptions in light of empirical evidence from decades of psychological research. Ultimately, in attempting to learn what a perfect world could look like, we must critically and honestly examine the imperfections in our own society. 

INQ/HNRS 120 The meaning of life
What is the meaning of life? In order to answer this question, one must ask many others. Why are we here? Who am I? What is the nature of the universe? How can I find happiness? What is the truth? What is my purpose? In this course, students will read multiple sources on a wide range of topics that attempt to address these "big" questions in life, in a search for meaning and purpose. The course will move from a broad perspective of historical solutions to these problems (e.g., religious, philosophical, social, economic, political) to more contemporary approaches (e.g., physics, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience) in an effort to understand "what is the meaning of life?" While there is admittedly no one answer to this question, the goal of this course is to use critical thinking and open discussions to critically assess different value systems including our own. 

INQ 260PY Psychology in the Media
How accurately do popular media sources portray current psychological knowledge? Movies, sitcoms, newspapers, magazines, and blogs often report findings from psychological science. How often do they get it right and how often do they get it wrong? Do they manipulate findings in order to make their point? This course explores the core methodologies (observational, survey, and experimental) of psychological science by comparing and contrasting popular vs. scientific treatments of current and perennials topics within the core areas of psychology (developmental, biological, cognitive, social, and applied). Topics will vary, but may include concussions, school shootings, social media use, antidepressant effectiveness, ADHD prevalence, and self-esteem.    

INQ/HNRS 260PY Psychology of Aggression
Why do people harm other people? What methods can we use to study and understand aggression? What evidence do we have for various popular beliefs surrounding aggression? How can different psychological perspectives (developmental, social, biological, cognitive, applied) help us understand aggression? Human aggression takes
many forms, from subtle to extreme, and is present across cultures, contexts, and ages. Through this course, students will gain an understanding of the core methodologies and research designs of psychological science and other social sciences as they are used to study human aggression, including the necessity and limitations of each. Topics will vary but will include: personality and psychopathology underlying aggression, gender and aggression, school-based bullying and aggression, heritability of aggression, aggression in childhood and adolescence, information processing factors underlying aggression, effects of social influence, effects of violent media, and interventions aimed at reducing aggression.

INQ 260PY  Humanistic and Positive Psychology
Two perspectives of psychology have focused predominantly on what Abraham Maslow called "the farther reaches of human nature": humanistic psychology and positive psychology.  This course will examine the major concepts of humanistic psychology (e.g., self-actualization, fully-functioning persons), will examine the contributions and shortcomings of this approach, and will explore the more recent positive psychology movement with its stronger research-based emphasis on human strengths and civic virtues and human flourishing.  A thorough investigation of one construct from humanistic psychology will be undertaken (involving an inquiry into reliability and validity studies, adequacy of support for proposed applications, and critiques).  Students will then address questions concerning the quality and adequacy of assessment techniques and of empirical studies in such areas in positive psychology as love, empathy, happiness, and self-esteem; each student will select one narrower area for further inquiry and will write a literature review on the chosen research question. (Instructor: Whitson)

INQ 260PY The Science of Meditation
Over the last 40 years, meditation has been increasingly recognized for its potential use in medicine and mental health. As meditation has been applied to alleviate human suffering and increase well-being, the scientific evaluation of this construct has grown. This course will explore the core methodologies of psychological science through the examination of the literature surrounding meditation and its application in mental health and medicine. In addition to a better intellectual understanding of meditation, students will gain an improved personal understanding of meditation through experiential exercises throughout the semester. Students will be expected to engage in meditative activities both inside and outside of the classroom, with opportunities to reflect on their experiences through papers, class discussion, and other modalities. 

INQ 260PY The Psychology of Parasocial Relationships
Why do we sometimes feel as though favorite television and book characters, talk show hosts, and social media influencers are friends? Why does it hurt when a favorite television character dies? Why do we feel betrayed when celebrities we respect behave badly? In this course, we will explore these questions and others through the concept of parasocial relationships, which are the enduring bonds that can form with media personalities whom we never actually meet. We will explore how these relationships form, how they impact our psychological experiences and well-being, and the ways in which they resemble our two-sided relationships with other people.

INQ 260PY Neuroscience and Free Will
We make choices every day to negotiate our world. Does this require free will? We feel in control of our actions. But what forces, both within ourselves and in our environment, impact our choices? We interact with other people based on a shared understanding of the same kind of conscious experience. What are the consequences when someone’s consciousness changes, and how can we know that it has? Our choices, feelings, and consciousness are grounded in neural activity in our brains, and scientific experiments are required to elucidate how and where. These questions and others will be addressed in this class in relation to neuroscience and psychological science.

HNRS 260PY Psychology in the Media
News organizations, magazines, and blogs often report findings from psychological science; movies and television shows often depict psychological concepts. But, how accurately do media sources report and depict psychology? When, why, and how do media sources manipulate psychological concepts to make their point? This course explores the core methodologies of psychological science by comparing and contrasting popular vs. scientific treatments of current and perennial topics of psychology. Additionally, students will partner with a local community organization to create an in-depth, popular press report that reviews a topic of relevance to our community (e.g., homelessness, mentoring, aging in place, alternative therapies), integrates findings from recent psychological research, and highlights the organization's work related to the phenomenon. 

INQ 300 Pseudoscience in the Real World
What distinguishes a true science from a pseudoscience? How do pseudoscientific claims negatively impact individuals and society, and how can such impacts be minimized? Many of the claims made in advertisements, news articles, and our social media feeds sound plausible, intuitive, and even scientific, but how do we distinguish claims that are sound from those that are not, and what harms can come from being unable to make these distinctions? In this course, students will enhance their skills in distinguishing scientific from pseudoscientific claims, investigate a particular claim in depth that at least many reasonable people may consider pseudoscientific, present critical evidence regarding the veracity and consequences of that claim, and propose a solution to it in the context of a contemporary issue. Topics covered in this class may include: alternative medicine, mental health, the vaccination-autism link, religious beliefs, judicial evidence, and others. 

INQ-177 Psychology of Teams
The goal of this course is to examine what makes teams effective, drawing upon classic and modern research in psychology. What changes when individuals must function as part of a team? How do effective teams solve problems and make decisions? What group dynamics lead to challenges in effectively solving problems? What kinds of team environments foster cooperation and allow for successful communication? What makes for a good team leader? What kinds of personality traits make for the most (and least) effective team members? We will attempt to answer these questions through a combination of readings and daily activities, including a number of cooperative and competitive team-based games and local field trips. 

INQ 277 The Psychology of Eating
How does the latest science inform us about food and diet and how they interact with our biochemistry, psychology, and social contexts? How can this knowledge be applied to our lives to make better choices about what, how, and when we eat? In this class, we will explore the scientific study of food and eating through many lenses, from the biochemical, to the sociocultural, to the behavioral. Students will learn how to critically evaluate scientific (and pseudoscientific) claims about food and eating in order to make better-informed decisions about eating well and staying healthy-without eating "diet foods" or going hungry. Students will also learn practical and efficient techniques for planning meals, shopping on a budget, and cooking delicious food.  

INQ 377 Cross-Cultural Society - Emerging Adults in Thailand
What do we know about emerging adulthood? How are U.S. emerging adults' paths similar to or different from Thai emerging adults' paths towards achieving adult roles and responsibilities? In this travel course, we will read about U.S. emerging adults, discuss our own experiences as emerging adults, as well as engage in an ethnographic study to discover what it is like to be an emerging adult in Thailand. While abroad, we will travel to various regions of Thailand to consider the contextual factors that influence one's experiences during emerging adulthood. 

INQ 277 Exploring Vision Through the Eye of the Lens
This class will utilize the digital camera as both a metaphor for the human eye and as a tool to create photographic representations of principles of human vision. Cameras and the human eye will be compared and contrasted in order to better understand both. Mechanisms of human visual perception, such as color vision, depth perception, and motion perception, will first be discussed in lecture format and then assignments will be carried out wherein students take purposeful photographs to illuminate the discussion topics. The idea is that application through photography of principles discussed in relation to human vision, i.e. how we sense and perceive the world, will give you a better understanding of how and why the human vision system works the way it does. Photographic expeditions will be done both around campus and as part of full day trips. Students will utilize their own digital cameras, digital point-and-shoot cameras are all that will be required, as long as they allow the manipulation of settings such as 'aperture' and 'film speed' and 'shutter speed'. Digital SLRs will not be required, though encouraged. 

INQ 177 Psychology in Film
The goal of this course is to examine the interaction between film and psychology. Throughout this course we will explore and attempt to answer several questions: How are the discipline of psychology and psychologists portrayed in films?  What are some common film techniques employed to create specific psychological reactions? What are some examples of psychological concepts that are depicted in film and are they accurately portrayed? Our answers to these questions will help us see how the discipline of psychology is seen through the eyes of the American public.

INQ 277 Making Fear Your Friend
Fear is a construct that is inextricably linked to our biology, psychology, history, and cultural
context. When we think of fear, we often imagine terrible things, but what if that didn’t have
to be the case? What if instead of paralyzing or harming us, fear was actually a friend meant
to instruct us, guide us, and help us grow? In this course, students will gain a deeper
understanding of the biological, psychological, and cultural underpinnings of fear. Students
will be asked to step outside of their comfort zone and learn to befriend their fear through
experiential exercises, field trips, and assignments.