About the Department

For over a century, the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago has been a leading center of scholarship, research and teaching in psychology and related fields. Its faculty and students range from John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism, to Roger Sperry, who won a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his research on the differences between the left and right brains. Today, faculty like Susan Levine pioneer research in the science of children’s learning. True to the Division’s interdisciplinary nature, its faculty members reflect the contemporary state of the field by serving on more than one of the department’s programs in cognition, developmental psychology, integrative neuroscience, and social psychology. Additionally, the department maintains close connections with other areas of the university: faculty and students participate in courses, colloquia, workshops and joint research ventures with scholars in related departments including anthropology, biology, computer science, education, linguistics, and philosophy, and in the University’s professional schools of business, public policy, law, medicine, and social service administration.

MAPSS Support for Psychology

Approximately 40 MAPSS students concentrate in Psychology each year. MAPSS works closely with those students to help them secure lab placements in the Psychology department, Comparative Human Development, the Booth School of Business, the School of Social Service Administration, and the UChicago Hospitals. Many begin that lab work the summer before they matriculate into MAPSS.

Dr. Samantha Peishan Fan, Assistant Director of MAPSS and Assistant Instructional Professor in Psychology, advises MAPSS students on lab placements, course selections, faculty advisors, and MA thesis projects. She is an expert in social and developmental psychology and teaches courses on data analysis and experimental research design. Recent MAPSS graduates who have gone on for the Psychology PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UChicago, and Minnesota, to name a few.

Sample Courses

PSYC 33165. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Morality. The past decade has seen an explosion of empirical research in the study of morality.  Amongst the most exciting and novel findings and theories, evolutionary biologists and comparative psychologists have shown that moral cognition has evolved to facilitate cooperation and social interactions, and that certain precursors of morality are present in non-human animals.  Developmental psychologists came up with ingenious paradigms, demonstrating that the elements underpinning morality are in place much earlier than we thought.  Social neuroscientists have begun to map brain circuits implicated in social decision-making and identify the contribution of specific neuropeptides to moral sensitivity. Changes in the balance of brain chemistry, and in anatomical connectivity between specific regions can cause drastic changes in moral behavior.  The lesson from all this new knowledge is clear: human moral cognition and behavior cannot be separated from biology, its development, and evolutionary history.  As our understanding of the human brain improves, society at large, and justice and the law in particular, are and will be increasingly challenged. The intent of this class is to provide an overview of the current theories and research on morality, and examine this fascinating topic from a range of relevant interdisciplinary perspectives.  These perspectives include anthropology and philosophy, evolution, development, social neuroscience, psychopathology, and justice and the law.  J. Decety, Autumn.

PSYC 33000. Cultural Psychology: Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations. There is a substantial portion of the psychological nature of human beings that is neither homogeneous nor fixed across time and space. At the heart of the discipline of cultural psychology is the tenet of psychological pluralism, which states that the study of "normal" psychology is the study of multiple psychologies and not just the study of a single or uniform fundamental psychology for all peoples of the world. Research findings in cultural psychology thus raise provocative questions about the integrity and value of alternative forms of subjectivity across cultural groups. In this course we analyze the concept of "culture" and examine ethnic and cross-cultural variations in mental functioning with special attention to the cultural psychology of emotions, self, moral judgment, categorization, and reasoning. Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing. Instructor consent required. R. Shweder, Autumn.

PSYC 42570. Integrating the Real World onto Perception and Memory.  This seminar will cover the evolution of experimental paradigms in the psychology of perception and memory, from more artificial stimuli to more naturalistic stimuli. The course will focus on readings of papers utilizing new innovations in psychology to make research better mirror the real world. Topics will include virtual reality, movie-watching in neuroimaging, lifelogging, interactive fMRI, gesture recording, and multi-modal experiments to understand perception and memory. Discussions will also include broader meta-discussions about the pros and cons of these more complex, real-world paradigms. W. Bainbridge. Autumn.

PSYC 30401. Psycholinguistics: Language Processing. (LING 30401). This is an advanced introduction to the field of psycholinguistics. We will do an in-depth overview of both the empirical findings and the methodologies used on various topics in language comprehension/production, including areas of speech perception, lexical processing, syntactic parsing, and semantic/pragmatic processing. Models at both the computational and the mechanistic levels will also be examined. M. Xiang, Autumn.

PSYC 46650. Genes and Behavior. There are complex interactions between the genome and behavior. This course will examine how behavior can be understood by investigating the sequence and structure of genes, especially those expressed in the brain. It will consider behaviors in several species (including human), and present various molecular, genetic, and genomic approaches used to uncover how genes contribute to behavior and how behavior alters the genome. Seminar format, with student-led sessions based on primary literature readings, with class time to collectively clarify questions, delve deeper into mechanisms, and integrate to consider broader implications. PQ: Some familiarity with molecular biology and/or genomes is recommended. S. London. Winter.

PSYC 41210. Psychophysiology: Methods, Concepts and Applications. This course will provide an overview of the principles, theory, and applications of psychophysiological research. The course has two primary goals: 1) to provide an overview of major psychophysiological approaches and measures through discussion of contemporary research; 2) to provide an introduction to theory and research in major areas of human psychophysiology with specific applications to the study of cognition, affect, and health. G. Norman. Winter.

PSYC 31661. Current Controversies in Psychological Science. Is there a unique crisis in the replicability of psychological research?  Are findings in social psychology particularly at risk? Are findings in cognitive neuroscience also being questioned? If so, why? This is the most recent controversy in psychological science which we will discuss along with the question of whether there are psychological traits, how we can understand evolution in psychological science, the role of experience vs. biological endowment and what this contrast means, whether there are fixed limits to working memory capacity and whether training can change these, how exposure to violence affects affective responses and aggressive behavior.  We will read and discuss theory and evidence about ongoing and recent controversies in psychological science and consider how such controversies might be resolved. H. Nusbaum, Spring

PSYC 34410. Computational Approaches for Cognitive Neuroscience. This course is concerned with the relationship of the nervous system to higher order behaviors such as perception and encoding, action, attention, and learning and memory. Modern methods of imaging neural activity are introduced, and information theoretic methods for studying neural coding in individual neurons and populations of neurons are discussed. Prerequisite(s): BIOS 24222 or CPNS 33100. N. Hatsopoulos, Spring.

PSYC 37700. Language, Culture and Thought. ( LING 37700). Survey of research on the interrelation of language, culture, and thought from the evolutionary, developmental, historical, and culture-comparative perspectives with special emphasis on the mediating methodological implications for the social sciences. J. Lucy, Spring.

PSYC 40107. Behavioral Neuroscience. This course provides an introduction to neuroethology, examining brain activity relative to behaviors and organisms evaluated from an adaptive and evolutionary perspective. It starts with a brief introduction to classical ethology, and then develops a series of example animal model systems. Both invertebrate and vertebrate models are considered although there is a bias towards the latter. Many of these are “champion” species. There is a heavier demand for reading original data papers than typical in introductory graduate level courses. An integral part of the course is a series of assignments where you develop grant proposals describing novel science experiments in the animal models, thereby challenging your knowledge of the material and teaching aspects of scientific writing. In recent years there has been more computational material presented. The course is not available to undergraduates without prior approval of the instructor. D. Margoliash, Spring.

PSYC 41115. Social Cognitive Development. Human beings inhabit a very complex social world and our mind has structures that enable us to navigate this complexity. Where do these concerns come from? Are we blank slates that passively absorb cues from our environment? If not, what early competencies enable us to learn? How do these competencies interact with our culture? To answer these questions, this class will cover literature from infants, toddlers, children, and adults to give a rich picture of what changes and remains constant across development. We will cover topics such as children’s understanding of intentions, theory of mind, communication, ownership, morality, and inter-group attitudes. A. Shaw, Spring.


Cognition Workshop

The Cognition Workshop is an interdisciplinary forum for students and faculty at the University of Chicago. Topics of discussion span across cognition, social cognition, visual cognition, and various aspects of learning (computational, mathematical, and theoretical representations). We also bring in invited speakers from around the world.

Centers and Institutes

Center for Early Childhood Research

Institute for Mind and Biology

Center for Decision Research

Animal Behavior Research Group