Seminar in Language and Thought
Can subtle differences in the languages we speak affect how we make decisions and remember events? Do people who speak different languages think about and even perceive the world differently? Are some thoughts unthinkable without language? And through what mechanisms might language influence other cognitive processes?
How do we get so smart? How are we able to perceive the world around us, learn languages, make decisions, remember the past, and predict the future? How does a mass of neural tissue think? What are thoughts made of? These are the questions we will attempt to answer as we survey some of the major topics in cognitive psychology.
This course will cover the nature of scientific knowledge, how to design and run psychological studies, research ethics, and basic statistics. Most importantly, this class will give you powerful new tools for thinking critically about psychological research, and the practical skills needed to scientifically investigate human behavior and the world around you. You will gain hands on experience with data management and statistics software, as well as designing and running experiments, and you will learn what bags of candy can teach us about probability.
Advanced Methods: Text as Data
In this course, students will develop research projects that involve the collection and analysis of unstructured textual data. Some examples of unstructured textual data include responses to free writing questions on surveys, blog and social media posts, newspaper and magazine articles, and expressive writing (e.g., journaling). Traditionally, unstructured text has been viewed as too unwieldy and imprecise for scientific research, leading psychologists to favor the use of targeted questions that have clear response categories or scales when measuring constructs. For example, a common way of measuring extraversion is to ask someone to indicate the extent to which they see themselves as “extraverted, enthusiastic” on a 7-point scale that ranges from “Disagree strongly” to “Agree strongly.” There are clear advantages to this approach, but it can also be limiting. In recent years, methodological advances have made it easier to use unstructured text as data, and recent work using these methods has revealed a number of fascinating insights into human psychology.