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Fall 2020 Courses

PSYCH83S: Moral Minds in the Modern World
(First-Year Seminar in Psychology)

Philosophers and ethicists have long debated what it means to be moral: what are our duties to each other, how do ensure the best outcomes for the most people, and what kinds of virtues lead to a good life? Moral psychology approaches these classic ethical questions by asking how people think, feel, and act when it comes to ethics and morality. When we decide whether an action is right or wrong, does this depend on our gut feelings, our deliberations, or some combination of the two? How do people resolve tradeoffs between harming a smaller number of people in order to achieve a greater good that saves more lives? How do we explain moral disagreements, where clashes of values and beliefs seem to lead to intractable conflicts? Can we predict when people will decide to have empathy and compassion for the suffering of others, and act generously? And why does empathy sometimes break down, and what does this mean for its moral value? Each week we will examine one of these questions, among many others, and we will continually connect scientific theories to potential real-world implications and practical applications (e.g., how these theories might speak to everyday ethical questions faced by incoming freshmen, as well as to global events such as intergroup conflicts, natural disasters and outbreaks). Over the course of the semester, we will discuss how psychological science approaches the question of human morality and ethics, with three goals: 1) develop a foundation for how to think about human morality and ethics from an empirical, scientific perspective; 2) discuss relevant theories, models, and findings in the field and learn about prominent debates; and 3) engage in sustained consideration of how these theories relate to current events. The final project will consist of developing a project that applies moral psychology to current events and real-world ethical dilemmas. Students are expected to leave the course with a grounding in empirical approaches to morality and how it can be used to explain and motivate everyday ethics.

Are you interested in joining the EMP Lab?

Undergraduate Students

We are currently seeking highly motivated undergraduate students to work in our lab for the fall 2020 semester. Interested students must have at least a 3.0 GPA, be extremely conscientious and attentive to detail, and be interested in empirical approaches to human morality and ethics.  We prefer students who can commit to 10 hours per week, and who can commit to work in the lab for multiple semesters.  Interested students must be able to attend the weekly lab meeting.  Experiences in this lab will provide contact with all stages of the research process, including brainstorming of ideas, literature review, stimulus development and design, study programming, running experiments, compiling and coding data, data analysis and visualization, and assisting with manuscripts and presentations. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Cameron over email for more details. Research assistants receive course credit (PSYCH 494).  Working in the EMP Lab will provide useful research experience and be good preparation for graduate school.  Students with dual interests/majors in relevant fields (e.g., psychology & philosophy) are especially encouraged to apply.