The Nature of Human Minds: From Neurons to Culture

Undergraduate Program Status

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Course Description: 
The ways in which societies operate and human history unfolds hinges on the cognitive abilities and dispositions of single individuals. In this course, we will focus on the question of how human minds work, and what the workings of individual minds can and cannot explain about human societies. We will move between different levels of explanation, ranging from single neurons to group-level social processes and compare cognition of humans and other species. The course will cover a broad range of topics, including free will, social learning, shared intentionality, cooperation, decision making, moral reasoning, group identification, stereotyping, communication, rituals and religious beliefs. We will discuss how cognitive and emotional processes operate in concert, and consider how our understanding and predictions of human behavior can benefit from different theories on the nature of human minds. 
Learning Outcomes: 

Students will become familiar with various cognitive processes that underlie humans’ ability to engage in social interactions. They will also gain basic knowledge of the methods used to study human minds. Equipped with this knowledge, students will be able to reflect on how individual-level explanations can contribute to the understanding of more large-scale societal phenomena. They will practice their reading, analytic, and discussion skills. No preliminary knowledge about the subject is necessary for successful participation.