Why do humans behave the way they do? The goal of this course is to introduce students to the science and application of psychology, including how the brain and environment influence thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Students will learn how to examine human behavior, how to think critically about scientific research, and how to apply key findings in psychology to everyday life. Topics covered include the biological bases of behavior, learning and memory, human development, mental health, and social interactions.
This course will examine the psychological, physiological, and sociological foundations of music across the lifespan and cross-culturally. Music has the ability to make us move, to change our emotions, to cue memories, to cause us to form bonds with others, etc. How and why does music have such a powerful effect on us? Students will attempt to answer this question by looking at the brain—both the neurotypical brain and the brain dealing with disorders/diseases. They will consider areas of research including the influence of music on behavior, physiological and affective responses to music, perception and cognition of music, psychomotor components of music behavior, learning and development, preference and creativity, the development of music expertise, the generalization of music training, and the brain areas involved in music behavior and processing.
This course introduces the study of positive psychology, the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The major aims of this course are to understand what positive psychology is (how do we define positive psychology) and what the goals of this discipline are. More specifically we will cover positive psychology’s focus on balance and totality (looking at both sickness and wellness, how to both avoid the former and to promote the latter), promotion of positive outcomes (not just curbing negative outcomes) and reliance on scientific evidence (understanding psychological research methodology as well as the physiological, neurobiological and evolutionary underpinnings of topics). We will also touch on the social nature of humans, the communicability of positive stimuli, emotions and moods, and the most important pursuits in life (connecting with others, pursuing meaning, and experiencing some degree of pleasure or satisfaction).
Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of how people think. Through interactive activities and class discussions, we will explore how humans make sense of the world, pay attention, remember, and make decisions. Most areas of psychology focus on how we behave outside in the world around us. In cognitive psychology, we learn the science behind how we behave inside our head, brain, and mind. Topics include why talking on cell phones while driving is dangerous, why it’s hard to remember people’s names, why we should avoid making decisions based on our “gut” or intuition, and why listening to music while studying is more distracting than people realize.
This course explores the cultural life of homosexuality in America. What might it feel like to be gay or lesbian or queer, as both fantasized by heterosexuality and as lived by gays and lesbians? How is gay life different from straight experience? How do gays, lesbians, and queers understand themselves as gay? What are the aesthetics and sensibilities—losses, fantasies, desires, fears, and joys—which frame and enable gay identity, desire, and enjoyment, in the past, the present, and the future? This course addresses specifically gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, and bisexual selfhood and sociality in order to illuminate homosexual identities, desires, and pleasures. What is gay desire, both in culture, in history? How do homosexuals learn how to desire what they want to have and who they want to be? The purpose of the course is to illuminate the ways in which gayness expresses not simply a sexuality but also a personal lived experience through which queers grasp a sense of themselves and each other. In an historical and cultural examination of theory, philosophy, and literature, this course traces the transformations in gay culture over the latter half of the twentieth century to today. Does gayness have an essence, an identifiable center at its foundation which spans all spaces and times? Or, is queerness a playful masquerade in the negotiation of identity and desire in transient moments in culture and history? This course examines the modes of desire and demand, forms of identification and becoming, and styles of play and amusement through which gays, lesbians, and queers relate to themselves and each other. What does it mean to occupy the mind and the body—thinking, feeling, and being—of a gay individual? What does "gay" mean for straight outsiders and queer insiders? The horizon of the course is to enable us to better understand what we might mean when we say: “I am gay.” Who are we when we are homosexual? And who, "we"?
This course introduces musical genres, repertoire, composers, and performers that reflect or inspire various gender images and identities in society. Drawing on interdisciplinary discourse, this course provides a variety of sources regarding music and gender in society and facilitates discussion of these topics. Discussion will include otherness, marginalization, and gender identity in music using examples of historic and contemporary musicians as well as musical styles. Students will complete journal entries, essays, peer review editing, and group discussions.
Social Science Topics courses enable students to choose from a variety of course themes that change each semester. Courses may explore a topic or a discipline within the social sciences not currently covered in Liberal Arts courses. Individual course descriptions are available to registering students at www.berklee.edu/liberal-arts.
This course presents frameworks to better understand businesses, markets, finance, as well as both the economy and history in general. Relevant examples are drawn heavily from the music industry. In addition to the course surveying basic principles, students will learn answers to questions such as: Why are housing rental costs so high? What causes financial crises? What strategies can a band use to become more profitable? Note for MBUS majors: this course fills the social science requirement for degree students, in addition to being a requirement for the major.
This course is part of Masculinity Studies, a field that emerged from Feminist Studies and Gender Studies. We will explore the social construction of masculinity by considering masculine norms in various contexts. These include race/ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic class, religion, and sexuality, as well as in our lives. We will consider political and social men's movements, such as socialist men, men's rights advocates, and The Christian Promise Keepers. As we examine the socialization of boys, from early childhood into early adulthood, we will consider how hegemonic masculinity affects males and its subsequent effects on females.
When songwriter/poets portray a city through the blues, they choose gritty lyrics to reflect its tough side. They sing about their own struggle to remember the dream that seduced them to come to live and strive in the city. This course looks at those urban blues that challenge one's everyday existence. Noise, high rent, and crowding are inconvenient. Unemployment, health risks, kids at risk, underemployment, housing shortages, homelessness, and crime are serious problems. These city ills trap many of its residents and yet, an impressively large number survive and thrive because of the city. In this course, you will look at city blues through the lens of sociology and enjoy the music inspired by the city. Assigned readings, group discussion projects, and analytical memos will help you gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of urban problems. The course will highlight today's successful urban community organizations and urban change agents, partnerships, sponsorships, and resources that musician change agents must know about to power through and turn around the city's blues.
This course presents an overview of major topics in the interdisciplinary study of music cognition. Music processing in the human brain is studied including topics such as learning, memory, attention, categorization, communication, emotion, performance, and expertise. How is music similar to and different from language? How are musical skills acquired? How is emotion conveyed in music and are these cues universal or specific to certain cultures? Research findings will be considered from the perspectives of psychology, neuroscience, and music theory. A theme will be consideration of individual differences between musicians and nonmusicians.
Biopsychology is the scientific study of the biological processes that underlie behavior and psychological processes. In this course, we will discuss how the brain obtains information about the environment (sensory systems), regulates an organism’s response to the environment (motor systems), controls basic functions necessary for survival such as eating, drinking, sex, and sleep, and mediates higher cognitive function such as memory and language. We will also consider the consequences of brain malfunction as manifested in various forms of disease, brain damage, and mental illness. To provide the necessary background, we will begin by studying some basic principles of evolution and genetics, the workings of the nervous system, and the methodologies used to study them.