Research Methods      


Lab Seminar     

Criminal Mind


The goal of the course is to introduce principles, methods, and practices of science and the way scientific knowledge differs from personal observation and thought. Clinical psychology is an excellent venue for conveying research methods because of the range of topics and questions. Among the foci of clinical psychological science are questions designed to understand psychological adjustment and functioning in its many manifestations (normative functioning, clinical impairment, mental illness and health) over the life-span. The topics include but extend well beyond this brief sample: trauma, suicide, optimism, social support, child rearing, interpersonal violence, relationships, resilience, stress, psychiatric disorders, and the relations of mental and physical health. A scientific research approach to clinical psychology draws on diverse methods (e.g., randomized trials, observational studies), multiple levels of analyses (e.g., genetic, neural, environmental, and social), and includes a wide range of participants (human and nonhuman animals). This course will discuss the range of methods and in the process sample the fascinating topics for which these are used. By the end of this course you should understand the differences between personal (individual) and scientific (research) knowledge development, understand the process (stages) of research inquiry, be able to compare and critique various research and sample designs, be able to apply research and sample designs based on varying research questions, read and critique empirical research, and reflect on the ethical and practical issues of doing research.

** Note: There is no cap on this course. Any student can take it. There is no need to email the Professor for permission.**


What is considered a drug? Why do some individuals use substances, but others become addicted? Are there effective treatments for addiction? Why and how does society attempt to control substance use and distribution? Exploring questions such as these will be central concerns in this seminar. Broadly speaking, the focus of this course will be on examining social, neurobiological, and genetic explanations for addiction, evaluating addiction treatments, and discussing the social construction of substance policies. Throughout the semester, students will be asked to think critically about material and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. To foster critical thinking skills, students will have ample opportunities to discuss topics in class, analyze arguments in reading assignments, and apply ideas to real world situations through course projects and presentations.

** Note: Undergraduate students should pre-register for this course. If you did not pre-register you are not guaranteed a spot and should show up to the first class. At the start of the first class the Professor will review the number of slots available and let students know if they have made it into the course. There is no advantage to emailing the Professor in advance if you do not pre-register. **


The overall focus of the lab is to use interdisciplinary theoretical principles and methods to identify and specify the cognitive-affective dysfunctions associated with traits (e.g., impulsivity, externalizing) and pathologies (e.g. psychopathy, APD, SUD) characterized by disinhibition. In this seminar, we will read and critique empirical research related to the topics of basic cognitive-affective mechanisms an disinhibitory psychopathology, work together to design experiments that evaluate cognitive-affective processes implicated in disinhibited behavior, and spend some time reviewing the administrative needs of the lab (e.g., IRB protocols, participant recruitment).  


Criminal behavior is a complex, extremely common, and costly problem for society. Not all offenders are the same in terms of etiological pathways, versatility, continuity, and type of offending, and amenability to treatment. There is little agreement about the causal origins of criminal behavior. However, research identifies a range of factors that are involved the development of criminal behavior, including constitutional (e.g. psychopathy), social (e.g. neighborhood disadvantage) and neurobiological factors (e.g. emotion, attention, and executive functions). This course will cover a range of theoretical and empirical material so as to begin to understand the development of the “criminal mind.” Four main topics will be covered: a) personality and psychopathological factors associated with criminal behavior; b) theoretical and psychobiological explanations of crime; (c) the biological x environment interaction and d) the impact of psychobiological models for policy and intervention.