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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eric Uhlmann
PSYCH 448
Seattle Campus

Seminar in Psychology

Selected research topics of contemporary interest. Quarterly listings of specific offerings are available at departmental advising office.

Class description

“Human Rationality and Irrationality” is a multidisciplinary seminar just added to available summer courses.

Online, the class is listed as: “Psychology 448: Seminar in Psychology” and “Psychology 540: Advances in Psychology.”

The seminar will cover bodies of empirical research frequently interpreted as evidence of human irrationality. Topics will include egocentric bias, the role of emotions and intuitions in moral judgment, intergroup bias and conflict, unconscious influences on judgment and behavior, conformity, and the rationalization of past behaviors. We will also cover arguments that such phenomena are often adaptive and rational.

Anyone interested in these topics is welcome— undergraduate as well as graduate students, and folks from marketing, organizational behavior, economics, philosophy, and many other areas as well as psychology students.

The class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:00-2:00 and consist of both lectures and discussion. Assigned readings will consist of accessible review articles. Assignments will be short reaction papers to each topic presented (e.g., egocentrism), indicating whether the student believes the evidence justifies the conclusions drawn from the research and whether such psychological tendencies are rational and desirable. Students will also propose experiments to resolve relevant controversies.

About the instructor: I am a postdoctoral fellow from Northwestern visiting the UW for the summer, and am teaching the class without pay. My research examines many of the topics we will cover in the course, among them nonconscious influences on behavior, moral intuitions, the influence of stereotypes on hiring evaluations, and cross-cultural differences. Anyone with questions about the class can reach me at: e-uhlmann@northwestern.edu. Also, here is a link to my professional website: www.socialjudgments.com. Hope you sign up!

Student learning goals

Knowledge of relevant empirical research on egocentric bias, the role of emotions and intuitions in moral judgment, intergroup bias and conflict, unconscious influences on judgment and behavior, conformity, and the rationalization of past behaviors.

Understanding of the different criteria which can be used to assess the rationality of judgments and behaviors.

Critical thinking about the quality of relevant empirical evidence.

Developing creative ideas regarding how to resolve empirical debates.

General method of instruction

The class will consist of both lectures and discussion.

Recommended preparation

Anyone interested in human rationality and irrationality is welcome— undergraduate as well as graduate students, and folks from marketing, organizational behavior, economics, philosophy, and many other areas as well as psychology students.

Class assignments and grading

Assigned readings will consist of accessible review articles. Assignments will be short reaction papers to each topic presented (e.g., egocentrism), indicating whether the student believes the evidence justifies the conclusions drawn from the research and whether such psychological tendencies are rational and desirable. Students will also propose experiments to resolve relevant controversies.

Class participation and the short reaction papers.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Eric Uhlmann
Date: 06/04/2009