Psychology of Good and Evil

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

How do we define good and evil? Are people born that way? What about social, environmental, and cultural forces? What are your individual vulnerabilities and strengths? Let's find out in this course!

The media is filled everyday with stories of unimaginable harm and unselfish heroes. Have you ever wondered what makes people behave the way they do? What can research tell us about what you might do in a given situation?

In this course, we will examine good and evil at the individual and societal level, combining clinical, social, and forensic psychology. We will explore common questions: Why do good people do bad things? Why do bad people do bad things? And can bad people do good things too? Can we identify and predict healers and those who harm others? Should evil be treated or punished? We will challenge our assumptions about behavior through examples drawn from history, current events, and entertainment. Why do we love comic book villains, scary movies, and crime dramas?

This course will include video presentations and discussions on multiple topics, including current and recent news events, famous and infamous historical events, literary examples, pop culture references, and psychological experiments. Lectures will provide a foundation of knowledge in psychology. Individual and small group assignments will include readings, self-assessments and quizzes, watching (and creating!) videos and clips, visiting area locations, reflective writing, and a final paper synthesizing research on the good or evil topic of your choice.

By the end of this course, students will be able to do the following:
-Develop an integrated definition of good and evil
-Distinguish individual and social influences of behavior
-Explain the importance of good and evil in society
-Critically evaluate media accounts of current and historical events
-Analyze treatments, punishments, and rewards for various behaviors
-Identify personal strengths and vulnerabilities

Prerequisites: None

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0942
  • Length: 3 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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