Theoretical, ethical and methodological foundations of psychology are explored through reading, discussion and development of a research question, with emphasis on understanding these foundations as relevant to contemporary issues. Integrating a Christian faith perspective to psychology as a discipline, interdisciplinarity, and practical applications are themes foregrounded for discussion and explicit treatment. All students graduating from the 3-year psychology program are required to take this course in the final year of their degree; all students in the 4-year psychology program are required to take this course in the third year of their degree.
Together we will explore the current context of Psychology and identify key themes and issues in the field. While some contemporary issues – like technology, and ecology – are indeed recent, many – like cultural diversity, and neuroscience – are perennial issues (psychology from its inception has had a “social or biological?” divide) manifesting in contemporary form. The purpose of exploring these issues is for students to get a ‘bird’s-eye view’ of contemporary psychology and thus for you to learn to situate yourselves, your story, interests, and faith, in that context. This course will accomplish this in three ways.
First, through a set of readings that all in the class will read, reflect on, and discuss together, on six contemporary issue topics: faith perspective, counselling & psychotherapy, culture & psychology, neuroscience, technology, and ecopsychology.
Second: from a faith perspective, a perennial issue is how to integrate one’s faith perspective to psychology as a research discipline and/or professional practice. (The Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen reading is one contribution in this regard.) Another way to approach the integration issue: that it is a product of psychology’s “youthfulness”, which in striving to define its own disciplinary identity through aspiring to be a “rigorous science”, has excluded a lot of phenomena that it should study. As psychology has now aged since then and matured, it can relax about defining its identity and attend better to what it would have experienced as too threatening in its immaturity. If we accept this reading it informs the science-religion dynamic. We will explore this interpretation through the theme of consciousness as a contemporary research topic. What is some of the contemporary theorizing of consciousness, whether “cutting edge” (e.g., neuroscience, or AI, or spirituality studies) or fringe (e.g., parapsychology, or psychedelics, or transhumanism)? What implications for the future do these theories have, and how might they impact psychology? How do these inform Christian faith – perhaps they support it; or challenge it; or extend and deepen it. The mystery of what “consciousness” is sits at the center of these questions, and of psychology: consciousness is one way to define “psyche”; it is the crux of the mind-body dualism psychology assumes; it is both a perennial issue of psychology as well as a “hot” contemporary one.
The third way in which we will address contemporary issues: you will do a literature review of a contemporary, current topic of your choice. A true, full literature review is a lot of work; you will be doing a modified version appropriately abbreviated to senior undergraduate standards.
All students graduating from the 3-year psychology program are required to take this course in the final year of their degree; all students in the 4-year psychology program are required to take this course in the third year of their degree. It should not be taken earlier in the degree.
Readings will be handed out in class.