Submitted by Matthew D. Schulkind on Sunday, 1/11/2009, at 9:12 PM
Psychology 68: Autobiographical Memory
Tuesday: 2:00 - 4:30

Dr. Matthew Schulkind
Office: 324 Merrill Phone: 542-2790
Office Hours: Wednesday / Friday 10:00-12:00 or by appointment
Email: mdschulkind@amherst.edu

I remember everything as if it happened years ago
Probably it did so I remember it
~Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians

From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm
foundation of fact and journeying together through the
murky marshes of memory into thickets of wild guesswork.
~ Albus Dumbledore


Course Overview: Autobiographical memory encompasses everything we know about our personal past from information as mundane as our social security number to the most inspirational moments of our lives. Autobiographical memory is the way we define ourselves, so it not only shapes our personal identity today, it gives us the ability to think about who we might become in the future. This course will begin by examining the relationship between personality and autobiographical memory. We well then consider how autobiographical knowledge is structured and how that structure changes as we move from childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age. We will consider individual differences in autobiographical memory, particular those related to gender differences in socialization. In the second half of the semester, we will consider who autobiographical remembering functions in important applied setting like the court room. Towards the end of the semester, we will examine the consequences of breakdowns in autobiographical memory functioning in the context of several well-known diseases including amnesia, dementia, depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD. Finally, we will all wrestle with the false/recovered memory controversy.

Readings: You will be responsible for a handful of reading assignments each week. In addition to reading every assigned reading every week, each student periodically (once or twice per semester) will be responsible for presenting one article to the class. Presenting an article will involve describing the key issues/questions/hypotheses surrounding the paper, the methodology used to address these questions, the results of the experiment and what the results mean in terms of the stated hypotheses. Everyone, whether presenting or not, should read the articles critically; that is, you should not necessarily accept the authors' claims at face value. Are their hypotheses warranted? Do they do a good job of setting up an experiment to test their hypotheses? Are their interpretations of the data justified? Can some other theory also explain the results? How might you improve the experiment? What is the next experiment that should be done to further test the theory in question? All weekly readings are available electronically via the Blackboard web page (click on the Assignments button).
 
Thought Papers:  In addition to the weekly readings, you will also be responsible for composing a written response to the week's readings. You should use this paper as an opportunity to demonstrate your critical reading of the assignments (see above). Do not summarize the papers! Tell me what you think! What were the strong and weak points of the paper? What aspects of the argument/design need clarification? How might you counter the arguments/conclusions made by the author(s)? Do the data support the claims made by the researchers? Why or why not? What might you have done differently? What would be the next important question/experiment to pursue? Thought papers should vary between a paragraph and a page in length. If you have more to say, you can hold it for class, just give us the flavor of your thoughts. You do not need to address every paper; in fact, you should try to focus on a single paper, or the relationship between two papers. Your thought papers should be NO MORE THAN one paragraph.

Notice that I used the word 'us' in the last paragraph. Everybody in the class will be responsible for reading all of the thought papers for the week. I will set up a forum each week in the Discussion Board section of the website (the Discussion Board is located under the Communications button). You are excused from the Thought Paper assignment when it is your turn to present the extra paper.  Your thought papers will be due by 9:00 PM on Mondays. Late papers will receive a grade of 5 out of 10; failure to turn in an assignment will result in a 0.

Class Participation: A seminar is only as good as its participants and the contributions made by those participants. At the end of the semester, your peers and I will grade the quality of your contributions to class. Your peers will use whatever criteria they deem meaningful. I will grade your performance based on the frequency, creativity, and scientific relevance of your input.

Course Grade: Your course grade will be determined, as follows:

Thought Papers    20%
Class Participation    20%
Short Paper    20%
Group Presentation    20%
Final Paper    20%

 

 

Taking Notes