PSYCH 470: Applied Topics in Psychology course descriptions

PSYCH 470 ( 0.50 ) LEC

Special Topics in Applied Psychology                                                  

Topics cover practical applications of theory and research in one or more of the six areas of psychology. Consult departmental listings for upcoming topics. Topics may include applications of psychology to health, well-being, law, education, policy analysis, management, marketing, regulation, systems design, community organizing, conflict resolution, and/or communications. Consult Quest or the schedule of classes for the topic title offered in a given term.

Prereq: PSYCH 211, 257/257R, 291, 292; PSYCH 207 or 261; PSYCH 238/338 or 253/253R; Level at least 3A Psychology majors or Make-Up Psychology. 
Antireq: PSYCH 391

PSYCH 470 has an antirequisite of PSYCH 391 (Advanced Data Analysis) not because they have equivalent content, but because students who have taken PSYCH 391 should be taking an Honours Seminar instead of PSYCH 470. PSYCH 470 is not a data analysis or statistics course.

These courses may potentially overlap, i.e., be anti-requisite to other Psychology courses.  Such courses are noted in parenthesis following the course description. 


TopicEvolutionary Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness

Course Description:  Although still underutilized, evolutionary approaches are increasingly gaining favour in the social sciences because they offer a unique and useful perspective on human cognition, emotion, and behaviour. When evolutionary theory is applied to mental and physical illness, however, an interesting question arises: Given that pathologies are heritable (there is a nontrivial underlying genetic component) and that they have a
significant negative impact on fitness (decrease survival and reproduction) why do pathologies persist in the population? In other words, why has natural selection failed to remove genes that contribute to physical and mental disease?


Topic:  Human Motivation and Emotion

Course Description: Motivation is a multifaceted construct, encompassing a variety of underlying processes that initiate, direct, and maintain human behaviour. This course will explore classic and contemporary perspectives on human motivation and emotion, including physiological, psychological, and social perspectives, to explore how motivational principles can explain human behaviour. Further, we will explore the application of these principles to a number of social contexts, including prejudice, love, and intimacy.

[Antirequisite:  PSYCH 363 Spring 2019]


Topic:  Intergroup Relations

Course Description: This course reviews social psychological theory and research on intergroup relations: how groups of people and people from different groups interact. It examines stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism, weight, or sexual prejudice) from both majority and minority perspectives. It also discusses implications for promoting intergroup trust, reducing inequality, and resolving real-world conflict.

[Antirequisite:  PSYCH 355]


Topic: Language Development and Social Inequality

Course Description: What factors impact children’s language development, both positively and negatively, among children growing up in more socially and economically inequitable situations? This is the question we will explore in depth in this course via readings in relevant fields and projects that will allow you to think these issues from a more applied and experiential perspective. The challenge of accounting for differences in early language ability observed among children is extremely complex. Whether the differences found in research studies are best interpreted as individual differences, differences in styles of talk, differences due to parental attitudes and beliefs, and/or differences due to socio-economic inequity are issues that have provoked much discussion and disagreement. But the issue of why some children lag far behind other children with respect to language development, particularly upon the age of school entry, is of great importance in many countries around the world – especially those that seek to assure that all children receive the best start they can to benefit from formal education and develop to their full potential. Via several in-depth projects conducted individually or in groups, topics explored will include seminal and recent work investigating child and parent-child interactions in different socio-economic and cultural groups; examination of variables such as parental education level and SES and their impact; discussion of different theoretical approaches to explain variability observed among children; and the differences between the language of home and school.


Topic: Learning and Decision-making in Young Children

Course Description: With so much going on in their environments, how do young children learn about the world around them? In this course, we will explore learning and decision-making during infancy and early childhood. We will consider the ways children learn from their own observations and how they glean information from others. We will explore how children’s memory and executive functions contribute to variation within and across age groups. We will also consider how aspects of their environment affect these outcomes.


Topic:  Management/Leadership in Organizational Change/Development

Course Description: This offering’s domain is organizational change and development, and organizational functioning more broadly. Accordingly the course examines models and theories of organizations, along with psychological theories (concerning motivation, group process, and so forth) that play out in organizations. Consulting practice that draws on these concepts is also covered, presented in terms of key stages of the consulting process.


Topic:  Psychology of Intimate Relationships

Course Description: Although healthy intimate relationships offer a wide range of positive effects, including increased life satisfaction and improved physical and mental health, maintaining positive interpersonal bonds is an elusive goal for many individuals. In this course, we will examine two influential theories that describe mechanisms by which intimate relationships become distressed - attachment theory and interpersonal theory. We will examine how these theories are applied to address real-world relational difficulties, such as communication problems in romantic relationships, family violence, and intergenerational experiences of trauma. Students will get hands-on training in applying psychological theories to interpersonal problems and will investigate the challenges of translating basic research to effective psychological interventions.


Topic:  Social Cognitive Development

Course Description:  As human beings, we are social by nature. We spend a considerable amount of time interacting and communicating with one another, and forming relationships. In order to do so successfully, we need to have a good understanding of the social world and the people in it. This Psych 363 course will examine theory and research in social cognitive development. We will look at children’s knowledge of the social world and their understanding of other people’s mental states and behaviours. We will explore topics such as morality, theory of mind, fairness, and other topics within social cognition.

[Antirequisite:  PSYCH 363 Winter 2020]


Topic:  Urban psychology: Designing for a psychologically sustainable post-COVID world

Course Description:  As cities become more complex and dense, there is increasing recognition that good urban design is vitally important to public health, including our mental health. The new interdisciplinary field of urban psychology is devoted to understanding how to build cities that support good psychological health.  In the emerging post-COVID world, these principles have never been more important. All over the world, designers, architects, city planners and health professionals are struggling to understand how to reconstruct a world that is more resilient to public health emergencies. In this course, we will work collaboratively with urban design and architectural professionals both locally from the city of Kitchener and from the international design community to develop psychologically grounded post-COVID plans for workspaces, public and institutional spaces, commercial environments and the streets.  We will work collaboratively on projects that will include literature reviews in urban psychology, study and analysis of planning and design documents, virtual field visits, and a final online presentation to a variety of local and international stakeholders, which outlines recommendations based on psychological principles. This course should be of interest to anyone with an interest in cities and urbanism and a desire to put into action ideas and methods developed from their core work in psychology.


Topic:  Urban psychology: From the laboratory to the streets 

Course Description:  As cities become more complex and dense, there is increasing recognition that good urban design is vitally important to public health, including our mental health. The new interdisciplinary field of urban psychology is devoted to understanding how to build cities that support good psychological health. In this course, we will work collaboratively with urban design professionals from the City of Kitchener to develop a psychologically grounded plan for a part of the city that is undergoing rapid change. Students will work on projects that will include literature reviews in urban psychology, study and analysis of planning documents, field visits and data collection, and a final presentation to the City of Kitchener which outlines recommendations based on psychological principles. This course should be of interest to anyone with an interest in cities and urbanism and a desire to put into action ideas and methods developed from their core work in psychology.