Special Topics Courses

The BSU Department of Psychology offers special topics courses (PSY 3387 and PSY 4587) that cover topics of special interest to faculty and students. The content and titles of these courses may vary from semester to semester. Descriptions of some of our topics courses for the coming semesters are here below. Information about other courses can be obtained by contacting the instructor.

PSY 4587: Advanced Topics: Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

Course Description: An introduction to issues and theories of development dealing with adolescence. The course reviews the principles, theories, research and application of cognitive, emotional, personality, social and physical development. Also examined is how adolescents develop the knowledge, skills, and personality characteristics that allow them to become successful adults as well as how differences among teens come about.

Course Objectives:

  • Describe fundamental concepts, theories, and research relevant to the psychology of adolescence and emerging adulthood.
  • Apply the concepts, theories, and research for problem-solving and decision-making on issues involving adolescents and emerging adults.

Instructor: Dr. Sarah Cronin


PSY3387: Topics: Psychology of Disability

Course Description: The purpose of this course is to provide students with a critical appreciation of disability-related topics centered on psychological level phenomena. At the end of this course, students should be able to think about and engage with disability-related topics in a critically-reflexive manner, meaning that they will be able to move from idiosyncratic aesthetic or functional factors, to the social, historical, political, and environmental factors that contextualize social psychological encounters with disability. Subsequently, students will be able to consider disability (and ability) in relation to their own past, present, and future experiences and to think about their everyday world in a way that is cognizant of its enabling capacity.

Course objectives:

  • Explain a variety of perspectives, findings, and methods representing the state of social psychological research as it concerns the disability.
  • Distinguish between multiple definitions and explanatory models of disability.
  • Practice critical thinking and self-reflexivity in relation to disability through reading, discussion, class activities, and written/oral presentations.
  • Analyze a variety of cultural commentary, observations, and insights according to social psychological concepts and theory.
  • Synthesize social psychological theory and Disability Studies critical analytical perspectives to analyze disability-related phenomena in real real-world domains.
  • Propose studies or interventions based on evidence and perspectives considered in class.

Instructor: Dr. Thomas Dirth


PSY 4587: Advanced Topics: Human-Animal Interaction

Course Description: This course will focus on readings and discussion in the psychology of human-animal interaction. We will explore the various ways humans think about and behave with animals, including the identification of animals as sources of social support, food, entertainment, medicine, and instruments of science. Although our main focus will be psychological aspects of human-animal interaction (HAI), the field is multidisciplinary and thus you will have the opportunity to learn about HAI from other perspectives (e.g., sociological, biological, environmental). Cultural influences will be discussed throughout the course, as culture is integral in shaping our values, beliefs, and practices involving animals. These topics can be the subject of debate and controversy. Its likely people in the class will have differing opinions, some very passionate. Therefore, the course will provide the opportunity to view a subject from multiple perspectives and to further develop skills in objectivity and respectful discussion.

Prerequisites: junior or senior status, or consent of instructor. Instructor: Dr. Angie Fournier


PSY 4587 Advanced Topics: Sensation and Perception

Course Description: The purpose of this course is to examine how humans sense and perceive the world around us. First we will consider the philosophical questions that humans have long posed about perception, and study the methods and techniques scientists use to try to answer them. We will study the sensory pathways, fundamental perceptual processing, and higher-level meaning-making. We will cover the orienting senses, skin senses, audition, and vision. We will consider sensation and perception from several perspectives: physiological, psychophysical, ecological, motivational, and computational.

Prerequisite: PSY 3401. Instructor: Dr. Travis Ricks
PSY 3387 Topics: Criminal Psychology

Course Description:  This course provides students with information about criminal behavior from a psychological perspective.  Students will obtain an understanding of how criminal offenders are embedded in and continually influenced by multiple systems using a biopsychosocial model.  Students in this course will become knowledgeable of contemporary research, theory and practice concerning the psychology of criminal behavior.  In addition, students will be exposed to some of the current counseling and rehabilitation methods to reduce recidivism.  Prerequisites: senior status or instructor’s consent.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will understand how criminal behavior manifests in individuals.
  2. Students will gain a basic knowledge of behavioral correlations of specific crimes.
  3. Students will recognize differences between normal development and development that poses risk for future antisocial and criminal behavior.
  4. Students will be introduced to correctional counseling modalities.
  5. Students will become more aware of their biases towards offenders and will make strides to be objective and ethical in working with offenders.  Students will also become aware of their limitations in counseling offenders.