Message from the Dean
In the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), our mission is to examine patterns of social, psychological, cultural, political, and economic structures with the overall goal of discovering pathways for political cooperation, social mobility, greater equality, and enhancing our individual and collective well-being. Thus, SBS programs engage with a wide range of topics that concern us as social beings. By studying the behavior of individuals, groups and institutions, we attempt to predict, prevent, and manage the many problems that arise in society. Students enrolled in SBS courses and majors will acquire a base of social literacy and the capacity for critical thinking about social and behavioral issues. The more we can observe, the more we can understand, the more constructive action we can all take to improve the lives of everyone around us. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the wide range of approaches in SBS:
As humans, we live in a social world. In addition to our individual identities, we are members of larger units: families, groups, communities, states and nations. Faculty across SBS study human behavior at all these levels by conducting evidence-based research to inform social understanding and policy by drawing from an interdisciplinary range of perspectives.
To understand the mechanisms of individual behavior, Psychologists research the brain basis of decision making, including topics like cognition, executive function, mental illness, and addiction. Behavior is also driven by social identity, group membership and associated pressures, including inequality, as explored by Sociologists and social psychologists. Behavioral patterns, cultural identities and their biological evolution are studied by Anthropologists. Interdisciplinary departments like Africana Studies and Latino and Caribbean Studies apply multiple perspectives to address the experiences, issues and, too often, discrimination faced by particular groups in society. Serious conflicts that arise between individuals and groups are regulated by various institutions that enable civil society to exist, including an imperfect system of laws, rights and punishments addressed by our interdisciplinary Program in Criminal Justice. On a broader level, modern civilizations operate through complex economic aggregations and population processes that create and distribute essential resources according to the goals of various interest groups, as analyzed by Economists. All of these systems are managed to various degrees through political institutions that reflect both democratic goals to benefit many in interaction with the exercise of political power that benefits few. Political scientists study these institutions and their social effects both within nations with different political systems and at the level of complex interactions between nations that foster cooperation or threaten the peace, with war always a possibility. Geographers describe how human civilization depends on our interactions with the environment as well as with other people and critically depends on our ability to address the endangered health of our planet.
With best wishes
Professor of Psychology