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Neil Stillings
Professor of Psychology, Emeritus
School of Cognitive Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002

I retired from Hampshire in June 2018

Courses I taught over the last few years of my career

CS 245: Minds, Brains, & Machines: The Fifty Key Ideas

All students in the cognitive, neural, and psychological sciences should be familiar with certain key concepts. This course surveys these central ideas to give students the vocabulary needed to approach the research literature without being intimidated by a barrage of technical terms and to hold intelligent conversations with other students and faculty members who are interested in matters of mind, brain, and machine. Readings in the course will be drawn from books and journals in the field. Students will complete a series of essay assignments concerning the concepts covered in the course. There will be no final project. Students are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week outside of class time working on the reading and writing assignments. Prerequisite: At least one prior course in psychology, linguistics, computer science/AI, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, or animal behavior. First-year students who meet this prerequisite are eligible. The course satisfies Division I distribution requirements.

CS 335: Seminar in Mind, Brain, & Behavior

This course is intended for concentrators and advanced students whose work involves mind, brain, behavior, or intelligent machines and who are studying disciplines such as cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, animal behavior, education, and so on. The students in the course will select a number of current issues in this broad area, choosing recent journal articles, essays, or books in each area for discussion. Each week students will be expected to write a discussion paper or contribute to a web forum and to engage in intensive discussion during the single class meeting. Leadership of at least one class meeting, and an extended paper on one of the course issues is also required. Students are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week outside of class time on the weekly reading and writing assignments and on developing their final projects. Prerequisite: Two or more courses in relevant fields. At least four previous semesters of college work. First-year students are not eligible. Second-year students require advisor permission.

CS 218: Music, Mind, & Brain

This course is an introduction to the psychology and neuroscience of music. We will study the psychological and brain processes that underlie the perception and production of music, current theories about why and how music evokes emotion, and the evolutionary and developmental roots of the variation and commonalities of music across cultures and traditions. Students will be required to complete a series of essay assignments during the term. Students are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week outside of class time working on the reading and writing assignments.

CS 370: Mind & Brain: Evolution & Culture

Human behavior and culture have displayed remarkable variation across groups and over time, yet the human brain is highly similar to the brains of other primates, and it has not evolved significantly since the ice age. In this course we will consider contemporary approaches to the question of how the human mind/brain evolved to support cultural variation. We will consider how processes of individual neurological and psychological development are related to processes of cultural stability and change. We will attempt to integrate insights from neuroscience, psychology, evolutionary theory, and anthropology to develop a more subtle account of human nature than any of these disciplines has been able to give on its own. We will explore these possibilities by reading and discussing key recent work chosen by the students, who are responsible for organizing and leading the class meetings. A major literature review paper is required. This course is restricted to advanced Division II and Division III students in relevant fields.

Areas in which I taught courses during my full career

  • Cognitive science/neuroscience
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Music perception/cognition & auditory perception
  • Vision science
  • Psychology of language
  • Human rationality, irrationality, and decision making
  • Connectionism
  • Cognition and culture/evolutionary psychology
  • Experimental methods & statistics in psychology
  • Cognition & education
  • Foundations of cognitive science
  • Freud and the unconscious
  • Psychometrics and psychological testing

Supervision of student committees

Over 47 years I supervised numerous individual student concentrations (Division II) and undergraduate thesis projects (Division III). See Information for Students for my approach to these tasks.

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