Course Syllabus


Course Description

We’ve all been mad, sad, happy, and disgusted. Some of us get nostalgic at times, and some of us are easily embarrassed. We’ve been feeling these emotions nearly our whole lives, and this makes us all emotion experts of a sort. Nonetheless, these feelings can be mysterious. Where do they come from? Do people across all cultures experience similar emotions? How can we regulate our emotions? Do emotions make us less rational? Do they make us smarter? What triggers certain emotions? Are there gender differences in emotions?

The science of emotion is fairly young, but there has been an enormous amount of progress in understanding emotional phenomena in the last few decades. In this course, we will tackle the aforementioned questions and more. By the end of the course you should be familiar with the most influential theories of emotion--from the evolutionary explanations of emotion to the developmental and social factors involved in making us emotional creatures. So while we are all intuitive experts on emotion, by the end of the course you will have a different kind of expertise--one grounded in the most recent scientific discoveries in this exciting field.

Required Text: 

Oatley, K., Keltner, D. & Jenkins, J. (2006). Understanding emotions (2nd Edition). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers (UE). (Available at Cornell Bookstore) 

Additional readings will be provided by the instructor in electronic format.

Course requirements: 

Three exams (three non-cumulative midterms) based on lectures and readings. Note that lecture slides will be made available in PDF format AFTER class (please don’t email me to ask me to make them available before class, or in a different file format). One final term paper (details to be discussed in class).

Grading and Evaluation: 

Your grades will be calculated as follows: Grades will be based on 3 exams (2 prelims and one final; 25% each) and a term paper (25%). Exams will be short-answer and multiple choice. 

Grade cut-offs, in percentages:
A+: 100 A: 94  A-: 90 
B+: 87 B: 83 B-: 80 
C+: 77  C: 73 C-: 70  
D+: 67 D: 63   D-: 60 


If you miss one exam due to emergency medical reasons (and have a note from your doctor including his/her contact information) your in-class exam grade will be based on the scores you received on the other two exams. (Forgive the shouting): There will be NO MAKE-UP EXAMS and NO EXCEPTIONS to this grading policy. Please take note of the prelim exam dates when deciding whether to take this course.  

Exam 1: February 22

Exam 2: April 2


Extra Credit:

There will be opportunities to participate in psychology experiments for extra credit. You will be able to receive up to 7 points of extra credit (1 point for each ½ hour). If you complete all 7 points, you will receive 5% on top of your final grade (and if you complete a portion of those 7, you will receive an increase according to how many credits you completed).In order to do the extra credit, you should use the online system ("SUSAN") for signing up for psychology experiments, to be found here:

Please direct any questions about the process of signing up for experiments to the contact emails at the Susan website. 

Academic Integrity

Please familiarize yourself (if you haven't already) with Cornell's code of academic integrity

I ask that you respect your fellow students, TAs, and instructor by adhering to these ethical standards in your work. If you have any questions about whether something might constitute a breach of academic integrity, please do not hesitate to ask one of the TAs or your instructor.