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Course module: 201300351
Neuroscience of Social Behavior and Emotional Disorders
Course infoSchedule
Course code201300351
ECTS Credits7.5
Category / Level3 (Bachelor Advanced)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byFaculty of Social Sciences; Undergraduate School Sociale Wetenschappen; Psychology;
Contact persondr. D. Terburg, PhD
Telephone+31 30 2533043
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P.A. Bos, MSc
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prof. J. van Honk
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drs. I.M. Meier
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dr. E.R. Montoya
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dr. D. Terburg, PhD
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Teaching period
1  (31/08/2020 to 06/11/2020)
Teaching period in which the course begins
Time slotBD: See 'Help'
Study mode
Enrolment periodfrom 02/06/2020 up to and including 28/06/2020
Enrolling through OSIRISYes
Enrolment open to students taking subsidiary coursesYes
Post-registration openfrom 17/08/2020 up to and including 18/08/2020
Waiting listNo
After completing this course, the student:
  • can describe the main social neuroscientific theories and methodologies
  • can describe the anatomy of the social brain in terms of a brain-network and its main structures
  • can describe the chemistry of the social brain in terms of hormonal mechanisms
  • can apply his/her knowledge on anatomy and hormones to explain social behavior, its underlying principles and its evolutionary origin
  • can apply his/her anatomical, endocrine and behavioral knowledge to explain emotional disorders
  • can formulate his/her own, scientifically based, ideas on how emotional disorders can inform us on healthy social brain and behavior, and vice versa

Relation between assessment and objective
Knowledge of the theoretical part of the course, as well as the ability to use this knowledge to explain normal and abnormal social behavior from a neuroscientific point of view, will be tested by the exams. Furthermore, scientific debate, writing and presentation on the relationship between brain and social behavior as well as the ability to formulate social neuroscientific research ideas will be tested in small group working sessions and with the associated writing assignments.
In social behavior there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. In order to function healthily within our complex society social behavior should be fluid, ever-changing and highly dependent on the situation and context. If someone cannot express social behavior in such a context-dependent manner, he or she might get into trouble. If this happens in a chronic fashion, he or she is at risk for developing psychopathology.
Yet, our social brain has evolved during a much simpler time. Arguably our social brain has developed to empathize and share resources with the (extended) family or tribe, to apply moral standards within, but not outside, this group, to gain rewards for this group only, even at the cost of others. As such, a large part of our social behavior is driven by simple evolutionary principles like fear, reward drive and aggression, which in the complex society we now live in can easily go wrong. Indeed, the psychopath might have been a successful war-leader long ago, but will nowadays be imprisoned.
The relatively young fields of social and affective neuroscience try to explain normal and abnormal human behavior in terms of this evolutionary origin and its underlying biology, and this is what we will try to teach you in this course. In a multidisciplinary fashion you will learn how complex social behaviors like morality and empathy arise from a brain network that has evolved to support much simpler mechanisms. You will learn the social brain’s basic anatomy, how this brain is driven by simple hormonal mechanisms, how these factors can underlie complex social behavior, and how they influence psychopathology in its many forms.

Aspects of academic development
  • extracting the main points of theories, findings and models in social neuroscience;
  • comparing different theories and models of social neuroscience by detecting the differences and similarities between them;
  • application of theoretical knowledge to case studies; using theories and models in social neuroscience to explain behavioral phenomena;
  • integrating and analyzing of information from different scientific sources;
  • using scientific papers for written and verbal argumentation;
  • using databases for scientific publications (e.g., PubMed, PsycInfo, Google Scholar) for literature research;
  • selecting relevant information from literature to use for written assignment;
  • training in scientific writing, presentation and debate in English;
  • using information from different levels of analysis (behavioral, physiological and neural) and thus different scientific disciplines (Neuroscience and Social Psychology) in order to answer a research question in social neuroscience.

This course stands on its own but it is also the first course for the minor Social Neuroscience.
Entry requirements
Prerequisite knowledge
General overview of psychology and the biological foundations of behavior.
Prerequisite knowledge can be obtained through
The courses 'Brain and behavior', 'Brain and cognition', 'Cognitive neuroscience' and 'Biopsychosocial perspectives on psychopathology' form a good basis for this course.
Private study materials
The books used in the above mentioned courses (e.g. ‘Brain and behaviour’, customized edition 2015, ‘Biological psychology’ by Kalat, ‘Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind’ by Gazzaniga, and ‘Abnormal psychology - An integrative approach’ by Barlow & Durand).
Required materials
Ward, J. (2016). The Student’s Guide to Social Neuroscience (2nd edition). Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis Ltd., New York. ISBN: 9781138908628.
Articles, whose references will be listed on Blackboard.
Instructional formats

Class session preparation
Reading the literature and completing the assignment(s).

Small-group session

Test weight40
Minimum grade5.5

For each partial result a minimum grade of 5,5 is required.

Test weight60
Minimum grade5.5

The exam exists of 2 parts: 1. the intermediate exam and 2. the final exam. See the course manual on Blackboard for an explanation of the composition of the final mark.

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