Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Uncovering the truth about bullsh*@

Wheaton Professor Matthew GingoAssistant Professor of Psychology Matthew Gingo says he has always enjoyed “people watching” and trying to make sense of what they do. He’s particularly interested in understanding the ways in which people lie and deceive each other. The First-Year Seminar (FYS) he offered last fall for aspiring leaders—from potential senators to football coaches—gave him and his students the perfect opportunity to explore the use of deceptive tactics and to determine how to see through to the truth of what matters. The title in and of itself was enough to intrigue the Quarterly to want to know more—“Cognition in the Wild: The Psychology of Bullsh*t, and Other Deceptive Tactics for Future Senators and CEOs.”

Tell us about what you explored in your FYS.

The course was designed around the idea that with all the information and misinformation that we are inundated with on a daily basis, we need to become discerning consumers of information. And that with the right approach, we could see through the cloud of B.S. that seems to hover over some of our most important issues. We focused on examining deception in a systematic and psychological way. Who lies to whom about what? Why do we lie? What are the telltale signs? When do we think deception is warranted, and why? The students in the class were really motivated, which meant that we got to consider those questions from a number of perspectives—from Kant and Bok, to the most current empirical articles on micro-expressions and cultural subversion. It was pretty cool. [Read more...]

Professor and students examine epidemics

Karen McCormackIn 2014, the largest Ebola epidemic in history affected several countries in West Africa. Coincidentally, before the outbreak became a major media story, Associate Professor of Sociology Karen McCormack was already exploring health and crime epidemics in her First-Year Seminar (FYS) “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality.” We talked to her about the course.

Tell us about the focus of your FYS and how the idea for it came about.

Over the past decade or so, many social scientists have used the techniques of epidemiology—the study of the determinants of health and the process and patterns of disease transmission—to learn about other social phenomena, like crime or even fashion trends. I’ve been fascinated by this attempt that parallels the work of sociologists to understand how contagion works, and how and why some people (as well as some neighborhoods, communities, and even states and countries) exhibit some degree of immunity from certain conditions. “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality” allowed me to explore these patterns with students. [Read more...]

The how and why

Professor explores judicial decision-making

Wheaton Professor Stephen MathiasJudges constantly make important decisions: that is, after all, their job. But ever wonder how they arrive at that decision? Or why? For more than a decade, Associate Professor of Philosophy Stephen Mathis has been teaching a jurisprudence course called “How Judges Reason,” helping students decipher the many influences on judicial opinions. Every year, new cases filtering through the American legal system keep the curriculum fresh, and writer Abe Stein caught up with Professor Mathis to see how recent Supreme Court opinions on high-profile cases have impacted his course.

How do you incorporate contemporary legal cases into the curriculum? [Read more...]

Listen up: Professor exploring Jesus in pop music

Delvyn CaseAssistant Professor of Music Delvyn Case, a composer of classical music, is a scholar who is most interested in popular music—in particular the intersections of popular music and religion in America. This fall, he is teaching the First-Year Seminar “Rock of Ages: Images of Jesus in Popular Music,” which explores provocative questions about those intersections. With such an intriguing title, we, of course, just had to know more.
[Read more...]