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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


The Individual in the Social World

Dates: June 24-July 15, 2017 (3 weeks)
Credits: 3 credits
Eligibility: current sophomores, juniors, seniors
(see eligibility requirements)
Status: This program is not being offered in 2018


This intensive introduction to psychology has long been a favorite with Summer College students. It explores how we, as individuals, understand and get along in the broader social world.

Humans are a social species, and our connection to one another is a core element of our experience. Led by Thomas Gilovich, the Irene Blecker Rosenfeld Professor of Psychology at Cornell, Amy Krosch, an assistant professor in Cornell's Department of Psychology, and Karen "Casey" Carr, associate dean of students for mental health awareness, this program examines how and why people act differently in the same situation, sometimes as a result of the culture in which they were raised, the family in which they grew up, or the genetic make-up they inherited.

We'll also discuss how and why different situations, especially social situations, channel behavior in particular directions, minimizing and overcoming differences between individuals.

In addressing these themes, we'll investigate such questions as:

  • Why do we hold stereotypes?
  • How do we decide what motivates other people's actions?
  • How are beliefs and attitudes formed and changed?
  • How do invisible social norms influence our behavior?
  • What factors determine whom we like and love?
  • What is the nature of emotional experience?
  • Why are people capable of great cruelty and inspiring altruism?

Along the way, we'll learn how these questions can be scientifically studied, so that our knowledge of human behavior can rest on a solid foundation and go beyond the speculations offered for millennia by philosophers, poets, and other astute observers.

In addition, we'll put our theories into action. After exploring careers in the field of psychology, we'll review selected case studies, learn basic counseling skills, and discuss the signs of depression and suicidal ideation. We'll focus on how to help a friend, and we'll meet with residents of a substance-abuse recovery center and people challenged by mental illness.

Course expectations

Students should be prepared to:

  • read 30 pages a night,
  • write one short paper,
  • take a weekly quiz,
  • participate in their daily sections, and
  • be attentive during the daily lectures.

International students: Due to the volume and complexity of the reading material, we recommend this program for students who have earned a 103 or higher on the TOEFL exam and at least a 7 on the IELTS exam.


You'll be enrolled in the three-credit course Personality and Social Psychology: The Individual in the Social World (PSYCH 1280).

This course meets Mondays through Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., and either:

  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1:45–3:00 p.m.,
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:45–3:00 p.m.,
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 3:15–4:30 p.m., or
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:15–4:30 p.m.

Maximum enrollment: 75

Note: You may combine this program with a three-week 2 program to create a six-week Dual Program.

Required textbook

Title Author Cost
Social Psychology (4th edition) Gilovich, Keltner, Chen, & Nisbett $163.25

This title will be available at The Cornell Store.

Special scheduling


  • Tuesday, July 4: Class will be held.
  • Monday, July 10: College Admissions Workshop, 2:30–3:45 p.m.

Checkout dates and times

Before making travel plans, review the checkout dates and times for your program. We strictly adhere to these deadlines.

Program directors

Professor Thomas Gilovich

Thomas Gilovich is the Irene Blecker Rosenfeld Professor of Psychology at Cornell and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research. He obtained his BA from the University of California and his PhD from Stanford University and has taught at Cornell since 1981.

In 2012, Gilovich received the honor of being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which includes leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts.

Gilovich's research examines how people make judgments and decisions in their everyday and professional lives. This has led him to study judgments and decisions in the world of politics, economics, sports, and relationships. Currently, he is focusing on the interrelationship between intuition and reason in decision-making.

Gilovich is most widely known for his research that debunks the “hot hand” in basketball and for his books, How We Know What Isn’t So, The Wisest One in the Room, and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes. He is also the author of Heuristics and Biases (with Dale Griffin and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, 2002) and Social Psychology (with Dacher Keltner and Richard Nisbett, 2010).

Gilovich teaches judgment and social psychology to undergraduate students at Cornell.

Amy R. Krosch

Amy Krosch studies how social and economic factors shape the way we see, think about, and make decisions for others. She takes a multilevel approach to research, integrating ideas and methods from experimental social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral decision-making, and psychophysics.

Krosch received a BS in psychology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she investigated the role of intersectionality in discriminatory judgments. Before pursuing graduate studies, she worked as a research associate and the assistant director of the Center for the Decision Sciences at Columbia University, where she investigated the neural underpinnings of intertemporal choice and risky decision-making.

Krosch completed a PhD in social psychology from New York University. Her dissertation examined the effects of economic scarcity on discrimination through multiple levels of social perception, from mental representations to neural encoding. Most recently, she worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, examining the role of reinforcement learning in social valuation and intergroup decisions. She joined the Cornell Psychology Department as an assistant professor in July 2016.

“Being an effective educator is extremely important to me, and fundamentally connected to my research interest in social justice. I strive to make psychological science accessible to all students, incorporating their unique experiences while fostering their critical thinking skills, even encouraging dissent. My ultimate goal as an educator is to make difficult concepts and methodologies comprehensible, interesting, and relevant, while encouraging and guiding students to be critical and cautious consumers. I take seriously my role as teacher and mentor, recognizing that the training of future generations is most critical for the growth of our science.” — Amy Krosch

Casey Carr

Karen "Casey" Carr just retired as the associate dean of students for mental health awareness at Cornell University and advisor to Cornell Minds Matter, a student-run mental health advocacy group. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell in 1974 and her master's in social work from Syracuse University.

Her career experience includes the Tompkins County Probation Department, Elmira Psychiatric Hospital, Cornell Empathy, Assistance and Referral Service, and sixteen years in private practice. She is passionate about helping students become more resilient while they learn about psychology and mental health. This will be her twenty-fifth year teaching the summer seminar.

Student experiences

"I loved the structure of this class. We were told what was expected of us in the beginning, which made it easier to get ahead and keep up with the reading material. I also loved how lectures not only covered the information but also went above and beyond that." — Ashima Agarwal, 2016

"I enjoyed the challenge of classes and the chance to explore Cornell and Ithaca. Professor Gilovich is a great lecturer, and I found the experience informative and fun." — Lily Zheng, 2016

"I would highly recommend it this course for its fascinating and engaging professor and subjects." — Frank Shlafer, 2015

"Professor Gilovich is easily one of the smartest and most engaging teachers I have had." — Michael Kellner

"Professor Gilovich is brilliant and entertaining." — Julie Horwath

"Everything about the Intro to Social Psychology course was amazing, but my favorite aspects would have to be the lectures and the career seminars. Professor Gilovich was so engaging that I really looked forward to his lectures every day. The career seminars were also very beneficial. We covered topics from mental illnesses to the benefits of studying social psychology. The best part about this course is that I can apply everything I learned to everyday life!" — Oluwaremilekun Ojurongbe

Student blogs