The Social Construction of Brains and Behavior

Fall Open
Class Standing
Ada Vane
Tara Hardy
“It wasn’t until school that we realized that we were abnormal.” Gilberto Hernandez 

How do we become who we are? Who decides what is “normal?” How do we understand rule-breaking and respond when people violate norms and laws? In this interdisciplinary program, we will examine perspectives on identity and behavior through the lens of psychology, sociology, and literature. We will investigate how our brains, environment, and the people around us interact to produce a wide range of behaviors in individuals and groups; how cultural norms and social structures shape our notions of selfhood, our identities, and our bodies; and the creation and consequences of labels such as “normative” and “abnormal.” 

In our fall explorations of social psychology, sociology and literature, we’ll think critically about the nature, origins, and outcomes of human social behavior and learn how to apply this information to our daily lives. Some questions will include: How does the brain create the self? What is the self, and how do we come to know ourselves? What influences our attitudes and decision-making processes? What is the nature of conformity and obedience? Why do intimate relationships form, succeed, and fail? How are our narratives and meaning-making influenced by larger-scale patterns of social interactions and relationships, including our social, cultural, economic, political, and historical contexts? 

In the winter, we’ll investigate the concepts of “normal” and “abnormal” in our studies of abnormal psychology, sociology and literature.  As we examine mental health conditions such as mood disorders, addiction, schizophrenia, and personality disorders, we’ll ask how history, culture, and political power have affected our perspectives on abnormality. Students will learn how to assess the clinical characteristics of mental disorders and will think critically about the theories, assessments, and treatments for each disorder. Students will also gain an understanding of the neurochemical processes involved. In addition, our curriculum will introduce students to survivor and resilience narratives and explore risks of pathologizing responses to traumatic events. 

Throughout the program, we’ll practice the techniques social scientists use to study human behavior. Students will write in response to program content, producing both academic essays and creative works. We will apply theory to analyses of case studies. Students can also expect lectures, readings, workshops, seminars, films, quizzes, collaborative projects, and playful exploration in our learning community. 

This program will be useful in many fields, but will be especially useful for students preparing for work in  psychology, writing, counseling, social work, sociology, social justice, literary arts, and helping professions. 

This program incorporates Greener Foundations. Greener Foundations is Evergreen’s in-person 2-quarter introductory student success course, which provides all first-year students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive at Evergreen. First-year students who register for 14 credits in this program will be placed into Greener Foundations for an additional 2 credits, totaling 16 credits. Once first-year students have been placed into Greener Foundations, they will receive an email confirming their registration status.


Course Reference Numbers
So - Sr (16): 20142
Fr (14): 20145

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10094
Fr (14): 10176

Academic Details

psychology, counseling, social work, sociology, criminology, criminal justice, social justice, helping professions


$50 each quarter for a required course reader


Hybrid (F)
Hybrid (W)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 D1107 - Workshop


Date Revision 2022-05-05 Faculty updated: Now Ada Vane & Tara Hardy (was Ada Vane & Toska Olson)