Human Behavior Area Goals

GenEd Human Behavior courses address the relationships between individuals and
communities. Courses may focus on the relationship between individuals and communities in general or may engage those relationships from specific perspectives (such as art, music,
education, religion, economics, politics or education), or look at them within specific themes
(such as food & eating, crime, crisis, sexuality, adolescence).

Human Behavior courses are intended to teach students how to:

  • Understand relationships between individuals and communities;
  • Understand theories or explanations of human behavior used to describe social phenomena;
  • Examine the development of individuals’ beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions and how these affect individuals and communities;
  • Apply one disciplinary method to understand human behavior or explain social phenomena;
  • Access and analyze materials related to individuals, communities or social phenomena; and
  • Compare and contrast similar social phenomena across individuals or communities.


Ancient War Games: Sport and Spectacle in Greece and Rome

Every four years the world stages athletic contests that are based on the practices of ancient Greece. Every year the NFL assigns a Roman numeral to the Super Bowl and suggests its players are modern gladiators. Greek athletic games and Roman gladiatorial battles developed from the practice of warfare in their societies. American sports may be viewed as the descendants of these ancient “war games.” This class examines the similarities and differences in such sports and the societies that enjoyed (and enjoy) them. The Greek games replaced the blood of the battlefield with dramatic displays of military physicality, while the Roman games replicated this blood with armed combat before crowds of thousands. We begin by examining the origins, events, architecture, and rules of the Greek games, from Homer’s funeral contests to the development of the circuit of athletic festivals. Next we look at the “re-foundation” of the modern Olympics and its romanticized mythology in several important films. Then we turn to Roman blood-sports (animal fights, gladiatorial contests and spectacular criminal punishments) and chariot-racing, considering also the filters of modern Hollywood. We end with the rise of modern spectator sports, especially football.

Asian Behavior and Thought

We incessantly engage ourselves in doing things. We are beings-at-doing. We define ourselves by the kind of actions we perform. How we act or conduct ourselves is shaped by the kind of self we construct for ourselves. And that self is shaped by the society into which we happen to be born. Self-identity, which is socially and culturally constructed by our experiences and Interactions with others, carries a personal as well as an interpersonal meaning. Learn the four Asian paradigmatic cases of self-identity and examine your self in light of them.

Bilingual Communities

What is the relationship between language and identity? How do bilinguals sort between their two languages and cultures to form their identity? In bilingual cultures, is one language always dominant? What happens when a language or dialect is distinct from the dominant language or dialect of the greater society? Why did language resurgence efforts fail in Ireland but succeed in Catalonia, Spain? Why does Guarani enjoy greater protection in Paraguay than Mayan dialects in Guatemala? Is it possible to legislate language behavior? Explore issues of power and solidarity where two languages or dialects are in contact: How are these cultural identities expressed through choice of language? We look at a broad geographical range which might include the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Africa.

Creativity & Organizational Behavior

Being creative is about solving problems or approaching opportunities in novel and valuable ways. This course is designed to help ALL students better harness their full creative potential – whether you think: “I am not creative” or “I already have more ideas than I can handle”, this class will help you come up with more creative ideas that offer more value and have greater impact on the world. Although creativity has been studied by nearly every professional domain, this course focuses on creativity as a driver of organizational innovation – from non-profits to small businesses and large corporations to students’ own entrepreneurial startups, creativity and innovation are critical to providing value and ensuring long-term survival. Throughout this course students will develop important life skills while learning to creatively solve problems through a number of real-world innovation challenges. No matter what career or profession you are going into, being more creative and appreciating how and why modern organizations function the way that they do will help you to be more valuable, more employable, more innovative, and more entrepreneurial.

Criminal Behavior

Although we like to think differently, committing crime is an extremely common human behavior. From the extremes of armed robbery or serial murder to the ordinary failure to declare Income on tax returns or the tendency to speed on the highway, nearly everyone has broken the law and committed a crime at some point. Considering physiological, psychological and pharmacological factors, we explore the influences of family, peers and the effects of alcohol and drugs on the incidence of criminal behavior. And we examine how the urban and social environment encourages (or inhibits) opportunities to commit crime.

Disability Identity

Odds are that each of us will encounter disability at some point in our lives, either directly or indirectly through family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. What is it like to live with a disability, and how does disability intersect with other aspects of personal identity, like gender, race and culture? Is disability socially and culturally defined? Join us as we examine historical perspectives of disability marked by fear and discrimination and fueled by media portrayals. We will then explore most recent indicators of personal, social, and environmental change that support disability identity and result in a more accommodating environment for us all.

Eating Cultures

You are what you eat, they say, but what, precisely, determines our eating habits and what, exactly, do they say about us? How do these habits influence our relations with others in our communities and beyond? Eating is an activity common to all human beings, but how do the particularities and meanings attributed to this activity vary across different times and places? Using literature, visual media, cookbooks, food-based art, and advertisements as our starting point, we will examine how food perception, production, preparation, consumption, exchange, and representation structure individual and communal identities, as well as relations among individuals and communities around the globe. Our focus on this most basic of needs will allow us to analyze how food conveys and limits self-expression and creates relationships as well as delimits boundaries between individuals and groups. Materials will be drawn from a wide range of disciplines including, but not limited to, literary and gender studies, psychology, anthropology, history, sociology, and economics.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Using an interdisciplinary approach that looks at the theory of emotional intelligence and the leadership process in diverse personal, cultural, political, and business contexts, you will enhance your own leadership capacity. Develop conceptual thinking, self-awareness, self-management, personal motivation, social skills, and your capacity for empathy within a globalized and interconnected world. Engage in personal reflections, class discussions, small group experiential activities, and collaborate on a case study project as you observe and interview Philadelphia community leaders.

Guerrilla Altruism

According to the UN, more than one billion people do not have adequate shelter and more than 100 million people live in conditions classified as homeless. More than two billion people do not have access to safe drinking water or sanitation, including 400 million children. Almost four thousand of these children will die every day as a result. This course invites you to change these statistics. We will look to renowned thinkers and makers, strategists and guerrillas who have used grassroots strategies to help underrepresented populations affect change, including: Adbusters (Kalle Lasn), Architecture for Humanity (Cameron Sinclair), Pierre Bourdieu, Design Corp, Che Guevara, Michel Foucault, Heavy Trash, Jersey Devils, Kick Start International, Light (Jae Cha), Mad Housers, Carlos Marighella, and Rural Studios (Samuel Mockbee). You will use this research to realize a small-scale project, movement or intervention to aid a disadvantaged person or community group around Temple University, creatively offering your distinct talents to those who need them most.

Human Ecology

Human hunters may have contributed to animal extinctions as early as 10,000 years ago; civilizations in the ancient Near East developed complex irrigation networks that led to some of the area’s permanent deserts. Since pre-history, humans had an impact on the environment, but changes in technology have magnified the scale of human influence. Today, attempts at sustainable land use are often at odds with struggles for indigenous population rights, with population migration and increases in population size, or with desires to preserve areas for national parks or tourism, let alone attempts to exploit natural resources. Study the ecological principles underlying the relationship of humans with the environment and the explosion of conflicts surrounding modern environmental use.

Human Sexuality

Our sexuality is a core part of being human. We often think about sexuality in terms of the physical and reproductive aspects of sex. But our sexuality is complex and dynamic. We will address this dynamic complexity as we explore the physical, psychological, relational, and cultural aspects of sexuality. The goal of this course is to broaden your perspective of human sexuality, and deepen your understanding and awareness of your own sexuality and the many influences on this essential part of yourself.

Identity and Crisis

As we go through life there will be natural changes that we must deal with. For college students this involves for many being on your own for the first time, picking a major, trying to figure a possible work career, dealing with a roommate. There will also be unplanned changes or crises that each of us will face at different times, such as the sickness/death of loved ones; broken relationships; work problems, as well as our own mortality. One goal is to face each crisis in as healthy a way as possible, without physically or emotionally hurting others or ourselves. The Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech tragedies are an extreme example of how someone can lash out violently. The more prepared we are to deal with a crisis and conflict, the better we can come through it, helping ourselves and perhaps others too. Part of this preparation can involve examining our belief systems–including religious/spiritual—and the ways we perceive and think.

Interpersonal Communication

In a reflective, supportive environment, enhance your ability to develop successful interpersonal communication with your family, friends and work colleagues. Assess your own communication skills, develop and set personal goals and an action plan to create the change you wish to see. Investigate how interpersonal communication needs and effectiveness change throughout life, from early childhood, to adolescence, through young adulthood, middle age, and old age. There will be frequent small group discussions, and opportunities to learn through direct observation of real-life situations.

Kids, Community and Controversy

Why does Philadelphia have a dropout rate of roughly 50%? Why have students brought weapons to school and plotted to kill their classmates? Why, despite decades of progress in race relations, do schools remain largely segregated institutions? These questions are derived from three pressing social problems in American society that play out in our schools; high school dropouts, school violence, and segregation. Using these questions and the larger issues to which they are related, explore the multiple and often competing explanations for these and other social problems in American society. Learn about the search for creative solutions at the individual level as well as within our social structure. Guest speakers, observations within the Philadelphia school system, and analysis of films depicting these issues will enrich the course experience.

Language in Society

How did language come about? How many languages are there in the world? How do people co-exist in countries where there are two or more languages? How do babies develop language? Should all immigrants take a language test when applying for citizenship? Should English become an official language of the United States? In this course we will address these and many other questions, taking linguistic facts as a point of departure and considering their implications for our society. Through discussions and hands-on projects, students will learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret language data and how to make informed decisions about language and education policies as voters and community members.

Law and Literature, Law in Fact

LAWU 0833
Of what does fairness consist? One important component is, of course, decision according to rule, rendered by a neutral, impartial decision maker. But the rule of law ideal does not exhaust our conceptions of what is fair. Where strict application of rules seems unduly harsh, it may seem more fair to show mercy. Or sometimes we may prefer a decision maker who is not strictly impartial, but who can empathize with the person being judged. And sometimes it is important to focus on results rather than on procedure. This interdisciplinary course will use short stories (including Susan Glaspell’s famous tale, A Jury of Her Peers), novels (including Herman Melville’s Billy Budd), and a Shakespeare play (Measure for Measure) to examine different visions of fairness in the law. These materials present questions of enormous social and ethical relevance, such as whether and when we might “excuse” murder or whether and when it is permissible to lie in the service of truth. Through in-class discussions, a mock trial, and writing exercises, students will be asked to bring differing images of fairness to bear on an actual legal problem that arose right here in Philadelphia, in order to see how alternative ideas of fairness might affect the way in which we understand how to behave in morally complicated situations. Students will learn to think critically about ideas such as blame, responsibility and authority, to communicate those ideas both orally and in writing, and to consider how works of fiction can show us what is true about the world in which we live.

Marginalized Citizenship: Disability & Sexuality

This course traces the history of disability and sexuality through the industrial revolution through to the twenty-first century. Students will examine their own, as well as cultural and societal attitudes toward disability and sexuality. Students will be challenged to address questions such as: At what point does the cost to society outweigh the cost to the individual? What are the ethical considerations involved in the quality of life versus the sanctity of life arguments?

Meaning of Madness

What is madness? Insanity? Mental illness? Who decides where the line between madness and normalcy is drawn? How have conceptualizations of madness changed throughout history? Can the same behaviors be considered “insane” in one culture but typical, or even adaptive, in another? At what point do individuals with mental illness require special accommodations within families, schools, courts, and healthcare systems, and how do these accommodations differ throughout the world? What is “stigma” and how does it affect individuals with mental illnesses? This course will explore biological, social, and cultural factors that influence mental illness, perceptions of individuals with mental illness, and treatments of mental illness over time and across cultural groups.

Philosophy of the Human

PHILOSOPHY 0839, 0939
What is a human being? How do we become fully human, and how might that humanity be diminished or compromised? This course examines a range of answers to these questions from ancient, romantic, modern, postmodern, and postcolonial sources. Including the thought of Plato on the meaning of love, Emerson on our genius, Freud on our neuroses, and Fanon on our liberation, discussion turns to some of the most influential literary, historical, and cinematic treatments of the human condition as it appears in our own time.

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and the Law

LEGAL STUDIES 0805, 0905
Same-sex marriage. Gays in the military. Hate crimes. Chaz Bono and “Dancing with the Stars.” From the decriminalization of sodomy to the legalization of same-sex marriage to the implications of gender reassignment, sexual orientation and gender identity are some of the most rapidly changing subjects in society today. The progression (and regression) of societal attitudes toward differences based on sexual orientation and gender identity have led to legal developments that affect the lives of individuals in larger communities (LGBT and otherwise). This course will look at the intersections of law, psychology, sexual orientation, and gender identity to develop your understandings of the relationships between individuals and communities. It aims to teach you how to interpret human behavior and articulate your own point of view by examining the social and legal regulation of sexual orientation and gender identity. This course will look at issues involving sexual orientation, gender identity, social stigma, discrimination and injustice from legal and psychological perspectives. You will develop your critical thinking skills to evaluate social and legal responses to gender identity and sexual orientation. This course will address specific topics including employment discrimination, same sex marriage, family formation, LGBT youth (identity formation, bullying), military service, immigration and cross-national comparisons.

The Photographic Image

Is there more to photography than that single “decisive moment” in the hunt and capture of an image? How do photographers comment on issues that are important to them? How can photographs tell a story? Is there a way one can use the art of photography to elicit change? We will look at photography in its historical context–at the advent of documentary photography and photojournalism, and at narrative photography in its more contemporary form, as photographers use it to chronicle their own lives. Through looking at and making—with your digital camera–photographic images, you will learn several core concepts of social work and human behavior theory. You will learn about the place photography holds in our culture, and about our culture itself, and your place in that culture. We will critically analyze published photographs, as well as photographs you and other students have made. The semester will culminate in a class exhibition.

The Quest for Utopia

The extreme version of “the grass always been greener on the other side” has been a vision of a mythical place where all is peace, balance, perfection and happiness. The concept of utopia—somewhere better than this—has been with us for centuries, but what drives it? And why, when the quest is for betterment and maximum benefit for all, do utopias so often go bad? This course will examine what visions of utopia and dystopia have existed in literature from around the world. We will look at it alongside writing from a variety of disciplines to try to understand why utopia resists our reach, and the kind of behavior, for better and for worse, that the quest for utopia brings about.

Teens & Tweens

EDUCATION 0819, 0919
Exuberance, risk-taking, experimentation, breaking away, testing limits. Anxiety, peer pressure, competition, parental pressure, work and school, drugs and alcohol, test scores. These are some of the challenges that make adolescence one of the most intriguing and disturbing stages of life. Although adolescence is only one stage on the continuum of human development, in contemporary society the extended period between childhood and adulthood seems to capture all the attention. Why? This class takes a close look at one of the most confusing, exciting, and critical phases of development, the pre-teen and teen years. Using literature, TV and film, as well as articles and books from the field of human development, the course will explore how children grow into teenagers, how they survive the challenges of adolescence, and how they become productive adults.

Understanding Justice

LAWU 0834
This course will explore the idea of justice, with particular emphasis on how justice might be achieved through law. That exploration will incorporate conceptualizations of justice in political philosophy (Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Mill, and Rawls), as well as presentations of themes of justice in literature (Bible stories, Greek tragedy, and modern fiction). In the core portion of the course we will use these philosophical and literary materials, together with distinctively legal materials (cases, statutes, constitutional provisions), to probe the relationship between justice and law by examining the idea of legal rights (What are they? Who has them? Where do they come from? How are they related to notions of liberty and equality?), by considering how justice can be achieved through the way law is administered (What are “due process” and “equal protection”?), and by identifying the responsibilities of judges and lawyers with respect to the realization of justice through the legal system (What does it mean for a judge to be impartial? What is the responsibility of lawyers for the impact of their advocacy and counseling on third parties and on the larger society?). We will do all this by focusing on specific contemporary legal issues that raise vital questions of justice, including affirmative action, same-sex marriage, vaccination of children, workers protection laws, access to contraception, and abortion, among others.

Workings of the Mind: The Devil Made Me Do It

PSYCHOLOGY 0816, 0916
A Caucasian is heckled during his night-club act and goes into a rant against African-Americans. A celebrity is pulled over for DUI and goes into a rant against Jews. Both then claim that those behaviors are “not the real me.” They claim that they are not racist or bigoted. If they do indeed believe their denials, then we are left with a question: Why did they behave as they did? Perhaps we are not always in conscious control over what we do. Drawing on disciplines within psychology, including neuroscience and cognitive science, as well as clinical, developmental, evolutionary, and cultural psychology, we explore the possibility that we can process information and behave in response to information in ways that are out of our conscious control.

Youth Cultures

Do you listen to hip hop, spend all your time in Second Life, dress up like a cartoon character and go to anime fairs, or go skateboarding every day with your friends? Then you’re part of the phenomenon called youth culture. Often related to gender, race, class and socio-economic circumstances, youth cultures enable young people to try on identities as they work their way to a clearer sense of self. Empowered by new technology tools and with the luxury of infinite virtual space, young people today can explore identities in ways not available to previous generations. Students in this class will investigate several youth cultures, looking closely at what it means to belong. They will also come to appreciate how the media and marketing construct youth identities and define youth cultures around the world.