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Social Science (SS) Courses (2017-18)

SS 98. Reading in Social Science. Units to be determined for the individual by the department: Elective, in any term. Reading in social science and related subjects, done either in connection with the regular courses or independently of any course, but under the direction of members of the department. A brief written report will usually be required. Graded pass/fail. Not available for credit toward humanities-social science requirement.
SS 101. Selected Topics in Social Science. Units to be determined by arrangement with the instructor: offered by announcement. Not available for social science credit unless specifically approved by social science faculty. Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
CNS/SS/Psy/Bi 102 ab. Brains, Minds, and Society. 9 units (3-0-6): second, third terms. Introduction to the computations made by the brain during economic and social decision making and their neural substrates. First quarter: Reinforcement learning. Unconscious and conscious processing. Emotion. Behavioral economics. Goal-directed and habit learning. Facial processing in social neuroscience. Second quarter: History and mechanisms of reinforcement. Associative learning. Mentalizing and strategic thinking. Neural basis of prosociality. Exploration-exploitation tradeoff. Functions of basal ganglia. Instructors: Camerer, O'Doherty.
CNS/SS/Psy 110 ab. Cognitive Neuroscience Tools. 9 units (3-0-6): second, third terms. This course covers tools and statistical methods used in cognitive neuroscience research. Topics vary from year to year depending on the interests of the students. Recent topics include statistical modeling for fMRI data, experimental design for fMRI, and the preprocessing of fMRI data. Not offered 2017-18. Instructor: Rangel.
Ec/SS 124. Identification Problems in the Social Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. Statistical inference in the social sciences is a difficult enterprise whereby we combine data and assumptions to draw conclusions about the world we live in. We then make decisions, for better or for worse, based on these conclusions. A simultaneously intoxicating and sobering thought! Strong assumptions about the data generating process can lead to strong but often less than credible (perhaps incredible?) conclusions about our world. Weaker assumptions can lead to weaker but more credible conclusions. This course explores the range of inferences that are possible when we entertain a range of assumptions about how data is generated. We explore these ideas in the context of a number of applications of interest to social scientists. Instructor: Sherman.
H/SS 124. Problems in Historical Demography. 9 units (3-0-6): first term. Birth, marriage, and death-the most basic events in people's lives-are inextricably linked to larger economic and social phenomena. An understanding of these basic events can thus shed light on the economic and social world inhabited by people in the past. In this course students will be introduced to the sources and methods used by historical demographers to construct demographic measures for past populations. In addition, the course will cover a broad range of problems in historical demography, including mortality crises, fertility control, infant mortality, and the role of economic and social institutions in demographic change. While the emphasis is on societies in the past, there will be some discussion of modern demographic trends in various parts of the world. Not offered 2017-18.
Ec/SS 129. Economic History of the United States. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. An examination of certain analytical and quantitative tools and their application to American economic development. Each student is expected to write two substantial papers - drafts will be read by instructor and revised by students. Not offered 2017-18.
Ec/SS 130. Economic History of Europe from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Employs the theoretical and quantitative techniques of economics to help explore and explain the development of the European cultural area between 1000 and 1980. Topics include the rise of commerce, the demographic transition, the Industrial Revolution, and changes in inequality, international trade, social spending, property rights, and capital markets. Each student is expected to write nine weekly essays and a term paper. Not offered 2017-18.
PS/SS 139. Comparative Politics. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. The politics of non-American political systems with an emphasis on their electoral systems and methodologies for assessing their compliance with democratic standards. Students will be expected to develop data sets appropriate to analyzing elections in individual countries and offering an assessment of the pervasiveness of fraud in those elections. The student's grade will be determined by a final written report reporting the methodology and results of their analysis. Instructor: Lopez-Moctezuma.
An/SS 142. Caltech Undergraduate Culture and Social Organization. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Students in this class will help develop hypotheses, methods, and background information for the design of a new class to be offered in subsequent years, which will seek to pose and empirically test questions related to cultural and social aspects of the Caltech undergraduate experience. Central to this project will be an examination of the theory of social networks and the role they play in the academic and social experience. Other qualitative and quantitative methods for future data gathering will also be designed. Not offered 2017-18.
CS/SS/Ec 149. Algorithmic Economics. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. This course will equip students to engage with active research at the intersection of social and information sciences, including: algorithmic game theory and mechanism design; auctions; matching markets; and learning in games. Instructor: Echenique/Pomatto.
CNS/Bi/SS/Psy/NB 176. Cognition. 9 units (4-0-5): third term. The cornerstone of current progress in understanding the mind, the brain, and the relationship between the two is the study of human and animal cognition. This course will provide an in-depth survey and analysis of behavioral observations, theoretical accounts, computational models, patient data, electrophysiological studies, and brain-imaging results on mental capacities such as attention, memory, emotion, object representation, language, and cognitive development. Instructor: Shimojo.
SS 200. Selected Topics in Social Science. Units to be determined by arrangement with instructors: offered by announcement. Instructors: Staff, visiting lecturers.
SS 201 abc. Analytical Foundations of Social Science. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. This course covers the fundamentals of utility theory, game theory, and social choice theory. These basic theories are developed and illustrated with applications to electoral politics, market trading, bargaining, auctions, mechanism design and implementation, legislative and parliamentary voting and organization, public economics, industrial organization, and other topics in economics and political science. Open to Social Science graduate students only. Instructors: Saito, Tamuz, Pomatto.
SS 202 abc. Political Theory. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. Course will introduce the student to the central problems of political theory and analysis, beginning with the essential components of the democratic state and proceeding through a variety of empirical topics. These topics will include the analysis of electoral and legislative institutions, legislative agenda processes, voting behavior, comparative political economy, and cooperation and conflict in international politics. The student will be sensitized to the primary empirical problems of the discipline and trained in the most general applications of game theoretic reasoning to political science. Open to Social Science graduate students only. Instructors: Hirsch, Katz, Kiewiet.
SS 205 abc. Foundations of Economics. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. This is a graduate course in the fundamentals of economics. Topics include comparative statics and maximization techniques, the neoclassical theory of consumption and production, general equilibrium theory and welfare economics, public goods and externalities, the economic consequences of asymmetric information and incomplete markets, and recursive methods with applications to labor economics and financial economics. Open to Social Science graduate students only. Instructors: Doval, Echenique, Palfrey.
SS 209. Behavioral Economics. 9 units (3-0-6): spring term. This course explores how psychological facts and constructs can be used to inform models of limits on rationality, willpower and greed, to expand the scope of economic analysis. Topics include overconfidence, heuristics for statistical judgment, loss-aversion, hyperbolic discounting, optimal firm behavior when consumers are limited in rationality, behavioral game theory, behavioral finance, neuroeconomic dual-self models, and legal and welfare implications of rationality limits. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 210 abc. Foundations of Political Economy. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. Mathematical theories of individual and social choice applied to problems of welfare economics and political decision making as well as to the construction of political economic processes consistent with stipulated ethical postulates, political platform formulation, the theory of political coalitions, and decision making in political organizations. Instructors: Agranov, Gibilisco.
SS 211 abc. Advanced Economic Theory. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second terms. May be repeated for credit. Advanced work in a specialized area of economic theory, with topics varying from year to year according to the interests of students. Instructors: Cvitanic, Doval, Echenique/Pomatto, Saito.
SS 213 abc. Financial Economics. 9 units (3-2-4): first, second, third terms. First term: asset pricing theory, statistical tests on historical data and evidence from financial markets experiments. Second term: financial econometrics, with emphasis on applications to risk management. Third term: general equilibrium foundations of asset and option pricing theory. Not offered 2017-18.
SS/Ma 214. Mathematical Finance. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. A course on pricing financial derivatives, risk management, and optimal portfolio selection using mathematical models. Students will be introduced to methods of Stochastic, Ito Calculus for models driven by Brownian motion. Models with jumps will also be discussed. Instructor: Cvitanic.
SS 215. Asset Pricing Theory. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course is designed to get students familiar with modern research in asset pricing theory. It covers topics like arbitrage and pricing, mean-variance single period problem, arbitrage pricing theory, basics of continuous-time finance, valuation of assets in continuous-time and risk-neutral pricing, term structure results and considerations, intertemporal consumption-based asset pricing models, information economics, and some recent development in intermediary-based asset pricing models and behavioral asset pricing models. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 216. Interdisciplinary Studies in Law and Social Policy. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. A policy problem or problems involving the legal system will be studied, using concepts from at least one social science discipline. Each offering will be taught by a law professor, alone or in conjunction with a member of the social science faculty. The topic will differ from term to term, so the course may be taken more than once. Selected undergraduates may enroll in this course with the permission of the instructor. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 217. Advanced Behavioral Finance. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. In this class, we discuss frontier research in behavioral finance, a field that builds models that are psychologically more realistic than their predecessors in order to explain empirical facts in economics and finance. The course covers a wide range of research papers, both theoretical and empirical, so that by the end of the course, students become knowledgeable about market inefficiencies and some trading strategies implemented by hedge funds, psychology and human irrationalities, investor trading behavior, and basic tools that help people to make better investment and saving decisions. The class can be useful for graduate students from all divisions with strong analytical skills and some basic knowledge about economics and finance. Instructor: Jin.
SS 218. Neuroscience Applications to Economics and Politics. 9 units (3-0-6): second term. Topics in behavioral, affective, and social neuroscience that inform how individuals make economic decisions. Applications of neuroscience ideas and methods to understanding choice under risk and uncertainty, temporal discounting and self-control, advertisement and preference formation, habit, addiction, and judgment bias. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 222 abc. Econometrics. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. Introduction to the use of multivariate and nonlinear methods in the social sciences. Open to Social Science graduate students only. Instructors: Shum, Gillen, Sherman.
SS 223 abc. Advanced Topics in Econometric Theory. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. A course in quantitative methods for second- and third-year social science graduate students. Instructors: Sherman, Shum, Gillen.
SS 225. Experimetrics. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. This course explores the interaction of experimental design and econometric inference in the laboratory approach to economic questions. The course critically evaluates existing experimental studies to highlight this interaction and motivate consideration of inferential strategies early in an experiments design. Methodological topics may include testing theories in two-by-two designs, power and optimal design, classifying subjects into canonical types, testing based on elicited preferences and beliefs, and challenges introduced by communication and dynamics in economic experiments. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 228 abc. Applied Empirical Methods in the Social Sciences. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. Course covers methods used in contemporary applied empirical work in a variety of social sciences. Topics covered include (a) maximum likelihood, Bayesian estimation, management and computation of large datasets, (b) reduced form methods like instrumental variables (IV), difference-in-differences (DID), natural experiments, event study and panel data methods, and (c) structural estimation. Emphasis is on the application of tools to substantive social science problems rather than statistical theory, in areas including political science, political economy, corporate finance, and accounting. Application focus will vary with instructor interests. Instructors: Katz, Ewens, Lopez-Moctezuma.
SS 229 abc. Theoretical and Quantitative Dimensions of Historical Development. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second terms. May be repeated for credit. Introduction to modern quantitative history. The tools of economic and political theory applied to problems of economic, social, and political development in a historical context. Second and third terms will be graded together. A pass/fail will be assigned in the second term and then changed to the appropriate letter grade at the end of the third term. Instructors: Rosenthal, Hoffman.
SS 231 abc. American Politics. 9 units (3-0-6): first, second, third terms. A three-term course in American politics and political behavior. While drawing from con temporary materials, the course will emphasize the historical background of American political institutions. Instructors: Alvarez, Hirsch.
SS 232 abc. Historical and Comparative Perspectives in Political Analysis. 9 units (3-0-6): second, third terms. Provides a knowledge and understanding of developments in both the American past and in other parts of the world. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 240. Techniques of Policy Research. 9 units (3-0-6): . The application of social science theory and methods to the formulation and evaluation of public policy. Not offered 2017-18.
SS/CS 241. Topics in Algorithmic Economics. 9 units (3-0-6): . This is a graduate-level seminar covering recent topics at the intersection of computer science and economics. Topics will vary, but may include, e.g., dynamics in games, algorithmic mechanism design, and prediction markets. Not offered 2017-18. Instructor: EAS and HSS faculty.
CNS/SS 251. Human Brain Mapping: Theory and Practice. 9 units (2-1-6): second term. A course in functional brain imaging. An overview of contemporary brain imaging techniques, usefulness of brain imaging compared to other techniques available to the modern neuroscientist. Review of what is known about the physical and biological bases of the signals being measured. Design and implementation of a brain imaging experiment and analysis of data (with a particular emphasis on fMRI). Instructor: O'Doherty.
SS/Psy/Bi/CNS 255. Topics in Emotion and Social Cognition. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Emotions are at the forefront of most human endeavors. Emotions aid us in decision-making (gut feelings), help us remember, torment us, yet have ultimately helped us to survive. Over the past few decades, we have begun to characterize the neural systems that extend from primitive affective response such as fight or flight to the complex emotions experienced by humans including guilt, envy, empathy and social pain. This course will begin with an in-depth examination of the neurobiological systems that underlie negative and positive emotions and move onto weekly discussions, based on assigned journal articles that highlight both rudimentary and complex emotions. The final weeks will be devoted to exploring how the neurobiological systems are disrupted in affective disorders including anxiety, aggression and psychopathy. In addition to these discussions and readings, each student will be required to write a review paper or produce a short movie on a topic related to one of the emotions discussed in these seminars and its underlying neural mechanisms. Instructor: Mobbs.
SS 260. Experimental Methods of Political Economy. 9 units (3-3-3): first, second, third terms. Survey of laboratory experimental research related to the broad field of political economy. Topics: the behavior of markets, organizations, committee processes, and election processes. Emphasis on experimental methods and techniques. Students will design and conduct experiments. May be repeated for credit with instructor's permission. Instructor: Plott.
SS 281. Graduate Social Science Writing Seminar. 9 units (3-0-6): third term. Only open to advanced graduate students in social science. How can social scientists write in a style that makes someone actually want to read their papers? This seminar combines writing exercises with help in planning a professional social science paper and with extensive comments on drafts. Not offered 2017-18.
SS 282 abc. Graduate Proseminar in Social Science. 3 units (2-0-1): first, second, third terms. Course for graduate students in social sciences. Students present their research and lead discussion of material relevant to their research program. Open to Social Science Graduate Students only. Instructor: Camerer.
SS/Psy/CNS 285. Topics in Social, Cognitive, and Decision Sciences. 3 units (3-0-0): second term. Select faculty will present their research background, methods, and a sampling of current questions/studies. Background readings and pdf of presentation will be provided. Instructors: Adolphs, Staff.