The Psychology of Endings:
Psychology 382 Syllabus (Fall 2007)

Neil Lutsky

Olin 111, x4379, e-mail: NLUTSKY@CARLETON.EDU
Course Meetings: Olin 103, Tuesday and Thursday, 1:15-3:00

Organization and Requirements:

The seminar will examine the psychology of endings. Most concretely, this means we will be reviewing observations, theory, and research on a selected set of specific endings, including those associated with psychotherapy, social interaction, personal relationships, social roles, and life itself.

Why would anyone want to do this? For one reason, it seems like it would be valuable to understand the psychology of each of the endings listed above on its own terms. Moreover, an examination of one type of ending may raise questions or highlight insights that are relevant to understanding another type of ending. In fact, according to some views, there is good analytic reason to expect that the psychological characteristics of any particular ending may be related generally to the psychological characteristics of other endings (or at least some prototypic or central endings).

What does it mean to talk about a "psychology" of endings? What are the psychological questions of interest to us? In part, this is something to be answered in greater detail during the term. For now, the following questions can be considered illustrative of those we will pursue: How and when do we bring endings about or do endings occur? What is the effect of the anticipation of an ending on our behavior and experience while we are still involved in the activity or relationship that will end? What are the psychological forces (e.g., personal skills, personality traits, social-situational constraints, and emotional concerns) that influence the possibility or character of endings? How do we experience endings and things ended after their endings have occurred? Why do persons frequently find it so difficult to consider, accomplish, or manage endings? What makes an ending a good or poor one? What characteristics of endings make particular endings more or less similar? What do the psychological dynamics of ending something tell us about the general psychological character of that thing? In other words, what can we learn about the general psychological features of relationships, social interaction, psychotherapy, and the living of lives from a study of the endings of those things?

This is an advanced seminar. My expectation is that each of us will take responsibility for the conduct of each class meeting. This expectation will be reflected in the grade you receive for this course, 40% of which will be dependent on the quality of your structured and unstructured participation in class. Please read carefully, consider topics and readings seriously before class, identify and develop questions for class discussion, and participate in class discussion actively, thoughtfully, and critically. I will also expect you to complete (a) a paper on the psychology of endings (due October 18) and (b) a major research proposal due on November 8. The only constraint on the topics for these papers is that they relate to some facet of the psychology of endings and that they receive the prior approval of the instructor. Please begin your work on these assignments well in advance of the due dates. I will meet with each of you later in the term to discuss your work. These assignments and your reports to the class on them will count for 60% of your final grade.

Finally, please remember that I would enjoy talking to you about course-related issues outside of class time and invite you to stop by my office to do so.

Required Books:

Course Topic and Reading Schedule:

September 10, 2007