Course Description

In the film The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist by profession, is also a cannibalistic serial killer and a psychopath. In A Clockwork Orange, Alex is a teenage sociopath who cuts school, drinks in excess, assaults people who are homeless, and rapes women as part of the fun he engages in with his gang members. Why do some people engage in antisocial behavior? When does psychopathology begin? Are all adolescent delinquents like Alex doomed to a life crime and psychopathology like Hannibal?

This is a course on antisocial and maladaptive behavior. We will explore a series of controversies related to the topic from multidisciplinary perspectives. Firstly, we will examine its origins and causes, highlighting the growing body of literature arguing that children as young as 2 years of age show neuro-developmental dysfunction, which is readily visible via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The course will sketch out a life-long trajectory of maladaptive behavioral patterns beginning in childhood, coming to a climax in adolescence and ultimately diminishing or persisting into early adulthood resulting in psychopathology. Secondly, we will examine societal responses to maladaptive behavior, exploring ethical questions such as whether MRI technology is a good idea to use in early childhood and adolescence and whether incarceration is the best place to attempt to reform and rehabilitate juvenile delinquents. Is early identification of antisocial and psychopathological markers good or harmful to the individual's school and social outcomes? The overarching goal of the course is to engage in an in-depth discussion of the pros and cons of early identification of maladaptive behavior and consider if punitive responses such as long-term incarceration are effective measures to reduce maladaptive, antisocial behavior in adulthood.

The course will make use of popular media, current scholarly literature, and case law to explore the dimensions of maladaptive and psychopathic behavior. There will be site a visit to a juvenile detention center as well as lectures by guest scholars conducting research on related topics. Students will read literature from a range of published sources, and the course will culminate with a scholarly presentation on a topic of their own selection with the option of working with a partner or small group. Students interested in psychology, juvenile criminal justice, education, sociology, and pre-law are encouraged to enroll in this course.

GenEd Information: Not currently approved for IU Bloomington GenEd. See the GenEd Website for more information.


IFS course instructor photo

Course Instructor: Theresa Ochoa

Theresa Ochoa is an associate professor in the School of Education. Her primary area of research is in emotional and behavioral disorders. She conducts research in juvenile correctional facilities and teaches courses at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels. Undergraduate education has been a central focus of her career since 2000, when she arrived to IU. She has taught undergraduates in small and large lecture courses and has organized and supervised trips to out-of-state conferences, as well as one trip to Switzerland where IU undergraduates served as educational ambassadors to a multinational conference on leadership development. Professor Ochoa serves as senior editor for an undergraduate journal she co-publishes with undergraduate students.

Psychopaths: Born or Made?

Psychopaths: Born or Made?: Courses: Intensive Freshman Seminars: Indiana University Bloomington