Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses



PPE's advanced interdisciplinary courses (PPE 4500+) are the highest level classes offered by the program for our majors. They offer advanced students a quasi-graduate environment inviting students to the frontiers of research. Classes are taught by interdisciplinary instructors, on interdisciplinary topics, reserved for PPE majors. All PPE majors must take at least one advanced seminar to complete the major.

PPE majors are encouraged to take several of these courses to count towards your theme.

Course Goals

  1. Students should be able to accurately and clearly summarize a scholarly article. This requires basic understanding of the article's field, as well as the ability to write or speak clearly.

  2. Students should be able to raise and evaluate arguments on both sides of issues that an author has raised.

  3. Students should be able to criticize, without being unfair, without setting up straw men, and without neglecting possible counter-arguments to the criticism.

  4. Students should be able to give a presentation, effectively using visual aids as appropriate.

  5. Students should be able to synthesize readings into a position and defend that position against possible objections. They should know how to search efficiently for relevant literature.

Apart from our 4500+ Capstone courses, we also offer PPE 4000 courses, which are very small research-based seminars, capped at only 6 students. Topics change every year, depending on the projects and interests of our post doctoral researchers. Please see below, or check Path@Penn, for 4000 courses taught in the current semester.


Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses, Fall 2024

PPE 4000-302 Research in PPE: Computational Text Analysis for Social Sciences (Hsieh)

MW 3:30pm-4:59pm

This research group provides an introduction to computational techniques for the quantitative analysis of text. Since language is medium of social interaction, studying what people say and write can greatly enhance our understanding of social dynamics. The course provides a broad overview of machine learning and natural language processing, with a focus on their applications in the behavioral and social sciences. It provides hands-on training in the R language and Python, with an emphasis on their use in data collection and processing. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze large-scale textual data and contribute to the evolving landscape of social science research.


PPE 4600-301 Advanced Seminar in Political Science: Cooperation: Addressing Contemporary Societal Challenges (Hsieh)

M 12pm-2:59pm

In today's interconnected world, addressing pressing societal challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic requires a collective, coordinated effort. This interdisciplinary capstone seminar explores the complexities of human cooperation, drawing on insights from fields as diverse as political science, economics, psychology, anthropology, and biology. The course aims to illuminate how theoretical frameworks can enhance cooperation at various scales-from small groups to large-scale cooperation. By understanding these dynamics, we can develop strategies and interventions to foster cooperation and address the challenges we face. Special emphasis will be placed on understanding and addressing contemporary crises such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues serve as real-world examples of situations that require extensive cooperation and coordinated action. By the end of the seminar, students will have a deep understanding of the complexities of human cooperation and will be equipped with the tools to promote cooperative behavior in various contexts.


PPE 4600-302 Advanced Seminar in Political Science: Racial and Ethnic Politics (Moreira)

MW 3:30pm-4:59pm

How do racial and ethnic identities influence political behaviors, policies, and institutions? In this course, we will explore conceptual and methodological issues, focusing on how racial and ethnic groups shape and are shaped in turn by their political system. We will discuss a diverse range of groups, including African, Asian, European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous populations around the world. We will cover topics including the meaning of race and ethnicity, the historical impact of colonialism and civil rights movements, prejudice, group participation and mobilization, political representation, public opinion, the role of the media, political parties, government institutions, and policies intended to address racial and ethnic disparities.


PPE 4601-301 Advanced Seminar in Social Policy: Corruption (Patel)

R 5:15pm-8:14pm

This capstone seminar will cover a range of topics related to the political economy of corruption. We will consider theoretical, empirical, and normative issues related to the failures and successes of social, political, and economic institutions around the world (with a focus on the Global South). Specific questions we may consider include: What, if anything, is wrong with corruption? How do some markets (such as vote markets) operate despite seemingly insurmountable transaction costs? What is the relationship between formal and informal institutions, and what role does the character of such institutions play in the determination of social and political outcomes? We will use core concepts from PPE to evaluate and answer these questions.


PPE 4802– 401 Advanced Seminar in Psychology: Obedience (Royzman)

R 1:45pm-4:44pm

Though almost half a century old, Milgram’s 1961-1962 studies of “destructive obedience” continue to puzzle, fascinate, and alarm. The main reason for their continued grip on the field’s attention (other than the boldness of the idea and elegance of execution) may be simply that they leave us with a portrait of human character that is radically different from the one that we personally wish to endorse or that the wider culture teaches us to accept. In this seminar, we will take an in-depth look at these famous studies (along with the more recent replications) and explore their various psychological, political and philosophical ramifications.


PPE 4803 – 401 Advanced Seminar in Psychology: Modelling Choice Behavior (Bhatia)

R 1:45 – 4:45 PM

How do people decide and how can we study decision processes using formal mathematical and computational models? This course will address this question. It will examine popular quantitative modeling techniques in psychology, economics, cognitive science, and neuroscience, and will apply these techniques to study choice behavior. Students will learn how to test the predictions of choice models, fit the models on behavioral data, and quantitatively examine the goodness-of-fit. They will also get practice formulating their own models for describing human behavior. This class will have a major programming component, however no prior programming experience is required.


PPE 4900 – 301 Advanced Seminar in PPE: Cooperative Altruism (SNF Paideia Course) (Cordero) 

MW 12pm-1:29pm

Cooperative altruism is the intention to benefit sentient beings and work together to accomplish this. Students in this interdisciplinary course will collectively explore cooperative altruism, both in theory and in practice. By engaging with a variety of approaches and perspectives — from microeconomics and experimental psychology to contemplative sciences and North American indigenous philosophy — each student will develop a robust vocabulary to support their capacity to learn about and practice cooperative altruism in dialogue. The specific content and course of study will be partially determined by the themes that emerge in class discussions and assignments. However, students can expect to engage with questions such as: What is the relationship between self and other? What does it mean to benefit someone's well-being? Can altruism be developed within individuals, and if so, how? How can moments of individual altruism become sustained altruism in community? Some of the topics that students will learn about and reflect on as part of the course include love and compassion, risk and relationships, and service and social responsibility. This course is offered as part of the SNF Paideia Program. Students must request permission to register.

Previous Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses