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Jacqueline Woolley, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

Spring 2005

PSY 341K • Psychology of Fundamentalism - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
41535 MWF
3:00 PM-4:00 PM
NOA 1.102

Course Description

Fundamentalist groups represent the most rapidly growing segment of every major religion, in virtually every country. These groups pose a significant challenge to many aspects of society, for example: the nature of public discourse, the structure of the family, the content of public education, and the validity of separation of church and state. At the most extreme end, every religion has fundamentalist groups that turn to violence. While a good deal of work has been devoted to understanding these groups from the perspectives of history, sociology, and political science, much less work has been done in psychology. Yet psychology should offer significant insights into this phenomenon. Among other things, psychology ought to be able to address questions such as: the personality and cognitive makeup fundamentalists, the needs filled by this type of religious orientation, how a fundamentalist perspective structures a person’s world view, thinking, and attributions, and what provokes and sustains the movement into violence. The current course will explore the nature of fundamentalism, from the perspective of psychology. We will first address the phenomenon from the perspective of other disciplines, then move into the literature in psychology. Using this as a basis, the class will consider some possible psychological ramifications of, and explanations, for fundamentalism.

Grading Policy

Students will write four short (about 5-pages) reaction papers addressing on going issues covered in the class. They will also take a take-home final examination over the material. The exam will contribute 40% to the student’s final course grade. The reactions back will contribute 60%, each paper beingn worth 15% of the final grade.


Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God. NY: Ballentine Books, 2000. Bruce, Steve. Fundamentalism. Cambridge, UK : Polity Press, 2000. Juergensmeyer, M. Terror in the Mind of God. Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2000. Marty, Martin & Appleby, Scott. The Fundamentalist Project: Fundamentalisms Observed .Chicago The University of Chicago press, 1991. Recommended for students with little background: Argyle, Michael Psychology and Religion. London:Routledge, 2000.


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