Individual & Society

The Individual & Society stream considers various questions, including:

  • Why do we think, feel, and behave as we do?
  • How are we affected by social norms, social roles, and cultural traditions?
  • How do the market forces of supply and demand affect individual consumers and businesses?
  • How do economic events affect Canadian society?
  • How are expressions of individuality a form of social action, and how are they linked to ideas about race, class, gender, and sexuality?
  • How does the globalization of economies and the movement of people across borders change how we think about categories like “the individual” and “society” ?

Then you should consider registering for CAP’s Individual & Society stream!

The relationship between the individual and society often colours our world in ways we may not immediately recognize. This stream considers how individuals are products of and contributors to modern society. Examining issues and texts from psychological, economic, and literary perspectives, this stream will introduce students to ideas around identity, behaviour, and market forces, in the context of contemporary society. We will also pursue important concepts such as motivation and emotion, language and thought, producers and consumers, supply and demand, public and private, as well as social roles, values, and social justice.

This stream may be of particular interest to students who plan on majoring in Economics, Psychology, English, or Commerce.

Term One Courses

ASTU 100A Arts Studies Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms) – First Year CAP Seminar: Focuses on writing and reading, including both literature and introduction to academic scholarship. This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation for academic writing and related research communicative practices within an interactive learning environment.

  • ASTU 100A Sections I01, I02, I03 -  Narratives of Crisis in Literature and Culture
    Mon, Wed & Fri 2 - 3; Tues & Thurs 11 - 12.30; Mon, Wed & Fri 11 - 12
    Dr. Evan Mauro

In this CAP stream, we investigate relationships between “individual” and “society,” focusing on the different ways these two levels of analysis influence and complicate each other. More specifically, our section of ASTU 100A will focus on the concept of crisis, a term that is increasingly used to describe both individual and social phenomena. What does it mean to call something a crisis today? How are crises defined, and what cultural work do these definitions do? If “crisis” once meant an extraordinary situation, it has more recently become part of the fabric of everyday life:  subprime crisis, Eurozone crisis, environmental crisis, jobs crisis, and so on. Using selected literary and film examples, this course will pay attention to common threads between narratives of personal and socio-political crisis. We will investigate who defines these different crises, who benefits from those definitions, and what it might mean that our sense of crisis has been normalized to the point that we now understand our everyday state of affairs as a prolonged crisis, unfolding slowly.

  • ASTU 100A Section I04 -  Getting Unstuck
    Mon, Wed, Fri 12 - 1
    Carmen Mathes

ASTU 100A is a full year course that brings together the study of literature and culture with the study of academic research and writing. Over two terms, we will explore how academic writing is practiced in several disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, and we will learn how to locate, evaluate, and critique scholarly arguments, as well as how to respond to these arguments in our own writing.

In this “Individual and Society”-stream course, we will focus on the concept of “Stuckness”: a sense of inertia that leads individuals to feel lost, repeat harmful patterns, remain in difficult situations, or give up trying to change their lives, surroundings, or the lives of others. In term 1, we will explore, from the perspectives of psychology, literary studies, cultural theory and philosophy, possible reasons for “stuckness.” These include ideological constraints and inequalities along the lines of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. In term 2, we will explore literature that offers possible solutions or ways of “getting unstuck,” from the violent and reactionary to the quietly incendiary. By critically engaging with novels, poetry and film from a range of time periods and cultures, as well as scholarly readings from a variety of disciplines, students will develop a vocabulary for thinking and writing about change and resistance to change.

  • ASTU 100A Section I05 
    Tues, Thurs 2 - 3.30
    Fenn Stewart

What does it mean to "be yourself"? When is your self neither yours nor a self? Where does society stop and the individual begin? How is "the individual" shaped and formed by social and material relations? What kinds of "individuals" are produced and constrained by particular social formations? How are "the individual" and "society" helpful and/or problematic concepts in trying to think through what it might mean to live ethically with other people?
Over the course of eight months, we will engage these questions through a range of literary and scholarly texts. We will practice reading and writing scholarly prose, and producing literary and cultural analysis informed by research in a range of disciplines.

Economics (ECON) 101

(3 credits/1 term) – Principles of Microeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of markets and market behaviour, prices and costs, exchange and trade, competition and monopoly, distribution of income. Economics 101 introduces students to the elements of microeconomic theory and policy. The course focuses on the behavior of consumers and businesses, the effects of government policy, and the determination of prices, quantities and costs. Other topics include the fundamentals of international trade, the differences between market structures such as competition and monopoly, and the distribution of income. Students will participate in several on-line experiments in microeconomics this term.

Psychology (PSYC) 101

(3 credits/1 term) – Introduction to Biological and Cognitive Psychology
M, W, F 9 - 10
Mark Lam

With so much to learn as a university student, it would be great if you could use more than just 10% of your brain. Is this “10%” fact or fiction? What are the various parts of the brain and what are they responsible for? There’s so much to learn in university! What are the best ways to study to maintain your 95% average? Why do some students study so hard yet forget so much? Your roommate is an “interesting” person. You wonder if/how his drug use affects his brain and how to teach (train) him to be less of a slob.

Psychology is relevant to our everyday lives! PSYC 101 will answer these questions and introduce you to some of the major research areas within the field of psychology: the scientific study of the mind, the brain, and behaviour. The course begins with an overview of psychology and its research methods. Next, the course covers the biological basis of behaviour as well as cognitive psychology (the brain and the mind respectively). Specific topics include neuroanatomy, thinking and reasoning, consciousness, memory, learning, language, sensation and perception.

Term Two Courses

ASTU 100A Arts Studies Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms)

Economics (ECON) 102

(3 credits/1 term) – Principles of Macroeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of growth and business cycles, national income accounting, interest and exchange rates, money and banking, the balance of trade.

Psychology (PSYC) 102

(3 credits/1 term) – Introduction to Developmental, Social, Personality, and Clinical Psychology
M, W, F 9 - 10am
Mark Lam

All your hard work has paid off and you’ve made it to UBC! Does this mean you’re more intelligent than those who haven’t? There are so many assignments and exams! Can these stressors make you sick? Your new friends are quite different from you. How might they influence your beliefs and behaviours? You meet a special someone at a party and fall in love. How did your personality develop and will it determine the success of your relationship? The transition to university is difficult for some of your friends and their behaviour becomes strange. Should you be concerned? How are mental disorders diagnosed and how are they best treated?

Psychology is relevant to our everyday lives! PSYC 102 will answer these questions and introduce you to some of the major research areas within the field of psychology: the scientific study of the mind, the brain, and behaviour. This course addresses applied areas in psychology and will introduce such topics as intelligence, personality, human development, health psychology, social psychology, and the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders.

ECON 101 and 102

On-line experiments, conducted on three selected evenings during the term, give students the opportunity to participate in real-time, online markets with their classmates and the professor. These experiments help students understand how real markets operate, how they organize the economic activity of disparate consumers and businesses, and how the market collects and processes information. Students are assigned a variety of roles to play in each experiment and their success as market participants becomes a (small) part of their overall course grade.


Academic Speed Dating: Each student works on a question based on a selection of texts that expands on class discussion. They then have approximately 6 minutes in pairs to ask each other their questions and generate discussion about the texts. After 6 minutes, they rotate and work with another student and, at the end, they have a selection of different answers. Afterwards, they produce written responses to the exercise where they analyze their discussions and give a critical response to their classmates’ answers. It transforms the traditional classroom space into a dynamic forum for discussion and debate and allows students to apply their own frames of reference and experiences to the texts.

Archival research in UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections: Students spend one week examining readers’ responses to Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, a semi-autobiographical novel about the treatment of Japanese-Canadians during and after World War II. Students analyze these readers’ responses in relation to an argument by a literary scholar, and present their research findings in the form of a short paper. This project helps students understand how academics conduct primary research to produce new knowledge.

PSYC 100

Article Report: A psychological research article is assigned for students to read and summarize during Term 1. Each student writes a short article report summarizing and critiquing the article. Students are welcome to work in groups when discussing the article report, but the paper is written independently.

Group Project: During Term 2, students (working in teams of 2 or 3) conduct their own psychological experiment on an assigned topic. Students are responsible for designing and conducting the experiment and submitting a report.