Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:decision-making.png

IDS 101.04:

Decisions, Decisions

Class: MWF 12:40-1:40pm, WLT 134




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:Basu_136.jpg

Sammy Basu PhD

Professor of Politics

sbasu@, x6264

Office: Smu 317 & MWTh 10:00-11:20



Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:branch.jpg


Lauren Branch

OD Leader and Peer Mentor




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:galliger.jpg


Ian Galligar

Writing Associate



                Course Description


Have you ever thought about thinking?  about how you know what you think you know?  about how you arrive at the judgments that you do?  about what it means to make good decisions?  Moreover, can the quality of your judgments and choices be improved?  can you learn to make better decisions?  Abundant recent theoretical and empirical work in fields including cognitive science, economics, neuroscience, and psychology has shed light on our mental processes of decision-making.  In this course we will consult Daniel Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By, among others in trying to decide about the nature of decisions.  We will also use their theories, concepts, and distinctions regarding reasoning, intuitions, and emotions, in our reading of two very different fictional representations of the complexity of decision-making: Don De Lillo’s White Noise, a caustic portrayal of the anxieties and mysteries that infuse everyday life in an apocalyptic contemporary America, and The Conference of the Birds, a theatrical adaptation of the 12th c. Sufi allegorical fable in which birds, symbolic of our all-too-human foibles, discover the nature of the divine in trying to decide who will be their king.  We will see the play performed and throughout the course make some white noise of our own.





Student Learning Objectives:




To develop students’ abilities to read closely.


This course includes a novel, a theatrical adaptation, and a social science text in behavioral economics, all of which will be read in their entirety.


There will also be periodic brief timely readings.


Students will also be reading and commenting on one another’s written drafts.




To develop students’ abilities to discuss reflectively.


Most of our class periods are organized around discussion that is informed in turn by the assigned readings, or other material shared in class.


Students will also be expected to attend and participate in various co-curricular activities and events, with the assistance of the Peer Mentor.




To develop students’ abilities to write effectively.


There will be three writing assignments, each of which will be go through a process of drafting, and receive feedback from the Professor, the Writing Associate, and peers in class.


There will also be occasional informal in-class writing.




To develop students’ abilities to think critically.


Ultimately, the measure of the reading, discussion, and writing undertaken for the class is that students become more adept at making arguments supported by claims, reasons, and evidence and more agile in anticipating and responding appropriately to counter-arguments and implications.




Grading Policies:




3 writing assignments (each)



-       timely drafts

-       online uploading and presentation







-       summer writing assignment

-       informal in-class writing

-       meaningful contributions to class discussion

-       co-curricular involvement and reflection




Credit Hour Compliance:




Students will spend 2-3 hours on the course, including reading, writing and relevant co-curricular activities for every hour of in-class time.




Disability Accommodation:




Willamette does not discriminate on the basis of disability in any of its programs, services or activities. The school will not deny any otherwise qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in, or benefit from, any aid, benefit or service that Willamette provides. Willamette will also strive to accommodate students with disabilities on an individual basis. Willamette will make whatever reasonable accommodations it can to accommodate students with disabilities, unless the accommodations would pose an undue burden to the school.




Religious Accommodation:




Willamette University recognizes the value of religious practice and strives to accommodate students’ commitment to their religious traditions whenever possible. When conflicts between holy days or other religious practice and academic scheduling arise, every effort should be made to allow students to adhere to their tradition, including, when possible, excusing class absences and allowing make-up work. A student anticipating the need to miss a class for religious reasons should alert the faculty member within the first two weeks of the semester, and the two of them should determine the next course of action. Any unresolved difficulty should be referred to the Office of the Chaplains.




Honor Code and Plagiarism:




“We will hold ourselves to the highest standards of moral, academic excellence.  We will proudly submit only our original work.  We will never attempt to give ourselves or others an unfair advantage.  We will commit to upholding our honor and the value of our work.  Through this commitment we will serve as an example to our peers.”








Expectations of Students and Obligations of Professor, e.g.

Attendance & Participation




Decision Rule: where class consensus is necessary it should be by a majority of 12 out of 15.

Absences: For any absence, regardless of reason or excuse, a 250-word summary (of the reading/themes of the class missed) is due at the start of the following class attended.

Punctuality: Students should arrive on time.  If a student is more than 5-minutes late at the start of class, he or she will have to do a dance to the music in his/her own soul.

Seating: Students who arrive early should arrange seats in a semi-circle appropriate for discussion.

Technology: Cell phones can be on but should be on silent/buzz etc.  Professor reserves the right to answer a phone if it rings.  Laptops in class are fine but use of them should not be distracting to others; if it is it will be confiscated!

Food: Food in class is fine but consumption of it should not be distracting to others.

Mutual Respect: Students are to refrain from using racial or ethnic epithets or slurs and also from calling out particular students in terms of their identity.  We may however talk about the existence of such language and the stereotypes that support them in ways that are consistent with the course.


Swearing: occasional and appropriate is ok.


Taboo subjects: none



Learning Center



Course Readings:







Description: :pictures:PredicatblyIrrational.jpg

Predictably Irrational:

The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Rev Ed. Harper (2009)

Daniel Ariely,

(1967- )

Israeli-American Professor of Psychology

Description: :pictures:Ariely2x.jpg





Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:white-noise-delillo.jpg


White Noise

Penguin Classics (2009)


Don DeLillo

(1936- )

American author of fourteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, three plays, and numerous short stories and essays.

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:2013CC:2013CCBASU:pictures:show_6b20e134424aef5ec12f661aecb42275.jpg





Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:2013CC:2013CCBASU:pictures:41qqikeij1L.jpg


The Conference of the Birds

Dramatic Pub Co (1982)


(in WISE)


Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (1142?- c.1220) Persian Muslim Sufi poet who composed some 45,000 distichs (couplets) and many prose works.

Description: :pictures:Attarxx.jpg

Description: :pictures:PeterBrookx.jpg

Peter Brook

(1925- )

English theatre and film director, renown for innovative cross-cultural adaptations

Jean-Claude Carriere

(1931- )

French screenwriter and actor, collaborator with director Luis BuĖuel and Peter Brook

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:13FCCBASU:pictures:jean_claude_carriere.jpg





Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:13FCCBASU:pictures:brainfacts_image.ashx.jpeg

Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous

System 7th Ed.







Description: Macintosh HD:Users:Sammy:Desktop:mtLiBU6yoPvZx0scwEBz-tQ.jpg

Hacker, Diana., & Sommers, Nancy.

A Pocket Style Manual (6th ed.). 

Bedford/St. Martin's (2011).







Summer Assignment:

‘Three postcards’ [see email or WISE announcement]




Opening Days (OD):



Aug 22nd 



4:15-5:30pm Class





Honor Code

Social Contract

Communication Norms



Complete the Plagiarism and Cheating Tutorial on WISE

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:thinkers_cartoon-26nmykq.jpg






Aug 23rd

830-1015am prep time



1030-Noon Convocation: ‘How not to spend the next four years’


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:Helfand-590.jpg

David Helfand


President (2008-present)

Quest University, Canada.

President American Astronomical Society.

On leave from Dept of Astronomy,

Columbia University.




130-300pm Class

Liberal Arts Education



Aug 24th

830-1030am prep time


1030-Noon Class

leaving the nest

Reading your Three Postcards.



Assignment: create your first college level resume by starting here

Direct any and all questions you might have to the Career Center.   

They will help you through each step to your final draft.  Please drop your final copy in the assignment drop box by 4pm on Sunday Aug 25




Noon-200pm Lunch with Class & OD leaders in Goudy




900-1030am Class

How did you decide on Willamette and why did Willamette choose you?

      With Michael Beseda, VP Enrollment and University Communications

Liberal Arts education at Willamette.




1030-300pm Advising Appointments [to be scheduled] Smullin 317






















Description: Macintosh HD:Users:Sammy:Desktop:Decisions.jpg




Regular Schedule begins




Aug 28th

Our Readings.

Dan Ariely (17min) and Predictably Irrational, pp.xi-xxii (introduction)

Paul (2012). ‘Your Brain on Fiction’ [Handout and/or in WISE]

Don DeLillo (7min) and White Noise, ix-xviii (Intro), pp.3-4 (ch1)

Attar (and Brook), The Conference of the Birds (2min), preface




Eg. Plato (428-348BCE), Greek philosopher: reason

Eg. Adam Smith (1723-1790), Scottish philosopher and political economist: self-interest



Aug 29

Advising meetings



















Aug 30

Predictably Irrational, introduction, pp.xi-xxii, pp.1-23 (ch1)

- ‘relativity’, visual example


Reading Questions for Ariely


Main Claims/concepts, causes/reasons, evidence/examples




Eg. House buying



Eg Faces, Ariely


Eg CEO salaries and why does this matter?


Red Light, Green Light




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:white-noise-by-don-delillo.jpg




Everyday Life & Fear: or amusing ourselves to death



Sep 2

No Class – Labor Day




Sep 4

White Noise, part one, pp.5-46 (ch2-10)


Reading Questions for DeLillo



1.     cast of characters?

2.     decision-making qualities of lead?

3.     decision-making qualities of characters as articulated by lead?

4.     decision-making qualities of characters made evident by behavior?

5.     general pronouncements on humanity by lead or other characters?

6.     confirmation of Ariely’c claims thus far?

7.     other or contradictory dynamics?

8.     what does DeLillo mean by white noise?

9.     what do you recognize in yourself?



Eg. Kip Kinkel (1998) Springfield Oregon

Eg. Dakota (2013) in Hillsboro Oregon

Eg. Rajneesh (1981-1985) in Antelope Oregon

Eg. Hitler speaking




Sep 6

Predictably Irrational, pp.25-74 (ch2-3)



Eg. Black pearls

Eg. Starbucks coffee sizing

Eg. Plato’s Republic and the Myth of Er (draws)

Eg. John Oliver

Eg. Gift certificates

Eg. Credit cards

Eg. WU Gen Ed QA requirement




Lauren on making the most of the co-curricular and extra-curricular

Drafting your Willamette Plan




Sep 9

White Noise, part one, pp.47 -104 (ch11-20)



Eg. Heinrich Himmler


Be prepared to respond to the 9 reading Q regarding pp.3-104.




We are fragile creatures in a world of hostile facts.

We must endure the irony of being the most advanced creatures on earth yet also as such doomed by knowledge of own death.

Family and crowds and society itself shelter us from uncertainty, arbitrariness and death, but do so through misinformation and arbitrary artifices.

White noise: info/message overload and brain fade, ... [more to be said about this]

Instead, learn to look and listen as children do.

What does it take to realize and then want to do this?



Sep 10

Last Day to Add/Drop Full Sem. & 1st Half Semester courses



Sep 11

Predictably Irrational, pp.75-118 (ch4-5)



Eg. Norman Rockwell, Freedom from want,

Eg. Seinfeld and maid

Eg. Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides

Eg. Burning Man and here and here

Eg. WU and sa

John Locke (1632-1704) (2T 5.27) v Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) (SC III.XV)



Sep 13

Predictably Irrational, pp.167-182 (ch8)

Paper One discussed and distributed.


Eg. Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (1972)

Eg. The Marshmallow Study Revisited (2012)

Eg. White Noise or this

Eg. asthma (2012)

Eg. cancer rates

Eg. PBDEs, the causal process, the US, and the EPA (2011), CDC&P (2012), to do

Eg. Causes of death




White Noise is normalcy that goes unnoticed.

Though artificial and constructed fundamental features of the status quo are experienced as natural or inevitable.

In effect, as a result, we make decisions that we don’t deliberate upon.




Sep 16

Deciding on Information and Resources

Willamette University LibGuide

Meet in Hatfield Library


Doreen Simonsen

Humanities/Fine Arts Librarian

(503) 375-5343 (phone)

(503) 370-6141 (fax)




WU Internship and Volunteer Fair




Sep 17

Last Day to choose CR/NC grading on 1st Half Sem. Courses



Sep 18

Predictably Irrational, pp.183-198 (ch9)



Jean Buridan (ca 1300-ca1358) and his ass

US Congressional Gridlock, public confidence, overall, and reasons



Sep 20

Back to White Noise and Writing Assignment – Peer Review




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:2013CC:2013CCBASU:pictures:Farid-ud-Din-Attar.jpg




Everyday Life & Total Transcendence: or taking a Sufi trip



Sep 23

Paper One Due
Grade Distribution:  

A 1

A- 3

B+ 4

B 3

B- 2

C+ 1


Meet in Theatre Lobby, with

Bobby Brewer-Wallin

Associate Professor Theatre / Costume Design



Dead can Dance - Yulunga (6.30min)




Sep 25

The Conference of the Birds, (1, 6.45min)


Maneq al-ayr by Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, in full Farīd al-Dīn Muammad ibn Ibrāhīm ʿAṭṭār, also called Farīd al-Dīn Abū amīd Muammad

(born 1142?, Nīshāpūr, Iran—died c. 1220, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]), 




Mystic Mint Cookies and here

Louis CK on cell phones



Illustration ca 1600

Illustration through calligraphy 2009

Illustration by Peter Sis 2011

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, ‘Sea of Vapors’ (4min)

and Michael Brook, ‘My Heart, My Life’ (6min)

Nitin Sawhney, ‘Homelands’ (6min)




Sep 26

Wu Theatre Play Preview

7:30pm – Optional






Sep 27

The Conference of the Birds, (2)


Read: M.A. Roque, ‘Birds: metaphor of the Soul




Islamic Mysticism: An Introduction to Sufi Islam (6.23min)

Talking about Jesus with a Sufi Mystic (9min)

The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism

Are you a Christian Mystic?




Sep 29

Wu Theatre Play Performance – attendance required

2-5pm, we attend Play and stay for Talk-Back afterwards


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:cooper_400.jpgDescription: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:cooper_250a.jpg




Sep 30

The Conference of the Birds, (3)

The original work, theatrical adaptation, and impacts of Sufism today


Read: MZ Varul. 2013. ‘The Sufi ethics and the spirits of consumerism.’




Other forms of response: paintings, life in Iran today




Oct 2




James Kellenberger. 1999. ‘The fool of the Psalms and religious epistemology,’ in WISE




Oct 4




Jeremy Waldron. 1993. ‘Religious Contributions in Public Deliberation,’ in WISE


Pew: religion and politics




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:13FCCBASU:pictures:ChemicalDisaster.jpg




Everyday Life & Collective Death: or getting to the apocalypse through chemicals




Oct 7

White Noise, part two (1) pp.107-56 (ch21)


Eg. Love Canal, Niagara Falls, New York, 1978, 1979, 1990, 2013 and vid (11min)


Eg. Hurricane Katrina, this, eg, this, this, this, and this


Eg. E-waste (2008), 2010, 2013


Eg. Bhopal, India (1984, 2012)

Eg. Hungary (2010)

Eg. South Korea (2012)

Eg. Abidjan, Ivory Coast (2012)

Eg. America’s 28 most polluted places (2010)

Eg. Picher, Oklahoma (1981, 2006)

Eg. Lousiana Sinkhole (2013)

Eg. Alberta, Canada (2013)

Eg. Detroit toxic cloud (2013)




Oct 9







Oct 11

Predictably Irrational, pp. 199-270 (ch10-12)






Oct 14

Predictably Irrational, pp.271- 308 (ch13-14)


Dan Ariely: ‘The Truth about Dishonesty’ (animated; 11 min); ‘On Cheating’ (2009) (10 min)

The Willamette Ethic and the Honor Codestudent-generated

Princeton Honor Code




Oct 16

Your Principles of Life

Paper Two assigned






Oct 18

Mid-Semester Day, no CLA classes, No CC class






Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:13FCCBASU:pictures:Murder.jpg




Everyday Life & Murder: or how to make very bad decisions




Oct 21

White Noise, part three, pp.159-201 (ch22-27)



Supermarket Persuasion

Fruit Marketing




AgeWatch Rankings Global

AgeWatch USA Report Card

USHHS, ‘Profile,’

Jared Diamond, ‘Honor or Abandon,’

Senior Abuse

Senior Hunger

Senior Incarceration




EPA Radiation Protection

Radiation Chart

Project Censored Cell and Microwave

Europe on Cell and Wi-Fi




Oct 23

Predictably Irrational, pp.119-166 (ch6-7)



Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:2046869_orig.jpg


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:8ee3e401-79e0-4480-b935-7baddebfce59.jpg


Sigmund Freud – Theory of the Psyche, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5




Oregon graduated driving licensing


US savings rate, Economist, NYT

American Gun TV Show


History of the US from perspective of bullet Cartoon




Oct 24

1130-1230, past summer's CC grant recipients talking about their research process






Oct 25

White Noise, part three, pp. 202-68 (ch28-36)


Ian – signup sheet






Oct 28

Predictably Irrational, pp.309-22 (ch15)







Oct 30

White Noise, part three, pp.269-310 (ch37-40)



Hitler speaking

Nazi Propaganda (5 min)

Mortality rates in the US




Nov 1

No Class - Meetings with Writing Associate on Drafts






Nov 4

Paper Two Due!


Brains on Trial: Deciding Punishment, Episode 2 (56min)




Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Dropbox:13FCCBASU:pictures:brain.jpg




Nov 6

Brain Facts

The universe inside your head (5min)

What do you think about when you think about brains? (4min)

Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness. (18:43min)

...Your principles






Nov 8

Brain Facts and the characters in WN and CotB

Your Principles cont’d

Paper Three distributed




RSA: Does Brainstorming work? (2.21min)

Xtranormal: So you want to go to law school (5min)

Brickfilm: How to make Lego animation (3min), Examples



IPhone and Stop-Motion, Video






Nov 11

Life Principles

Saying something useful about decisionmaking




Harder than it looks

Vine stop-motion examples

Dominique Friqot Our last song video

Mac how to


Brain Awareness Video Contest

Online Video Contests




Nov 13

Finding the right balance

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:barreiro.jpg

Mathilda (Mat) Barreiro

            Director, Academic Support

Learning Commons, Ford Hall 1st floor, 107B




Visit the following pages and be prepared to ask questions:




Nov 15

Getting from here to there

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:houser.jpg

Jerry Houser, Ph.D.

Career Services Director/Associate Dean





go to the "My Credentials" page,

watch the videos,

(If not done yet) do the Optimal Resume program,

come with a printout.




Nov 18

Academic Advising


There is also a helpful pdf on web registration at:


Degree Audit Example




Nov 20

Lunch off-campus

Description: Macintosh HD:Users:sbasu:Desktop:franchise_osushi_logo_011012.jpg



(503) 391-4352

520 State ST




Nov 22

Paper Three Presentations




‘Study Techniques’

Team Decision, the Decision Team

Ryan, Brendan, Michaelyn




‘Expectations and Stereotypes’

Team Unplugged

Maddy, Caleb, Traci




‘The Pain of Paying’

Team Macs

Matt, Cheyenne, Steven, Alex







Nov 25

Paper Three Presentations (cont’d)




Student Evaluations





Team Wing It

Janelle, Clancy, Scott, Brittany



Nov 25- Dec 5

Web Registration



Dec 7, 8, 11


Study Days

Dec 9-14


Final Examinations