Psychology is defined as the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology includes such diverse topics as learning, intelligence, memory, motivation, perception, social interaction, judgment processes, development, and the causes and treatment of mental illness. Psychologists study these topics using various methods, including laboratory experiments and field studies, and they obtain information from both human and nonhuman animals. There is as great range of topics studied by psychologists – the unifying theme in psychological science is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.
In the Psychology curriculum, students become skilled in scientific methods of conducting psychological research. By the time of their graduation, Psychology majors will have taken at least four research methods courses (with labs) in addition to introductory and advanced topical courses.
Questions and answers for advisors
Which courses are suitable for first-year students?
All of our 100-level classes are suitable for anyone. We offer entry-level courses in 10 major subfields of psychology: Behavioral, Biological, Cognitive, Social, Child Development, Clinical, Gender, Sexuality, Community, and Cross-Cultural. First-year students are typically given preference in enrolling in 100-level classes.
Can students learn counseling techniques in psychology classes?
No. We provide students a strong background in psychological science. In some classes (e.g., Psychopathology), students will learn about mental illness, psychological disorders and effective therapies. Students who are interested in clinical or counseling psychology will learn how to conduct therapy in graduate school. Students studying pre-health may not practice medicine; neither may psychology undergraduates practice psychological therapy techniques.
What should students know about the Psychology major?
First, requirements are quite hierarchical, so students should take 201 as soon as possible (the prerequisite for 201 is one 100-level course).
201 is a prerequisite for 202 (201/202 cannot be taken in the same semester and both should ideally be completed in the sophomore year).
202 is a prerequisite for all 300 and 400 level classes.
Second, students are required to take at least four courses with labs (201/202 and at least two 300 level courses).
Students must have the matching 100 level course as a prerequisite for the 300 level course (e.g., 140 is a prerequisite for 340).
Thus, carefully planning is important so that students have taken the matching 100-level courses to enroll in the 300-level courses that are offered in their junior and senior year.
Also, students need to complete a 100-level course in each of 3 groups:
Group 1 (Psychology 110; 125; 130),
Group 2 (Psychology 155, 165, 175),
Group 3 (Psychology 135, 140, 145, 150),
and an additional course from one of the groups or Psychology 180 or Psychology 185.
Two 400-level courses are required and 201 and 202 are the prerequisites for these courses. The department chair can help can help in advising students who are not yet majors (the major can be declared only after passing 201).
Courses appropriate for prospective majors
Introductory courses appropriate for prospective majors
Students may begin the Psychology major by taking any 100-level course. The courses numbered between 110 and 170 are introductory courses that deal with a specific topic area in psychology (for instance, Social Psychology, Child Development, or Psychopathology). On occasion we also offer PSYC 180 - Topics in Psychology, on a variety of different topics.
Test scores and credits that may affect course selection
Students who achieve scores of 4 or 5 on the AP test for Psychology receive credit for PSYC 185, Survey of Psychology.
Courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Any 100-level course in Psychology (except PSYC 125) fulfills the distribution requirement.
Writing Intensive (WR):
PSYC 201 and 202 (intended to satisfy the WR requirement for Psychology majors)
PSYCH 325 (intended to satisfy the WR requirement for Neuroscience majors)
Quantitative Reasoning (QR):
For course descriptions, requirements for the major, and current classes, refer to the Psychology webpage.
Independent study/research or collaborative student-faculty research: This is an opportunity to work on an area of special interest to the student and faculty member. It is normally arranged through individual contact between the student and the professor in the semester preceding the actual project. Most Psychology faculty members have active research labs and students might be able to volunteer in the lab or conduct research even early in their career. Research involvement is an important factor in graduate school admissions.