DEPARTMENTAL ADVISING EXPERTS: Charles A. Sanislow, Steven E. Stemler

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Department/Program Description

Psychology is the scientific study of mind, brain, and behavior. Areas of psychology represented in the department include human development, social psychology, cognitive psychology, cultural psychology, neuroscience, and psychopathology. Psychology majors receive broad training across these areas, have opportunities to pursue topics of particular interest in greater detail, and develop skills in research methods and statistics. Many majors also take advantage of opportunities to work in research laboratories, to serve as teaching assistants, and to participate in service learning courses. Students interested in this major are strongly encouraged to visit the Psychology Department and to download and read the Department Majors Manual for more detailed information, as early planning is important for preparing to declare and complete the major.

General Education
Stage I General Education Expectations must be satisfied at the time of admission to the major (six different departments, please refer to WesMaps for GenEd area and department). Students enrolled in courses needed to complete admission requirements during the second term of their sophomore year should still declare the major but will not be formally admitted until the end of the term upon successful completion of these courses. Students with outstanding requirements to complete should either declare a second major or submit a major deferral form to their class dean in the event they are unable to successfully complete the admission requirements for psychology. Fulfilling stage II General Education Expectations is required for completion of the major.
Courses for Non-Majors

PSYC105 is appropriate for non-majors.

Student Learning Goals

The psychology department learning goals are organized by four objectives:

Objective 1: Knowledge Base in Psychology

  • To understand and interpret basic theoretical perspectives, scientific principles, and empirical findings in three major content areas of psychology: (1) neuroscience and/or cognition, (2) psychopathology and/or developmental psychology, and (3) social and/or cultural psychology.
  • To learn how to formulate research questions and conduct psychological studies.
  • To obtain skills in statistical and data analysis techniques, quantitative and qualitative, and apply these techniques to psychological studies.

Objective 2: Scientific Inquiry and Critical Thinking

  • To critically assess scientific methodologies in psychology and human behavior, including:
    • understanding hypothesis formation;
    • applying standardized, reliable, and valid outcome measures; and
    • applying sound data-analytic techniques.
  • Integrate knowledge and methodologies across different kinds of observation in the study of human behavior and mental processes, including social, cognitive, perceptual, and biological processes, as well as influences of culture and gender.

Objective 3: Ethical and Social Responsibility

  • Recognize the necessity for ethical behavior in all aspects of the science and practice of psychology
  • Critically evaluate relations of psychological and behavioral knowledge with social policy, public health, and clinical practice.
  • Use psychological knowledge to clarify social disparities, and to promote human well-being and change in a multicultural and global context.

Objective 4: Communication

  • Acquire effective communication skills by disseminating research findings through skill-building in oral expression and expository writing.
Admission to the Major

Students wishing to declare a major in psychology should prepare as early as possible because declaration must be done during sophomore year. Psychology does not admit students to the major after the end of the sophomore year. Junior transfer students have until the end of the first week of the junior year and must meet all admission requirements, as listed below, at their previous institution.

At the time of application, a student must demonstrate that he or she (1) has taken two full-credit courses in the field of psychology at Wesleyan and received a B or higher in each course; (2) has completed the introductory psychology (or a replacement breadth course that allows an AP or IB credit in place of introductory psychology), research methods, and statistics requirements for the major (these same courses may be used to fulfill the first requirement as well); and (3) has fulfilled the University’s stage I General Education Expectations. If a student is enrolled in courses needed to complete these requirements during the second term of the sophomore year, the student should still declare the major; we will just not formally admit the student until the end of the term upon successful completion of these courses. Students with outstanding requirements to complete are required by the Dean's Office to either declare a second major or submit a major deferral form to their class dean in the event they are unable to successfully complete the admission requirements for psychology. Transfer students must receive a B or higher in each of two psychology courses from their previous institution.

Major Requirements

Ten psychology credits and General Education Expectations stages I and II are required for completion of the major. Nine of the 10 credits required for the major must be taken for a grade. Courses in introductory psychology and psychological statistics must be taken for a grade. Required elements of the major are introductory psychology (one credit), psychological statistics (one credit), research methods (one credit), one breadth course from each of three areas of psychology (three credits), a specialized course (one credit), and three additional elective credits that can come from any courses and tutorials associated with the major. (This description includes the already-completed requirements for admission to the major.) All courses must be completed by the end of the senior year.


PSYC105, a lecture class that provides a broad overview of the field, is required for the major and should typically be the first course taken in the major. The course must be taken graded if used for the major. The course should be taken in the first or second year. One can alternatively transfer a psychology AP or IB credit in place of this course (see the Advanced Placement section). Only one can be counted toward the major.


A psychological statistics course provides an introduction to data analysis in psychology. PSYC200 or PSYC280 is typically used to fulfill this requirement, but ECON300 is acceptable as well. The course must be taken graded if used for the major. A course in statistics should be taken in the first or second year (some research methods courses require statistics as a prerequisite). Only one may be counted toward the major.


A research methods course trains specific skills for evaluating and performing research. Research methods courses are numbered PSYC202-219. Some of these courses are more general, while others are focused on particular applications as indicated by their titles. A 200-level course in research methods should be taken in the first or second year (some research methods require statistics as a prerequisite).


Students are expected to develop knowledge across the entire field of psychology. Toward this goal, students must choose a minimum of one course from each of the three columns below. These breadth courses (numbered PSYC220-279) can be taken throughout one’s four years. When possible, a student should start with breadth courses of particular interest so that he or she can later do more advanced work in these areas.

Column 1
Select a minimum of one of the following: 1
Cognitive Psychology
Human Memory
Sensation and Perception
Cognitive Neuroscience
Motivation and Reward
Clinical Neuropsychology
Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain
Behavioral Neurobiology
Column 2
Select a minimum of one of the following: 1
Developmental Psychology
Psychological Measurement
Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
Psychology of Sexual and Gender Diversity
Educational Psychology
Discovering the Person
Column 3
Select a minimum of one of the following: 1
Social Psychology
Cultural Psychology
Culture in Psychology: An Introduction to Theory and Research
Psychology of Communities: Identity, Activism, and Social Engagement
Global Mental Health
Health Psychology
Psychology and the Law


These courses (PSYC300-399) aim to ensure that students study at least one subfield of psychology in depth. These courses have a variety of formats, including seminars (PSYC300-369) and advanced research labs (PSYC370-399), and admission is typically by permission of instructor. A student must take at least one specialized course that deepens the knowledge she or he gained in a breadth course.


To reach the 10 course credits necessary for the major, one may count any three other courses, tutorials, or teaching apprenticeships offered by the department or creditable to the major with the exception that only one introductory psychology and one statistics course may be counted towards the major, and no more than two teaching assistantships and four tutorials (or six including senior thesis tutorials) may be counted towards the major. For electives, two half-credit courses may be used in place of one full-credit course. Some courses (cross-listed with psychology or hosted in other departments) can be used as electives for the major but fulfill no other requirements and cannot be used for admission to the major. See Department Majors Manual for details.

Study Abroad
Any courses taken abroad must be pre-approved by the department chair.
Capstone Experience

Students interested in research opportunities are encouraged to develop statistics and research methods skills as early as possible, to develop broad knowledge in the research area of interest, and to then apply for permission of the instructor to enroll in an advanced research seminar. Speaking with individual faculty members about research opportunities that might be available in their labs is also appropriate.


By the beginning of their spring semester junior year, psychology majors who have earned at least a B+ average in all psychology courses and at least a B average in all nonpsychology courses are eligible to pursue honors in psychology by writing a thesis. A student must have a faculty advisor to write a thesis. An advisor should be secured by spring of the junior year through discussion with appropriate faculty. Honors will be awarded only if both the advisor and a second faculty reader evaluate the thesis worthy of honors.

Advanced Placement
Students who receive a Psychology AP score of 4 or 5 or an IB (International Baccalaureate) score of 6 or 7 and complete a full-credit breadth requirement course with a grade of B or better, can receive one credit for the AP/IB score. This credit will fulfill the introductory course requirement only if it appears on the Wesleyan transcript. After completing the necessary breadth course, the student must contact the Registrar’s Office for the AP credit or contact the Deans’ Office for the IB credit to have it transferred. AP/IB credits count as transfer credits. AP/IB credits apply toward oversubscription. The AP/IB credit counts as the one nongraded course allowed toward the major. AP/IB credits may not be used toward major admission. The preregistration system is now granting a prerequisite override for courses in which PSYC105 would satisfy the requirement for students with an AP score greater than 3.
Language Requirement

Applies only to the Class of 2018 and earlier: Learning a language other than one’s own enhances an understanding of and engagement with persons from cultures not one’s own. Psychology majors are required to work toward language proficiency in a second language. Specifically, for any language that is taught through at least the intermediate level at Wesleyan, majors are required to study through the second semester of intermediate level (that is, to have intermediate-level mastery). For languages only taught through the introductory level, students are required to study through the second semester of introductory level (that is, to have introductory-level mastery). This is not a required number of courses but, rather, a required level of mastery. Students for whom English is a second language or students who can demonstrate mastery of a foreign language at the intermediate level (by a language placement test indicating placement in an advanced course) may opt out of the language requirement. See Department Majors Manual for details. It is expected that students will wish to coordinate their language and study-abroad experience, but this is not formally required by the Psychology Department.

Transfer Credit
Students may transfer up to three psychology credits from other departments or institutions (including AP/IB psychology) or, if from study abroad, three psychology credits plus one credit from within the United States. These courses must be preapproved by the department chair. Even though a transfer credit may have been approved toward a University credit, it must also be specifically approved toward the psychology major. Transfer credits cannot be counted toward admission to the program except for transfer students. (Please request the Registrar’s Office or your class dean to send a copy of your transcript from your previous institution to the psychology department, so that all your psychology courses can be reviewed for acceptance to the major.) With the chair’s preapproval, transferred courses can be used to fulfill specific department requirements (e.g., a breadth course, a statistics course). Some transfer courses are not given a full (1.00) transfer credit and therefore the 10 credit requirement needs to be completed with other psychology courses.
Related Programs or Certificates

Concentrations: Students are not obligated to do a concentration within psychology, and the vast majority of students do not specialize in a particular area. However, we do have two concentrations within the major—in cognitive science and in cultural psychology. These are essentially ways of traversing the major (with a few additional courses) for students who would like to organize their coursework around either of those two themes. Concentrations are not declared at major declaration. Rather, a requirements worksheet for each concentration is to be turned in by early February in the second semester of the senior year. Students who successfully complete the requirements will receive a departmental certificate indicating completion.

  • Cognitive Science Concentration. Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mental processes. Many areas of psychology contribute to the study of cognitive science, including cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, fields that most typically use scientific research methods to study human mental processes. Beyond psychology, scholars use diverse methods to study mental processes in humans and nonhumans, including fields such as philosophy of mind, neuroscience and behavior, artificial intelligence, linguistics, education, and others. The focus of coursework within our department involves understanding the mental and underlying neural processes involved in areas such as human perception, attention, memory, language, and reasoning; as well as the development of these processes over the life span; and participation in laboratory research is expected. See the Cognitive Science Concentration Form on the department website for requirement details.
  • Cultural Psychology Concentration. Cultural psychology considers how the vast domain of culture and society is studied by psychologists, how cultural dynamics influence individuals, and how cultural practices define the various psychologies we practice. Many areas within psychology contribute to the study of cultures, including psychological measurement; social psychology, both experimental and qualitative; clinical psychology; developmental psychology; historical psychology; and cultural psychology. Beyond psychology, scholars in allied human sciences contribute to better understanding the dynamic relation of culture and psychology. Methods and theories abound in culture and psychology. Some focus on comparative research, others on ways of bringing the presence of underrepresented populations into scholarly projects, and some examine socio-political differences both between and within societies. While investigating social structures such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, and class is often central to works in this area, also of importance is understanding how such forces come to manifest themselves within the field of psychology and in our collective psychologies. See the Cultural Psychology Concentration Form on the department website for requirement details.
BA/MA Program
The psychology department offers the BA/MA degree program. Wesleyan senior psychology majors may only enroll in the fall semester. For more information, please visit the Office of Graduate Student Services.
General Introduction

Psychology offers the Master of Arts degree via the BA/MA program.  Students enrolled in this program, upon successful completion of the degree requirements, receive a BA after three/four years and an MA at the end of the additional year. From the perspective of the University, students are considered undergraduates during their first year of the program (the senior undergraduate year) and become graduate students in their second year of the program. However, because this is a combined degree program, in order to complete the two degrees, the student must submit a carefully devised and integrated study plan for the two years of the program at the time of application to the program.

The BA/MA program involves a close working relationship between a student and a faculty mentor. Before applying to the program, a student must have identified a faculty mentor in the Psychology Department who has agreed to direct the candidate’s two-year BA/MA research.


PSYC 549 & 550: Thesis Research/Advanced Research Seminar (2 credits; one credit per term of second year).

Four credits for advanced coursework: Any other graduate tutorials (PSYC 501/502, 503/504, 511/512; these can be taken during the undergraduate or graduate year), undergraduate tutorials taken for graduate credit (specifically, 401/402, 411/412, or 421/422; these can be taken only during the undergraduate year), undergraduate nontutorial courses in any department (usually 200- or 300-level courses) taken for graduate credit, or graduate seminars. No more than two of these four credits may come from tutorials; teaching assistantships of any kind may not be used for graduate credit.


A major expectation of this program is that students will spend at least 20 hours per week engaged in research. The research experience will culminate with an MA thesis demonstrating a student’s original contribution to knowledge, which the student will carry out in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements. Many students will choose not to write an undergraduate honor’s thesis during their last undergraduate year because they will be writing this more substantial MA thesis during their graduate year. While there is no prohibition against writing an undergraduate thesis should the student wish to do so, it cannot substitute in any way for the student submitting an MA thesis in their graduate year.

The research that you will be conducting for your MA thesis needs to receive ethics approval from either thePsychology Ethics Committee or the University Institutional Review Board (IRB). Ethics approval is required prior to initiating data collection for your research. If your proposed research poses minimal or no risk to participants, does not involve vulnerable populations, or does not include the collection of sensitive data, then you may submit a protocol for your proposed research to the Psychology Ethics Committee (via Catherine Race, administrative assistant). For information on what you will need to submit to receive approval from this committee please visit Psychology Ethic Committee website. If you plan to conduct higher risk research, study vulnerable populations, collect sensitive data, or if your research involves other complications, then you are required to submit your protocol to the University IRB.


Work on the MA thesis should progress as follows under the guidance of the faculty advisor.

First Year. By the first week in April of the first year of the program (the senior undergraduate year), an MA thesis committee must be established and must include the advisor and two or more additional faculty (the student must submit the Establishment of Thesis Committee Form to the faculty advisor by this date. Both the advisor and at least one of the additional faculty members must be in Psychology. By the first week of May, the student must set the date for the committee meeting to discuss and approve the proposal Scheduling of Thesis Proposal Meeting Form submitted to the advisor. The thesis proposal should be given to the committee at least two weeks before the scheduled meeting. While the date must be agreed upon by the first week of May, the actual meeting may be held anytime before the end of June as long as the thesis proposal is approved by the committee by the end of June (student should take the Thesis Proposal Approval Form to the thesis proposal meeting, and must return it and a copy of the proposal to the faculty advisor by the end of June. All these form are available at

Second Year. During the second year of the program, the student must complete the thesis. Unlike most other rules and requirements of the program, the rules governing the completion of an MA thesis are largely determined by the University’s Office of Graduate Student Services (OGSS). The student needs to complete an Oral Exam Schedule Date Form and submit this form to OGSS in April. The exact date on which this form needs to be submitted to OGSS is posted in the MA Exit Packet. A copy of the Oral Exam Schedule Date Form should be turned in to the faculty advisor. A variety of other forms must also be obtained from and returned directly to the University’s OGSS.All forms are included in the MA Exit Packet that can be found at

The final copy of the written thesis should be given to committee members by the student at least two weeks before the oral defense date; specific timing is up to the student’s committee.

Oral Defense. The oral defense/examination must be held during the oral exam period designated by the OGSS.This period is usually 3.5 weeks long and begins in mid-April and ends the first week of May. The specific dates for the beginning and end of the oral exam period are posted on the University’s Academic Calendar as well as in the MA Exit packet. The student should bring to the oral defense two forms required by the OGSS: the Oral Examination Form and an Approval of Thesis Form to be filled out by committee members. All forms are included in the MA Exit Packet that can be found at

The exact format of the defense has varied in the psychology department. You and your advisor should decide a format that works for you and your research. The basic flow is:

You give a talk presenting your research.

  • The length (somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes) is negotiable.
  • Open (to your friends, faculty, public) or closed (just your committee) is also negotiable.
  • Open question period after the talk.
    • You leave the room while the committee discusses.
    • You return to the room to receive your grade, feedback, and (assuming things have gone as planned) congratulations.
    • Your committee will let you know what revisions or corrections MUST BE MADE in order for the thesis to be complete and ready for submission.

You will receive separate grades for your written thesis and oral defense. These do not go on your transcript. They do stay in your file. You may decide, at some point in the future, to authorize someone (e.g., another graduate program) to find out your grade.