Psychology

Professor Jill Hooley, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind, and as such, we investigate the minds of humans and other species. We try to understand the mind at many different levels of analysis, from taking measurements from the brain, through learning about the individual, all the way to understanding groups and organizations. The kinds of questions psychologists attempt to answer are: How do we perceive the physical world? Does our view of it coincide with reality? How do we make sense of the social world? Can we really understand the minds of others? Which others, and do the groups “they” belong to matter? Why do we pay attention to some things and not others? How do memories form and how do we forget? Can we be said to have a memory even if we can’t “remember”? What are the rules by which we reason and think? What’s the role of emotion as expressed in the joy, surprise, sadness, anger and fear of everyday life as well as in depression, schizophrenia, and other disorders? What are the causes of these kinds of disorders, and how can they be treated? Are we rational beings or only boundedly so? Why do we believe in religion, do we have unshakable feelings of morality, and how best should we study our own consciousness? How do all these processes develop from infancy to adulthood? To answer these and other questions about the mind, psychologists pay attention to evolutionary factors, biological bases, cultural and social inputs, as well as the day-to-day situations in which individuals find themselves. Most of the research conducted in Harvard’s Department of Psychology concerns basic psychological processes such as attention, perception, memory, categorization, reasoning, decision-making, language, cognitive and social development, social cognition, intergroup relations, and morality. In addition, some members of the department conduct research on the etiology, development, and treatment of psychopathology. All members of the department share the common goal of understanding mind, brain, and behavior through empirical investigation, and their teaching and research reflect this goal.

As part of a liberal arts education, the primary goal of the Psychology concentration is to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the human mind.  In the process of doing so, other goals will also be achieved: the skill to critically assess quantitative evidence from experimental and correlational data, to learn to take difficult and previously unstudied problems of mind and society and bring them under experimental scrutiny, to learn to speak and write about questions of great theoretical and social importance that involve the mind. Knowledge of human psychology informs students to be good practitioners of law, education, medicine, business, and life in general.  Thus, the ultimate goal of the concentration is to engage students in the very exciting life of the mind.

The department seeks to serve undergraduates with a diverse set of goals. It understands that a small number of concentrators seek to prepare themselves for graduate work in psychology or neuroscience; many plan to attend professional schools of law, medicine, public health, or business; and some see a concentration in psychology as interesting and valuable intellectually but do not base their future vocational plans upon it. The department has kept all these reasons in mind in designing its concentration requirements. The requirements have been structured so that students start with an Introductory Course that provides a broad introduction to the field, progress to Foundational Courses that each provide a more focused examination of a sub-area of psychology, and then take Advanced Courses in more specialized areas of interest.

REQUIREMENTS

General Track in Psychology
Basic Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Introductory Course: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science, one course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.
    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971, one course, required by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded. (See item 2.)
    3. Basic Methods: Psychology 1900 or Statistics 101, one course, required by end of sophomore year. Must be passed with a grade of C- or higher.
    4. Foundational Courses: Two courses, recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded. Select two of Psychology 14, 15, 16, 18; Science of Living Systems 15; Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 or Molecular and Cellular Biology 81 (only one of these courses may be taken).
    5. Research Methods: One course. Choice of Psychology 1901 or one Lab Course, required by end of junior year. Select Lab Course from a list on the concentration's website.
    6. Advanced Courses: Six courses. All letter-graded. (See items 5A and 5B.) See the department's website for a list of advanced courses.
  2. Tutorial: Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971 is a semester-long tutorial required for concentrators by the end of sophomore year. Sophomores planning to concentrate in psychology may enroll in the fall semester. Students who enter the concentration late should enroll in Psychology 971 upon entering the concentration. The sophomore tutorial will examine from a variety of perspectives issues and phenomena addressed in contemporary psychological research.
  3. Thesis: None.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information:
    1. Counting Non-departmental Courses toward the Advanced Course Requirement: Up to two Non-departmental Courses may be taken in partial fulfillment of the Advanced Course requirement (see item 1F above). These courses may either come from a list of pre-approved, Expedited Non-departmental Courses from the concentration website, or students may petition for approval to count a Non-departmental Course not already on the pre-approved list.
    2. Petitioned Courses are other Non-Departmental courses that students believe will contribute significantly to their study of psychology. These courses must include significant psychological content and relate directly to their own concentration program. A petition is required (forms available on the department website) and must be submitted by the appropriate deadline.
    3. Expedited Courses are Non-departmental Courses that include significant psychological content and could be a useful component of one’s concentration in Psychology. These courses are automatically approved but require students to designate them for Non-departmental Advanced Course concentration credit by emailing psychology@wjh.harvard.edu by the appropriate deadline. These courses vary each year; a current list and relevant deadlines are available on the concentration website.
    4. Advanced Course Requirement, Limits on lab-based courses: Students may count up to two lab-based courses (any combination of Psychology 910r, Lab Courses, or Psychology 985) for concentration credit as follows: students who choose to meet the Research Methods course requirement with a Lab Course may only count up to one additional lab-based course toward the Advanced Course requirement; otherwise two lab-based courses may count toward the Advanced Course requirement. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit. Students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times for any combination of concentration credit and college credit.
    5. Graded Course Requirement: All courses taken for concentration credit must be letter-graded. The only exceptions are Psychology 985 and the specific Freshman Seminars designated on the departmental Advanced Course list.
    6. Undergraduate Teacher Education Program: Concentrators may be eligible to obtain certification to teach middle or secondary school in Massachusetts and states with which Massachusetts has reciprocity. See the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP) website for more information.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility
Non-Thesis Option: 12 courses (48 credits)

  1. Required courses: Same as Basic Requirements.
  2. Tutorial: Same as Basic Requirements.
  3. Thesis: None.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements, plus the following:
    1. Minimum Concentration GPA: Students must have a minimum (i.e., with no rounding) concentration GPA of 3.85. Concentration grade point averages are calculated from a student’s best twelve courses that meet the requirements (e.g., Introductory Courses, Foundational Courses, Basic and Advanced Methods, and Advanced Courses), including final semester grades.
    2. Admissions Requirement: No application or notification to the department is required. Students who meet the requirements as listed in 1-5A above at the end of their final semester will receive an Honors recommendation. (See item 5C.)
    3. Determination of Departmental Honors: A degree recommendation of Honors will be awarded to students who meet these requirements. Students who appear eligible for Honors will receive an award letter from the department prior to graduation.

Thesis Option: 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Introductory Courses: Same as Basic Requirements.
    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Same as Basic Requirements.
    3. Basic Methods: Same as Basic Requirements.
    4. Foundational Courses: Same as Basic Requirements.
    5. Research Methods: Two courses:
      1. Psychology 1901, and
      2. Lab Course from list on the department's website. (See item 5B.)
    6. Advanced Courses: Five courses. All letter-graded. (See item 5A of Basic Requirements and item 5B below.)
    7. Psychology 990a and Psychology 990b, Senior Tutorial, year-long 8-credit course. Graded SAT/UNS. (See item 2C.)
  2. Tutorials:
    1. Sophomore Tutorial: Same as Basic Requirements.
    2. Junior Tutorial: Honors Thesis Preparation (Psychology 985): Optional but strongly recommended one-term tutorial consisting of individual reading and research leading to a thesis prospectus, under the supervision of a departmental faculty member, supplemented by occasional required group meetings. Graded SAT/UNS. Prospectus or paper required. Application must be made to the Psychology Undergraduate Office prior to enrolling in courses. (See also item 5C.)
    3. Senior Tutorial: The Honors Thesis (Psychology 990a and 990b): Year-long 8-credit individual tutorial consisting of research leading to submission of the thesis, supplemented by required spring poster session and occasional, required group meetings. Graded SAT/UNS.
  3. Thesis: Required. A thesis application is normally due in March of the junior year, but preparation for this application begins in the fall of the junior year. To apply to the thesis program, students must have completed Basic and Research Methods. A thesis prospectus is due in April of the junior year, and a prospectus meeting giving thesis committee approval of the prospectus is normally required no later than October of the senior year. The completed thesis is due the Thursday before spring recess of the senior year. Required poster session and defense occur during spring of senior year.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information:
    1. Counting Non-departmental Courses toward the Advanced Course Requirement: Same as item 5A in Basic Requirements.
    2. Advanced Course Requirement, Research Courses: Students may count one additional Research Course (Psychology 910r, Psychology 985, or a Lab Course) toward concentration requirements in partial fulfillment of the Advanced Course requirement. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times for any combination of concentration and college credit.
    3. Graded Course Requirement: All concentration courses except Psychology 985, Psychology 990a and 990b, and the specific Freshman Seminars designated on the departmental Advanced Course list must be letter-graded.
    4. Admissions Requirement: A thesis application is required, normally in March of the junior year. To apply to the thesis program, students must have completed Basic and Research Methods and ordinarily must have a 3.5 College grade point average.
    5. Determination of Departmental Honors: Honors degree recommendations are normally determined by a combination of the concentration grade point average and the thesis evaluation. Departmental recommendations can range from No Honors to Highest Honors under this option.
    6. Joint Concentrations: Ordinarily, the Psychology department does not participate in joint concentrations.
    7. Undergraduate Teacher Education Program: See item 5D of Basic Requirements.

Cognitive Science Track
Requirements: 14 courses (56 credits)

The Cognitive Science track is affiliated with the University-wide Mind/Brain/Behavior (MBB) Interfaculty Initiative, and is administered through the Psychology Undergraduate Office. An application and thesis is required. MBB tracks are also available in Computer Science, History and Science, Human Evolutionary Biology, Linguistics, Neurobiology, and Philosophy.

  1. Required courses:
    1. Introductory Course: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science, one course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.
    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971, one course, required by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded.
    3. Basic Methods: Psychology 1900 or Statistics 101, required by end of sophomore year. Must be passed with a grade of C- or higher.
    4. Foundational Courses: One course from Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 or Molecular and Cellular Biology 81, sophomore year, and one other course from Psychology 14, 15, 16, 18; or Science of Living Systems 15 recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded.
    5. Seminar in Mind/Brain/Behavior: one course, junior year. Letter-graded. Select one from a list that varies each year.
    6. Research Methods: Two courses, required by the end of junior year:
      1. Psychology 1901, and
      2. Lab Course from list on the department's website.
    7. MBB Track Advanced Courses: Four courses. Letter-graded. See item 5B.
    8. Senior Tutorial: Psychology 992a and 992b, full course, senior year. Graded SAT/UNS. See item 5A.
  2. Tutorials: Same as Psychology General Track Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Thesis Option.
  3. Thesis: Required. Same as Psychology General Track Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Thesis Option.
  4. General Examination: None.
  5. Other information:
    1. Senior Tutorial: Psychology 992 requires participation in the Psychology spring poster session, MBB thesis activities, and attendance at group meetings of Psychology 990a and 990b.
    2. Advanced Courses: Advanced Courses are selected in consultation with a concentration advisor and faculty advisor of the MBB program, and may include Non-departmental Courses by petition. Ordinarily at least one of these Advanced Courses should come from one of the other MBB areas. Course selection will be reviewed and approved by the MBB Head Tutor in Psychology. Students typically do not count additional Research Courses toward track Advanced Course requirements. Additional Research Courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in 910r up to a total of three times for any combination of concentration and college credit.
    3. Admission Requirements: Admission to the track is by application. To apply to the track, students must have a 3.5 College grade point average at the time of application. We recommend that students apply as soon as they are reasonably certain they want to be in the track to ensure that their coursework is appropriate for the track. Applications must be submitted no later than November 1 of the first semester of junior year.
    4. Graded Course Requirement: All concentration courses except Psychology 985, Psychology 992, and the specific Freshman Seminars designated on the departmental Advanced Course list must be letter-graded.

Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology Track
Basic Requirements: 12 courses (48 credits)

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Non-thesis Option: 12 courses (48 credits)
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Thesis Option: 14 courses (56 credits)

Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology is a specialized track within the Psychology concentration and part of the Life Sciences cluster of concentration options. As such, it is one of the major paths toward bridging the social and life sciences at Harvard. The track reflects the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of learning and research in psychology, emphasizing integration across the sub-disciplines within psychology (social psychology, cognitive psychology, development, psychopathology) as well as connections between psychology and the other life sciences. Students in this track have the opportunity to study the interplay between traditional interests in psychology such as vision, memory, language, emotion, intergroup relations, cooperation, and psychological disorders, and recent developments in neuroscience and evolutionary science.

To support this learning, the track will provide a strong foundation of basic knowledge in psychology and the life sciences, as well as analytical, quantitative, and research skills scientists in these areas employ. Students will also take more advanced courses in social and cognitive neuroscience and/or evolutionary psychology, and can choose to work in a faculty lab. A thesis option is available for students with strong interests in the research component of the program.

  1. Required courses:

    1. Introductory Course: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science, one course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.

    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 975, one course, required by end of sophomore year. Examines issues and phenomena addressed in contemporary psychological and life science research from a variety of perspectives. Letter-graded.

    3. Basic Methods: Psychology 1900 or Statistics 101, one course, required by end of sophomore year. Must be passed with a grade of C- or higher.

    4. Foundational Courses: One course from either Molecular and Cellular Biology 80*, Molecular and Cellular Biology 81* or Psychology 14*, and one other course from Psychology 15, 16, 18 or Science of Living Systems 15**, recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded. *Students interested in neurobiology coursework or neuroscience graduate school are encouraged to take Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 or 81 to meet this requirement. **Although it is not advisable due to the overlap in content, students can take both Psychology 14 and one of Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 or Molecular and Cellular Biology 81 to meet the Foundational Course requirement of 2 courses.

    5. Life Sciences Courses (Related to Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology): Three courses selected from a list on the concentration website. One of these courses must be either Life and Physical Sciences A, Life Sciences 1a, or Life Science 1b. Letter-graded.

    6. Research Methods: One course, required by end of junior year. Choice of Psychology 1901 or one Lab Course. Select lab course from a list on the department's website.

    7. Psychology Advanced Courses: Three courses, all letter-graded. Only one approved Non-departmental Course can be used toward this requirement. (See item 2A.)

  2. Other Information:

    1. Advanced Course Requirement, Limits on lab-based courses: Students may count up to two lab-based courses (any combination of Psychology 910r, Lab Courses, or Psychology 985) for concentration credit as follows: students who choose to meet the research methods course requirement with a Lab Course may only count up to one additional lab-based course toward the Advanced Course requirement; otherwise two lab-based courses may count toward the Advanced Course requirement. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit. Students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times for any combination of concentration credit and college credit.

  3. For Honors Eligibility:

    1. Non-thesis option: Same as Cognitive Neuroscience  and Evolutionary Psychology Basic Requirements, plus the following:

      1. Determination of Departmental Honors: A degree recommendation of Honors will be awarded to students who meet these requirements. Students who appear eligible for Honors will receive an award letter from the Department prior to graduation.

      2. Admissions Requirement: No application or notification to the department is required. Students who meet the requirements as listed in 3A.1 above at the end of their final semester will receive an Honors recommendation (see below).

      3. Minimum Concentration GPA: Students must have a minimum (i.e., with no rounding) concentration GPA of 3.85. Concentration grade-point averages are calculated from a student's best twelve courses that meet the requirements (e.g., Introductory Course, Foundational Courses, Basic and Research Methods, Advanced Courses), including final semester grades.

      4. Thesis option: 14 courses (56 credits). 1A-E same as Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology Basic Requirements plus the following:

        1. Determination of Departmental Honors: Honors degree recommendations are normally determined by a combination of the concentration grade point average and the thesis evaluation. Departmental recommendations can range from No Honors to Highest Honors under this option.
        2. Admissions Requirement: A thesis application is required, normally in March of the junior year. To apply to the thesis program, students must have completed Basic and Research Methods and ordinarily have at least a 3.5 College grade point average.
        3. Thesis: See item 5.
        4. Senior Tutorial: Psychology 993a and 993b, year-long 8-credit course, senior year. Graded SAT/UNS. See item 4C.
        5. Advanced Course Requirement, Research Courses: Students may count one additional Research Course (Psychology 910r, Psychology 985, or a Lab Course) toward concentration requirements in partial fulfillment of the Advanced Course requirement. Additional Research Courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times for any combination of concentration and college credit.
        6. Psychology Advanced Courses: Two courses, letter-graded. Only one approved Non-Departmental course can be used toward this requirement.
        7. Research Methods: Thesis students must complete two courses, required by end of junior year (rather than one as listed in the Basic Requirements above).  They are as follows:
          1. Psychology 1901, and
          2. Lab Course from list on the department's website.
  4. Tutorials:
    1. Sophomore Tutorial (Psychology 975): See Required courses, item 1B for description.
    2. Junior Tutorial: Preparation for the Honors Thesis (Psychology 985): Optional (but strongly recommended for students considering writing a thesis) course tutorial consisting of individual reading and research leading to a thesis prospectus, supplemented by occasional required group meetings. Graded SAT/UNS. Prospectus or paper required. Application must be made to the Psychology Undergraduate Office prior to enrolling in courses.
    3. Senior Tutorial: The Honors Thesis (Psychology 993a and 993b): Required of students completing the honors thesis option. Year-long 8-credit individual tutorial consisting of research leading to submission of the thesis, supplemented by required spring poster session and occasional group meetings in conjunction with PSY 990. Graded SAT/UNS.
  5. Thesis: Required for honors eligibility if completing the thesis option. An advisor-approved thesis application is normally due in March of the junior year, but preparation for this application begins in the fall of the junior year. To apply to the thesis program, students must have completed Basic and Research Methods.  A thesis prospectus is due in April of the junior year, and a prospectus meeting giving thesis committee approval of the prospectus is normally required no later than October of the senior year. The completed thesis is due the Thursday before spring recess of the senior year. Required poster session and defense occur during spring of senior year.
  6. General Examination: None.

ADVISING

The Department of Psychology offers numerous opportunities for students to obtain advice about the field and concentration. The first stop for information should be the undergraduate website, which is a comprehensive collection of requirements, departmental policies, and advice about navigating through the concentration. House-based concentration advisors are available to upperclass students throughout the academic year. (There is a list of concentration advisors by house.) Concentration advising includes discussing concentration requirements, signing Crimson Carts and Plans of Study, helping plan future courses, discussing research opportunities, considering possible career options, and answering other related questions students may have. Students may also get advice and information throughout the year from program staff in the Psychology Undergraduate Office, William James Hall 218. Students may email brief questions to psychology@wjh.harvard.edu.

Pre-concentrators should read the Advising and Requirements sections of the undergraduate website (links to those sections are on the home page). Posted pre-concentration drop-in advising hours can also be found online. Students can also e-mail psychology@wjh.harvard.edu or stop by the Psychology Undergraduate Office with questions.

RESOURCES

The Department of Psychology is situated in William James Hall, at the corner of Kirkland Street and Divinity Avenue. Copying machines are available in the basement of the building. Special facilities exist for individual interviews; group studies; observation of infants and children; and for work in the areas of vision and perception, and neuroscience. These laboratories are directed by individual faculty members and access is arranged through them.

The Psychology Undergraduate Office is located on the second floor of William James Hall (Rooms 218–222) and students can come by during business hours or make an appointment. Students are welcome to come here for general information about the concentration and related matters. The Psychology undergraduate website includes information on concentration requirements, prizes, awards, and volunteer and job opportunities.

The Department of Psychology has long been committed to active student involvement in departmental activities. Each year, several concentrators serve as student representatives to the departmental Committee on Undergraduate Instruction (CUI). The CUI considers a wide variety of policy matters, and student participation in its deliberations allows concentrators to help plan and review aspects of the undergraduate curriculum and programs.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

The Psychology concentration has an extensive website that includes information about basic and honors concentration requirements and the Psychology General, MBB, and Life Science tracks. Also on the website is information on departmental research opportunities, potential non-departmental thesis advisors, course petitions, and other forms. You can also contact the Undergraduate Office at psychology@wjh.harvard.edu or 617-495-3712.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Psychology 288 284 294 282 275 281 296 270 255
*Psychology + another field 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*Another field + Psychology 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

 





 

*Ordinarily, Psychology does not participate in joint concentrations.