Psychology is 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 humans and nonhuman animals. Despite the 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.
ADVICE TO STUDENTS
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, Human Development, Clinical, Gender, Sexuality, Community, and Cross-Cultural. We typically reserve seats for first-year students to enroll in fall semester 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.
Courses appropriate for prospective majors
What should students know about the Psychology major?
First, requirements are quite hierarchical. You must first take a 100-level course before you are eligible for Psychology 201. You must earn a passing grade in 201 before you can declare the major and before you are eligible for Psychology 202. Psychology 201 and 202 cannot be taken concurrently. You must complete 202 before you are eligible for any 300- or 400-level course.
If you're considering a full year abroad, then it is essential to complete 202 by end of the sophomore year. If you’re considering a semester abroad, then you should complete 202 by the fall of your junior year; otherwise, it will be difficult to study overseas.
Second, students are required to take at least four courses with labs (201/202 and at least two 300 level courses).
Prerequisites for each 300 level course are listed in the course catalogue. Careful planning is important so that students can ensure they have the requirements for the 300-level courses 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, 160, 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. Psychology 201 and 202 are the prerequisites for these courses.
The department chair can help can help in advising students who are not yet 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 175 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.
For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Psychology.
Courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Social Sciences (Division II)
Any 100-level course in Psychology (except PSYC 125) fulfills the distribution requirement.
Lab Sciences (Division III)
Writing in the Discipline (WID)
PSYC 201 and 202 (intended to satisfy the WID requirement for Psychology majors)
PSYCH 325 (intended to satisfy the WID requirement for Neuroscience majors)
Suggested curricular flow through the major
First-Year students are encouraged to take at least one 100-level Psychology course their first year. Once a student completes at least one 100-level Psychology course, then the student is eligible for entrance into Psychology 201 (Design of Psychological Research ), a “gateway” course for the major. Generally speaking, Psychology 201 is taken during a student’s second year and the student can declare the major after the successful completion of Psychology 201. Thus, students interested in majoring in Psychology should focus on taking 100- and 200-level Psychology courses their first and second years. Once a student completes Psychology 202 (Analysis of Psychological Data), then the student is ready for upper-level (300- and 400-level) Psychology courses. Generally speaking, students complete 300- and 400-level Psychology courses during their third and fourth years. Below is an example of Psychology courses taken during a student’s four years at Dickinson College:
At least one 100-level courses
PSYC 201 (if possible)
At least two 100-level courses
PSYC 201 and 202
At least one 100-level and 300-level course
400-level seminar (if appropriate)
Complete all remaining requirements
For specific information regarding requirements for majoring in Psychology, please consult the Psychology Department’s web site. Students also are encouraged to speak with the Department Chair or any faculty member within the department to discuss navigating the major.
Honors are granted to graduating seniors who demonstrate excellence in developing and conducting empirical research. Candidates for honors must earn a GPA of at least 3.5 in courses taken in Psychology and 3.25 in all other courses taken at the college by the beginning of the Senior year. They must earn at least one credit for independent study and/or independent research during each semester of the Senior year, under the supervision of an Honors Committee, and their work must be endorsed for honors on behalf of the department and presented publicly no later than the week of final exams. Students interested in honors should consult the document "Honors in the Psychology Major," which is available from the department and at the department's web site.
Independent study and independent research
Exceptional students may participate in traditional internships, independent study, and independent research projects (see Bulletin section entitled Special Approaches to Study).
The Psychology Club and Psi Chi (the national honor society for psychology undergraduates) collaborate to sponsor events throughout the academic session. We host guest speakers and panels on careers. Any student is eligible to join the Psychology Club. Check our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DsonPsychClub
Opportunities for off-campus study
Students who are interested in study abroad are urged to plan their programs carefully and begin the major early. An advising session is offered each semester that addresses this topic.
Off-campus study additional information: Many students majoring in Psychology study abroad their third year at one of the College’s sponsored programs (e.g., University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia; University of East Anglia in Norwich, England; Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark).
The minor in psychology: Some students declare majors both in psychology and another discipline. Because of unanticipated schedule conflicts, such students must sometimes choose to complete requirements for one of the two majors and forego completing the second major. The psychology minor enables such students to receive recognition for their achievements. Because our minor is intended as a fallback option, we do not advise students to seek it deliberately, and we don't accord course admission priority to minors.