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.
Advise 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, 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, careful 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).
Course 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.
Introductory 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 and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Psychology.
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 (Research Methods in Psychology), 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 website. Students also are encouraged to speak with the Department Chair, Professor Skelton (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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).
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.
Independent Options for Non-Seniors: Exceptional students may participate in traditional internships, independent study, and independent research projects (see Bulletin section entitled Special Approaches to Study).
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).