Psychology

Professor Mahzarin Banaji, Head Tutor

Psychology is the scientific study of thought and behavior, and as such is an extremely broad discipline. To understand the internal and external events that lead us to behave as we do, we need to know a number of things. We must look at the biological basis of behavior, such as the nervous system, the endocrine system, and genetic influences. We also need to consider the role of learned behaviors acquired through experience and about the roles of sensation, perception, memory, and cognition. We have to address individual differences, such as the characteristics that distinguish the individual from every other. We also need to consider the effects of social interaction, for people live among others and are influenced by their contacts and communications with other people. Because people change over time, we also need to know something about developmental processes. Understanding the roles of these various factors in the production of thought and behavior is a complex task, and therefore psychology is a complex and fascinating discipline.

Although many people believe that psychology is concerned primarily with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, most of the research conducted in Harvard’s Department of Psychology concerns basic psychological processes such as perception, memory, social influence, motivation, social support, nonverbal communication, and decision making. Many members of the department have interests in behavioral neuroscience, such as understanding the biological basis of temperament and understanding how various brain structures are related to behavior. Some members of the department use psychology to understand other disciplines, such as law, medicine, and business. Finally, 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 behavior through empirical investigation, and their teaching and research reflect this goal.

The department understands that undergraduates concentrate in psychology for various reasons. Some seek to prepare themselves for graduate work in psychology or a related discipline; some plan to go on to professional work; 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 a Tier 1 course that provides an introduction to the field, progress to Tier 2 courses that each provide a foundation in a sub-area of psychology, and then take electives in more specialized areas of interest.

REQUIREMENTS

General Track in Psychology
Basic Requirements: 12 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. Tier 1: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science (or Psychology 1 or Science B-62 prior to Fall 2009), half-course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.

    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971, half-course, required by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded. (See item 2)

    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. Tier 2: Two half-courses, recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded. Select two of Psychology 13, 15, 16, 18, or Molecular and Cellular Biology 80.

    5. Advanced Methods: Psychology 1901: Methods of Behavioral Research, half-course, required by end of junior year.

    6. Concentration Electives: Six half-courses. All letter-graded. (See items 5a, and 5b.) See the department's website for a list of electives.

  2. Tutorial: Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971 is a semester-long tutorial required for concentrators by 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. Elective Requirement, Nondepartmental Courses: Up to two nondepartmental half-courses may be taken in partial fulfillment of the concentration elective requirement. These courses may be any combination of affiliate, expedited, or petition courses. These courses vary each year; a current list and relevant deadlines are available on the concentration website. Not counting toward the limit of two nondepartmental courses are those taught by regular Psychology faculty (for the complete list, see the department website).

    2. Affliated Courses are nondepartmental courses taught by departmental affiliates. These courses are automatically approved and designated for nondepartmental elective concentration credit. Affiliated courses from other Harvard schools require cross-registration with instructor and departmental signatures.

      Expedited Courses are nondepartmental 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 nondepartmental elective concentration credit by emailing psychology@wjh.harvard.edu by the appropriate deadline.

      Petitioned Courses are other nondepartmental 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. Elective Requirement, Research Courses: Students may take up to two research courses (any combination of Psychology 910r, lab methods courses, or Psychology 985) in partial fulfillment of concentration elective requirements. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times.

    4. 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 electives list.

    5. Undergraduate Teacher Education Program: Concentrators may be eligible to obtain certification to teach middle or secondary schools in Massachusetts and states with which Massachusetts has reciprocity. See Chapter 2 for more information about the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP).

Requirements for Honors Eligibility
Non-Thesis Option: 12 half-courses

  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 half-courses that meet the requirements (e.g. Tier 1, Tier 2, methods, electives), 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 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 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

  2.     a-e. Same as Basic Requirements.

    1. Concentration Electives: Five half-courses. All letter-graded (see item 5a of Basic Requirements and item 5c below).

    2. Laboratory Methods Requirement: Half-course, sophomore or junior year. Letter-graded. Select one from a list on the department's website. See item 5b.

    3. Psychology 990, Senior Tutorial, full course. Graded SAT/UNS. (See item 2c.)

  3. 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 undergraduate office prior to filing Study Card. See also item 5c.

    3. Senior Tutorial: The Honors Thesis (Psychology 990): Full-year individual tutorial consisting of research leading to submission of the thesis, supplemented by required spring poster session and occasional group meetings. Graded SAT/UNS.

  4. Thesis: Required. An adviser-approved thesis application is normally due in March of the junior year. A thesis prospectus meeting giving thesis committee approval of the prospectus is normally required no later than late 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.

  5. General Examination: None.

  6. Other information:

    1. Elective Requirements, Nondepartmental Courses: Same as item 5a in Basic Requirements.

    2. Laboratory Methods Requirement: Laboratory methods courses acquaint students with research in various areas of psychology and provide valuable preparation for honors candidates designing thesis projects. The list of concentration courses varies each year; see the department's website for the current list.

    3. Elective Requirement, Research Courses: Students may count one additional research course (Psychology 910r, Psychology 985, or a lab methods course) toward concentration requirements. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in Psychology 910r up to a total of three times.

    4. Graded Course Requirement: All concentration courses except Psychology 985, Psychology 990, and the specific Freshman Seminars designated on the departmental electives list must be letter-graded.

    5. Admissions Requirement: An honors application is required, normally in March of the junior year. To apply to the thesis program, students must have completed basic, advanced, and laboratory methods and have a 3.5 College grade point average.

    6. 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.

    7. Joint Concentrations: Ordinarily, the psychology department does not participate in joint concentrations.

    8. Undergraduate Teacher Education Program: See item 5d of Basic Requirements.

Cognitive Science Track
Requirements: 14 half-courses

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, and Philosophy.

1. Required courses:

  1. Tier 1: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science (or Psychology 1 or Science B-62 prior to Fall 2009), half-course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.

  2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 971, half-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. Tier 2: Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 (formerly Biological Sciences 80), half-course, sophomore year, and one other half-course from Psychology 13, 15, 16, and 18, recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded.

  5. Seminar in Mind/Brain/Behavior: Half course, junior year. Letter-graded. Select one from a list that varies each year.

  6. Advanced Methods: Psychology 1901, half-course, required by end of junior year. Letter-graded.

  7. Laboratory Methods: Half course, sophomore or junior year. Letter-graded. Select one from a list at: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/psych/ug/requirements/charts/Req.LabMeth.htm

  8. Senior Tutorial: Psychology 992, full course, senior year. Graded SAT/UNS. See item 5a.

  9. Track Electives: Four half-courses. Letter-graded. See item 5b.

2-4. See Psychology Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Thesis Option, items 2-4.

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 990.

  2. Track Electives: Track electives are selected in consultation with a concentration adviser and faculty adviser of the MBB program, and may include non-departmental courses by petition. Course selection will be reviewed and approved by the MBB head tutor in Psychology. Students typically do not count additional research courses toward track elective requirements. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in 910r up to a total of three times.

  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 the first term of the junior year.

  4. Graded Course Requirement: All concentration courses except Psychology 985, Psychology 992, and the specific Freshman Seminars designated on the departmental electives list must be letter-graded.

Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Track
Basic Requirements: 12 half-courses
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Non-thesis Option: 12 half-courses
Requirements for Honors Eligibility: Thesis Option: 14 half-courses

Social and Cognitive Neuroscience 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, 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 laboratory research skills scientists in these areas employ. Students will also take more advanced courses in social and cognitive neuroscience and conduct research in a faculty laboratory. A thesis option is available for students with strong interests in the research component of the program.

  1. Required courses:

    1. Tier 1: Science of Living Systems 20: Psychological Science (or Psychology 1 or Science B-62 prior to Fall 2009), half-course, recommended during the first year and required by the end of the sophomore year. Letter-graded.

    2. Sophomore Tutorial: Psychology 975, half-course, required by end of sophomore year. Examines issues and phenomena addressed in contemporary psychological and life science research from a variety of perspectives. A sophomore essay is required. 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. Tier 2: Molecular and Cellular Biology 80, half-course, and one other half-course from Psychology 13, 15, 16, and 18, recommended by end of sophomore year. Letter-graded.

    5. Advanced Methods: Psychology 1901, half-course, required by end of junior year. Letter-graded.

    6. Laboratory Methods: half-course, sophomore or junior year. Letter-graded. Select one from a list on the concentration website.

    7. Life Sciences Courses: Three half-courses, including one of Life and Physical Sciences A, Life Sciences 1a, or Life Sciences 1b and two additional related life sciences courses selected from a list on the concentration website. Letter-graded.

    8. Psychology Electives: Two half-courses, both letter-graded. Only one may be non-departmental. (All students see General Track: Basic Requirements, item 5a.) Students may count one additional research course (Psychology 910r, Psychology 985, or a lab methods course) toward concentration requirements. Additional research courses may be taken for College elective credit; students may enroll in 910r up to a total of three times.

  2. For Honors Eligibility:

    1. Non-thesis option: Same as Social and Cognitive Neuroscience 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 half-courses that meet the requirements (e.g. Tier 1, Tier 2, methods, electives), including final semester grades.

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

      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.

    2. Thesis option: 14 half-courses

      1. Senior Tutorial: Psychology 993, full course, senior year. Graded SAT/UNS. See item 3c.

      2. Thesis: See item 4.

      3. Admissions Requirement: An honors application is required, normally in March of the junior year. To apply to the honors thesis program, students must have completed basic, advanced, and laboratory methods and have a 3.5 College grade point average.

      4. 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.

  3. 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) half-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 filing study cards.

    3. Senior Tutorial: The Honors Thesis (Psychology 993): Required of students completing the honors thesis option. Full-year 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.

  4. Thesis: Required for honors eligibility if completing the thesis option. A College GPA of 3.5 or greater is required to apply for the thesis. An adviser-approved thesis application is normally due in March of the junior year. A thesis prospectus meeting giving thesis committee approval of the prospectus is normally required no later than late October of the senior year. The completed thesis is due the Thursday before spring recess of the senior year. Required poster session and defense spring of senior year.

  5. 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. Students may also get advice and information throughout the year from program staff in the Psychology Undergraduate Office, William James 218. Students may email brief questions to psychology@wjh.harvard.edu. House-based concentration advisers are available to upperclass students throughout the academic year (list of concentration advisers by house available at the concentration website). Concentration advising includes discussing concentration requirements, signing Study Cards and Plans of Study, helping plan future courses, and answering other related questions students may have. A more detailed description of advising resources is available on the concentration website.

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 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 library and in the basement of the building. Special facilities exist for individual interviews; personality studies; observation of small groups, infants, and children; and for work in the areas of vision and perception, animal behavior, and the behavioral and cognitive neurosciences. 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 (Room 218–222) and is open Monday through Friday, 9am – noon and 1–5pm. 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, 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, the Psychology MBB and Life Science tracks, and sample plans of study in general psychology, pre-medical studies, pre-clinical studies, and pre-professional studies. Also on the website is information on departmental research opportunities, potential non-department thesis advisers, grant applications, and other forms. You can also contact the undergraduate office at psychology@wjh.harvard.edu or 617-495-3712.

CORE AND GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Quantitative Reasoning

†Historical Study A

Science B

†Historical Study B

Social Analysis

†Literature and Arts A

ONE of the areas marked †.

Literature and Arts B

 

†Literature and Arts C

 

Moral Reasoning

 

Science A

 

For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS

Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Psychology

352

347

336

292

288

*Psychology + another field

4

5

5

3

1

*Another field + Psychology

10

11

7

2

1

*Ordinarily, Psychology does not participate in joint conentrations.