About the Major

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.ion 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

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 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
Educational Psychology
Positive Psychology
Discovering the Person
The Psychology of Women
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
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 and advanced research labs, 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 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 preapproved 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 an 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 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).

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 sociopolitical 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.