Psychology Major and Minor
Haverford’s Psychology program offers undergraduates interested in exploring human behavior a rigorous course of study, extensive research experience, and an academic community rich in collaboration.
In our vibrant classrooms and labs, students develop an understanding of the field’s theoretical concepts in addition to a facility with its scientific methodologies—and they bring both to bear in original, often cutting-edge, research.
Curriculum & Courses
With strengths in neuroscience, cognitive, cultural, social, and personality psychology, the Department is distinguished by faculty who are accomplished scholars as well as extraordinary teachers. On any given day, you will find faculty and students working side-by-side on primary research in areas that include cognitive neuroscience, music and time perception, the neurobiology of sex, identity development, friendships across cultures, and romantic relationship maintenance.
The psychology major contains a breadth requirement, a general research requirement, a discipline-specific research requirement, and a senior project, as described below:
- One semester of introductory psychology: PSYC H100 (Foundations of Psychology).
- PSYC H200 (Experimental Methods and Statistics), or Bryn Mawr PSYC B205.
- Six additional psychology courses beyond the introductory level, with at least one taken from each of the following groups:
- social and personality psychology
- biological psychology
One of these courses must be a full-credit 300-level course (i.e., a seminar).
- See the Psychology Student Guidebook on the departmental website for details on which classes fulfill each of these groups.
- Two half-credit laboratory courses, which should be completed by the end of the junior year.
- One of the following senior thesis options:
- two semesters of empirical senior research or
- a one semester non-empirical senior thesis and an additional psychology course beyond the introductory level.
We typically accept equivalent courses within the Tri-Co, with permission of the department, to fulfill major requirements. However, not all courses in other departments fit into the above designated areas. See the Psychology Student Guidebook for more information. As a general rule, no more than two courses taken outside of the Tri-Co may count toward the psychology major. This includes courses taken for a study abroad program. All courses taken outside of the Tri-Co for major credit must be submitted to the department for approval.
The research requirement of the major trains students to think scientifically about psychological questions and to understand empirical approaches to the discipline. In addition, students obtain hands-on training in conducting behavioral research and answering original research questions.
General Research Training
Students take one semester of Experimental Methods and Statistics (PSYC H200). In this lecture and lab course, students will learn the principles of statistics and research design. In lab sessions, students put the statistical techniques that they learn during lectures into practice by designing and conducting several different kinds of data collection and analyses. This course is equivalent to PSYC B205 at Bryn Mawr; either PSYC H200 or PSYC B205 will be offered in each semester. Either of these courses is a prerequisite for the following lab course requirement.
Discipline-Specific Research Training
- Lab courses: Majors are required to take two half-credit 300-level lab courses offered in specialized areas of the major. These courses must be taken in the Haverford Psychology Department and typically have PSYC H200 as a prerequisite.
- Senior Research: By the time psychology majors reach the senior year, they are well prepared to carry out their senior research requirement. If students choose the year-long original empirical project, they will be involved in all phases of the research process; from formulating the questions, designing the study, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the research both orally and in writing. If students choose the one-semester non-empirical thesis, they will conduct an in-depth literature review of a given topic along with their own original synthesis and analysis of the issues.
The senior thesis experience is the capstone of the psychology major. In a typical thesis project, each student works closely with a faculty advisor and a small group of fellow seniors to carry out an original research study. A detailed description of this process is set out in the annual departmental Guide to the Psychology Senior Thesis Experience (available as PDF download or from the department chair).
In the course of this project, students apply skills and knowledge that they acquired during previous coursework in the psychology major. Thesis students do not merely learn about research that has already been done in psychology. Rather, they collect new data to address questions of interest. In this way, the thesis embodies the highest level of scholarship, in which students strive to contribute original knowledge to the field.
The thesis project is typically carried out over two semesters. In the first semester, students work to identify a conceptual question of interest, read and integrate background literature on that topic, and formulate a novel research plan. In the second semester, students carry out their proposed studies by collecting data, statistically analyzing the results of the study, and interpreting how the results relate to the study’s original hypothesis. Both semesters involve intensive writing, with detailed feedback from the faculty advisor.
An alternative option is a one-semester, non-empirical project that may be appropriate in some circumstances. In the one-semester project, a student conducts an in-depth literature review of a given topic along with their own original synthesis and analysis of the issues, and submits a paper that relates this work.
Senior Project Learning Goals
The senior thesis is envisioned as a capstone experience in which students are required to integrate the content knowledge and skills acquired in the earlier parts of our curriculum to a specific research question of interest. This, in turn, leads to increasingly sophisticated critical thinking skills that vary somewhat between one vs. two semester projects but can be summarized as follows:
For two semester projects, students are to:
- thoroughly review the extant literatures on the chosen topic and integrate those literatures into a cohesive rationale for an empirical project.
- develop and articulate testable hypotheses that are contextualized within the psychological literature using the scientific method of inquiry.
- design and conduct a rigorously conceived empirical study to test the stated hypotheses, using the methods that are normative within that discipline.
- analyze the empirical data that has been collected using the appropriate statistical techniques to test the stated hypotheses, and interpret those analyses with respect to the stated hypotheses.
- describe the results of the study using
- correct statistical notation and
- clear, concise, and accessible language.
- interpret the results and discuss how they relate to past research findings and/or theory on the chosen topic.
- identify the strengths and limitations of the current project.
- imagine directions for future research and applications based on the findings of the study conducted.
- work cohesively within a collaborative lab group (if conducting research in a group).
- communicate the study in the form of a written research report that is clear and sophisticated with regards to scholarly writing.
- present the project orally to the department (faculty and peers) clearly and concisely.
- demonstrate mastery of the research topic and ownership of the empirical project.
For one-semester projects, students are to:
- thoroughly review the extant literatures on the chosen topic and integrate those literatures into a cohesive summary of past work.
- develop a novel theoretical framework or original application of the literature.
- communicate their work in the form of a written manuscript that is clear and sophisticated with regards to scholarly writing.
- present the project orally to the department (faculty and peers) clearly and concisely.
- demonstrate mastery of the research topic and ownership of the project.
Senior Project Assessment
Senior thesis work is assessed via two main components: the strength of the student’s paper and their contribution to the thesis project.
- The paper is evaluated on a number of criteria, including the thoroughness of the background literature review, its overall organization, accuracy, style, the student’s creative input, their ability to integrate different ideas in a novel and cogent fashion and finally, whether arguments and conclusions are persuasive given the issues at hand. Each student is expected to hand in an individual paper, even if working as part of a thesis group.
- The student’s degree of active involvement in the senior thesis experience is also assessed. During the fall semester, we consider the extent to which each student helps shape the study questions, design, and methodology of the project. During the spring, we consider the effort expended in the data collection and analysis phases of the study, and the contribution to project presentations and the final poster. Although the paper is weighted more heavily than the project contribution in arriving at the final course grade, it is possible to write an excellent paper but receive a significantly lower grade due to insufficient involvement with the project.
The primary research advisor and second reader will evaluate work based on the above criteria. Final grades are determined by a consensus process involving all department members, who will discuss each student’s performance and compare it with other students, both past and present, in order to arrive at a fair evaluation of your work.
For a two-semester thesis, the following criteria are used grading the first semester paper:
4.0 work for the first semester indicates a paper that has gone above and beyond a summary of the relevant literature in terms of scope, synthesis and integration. In addition to reflecting a nearly flawless paper that provides a coherent rationale for the study to be undertaken, this grade can also represent exceptional or original independent contributions, or individual effort that has gone beyond what is normally expected. A grade of 4.0 is not commonly awarded during the first semester.
3.7 work for the first semester indicates an extremely thorough, coherently organized, and generally well-written summary of the literature that identifies all of the seminal work that has led up to the current study. In addition, this grade reflects that the rationale for the current study is abundantly clear and the procedures to be used are well-described. There may be improvements that can be made to this paper, but there are no major areas of deficiency.
3.3 work for the first semester reflects a good to very good paper that needs improvement in one or more areas. The literature review may need to be more thorough, or the literature better summarized or integrated. The writing may be choppy or difficult to follow in some areas. There may be conceptual gaps that lead to an incomplete rationale for the study to be undertaken.
3.0 work for the first semester indicates that although the paper is good, there are several areas in which improvement can be made. For example, the literature review may have been too scant or poorly integrated. That is, the paper may have included summaries of appropriate studies without integrating how those studies support an important point or how they relate to the study that you are undertaking. The literature review may not have been thorough enough or may have relied too heavily on non-primary sources. In general, the reader may have had a difficult time understanding how the literature review culminates in the problem to be addressed in the current study.
Requirements for Honors
The department awards honors to majors who show exceptionally high attainment in their coursework and demonstrate work in senior research or senior thesis and related research courses that is of superior quality.
The Haverford minor in psychology consists of six credits in psychology including:
- PSYC H100 (Foundations of Psychology), and
- Five additional psychology courses beyond the introductory level, with at least one from two of the following groups:
- social and personality psychology
- biological psychology
See the Guidebook on the departmental website for details on which classes fulfill the requirements for each of these groups. As a general rule, no more than two courses taken outside of the Tri-Co may count toward the psychology minor. This includes courses taken for a study abroad program. All courses taken outside of the Tri-Co for major credit must be submitted to the department for approval.
Associated Programs and Concentrations
Research & Outreach
Our programs are distinguished by the great range of learning opportunities in classrooms and labs.
For her thesis, the psychology major and neuroscience minor explored the effects of a particular hormone on pregnancy by studying mice.
The psychology major and neuroscience minor is splitting her time between her two respective passions at a Harvard Lab and a Cambridge ballet studio.
The classics major and psychology minor is spending the summer at Stanford to assist emerging startups at StartX.
Equipped with a deep and rigorous understanding of human behavior, our students graduate prepared to enter a range of fields and to pursue graduate studies in psychology and other fields such as law, medicine, public health, education, and business.
The psychology major and economics and neuroscience minor is bound for the most magical place on earth.
The Latin major, who minored in psychology, is pursuing a career in education as a way to combat the social and structural inequalities that plague classrooms across the country.
Levine is applying her academic passions to professional work at the Depression & Clinical Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Kounios has turned his groundbreaking research on creative insight and the brain into a new book that explores how we come to those "aha! moments" of inspiration, and how we can have more of them.
Chaddock-Heyman, a research scientist at the Beckman Institute, had her work on the link between exercise and cognitive functioning featured in the New York Times.
Woloszczuk will be working for the next two years as a child welfare caseworker for Children’s Corps in New York City. The psychology major will be working with Forestdale, the only child welfare agency headquartered in Queens, N.Y.
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