The psychology program attracts students with a wide range of interests, reflecting the diversity of the field itself. Many students who choose to major in psychology also supplement the major with a concentration in educational studies, neuroscience, or gender and sexuality studies.
- Students will gain a broad understanding of human behavior, from a variety of perspectives.
- Students will learn to treat questions and claims about behavior rigorously, with an empirical approach.
- Students will master the skills to contribute new knowledge in the field.
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 100 (Foundations of Psychology).
- PSYC 200 (Experimental Methods and Statistics), or Bryn Mawr PSYC 205.
- 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 at Bryn Mawr or other institutions, with permission of the department, to fulfill major requirements. Most advanced courses offered in Bryn Mawr’s Psychology Department satisfy the advanced course requirement; however, not all of them fit into the above designated areas. See the Psychology Student Guidebook for a breakdown of BMC courses by area.
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 200). 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 205 at Bryn Mawr; either PSYC 200 or BMC PSYC 205 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 200 (Experimental Methods and Statistics) 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 Haverford minor in psychology consists of six credits in psychology including:
- PSYC 100 (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.
The senior thesis experience is the capstone of the psychology major. In a typical thesis project, each student works closely with a faculty adviser and a small group of fellow seniors to carry out an original research study.
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 adviser.
Many psychology departments offer a senior thesis to select students as an honors program, but at Haverford the senior thesis is required of all students. We firmly believe that designing, implementing, and interpreting the results of an original project develops skills that can be applied to many different career paths. Thesis projects at Haverford are often presented at scholarly conferences, and many have resulted in publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
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.
A detailed description of the format, goals, and assessment criteria for the senior experience can be found in the complete departmental statement in the Catalog (PDF).
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.
Concentrations & Interdisciplinary Minors
Minor in Neuroscience
The minor in neuroscience is designed to allow students with any major to pursue interests in behavior and the nervous system across disciplines. The Psychology Department offers courses that contribute to this minor, and many of our majors elect to complete this minor.
Multidisciplinary Health Studies Minor
The goal of the Multidisciplinary Health Studies Minor is to give greater context to the issues facing health professionals on local, national, and global scales. The structure of this program is intentionally multidisciplinary, bringing scientists together with social science and humanities professors to guide students through the political, cultural and ethical questions that relate to health issues worldwide. The Psychology Department contributes several courses to the Multidisciplinary Health Studies Minor, which is popular with our majors.
Concentration in Education
The Bryn Mawr-Haverford Education Program invites students to study the discipline of education; explore the interdisciplinary field of educational studies; begin the path of teacher preparation for traditional classrooms; and participate in teaching experiences in a range of classroom and extra-classroom settings. Given its connection to psychology, some of our majors choose to concentrate in the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Education Program.
Some psychology majors may opt to study abroad during the fall or spring semester of junior year. Many students are able to complete the psychology major while at Haverford and opt to take courses in other disciplines while studying abroad. However, psychology students may earn up to two major credits while studying abroad, pending approval from the chair of the Psychology Department. Students may consult the Psychology Student Guidebook for a list of study abroad courses that have already been approved for major credit. For courses not on this list, students must provide documentation (e.g., course description, syllabus) to the chair for review in order to gain approval.