Department of Psychology

  • Chair

    Kenneth A. Norman

  • Associate Chair

    Alexander T. Todorov

  • Departmental Representative

    Michael S. Graziano

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Uri Hasson

  • Professor

    Jonathan D. Cohen, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Joel Cooper

    Nathaniel D. Daw, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Susan T. Fiske, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Asif A. Ghazanfar, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Adele Goldberg

    Elizabeth Gould, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Michael S. Graziano, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Uri Hasson, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Sabine Kastner, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Elizabeth Levy Paluck, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Kenneth A. Norman, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Deborah A. Prentice, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Eldar B. Shafir, also Woodrow Wilson School

    J. Nicole Shelton

    Stacey Sinclair, also African American Studies

    Susan L. Sugarman

    Alexander T. Todorov

    Elke U. Weber, also Woodrow Wilson School and Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

  • Associate Professor

    Yael Niv, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Jonathan W. Pillow, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Emily Pronin, also Woodrow Wilson School

  • Assistant Professor

    Timothy J. Buschman, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Alin I. Coman, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Lauren L. Emberson

    Johannes A. Haushofer, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Casey Lew-Williams

    Diana I. Tamir

    Jordan A. Taylor

    Ilana B. Witten, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

  • Senior Lecturer

    Justin A. Jungé

  • Associated Faculty

    Sarah-Jane Leslie, Philosophy

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

The Department of Psychology welcomes students interested in all aspects of life and society. A rigorous understanding of human behavior and mental processes can be useful for almost any vocation. Students with a psychology degree have successfully pursued careers in science, clinical psychology, computer technology, teaching, public policy, medicine, business, law, economics and sometimes even the performing arts. The psychology concentration, within the Division of Natural Sciences, provides foundational and advanced undergraduate courses on sensation, perception, movement, language, reasoning, decision making, social interaction, and computational models of the brain. Because psychological science involves working with large and complex datasets, students learn basic statistical methods. The psychology concentration also provides a grounding in neuroscience, since mental processes and behavior arise from the brain.

Psychology majors have an opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge research for their independent work. Our faculty members represent a diversity of research topics including the development of perception and language in infants and children, the use of neural measures for understanding memory and attention, the impact of implicit biases and stereotypes on social cognition, the neural basis of social communication, and many other topics. These research experiences, combined with the course offerings, prepare concentrators for a range of possible careers. Some students pursue graduate studies in psychological science, cognitive science, or neuroscience. Some pursue careers in data science, policymaking, or teaching. The psychology concentration is compatible with fulfilling requirements for medical school and law school.

Prerequisites

The prerequisites for entering the Department of Psychology are successful graded completion of PSY 251 (Quantitative Methods) or a pre-approved statistics course in another department (for example, ORF 245 or ECO 202), along with two other courses from the following list: PSY 101 (Introduction to Psychology), PSY 252 (Social Psychology), PSY 254 (Developmental Psychology), PSY 255 (Cognitive Psychology), or either PSY 258 (Fundamentals of Neuroscience) or NEU 175 (Introduction to Neuroscience). All requests for an alternative set of prerequisites must be approved by the Departmental Representative.

Early Concentration

Sophomores who have fulfilled the prerequisites may apply for early concentration. If accepted, they may engage in independent reading with a faculty adviser and submit a paper at the end of the spring semester. This preparation may qualify them for more advanced independent work in the junior year.

Program of Study

Psychology concentrators must successfully pass at least eight courses within the department in addition to the three prerequisite courses. If they were not already taken as prerequisites, PSY 252, PSY 255, and either PSY 258 or NEU 175 must be included in the eight courses. It is recommended that students finish these three courses by the end of junior year. One of the eight departmental courses must be PSY 300 (Research Methods in Psychology), which must be completed by the end of junior year. Of the remaining departmental courses, all must be 200-level or higher and at least four must be at the 300- or 400-level. Students can take up to two, pre-approved cognate courses from other departments, which count as 300-level-and-above departmental courses.

 

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work. To satisfy the junior independent work requirement, each student, in consultation with a faculty adviser, must (i) write a report that includes a critical evaluation and a synthesis of compiled articles during the fall semester and (ii) write a research proposal during the spring semester.

1. Fall Semester Papers: Each student is assigned to work with one faculty member from the Department of Psychology for the entire fall semester. The faculty adviser will create a list of three key readings on a specific topic most likely related to the adviser's research. Students are expected to discuss the key readings with their adviser, find at least three additional relevant articles on their own, and write a 15- to 20-page report that includes a critical evaluation of each article and a synthesis of all of the articles. To help students learn how to locate relevant primary sources, students will be required to attend one tutorial led by the psychology and neuroscience librarian.

2. Spring Semester Paper: Each student is assigned to work with one faculty member from the Department of Psychology for the entire spring semester. Students are required to write a 30-40 page research proposal. A research proposal consists of: (i) a comprehensive review and an exploration of the research literature on a psychology topic of importance; (ii) extensive evaluation of the quality, findings, and implications of that body of research, including an ongoing appreciation and assessment of the research designs used throughout the research literature; (iii) continuing display of both critical and original thought and analysis; and (iv) presentation of at least one detailed research study idea (proposed hypotheses, methods, and statistical analyses) that would further the knowledge of, and/or address key issues raised in, the relevant literature. The research proposal will provide practice developing a research question and designing a study, and in some cases may lead to the student’s senior thesis. If the student collects pilot data, it can be included in the spring junior paper.

A second adviser, serving as a reader, will also be assigned for the spring semester. Second advisers are usually from the Department of Psychology. Advisers from other departments will be considered only after the student has obtained permission from the primary adviser, the departmental representative in psychology, and the potential second adviser. Then the student must submit written notification to the Undergraduate Administrator indicating the name and department of the second adviser.

Senior Independent Work. Each concentrator must prepare a senior thesis, based either on an experimental investigation conducted by the student in a laboratory or field setting or on a theoretical inquiry or computational modeling endeavor. In close consultation with a faculty adviser, each student develops, carries out, and writes up his or her own research project. The resulting thesis serves as the basis for the first part of the senior comprehensive exam (see below). Students are required to select a primary adviser from within the Department of Psychology. They will not be assigned a faculty member as was done for their junior independent work. A second adviser, serving as a reader, will be assigned. Advisers from other departments will be considered only after the student has obtained permission from the primary adviser, the departmental representative in psychology, and the potential second adviser. Then the student must submit written notification to the Undergraduate Administrator indicating the name and department of the second adviser.

Senior Departmental Examination

The senior comprehensive exam is a 60-minute oral examination conducted by two members of the faculty. The exam consists of two parts: (1) a defense of the senior thesis and a discussion of its implications, and (2) more general questions on the student's coursework and the broader field of psychology.

Study Abroad

The department allows psychology concentrators to study abroad for one semester or a full year. Concentrators may receive credit for up to two courses per semester spent studying abroad, to count toward their departmental course requirements. Courses taken while studying abroad require the prior approval of the departmental representative. To secure approval, students must document the work load and material covered by proposed courses.

Additional Information

Program in Neuroscience. The department offers the opportunity for concentrators to earn a certificate through the Program in Neuroscience. Interested students should discuss the program with the certificate directors and the departmental representative. Certain advanced courses taken in the program can count as cognates in the Department of Psychology.

Facilities. The laboratories of individual faculty members are open to undergraduates for their independent work. Information about the Department of Psychology can be found online, including a current description of the research being conducted in the laboratories. Broader resources available include: the Lewis Library's collection of psychology books and journals, computer labs and high-performance computing clusters, Princeton Neuroscience Institute shared equipment such as fMRI, EEG, TMS, eye-trackers, and microscopes, and the Princeton Survey Research Center.

Courses