Department of Psychology

Faculty

  • Chair

    • Kenneth A. Norman
  • Associate Chair

    Alexander T. Todorov

  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    Michael S. Graziano

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Uri Hasson
  • Professor

    • Jonathan D. Cohen
    • Joel Cooper
    • Nathaniel D. Daw
    • Susan T. Fiske
    • Asif A. Ghazanfar
    • Adele E. Goldberg
    • Elizabeth Gould
    • Michael S. Graziano
    • Tom Griffiths
    • Uri Hasson
    • Sabine Kastner
    • Tania Lombrozo
    • Yael Niv
    • Kenneth A. Norman
    • Elizabeth L. Paluck
    • Jonathan W. Pillow
    • Eldar Shafir
    • J. Nichole Shelton
    • Stacey A. Sinclair
    • Susan L. Sugarman
    • Alexander T. Todorov
    • Elke U. Weber
  • Associate Professor

    • Alin I. Coman
    • Casey Lew-Williams
    • Emily Pronin
    • Jordan A. Taylor
    • Ilana B. Witten
  • Assistant Professor

    • Timothy J. Buschman
    • Johannes A. Haushofer
    • Casey Lew-Williams
    • Diana I. Tamir
  • Senior Lecturer

    • Justin A. Jungé
  • Lecturer

    • Ting Qian
  • Visiting Lecturer

    • Mark Glat
  • Visiting Professor

    • Galia Avidan
  • Visiting Associate Professor

    • Megan E. Spokas
  • For a full list of faculty members please see the Department of Psychology website.

Program Information

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 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, ECO 202, WWS 200, SML 201, or POL 345), 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 200 (Functional Neuroanatomy). 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

The psychology concentration requires successful graded completion of 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 200 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 departmental courses.

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work

To satisfy the junior independent work requirement, each student, in consultation with a faculty adviser, must write a fall semester report and a spring semester report. For each report, each student must also give a short oral presentation midway through the semester to show the student’s progress.  These two projects culminate in one, year-long Junior Independent Work grade that is reflected on the spring transcript.

  1. Fall Semester Paper: With help from the department, and by talking to faculty and researching faculty web pages, students find an advisor from the Department of Psychology.  The primary purpose of the fall paper is for students to practice how to formulate a question and to query the literature. The format of the fall report is flexible and depends on discussion between student and advisor. In one common format, the student finds a topic of personal interest that overlaps the advisor’s expertise. The student then researches the topic, finds relevant scientific papers, and writes a review of those papers, including the student’s own critical analysis and interpretation. In another common format, the student joins a research group, working with the advisor and graduate students on experiments. In this case, the fall paper contains an introduction that reviews the literature, a methods section describing the experimental procedures, a results section describing any results obtained by the end of the semester, and a discussion describing possible outcomes and interpretations. The fall paper is typically 10 to 20 pages and is graded by the student’s advisor.
  2. Spring Semester Paper: Students may remain with the same advisor from the fall semester, or find a different advisor whose interests overlap their own. The primary purpose of the spring paper is to prepare students for a thesis by having them formulate an original idea and embody it in a paper. The format is flexible and depends on discussions between student and advisor. In one common format, students write a theoretical piece that proposes a thesis idea and uses creative exploration of the literature to explore the idea. In another common format, students write a research proposal. The proposal can in some cases lay the groundwork for the senior thesis, but this is not required. The proposal typically includes a comprehensive review of the relevant literature, a statement of a specific scientific question, a description of the proposed methods, and a discussion of the possible outcomes and interpretations. In a third common format, students perform the proposed experiments and include data in the spring paper. The spring paper is typically 20 to 40 pages and is graded by the student’s advisor and by a second reader that is assigned from the department. The two grades are averaged.

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). Length varies depending on type of thesis (experimental write-ups are often shorter) but is typically between 40 and 80 pages. Students are required to select a primary adviser from within the Department of Psychology. A second adviser, serving as a reader, will be assigned. An adviser from another department to oversee the student’s thesis work (for example if the student wishes to work in a lab from another department) will be considered only after the student has found a primary advisor within the psychology department and obtained permission from that primary adviser, the departmental representative in psychology, and the potential outside adviser. Then the student must submit written notification to the Undergraduate Administrator indicating the name and department of the outside adviser.

Senior Departmental Examination

The senior comprehensive exam is a 60-minute oral examination conducted by two members of the faculty, typically the student’s advisor and second reader. 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

PSY 101 Introduction to Psychology Spring STL

The scientific study of human thought and behavior with an emphasis on experimental methods. Two lectures, three hours of laboratory assignments. Instructed by: J. Cooper

PSY 207 Psychopathology Fall SA

An examination of the different patterns of abnormal behavior. Each will be examined from the perspective of such models of explanation as the psychoanalytic, behavioristic, humanistic, physiological, and cognitive models. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: M. Spokas

PSY 208 The Brain: A User's Guide Not offered this year EC

A survey of brain and mind, emphasizing issues related to human behavior. Topics include: psychoactive drugs, aging and Alzheimer's disease, reengineering the brain, learning and memory, sleep-waking and biological rhythms, and major mental diseases. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: B. Jacobs

PSY 212 The Psychology of Moral Behavior (also
CHV 212
) Not offered this year EM

A survey of the psychological, situational, and cultural determinants of moral thought and action. Topics will include the development of moral reasoning abilities, moral education, the relation between morality and rationality, altruism, and moral transgressions. Precepts will examine methods used in the psychological study of moral behavior. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: D. Prentice

PSY 214 Human Identity in the Age of Neuroscience and Information Technology Not offered this year EC

A central challenge for modern society is to construct individual and group identity in the face of technologies that come ever closer to understanding the mechanisms of thought and feeling. We live in a time when cognitive neuroscience is poised to trace the executive functions of the mind to the workings of the brain, and computer science is coming closer to replicating those functions. This course offers a multidisciplinary introduction to the scientific and social issues that underlie the potential cultural impact of advances in self-understanding. Faculty from a wide range of departments provide lectures. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: D. Osherson

PSY 216 Language, Mind, and Brain (See LIN 216)

PSY 237 The Psychology and Philosophy of Rationality (also
PHI 237
) Not offered this year EC

The human capacity for rationality is fundamental; however there is ample evidence for irrationality in human affairs--including notions such as hysteria, addiction, lack of self-control, wishful thinking, and self-deception. This course considers both errors and achievements, providing an introduction to a wide array of topics, such as logic, probability, decision theory, relativism, and psychopathology. It provides a background for further study of subjects such as logic, philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, the psychology of judgment and choice, and the psychology of thinking. One two-hour lecture, one preceptorial. Instructed by: E. Shafir, P. Johnson-Laird, G. Harman

PSY 251 Quantitative Methods Spring QR

A general introduction to statistical techniques, both descriptive and inferential, employed by psychologists. Required for concentrators. Two lectures, one laboratory. Instructed by: J. Junge

PSY 252 Social Psychology Fall SA

The scientific study of social behavior, with an emphasis on social interaction and group influence. Topics covered will include social perception, the formation of attitudes and prejudice, attraction, conformity and obedience, altruism and aggression, and group dynamics. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: D. Tamir

PSY 254 Developmental Psychology (also
CGS 254
) Fall EC

A survey of human development emphasizing the nature of children's minds and experience and the relation of childhood to adulthood. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: C. Lew-Williams

PSY 255 Cognitive Psychology (also
CGS 255
) Fall STL

The course will survey the major themes and experimental findings of cognitive psychology and consider their relevance to the cognitive sciences in general. Topics covered will include attention, perception, imagery, memory, language, and reasoning. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: J. Taylor

PSY 257 Personality Not offered this year SA

A survey of major approaches to the study of personality, including psychodynamic, social learning, and trait-theory approaches. The focus will be on the assumptions made by each approach, relevant techniques for collecting and analyzing data, and theoretical and practical implications. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: Staff

PSY 258 Fundamentals of Neuroscience (See NEU 201)

PSY 259 Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (See NEU 202)

PSY 302 Linguistics and Language Acquisition (See LIN 314)

PSY 306 Memory and Cognition (also
NEU 306
) Fall EC

Empirical facts, theoretical issues, and scientific techniques in the area of human memory. Potential topics include models of memory, eyewitness testimony, comprehension, representation of knowledge, autobiographical memory, reality monitoring, amnesia, and other disorders of memory and cognition. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: 255 or 259, or instructor's permission. Instructed by: K. Norman

PSY 307 Educational Psychology Fall/Spring EC

Principles of psychology relevant to the theory and practice of education. Through selected readings, discussion, and classroom observations, students study theories of development, learning, cognition (including literacy), and motivation, as well as individual and group differences in these areas; assessment; and the social psychology of the classroom. The course focuses on how learning by children and adolescents at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels is influenced by their own characteristics and experiences and the various contexts in which they learn: family, school, community, and culture. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: M. Glat

PSY 309 Psychology of Language (also
LIN 309
) Spring EC

The cognitive and interpersonal processes involved in language use. Topics include speech production and perception, the nature of grammatical and lexical knowledge, semantics and pragmatics, computer systems for natural language understanding, language acquisition, and the social bases of human communication. Two lectures, one preceptorial-laboratory. Prerequisite: 255 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: A. Goldberg

PSY 310 Psychology of Thinking Not offered this year EC

The study of human problem solving, reasoning, and decision making. Phenomena of interest include thinking in everyday situations and contexts as well as in more specialized areas, such as logic, mathematics, and the sciences. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: 255 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: Staff

PSY 311 Rationality and Human Reasoning Fall EC

An examination of the fundamental theories of belief and decision, from both the normative and descriptive perspectives. Utility, logic, probability, and abduction will be considered, with additional topics drawn from computability theory and from collective choice. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: D. Osherson

PSY 313 Interpersonal Perception Fall EC

Considers how one infers the motives, dispositions, and abilities of other persons. Next examines how these inferential processes are used to draw inferences about oneself. Students will design an original experiment (with consultation). Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: 252 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: E. Pronin

PSY 314 Research Methods in Social Psychology Not offered this year SA

An examination of the various methods by which social psychologists conduct research, including laboratory and field experiments, quasi-experiments, survey research, and naturalistic observation. Over the course of the semester, students will design and conduct social psychological research using these methods. Although valuable for all psychology majors, this course will be particularly useful for those who anticipate completing a senior thesis based on empirical research. Prerequisites: 251 or permission of instructor. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: J. Shelton

PSY 319 Childhood Psychopathology Not offered this year SA

An examination of the major forms of childhood psychopathology. Causal roles played by individual factors, traumatic events, the family, school, and community as well as the prevention and treatment of childhood disorders will also be examined. One three-hour seminar. Prerequisites: 207 and 254. Offered in alternate years. Instructed by: Staff

PSY 320 Theories of Psychotherapy Not offered this year SA

An examination of the various forms of psychotherapy, including the psychoanalytic, behavioristic, humanistic, and cognitive approaches. The focus will be upon the theoretical base, format, and empirical support for each approach. The impact of different treatment settings will also be considered. One three-hour seminar, including field-setting preceptorials. Prerequisite: 207 or permission of instructor. Instructed by: Staff

PSY 321 The Psychology of Decision Making and Judgment (See WWS 340)

PSY 322 Human-Machine Interaction (also
ORF 322
) Not offered this year EC

A multidisciplinary study of the fundamentals of human-machine interactions from both the human psychology/philosophy side and the machine engineering and design side. Philosophical, psychological, and engineering models of the human processor. Functional differences between people and machines, the nature of consciousness and intelligence, massively parallel computing and neural networks, and the concept of resonant synergism in human-machine interactions. Two 90-minute lectures; three laboratories during semester. Instructed by: A. Kornhauser, P. Johnson-Laird, J. Cooper

PSY 323 Experimental Psychopathology Not offered this year SA

An examination of the relationship between important topics in abnormal psychology and laboratory research conducted in other areas of psychology. Topics will include the ties between laboratory-learned helplessness and mood disorders, human memory research and dissociative disorders, and coping strategies and anxiety disorders. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 101 and 207, or instructor's permission. Instructed by: R. Comer

PSY 326 Social and Personality Development Not offered this year SA

Major issues in social and personality psychology examined from a developmental perspective with emphasis on developmental processes and change. Data on children, adolescents, and adults will be considered. Topics will include: social attachment, stranger and separation anxiety, self-concept, self-esteem, achievement, sex roles, and antisocial, prosocial, and moral behavior. Prerequisite: 252 or 254 or 257 or instructor's permission. Two 90-minute seminars. Instructed by: J. Girgus

PSY 327 Close Relationships Not offered this year SA

This course introduces the scientific perspective on close relationships. Students will learn how research psychologists apply the scientific method of data collection and analysis to investigate how people experience and think about relationships in general, and romantic relationships in particular. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: J. Shelton

PSY 329 Psychology of Gender (also
GSS 329
) Fall EC

Gender is a topic with which everybody feels intimately familiar. This course holds up to scientific scrutiny the strong beliefs people have about how women and men are similar to and different from each other, examining major theories and empirical findings in psychological research on gender. Topics include the development of gender identity, empirical comparisons of men and women, gender stereotypes and their perpetuation, and the role of gender and gendered beliefs in achievement, interpersonal relationships, and physical and psychological well-being. Prerequisite: any course in psychology. Two 90-minute lectures, one preceptorial. Instructed by: K. Brynildsen

PSY 330 Computational Modeling of Psychological Function (See NEU 330)

PSY 336 The Diversity of Brains (also
EEB 336
/
NEU 336
) Fall EC

A survey of the unique behaviors of different animal species and how they are mediated by specialized brain circuits. Topics include, for example, monogamy in voles, face recognition in primates, sex- and role-change in fish, and predation by bats. The role of evolutionary and developmental constraints on neural circuit construction will be a key underlying theme. Prerequisites: 258 or 259. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: A. Ghazanfar

PSY 365 Freud on the Psychological Foundations of the Mind (See HUM 365)

PSY 400 Topics in Social and Personality Psychology Spring SA

An examination of various topics in social and personality psychology not emphasized in other courses. The topic and prerequisites will vary from year to year. Instructed by: Staff

PSY 404 Cellular and Systems Neuroscience (See NEU 408)

PSY 410 Depression: From Neuron to Clinic (also
NEU 410
) Not offered this year EC

This course focuses on clinical depression as a model topic for scientific discourse. Depression is a subject of growing individual and societal importance, and it is an ideal topic because it intersects such a broad range of issues. Our work will emphasize a neurobiological approach, with topics ranging from the molecular to the clinical. Prerequisites: 208 or 258, or EEB 211, or MOL 214, and instructor's permission. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: B. Jacobs

PSY 437 Computational Neuroscience (See NEU 437)