Table of Contents
The Undergraduate Psychology Program
Declaring a Major or Minor in Psychology
Required Courses for Majors
Areas of Study
Required Courses for Minors
Research Opportunities, Reading & Research Tutorials, REBL
Other Opportunities for Psychology Majors
Undergraduate Student Funding
Taking Courses at Other Universities in D.C. Metropolitan Area and United States
Applying to Other Professional Training Programs
The Georgetown Chapter of Psi Chi
Careers in Psychology
Applying to Graduate School
Letters of Recommendation
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) FAQ
Statement of the Learning Goals of the Undergraduate Psychology Program
Goal 1: Foundational Knowledge
Fundamental Psychological Concepts
Four overarching themes, detailed below, characterize the study of contemporary Psychology:
- The conceptual development of the discipline;
- The development of the individual;
- The ecological context of human development;
- The relationships of thinking and understanding to brain function,
- and their expression in human and animal life.
Since these four themes imply different ways of knowing about individuals and their interactions, it is essential that students have a strong foundational understanding of each of these areas and of the theories, evidence, and mechanisms that have been offered as explanations of human and animal thought and action.
Development of the discipline
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Understand the historical and philosophical roots of psychology and their development up to the present time;
- Be familiar with the “edges” of current knowledge within the field and thus be able to recognize promising directions for the future development of the discipline;
- Relate Psychology to other academic disciplines (e.g., biology, linguistics, philosophy, economics).
- Appreciate the global context in which Psychology has developed and continues to develop as a discipline.
Development of the individual
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Understand broadly the theories and empirical findings that illuminate current thinking about human development from infancy through old age;
- Understand broadly current thinking about the interaction between heredity and environment as these dynamics affect the development of the individual;
- Understand broadly divergent expressions of thought, emotion, and behavior, sometimes characterized as being “abnormal,” and the theories and findings that explain them, as they affect variation in the course of individual development;
- Understand aspects of human development and behavior that are shared across or may differ according to cultural, ethnic, gender, geographic, or other boundaries.
The ecological context of human development
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Understand the major theories and empirical findings that inform current thinking about the ways in which individuals function within and are affected by relationships with and among peers and groups;
- Understand broadly the theories and empirical findings that inform current thinking about the effects of family life on human development;
- Understand how culture affects the expression of thought, emotions, and behavior, and how norms of the expression of each can be culturally mediated;
- Understand broadly the theories and empirical findings that inform current thinking about the influences on human development and behavior that derive from institutions, social-cultural structures, social class, and religion, and legal/political systems;
- Understand the diversity of human thought, emotion, and behavior including what is termed “normal” and “abnormal” and the bases upon which they are considered to be divergent or similar.
The biological and physiological aspects of psychological life
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Understand various theories that describe the relationship between the mind and the brain;
- Understand various theories and empirical findings that inform current knowledge about the relationship between the brain and behavior;
- Understand the major theories and empirical findings that inform current knowledge about the nature of thinking (cognition), memory, emotion, and behavior.
Goal 2: Epistemological Foundations
Understanding the foundational theories, concepts, and findings of Psychology requires a familiarity with and appreciation for the assets and limitations of different methods of knowing. That is, students must be exposed to epistemological inquiry so that they develop a firm grasp of the significance of research findings and their own creative use of knowledge.
Appreciating the use of different tools of inquiry
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to understand the assets and limitations of:
- quantitative analysis;
- experimental design and inference;
- qualitative analysis;
- mixed research methods.
Use of different tools of inquiry
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- use probability and statistical analysis to evaluate and interpret data;
- create and interpret graphic representations of data;
- use qualitative analysis to evaluate and interpret data.
Communicating scientific understanding in oral and written form
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- present ideas that are grounded in evidence in a logical and coherent manner, in writing and in formal and informal presentations;
- communicate with academic as well as more general audiences.
Engagement with psychological inquiry
Our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- evaluate the significance of an area of study;
- use primary literature to develop in-depth understanding and critical analysis capacity as well as to develop independent hypotheses;
- design and conduct studies to test specific hypotheses;
- interpret data and evaluate hypotheses and place findings into the larger context of the scientific area in question.
Goal 3: Application of Psychology
It is necessary not only to understand facts, theories, and epistemological aspects of Psychology, but also to have the skills and perspectives necessary to apply this knowledge to and have it reciprocally informed by everyday life. Therefore, our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Apply diverse facts and theories over a wide range of contexts from the laboratory to social institutions to everyday life;
- Make connections between diverse facts and theories;
- Apply narrative and normative analysis, as well as causal and correlation-based analysis, to answer specific questions;
- Develop an understanding of limits and possibilities regarding how psychological principles and evidence can contribute to informing, and can be informed by, social and policy issues;
- Develop an understanding of limits and possibilities regarding what psychological science can contribute to a range of civic, social, and global responsibilities in both the developed and developing nations;
- Understand the limits of applicability (e.g., generalizability, cross-cultural translation) and the hazards of premature or uncritical application of psychological principles and evidence.
Goal 4: Values in Psychology
The preservation and production of knowledge in Psychology entails the ability to weigh evidence critically, to embrace, understand, work with and learn from ambiguity, and to recognize and apply ethical practices that include respect for human and other forms of life. Specifically, our goal is to educate and encourage our students to:
- Appreciate and assimilate the positive roles of curiosity, healthy skepticism and doubt in scientific inquiry;
- Evaluate psychological explanations and recognize that such explanations are inherently complex and must take into account variability along the continuum of human and animal life;
- Recognize the evolving and cumulative nature of psychological explanations;
- Understand and articulate the tentative nature (i.e., available evidence continuously modified by new evidence) of psychological knowledge and limits of its methods;
- Recognize and respect the numerous manifestations of diversity, as well as the common universals in thought and action, that characterize human development;
- Understand that the methods that guide psychological science, must reflect, in Bronowski’s words, independence of mind, originality, and dissent in the search for truth. They likewise must eliminate the untoward influence of personal gain and related desires, because the values of science are “…the inescapable conditions for it’s practice;”
- Follow the APA Ethics Code in the treatment of human and nonhuman participants in the design, data collection, interpretation and reporting of psychological research;
- Recognize that ethically complex situations can develop in the application of psychological principles;
- Recognize the necessity of ethical behavior in all aspects of the science and practice of Psychology.
The Undergraduate Psychology Program
The Undergraduate Psychology Program encompasses psychology as both a social and a natural science. The general learning goals of the program may be found in the Learning Goals section above. Please read these for a full understanding of the major before you declare a major or minor. Students are encouraged to select courses from a broader array of core groupings.
Declaring a Major or Minor in Psychology
Obtain the Major-Minor Declaration Form
The Major-Minor Declaration form is located in the College Dean’s Office – Room 108 White-Gravenor Hall. Students in other schools who wish to declare a minor in psychology must obtain the proper form from his or her own Dean’s office.
Choose and Advisor
Next, students should think of potential advisors. Think of professor from whom you have taken a class or whose field of interest corresponds to your own. Advisors can serve many roles including helping students plan their curriculum, provide research and teaching assistant opportunities, or career advice. Although a particular faculty member will act as an official advisor, the department strongly encourages students to meet and seek advice from several different faculty members.
Students declaring a major should take their forms to the faculty member* they would like to have as their advisor. Students declaring a minor need to take their forms to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Deborah Stearns.
Students are not limited – the department strongly encourages students to meet and seek advice from several different faculty members during their time at Georgetown. Not only are these relationships fulfilling, but they become especially important when the need arises for graduate school recommendations. All faculty have scheduled office hours but are willing to see students by appointment as well. Office hours for the current semester are posted online.
Plan a Well-Balanced Program
With the assistance of a faculty advisor, students are expected to plan a program of electives and cognate courses in other disciplines to provide the course sequences most appropriate to their specific goals. In planning lecture classes and tutorials, it may be useful for students to know who is likely to be on sabbatical or on leave in coming semesters. Plans for sabbaticals and leaves of absence are subject to change, so confirm with the Department’s main office (306 White-Gravenor), or check the Faculty page. If a faculty member is on leave, it will state so here.
A well-balanced program refers to more than just psychology courses. One important consideration is the selection of an appropriate minor or a second major. Students are not required to have a minor, but many psychology majors have found that minors such as biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, English, sociology, government, cognitive science, or computer science very helpful. A minor broadens one’s perspective of his or her own discipline.
Students may consider taking a double major, which often means having fewer elective courses but a more structured degree program. A number of well-known psychologists have strong backgrounds in other disciplines. One should begin to look for cognate fields in one’s first or second year. A student’s choice of a minor depends heavily upon their professional goals and general interests.
For suggestions of cognate areas appropriate to a particular specialty area consult one of the faculty members with interests in that area. Consult the Faculty and Research Topics pages for information about Faculty research and professional interests. Advisors may have further suggestions.
If interested in applying to graduate school in psychology, it is important to follow a broad course of study. Of particular importance is a strong background in research methods and statistics.
Plan for Graduate School
If interested in applying to graduate school in psychology it is important to follow a broad course of study. Of particular importance is a strong background in research methods and statistics. Please see the section on applying to graduate school for more information.
There are two little-known rules in the College which should be kept in mind when planning your undergraduate program.
- No first or second-year student may take two courses in a single department in a given semester.
- Majors are not allowed to count more than 14 courses in Psychology toward graduation.
If too many psychology courses are taken in the first three years, students may not be able to take any in their senior year. Count carefully; the deans seldom grant exceptions to this rule.
Please Note: Students are responsible for knowing the requirements for the Major or Minor in Psychology. It is also the student’s responsibility to meet those requirements.
Required Courses for Majors
Majors are required to take no fewer than ten and no more than fourteen courses in Psychology to fulfill the requirements that are specified below. Graduation as a major requires that the student achieve a 2.5 grade point average in completed Psychology courses.
Psychology majors will fulfill the integrated writing requirement by completing several of the courses that are required for the psychology major (PSYC002: Research Methods and Statistics, and two seminar courses). In these courses, students will gain experience with a variety of writing assignments, such as brief responses and essays, as well as literature reviews and research proposals. Each of these courses is designed to provide students with experience in reading original empirical articles in the field of psychology, integrating their findings, and writing and revising papers. Therefore, psychology students fulfill the Integrated Writing requirement by virtue of completing the major.
- First Year: General Psychology (001); 1st Core Area Course.
- Second Year: Math 040 (fall); 2nd Core Area Course; Research Methods (spring). Apply for Psi Chi Honors at end of 2nd year if you meet eligibility requirements. If you work closely with a faculty member, consider asking them to mentor you if you are eligible to apply for the Honors Program.
- Third Year: 3rd Core Area Course (Spring); 300 level seminar; an elective. Consider becoming involved in research with faculty no later than your third year. If you study abroad, be sure that you receive permission in advance to count courses towards the Core Areas or as electives towards the major.
- Fourth Year: 1-2 seminar courses; 1-2 additional courses or electives.
I. Majors are required to take the following three courses:
PSYC-001. General Psychology (3 credits)
This introductory course surveys the field and acquaints the student with the major areas of Psychology, including perception, memory, cognition, neuroscience, learning, motivation, emotion, personality, social behavior, development, and psychopathology. Please note, it is a prerequisite for all PSYC courses. Majors with AP credit for PSYC-001 are exempt from this requirement, but must substitute an additional Psychology elective.
MATH-040. Probability and Statistics (4 credits)
Topics include graphical and numerical methods for describing data, probability and sampling distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, and simple linear regression with inference. Some knowledge of calculus is desirable but not required. Please note, MATH-040 must be taken prior to PSYC-002 Research Methods and Statistics; it may be taken prior to PSYC-001 General Psychology. Majors with AP credit for MATH-040 are exempt from this requirement, but must substitute an additional Psychology elective.
PSYC-002. Research Methods and Statistics (4 credits)
This course offers an introduction to the logic of research design and to descriptive and inferential statistics. The goals are to prepare students to design, analyze, interpret, and report on their own research, and to evaluate critically the work of others. Emphasis is placed on the logical bases of psychological measurement, research design, and statistical inference. The topics to be covered include the nature of both correlation and experimental studies, confounds and ways of dealing with them, reliability, internal and external validity, frequency distributions, measures of central tendency, variability, graphic presentation of data, hypothesis testing, correlation, and an introduction to the analysis of variance. Each student conducts a research project in an area chosen by the student. Students also write critical summaries of published research. Majors are strongly encouraged to complete this course in their sophomore year and no later than their junior year. Prerequisites: PSYC-001. Fall and Spring.
Majors are required to take two core courses from Area A and one from Area B.
140. Social Psychology (3 credits)
This course examines the social foundations of human nature by addressing the following aspects of social life: (a) social influence; (b) social roles and public behavior; (c) inferences about other people; and (d) interpersonal relations and groups. Among the topics to be considered are: the social origins of knowledge and of self, the influence of public behavior on social and moral norms, persuasion, impression management, social emotions, judgment of responsibility and character, interpersonal attraction, aggression, altruism, group dynamics, and inter-group conflict. The course will concentrate on the level of analysis of the individual, but will include sociological, neuroscience, and evolutionary perspectives where appropriate. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
150. Theories of Personality (3 credits)
This course is intended to introduce students to the diverse ways of conceptualizing, assessing, studying, and treating personality. Personality psychology is a scientific study of the whole person. In lecture and readings, we will consider trait, biological, psychodynamic, humanistic, cultural and behavioral approaches to understanding human personality. When discussing each of these approaches, we will focus on its ability to account for individual differences in emotions, thoughts, motivation and behavior, and their stability and change. Our class time will include lecture, watching and discussing video case studies and class discussions and exercises. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
151. Abnormal Psychology (3 credits)
This course is a survey of the major psychological disorders and pathologies identified by the American Psychiatric Association in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Among the psychopathologies studied are obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality), sexual disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse. In addition, topics such as the meaning and history of abnormality, models of psychopathology, and the interface between psychology and the law are also covered. The psychopathologies are made more realistic and relevant to students’ lives through the use of videos, slides, personal anecdotes, and encouragement of class discussion. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
153. Lifespan Development (3 credits)
This course explores the biological, cognitive, emotional and social changes that humans experience across the lifespan from birth through old age. It addresses questions such as: “Is development continuous or discontinuous?” “Are we the product of our nature or our nurture?” “Do all people follow a similar trajectory or is human development marked by diversity?” The broad aim is to answer, in different ways, the fundamental question: “How do we become who we are?” Drawing on developmental, social, and cognitive psychology, and an understanding of developmental milestones of each age period, the course investigates the development of language, intelligence, morality, personality, close relationships, and identity. Special attention is paid to the parts parents, peers, schools, and socioeconomic contexts play in those processes. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
155. Psychology and the Legal System (3 credits)
The law intends to guide and control human behavior and the discipline of psychology intends to understand it. In this course we will examine theories, research, and practical implications for understanding human behavior that is regulated by the American legal system. As a survey course we will investigate a broad range of topics that may include the psychology of crime, eyewitnesses, forensic assessment, trials and juries, and sentencing and corrections. We will examine the structure of the legal system and the various roles that psychologists can play in that system. We will supplement our textbook with Supreme Court briefs and opinions, documentary films, and guest speakers that may include representatives from federal agencies (e.g., U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation), state and local court systems (e.g., defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, law enforcement), and advocacy organizations (e.g., victim’s rights, children’s advocacy). Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
160. Childhood and Adolescence (3 credits)
This course integrates theory and research focusing on dimensions of normal personal, social and cognitive growth from infancy through adolescence. The development of human behaviors and processes such as attachment, prosocial behaviors, altruism, self concept, aggression, sex typing, intelligence and moral reasoning are examined. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
241. The Psychology of Gender (3 credits)
This course deals with theory and research concerning sex and gender. This class is not meant to be a survey of sex differences, but rather, an examination of the ways in which gender shapes us; the course will emphasize the social context of gender and how men and women “do” gender in their everyday lives. The aim of the course is to explore and critically examine theories and research on sex and gender to better understand the complex interplay among different factors that influence a broad range of human experience. A variety of topics will be covered. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
242. Cultural Psychology (3 credits)
Human beings do not develop and function in a cultural vacuum. Cultural psychology is the field of study that focuses on the cultural constitution of psychological phenomena. In this course, we will consider current theories and research on culture, race, and ethnicity and will examine evidence suggesting psychological processes are culture- and context-dependent. Students will gain a better understanding of the ways in which sociocultural contexts influence psychological processes, such as self, agency, motivation, emotion, cognition, and relationships, learn about empirical methods in cultural psychology, and achieve a better appreciation of diversity within and outside of the United States. Class meetings will be comprised of lecture, discussion, and class exercises. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
245. Group and Inter-group Psychology (3 credits)
The objective of this course is to educate and encourage students to: (1) understand the psychological foundations of group and inter-group behavior (2) comprehend and critically assess competing psychological theories of group and inter-group behavior, as well as empirical research testing the theories (3) apply psychological theories to explain group and inter-group behavior, including prejudice, discrimination, extremism, radicalization, violence and conflict (4) understand the relationship between globalization and collective behavior (5) assess the psychological foundations of policies for managing diversity, including assimilation, multiculturalism, and omniculturalism. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
251. Clinical Assessment (3 credits)
This course introduces students to the theory and practice of clinical assessment, in the context of a specialized subfield of Clinical Psychology called Clinical Neuropsychology. It is clinical neuropsychologists’ goal and responsibility to assess the relationship between central nervous system function, cognition, emotion, and behavior; and to apply this knowledge to the design of individualized diagnosis and intervention. Students will gain an understanding of the field through review of the psychometric approach utilized by clinical neuropsychologists, the cognitive and emotional constructs they measure, and the knowledge of neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and neuroradiology upon which they rely. Students will perform a self-study of cognitive and emotional functions and their role in everyday life. Students will also explore the nature of neuropsychological dysfunction in various neurologic and psychiatric disorders, and simulate a written neuropsychological report on a disorder of their choosing.
252. Community Psychology (3 credits)
This course introduces students to the science and practice of community psychology, which emphasizes understanding and changing larger social contexts. Community psychologists work on many of the social issues facing communities today such as juvenile violence, homelessness, child abuse, and welfare reform. They combine theory, research, and action to promote health and prevent problems in communities, groups, and individuals. We examine the field’s major orienting concepts: stress and coping, prevention, empowerment, and resilience. We evaluate the field’s guiding principles: knowledge within a value system, the role of context, importance of diversity, commitment to social change, and orientation toward strengths. Because the field of community psychology resulted from psychologists’ active questioning of the prevailing models of science and practice, students will be encouraged to question and debate their views. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
262. Early Child Development (3 credits)
This course engages students in a critical examination of the interdisciplinary literature on early child development from the prenatal period up to school entry. The central debate about the role of early experience in development will provide a unifying theme for the course. The traditional domains of development (social, emotional, language, cognitive) will be addressed in the context of debates about nature-nurture, parenting and the role of the family, child care and early intervention, the influence of culture and the community, and the role of public policies. Research on children displaying both typical and atypical development, as well as those who experience environmental insults such as toxic exposures and child abuse, will be included. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
263. The Psychology of Aging (3 credits)
When we study child development, we study our personal and collective past, whereas the study of aging focuses on our future. This course will examine the nature and causes of the psychological changes that accompany human aging. Theories concerning the biological, social, and cultural influences on aging will be considered. The course will examine patterns of change and stability over the adult years. We will ask whether the changes that occur are inevitable and irreversible. Particular emphasis will be placed on the changes in mental life that accompany advancing age, both as viewed from without by observers (including researchers) and from within by aging individuals themselves (in autobiographical accounts). The course will emphasize the ways in which people compensate for the losses that come with added years (including the general slowing of mental and motor processes, the deaths of loved ones) by taking advantage of the gains (including accumulated wisdom and perspective, additional leisure time).
265. Early Childhood Education (3 credits)
The course addresses a broad set of topics that have implications for developmentally appropriate and effective early childhood education. It begins with children’s social, emotional and cognitive development and issues related to poverty, culture and language. We will also examine research evidence on effective literacy, math and science instruction for young children, evaluations of early childhood interventions, and several current policy debates. My goal is to ensure that you are equipped to think in an informed and critical way about the state of early childhood education in the U.S. – where it stands today and where it needs to go in the future to enable all children to succeed in school. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
266: Children, Families and Parenting (3 credits)
This course is designed to engage students in a critical examination of the interdisciplinary literature on families, parenting and child development from infancy through adolescence. Families provide the most influential context for children’s development. In this course, students will consider the question, “What is a family?” by examining the history and changing demographics of American families. Next the course turns to the process of becoming a family and raising young children through adolescents, as we examine the literature on parent-child relationships. Students will learn about research on family structure, including research on marriage, interparental relations, family instability and teen parents. American families are highly diverse and it is important to appreciate similarities and differences across families of different ethnic backgrounds. Family financial resources, poverty, and welfare reform constitute the final topic in the course. We address the question of whether and how income matters for children’s development, including an exploration of issues that emerge for younger vs. older children. Finally we devote several classes to research on efforts to change families for the better through various approaches to intervention. Prerequisites: PSYC-001 and PSYC-002.
120. Physiological Psychology (3 credits)
This course has two principal objectives: (a) to present the major research methods and findings in the neural sciences as they pertain to relationships between neural and psychological processes and (b) to discuss critically the validity of physiological explanations of psychological events. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
127. Drugs and Human Behavior (3 credits)
This course surveys fundamental concepts and current issues in the field of psychopharmacology, understanding how drugs affect human behavior. Topics covered include the understanding how drugs are administered to the body and how different routes of administration influence the effects of individual drugs, how drugs are metabolized and eliminated from the body, the neuronal effects of drugs, how pain is treated using analgesics, the effects of both legal and illicit recreational drugs affect behavior, and how mental illness and disease are treated with modern pharmacotherapeutics, including pharmacogenetics. Throughout the course, public policy issues are considered on how best to handle issues involving psychoactive drugs.
130. Cognition (3 credits)
The major goals of this course are to present the theories and methods psychologists have developed in their study of human memory, language, and thought, and to demonstrate the practical applications of these theories and research findings to such everyday activities as studying and problem solving. The course consists of three major sections: memory, language, and thinking. The memory section analyzes the evidence for multiple memory systems, and considers ancient and contemporary techniques for remembering in light of current psychological research and theory. The language section focuses on the mental processes and capacities that underlie our ability to acquire, produce, and comprehend language. The thinking section discusses reasoning, decision-making, creativity, and problem solving. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
222. Psychology of Human Sexuality (3 credits)
The goal of this course is to examine the complex interplay of psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors in the development and expression of sexual attitudes and behaviors. This will be accomplished through lectures, readings, discussions, films, and a set of written assignments. We will cover a wide variety of topics, including the major psychological theories of sexuality, patterns of sexual arousal and response, the development of gender and gender identity, variations in sexual orientation, attraction processes and romantic love, sexual dysfunctions and sex therapy, typical and atypical sexual behaviors, as well as the psychological effects of pornography. Every effort will be made to present the relevance and applicability of each course topic to your own life. By the end of the semester, you should have a greater understanding of your own and others’ sexual functioning and practices. You should also develop an appreciation for different perspectives on sexuality, as well as improve your ability to communicate on this topic. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
225. Health Psychology (3 credits)
Health Psychology examines the biopsychosocial factors that interact with and affect health promotion, stress management, pain coping, and illness prevention and recovery. The course will offer a broad overview of the field, including topics such as: habits and behavioral change, social support and emotion regulation, mental health and subjective well-being, exercise and eating, doctor-patient communication and relationship, chronic stress, major adversity, and psychoneuroimmunology. Students will explore these factors from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including behavioral, physiological, socioemotional, and cognitive. The class is designed to develop: (1) an appreciation of the complex interplay between human behavior, cognition, and emotion as critical determinants of physiological and health outcomes; (2) a practical understanding of cognitive-behavioral and socioemotional techniques applicable to medical treatment and the implications for behavioral medicine and preventative care; (3) a recognition of the importance of cura personalis—an understanding of patients as complex biopsychological systems embedded in a social environment and in a broader societal context. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
231. Psychology of Memory (3 credits)
Memory is characterized both by extraordinary powers and by puzzling limitations. Examples of these extremes can be seen in all of us; we recall details of events experienced in childhood, yet find ourselves unable to think of the single item for which we drove to the grocery store. Other extremes of memory are witnessed only in unusual individuals; mnemonists with apparently limitless photographic memories stand in sharp contrast to individuals who suffer from amnesia so severe that they have forgotten who they are. This course explores such powers and limitations, and considers critically what they reveal about the nature of human memory. Among the topics considered are mnemonists, techniques for improving memory, amnesia, hypnosis, the development and aging of memory in the individual, theories of memory, and the relation between brain and memory. The course is conducted as a seminar and workshop. Students read and lead discussions of the assigned articles, and, working either alone or as part of a group, they design and conduct their own studies of memory. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
234. Cognitive Neuroscience (3 credits)
How does the brain produce the mind? Answering this question is the goal of cognitive neuroscience, a rapidly growing discipline that represents the integration of cognitive psychology and neuroscience. The objective of this course is to introduce you to the methods and topics of cognitive neuroscience. We will consider evidence from functional brain imaging, neuro-genetics, and studies of brain injury and dysfunction to arrive at an understanding of how complex cognitive functions such as perception, memory, language, emotion, and higher level thought are organized in the brain. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
235. Social and Affective Neuroscience (3 credits)
This course will be aimed at understanding the nature of human emotional and social experiences and behavior. We will begin by learning about the brain processes that underlie basic emotional processes. This will provide a foundation for considering what emotion is—how do we define it? How do we measure it? We will next move into considering individual emotions, including basic emotions like anger, rage, fear and anxiety. We will then move into considering social emotions, like affiliation, love, and empathy, and the social processes that arise from emotion responses, including stereotyping and prejudice. Throughout, we will consider the neural substrates emotions, homologies in other species, and the psychiatric disorders that may arise when dysfunction arises in social and emotional processes. Prerequisite: PSYC-001.
BIOL-195. Neurobiology (4 credits)
This course covers the fundamentals of neurobiology, the study of the cellular basis of nervous system function. It is intended as the gateway course for a Neurobiology major at the sophomore level. The course will examine the cellular composition of the nervous system, the characteristics and functions of neurons, and the ways that signals are relayed within the nervous system. The cellular and molecular basis of sensory and motor systems, plasticity, development and learning will be analyzed. The process and impact of nervous system evolution also will be considered. The course consists of three 1-hr lectures and a recitation. Prerequisites: BIOL-103
BIOL-326. Animal Behavior (4 credits)
This course is about animals, evolution, conservation, and behavior. We start with some basic evolutionary principles, based on Darwin’s theory of organic evolution by natural selection. Studies of animal behavior focus on the how, when, where, and why animals behave in certain ways and not in others. General topics include parental, mating, cooperative, foraging, predation and aggressive behavior. We will also discuss nepotism (known more formally as kin selection), reciprocal altruism, cognition, culture, development, social networks, and life histories (how individual behavioral strategies change across the lifespan.) You will learn to interpret what scientists mean when using such terms as “innate” or “learned.” Both field and laboratory studies are integral to the course. Specific animal species including representatives from mammalian, avian, reptilian, and insect groups will help illustrate how animal behavior systems work. We also discuss how climate change is impacting animal systems. Prerequisites: BIOL-104.
Majors are required to take two courses at the Seminar Level.
337. Hot Topics in Human Sexuality (3 credits)
This class will explore controversies in the field of human sexuality. Sexuality tends to evoke strong opinions and vigorous debates, both among researchers and in the general public. Does talking to teens about sex encourage sexual behavior? Is pornography harmful? Is sexual orientation fixed or fluid? It is especially important that we understand the complexities of scientific evidence in this field, as sexuality impacts public policy and our personal lives. Topics may include sex/gender differences, sexual orientations, the sex industry, casual sex, atypical sexual behaviors, sexual difficulties, and sexuality education. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
338. Psychology of Close Relationships (3 credits)
In this course, we will examine some of the theories and research on close relationships with the goal of understanding relationship processes and outcomes. The course will primarily focus on romantic relationships, but will also touch on family relationships and friendships. We will apply the science of close relationships to “real-life” relationships, including identifying ways to use the research to improve relationships. Topics may include attraction, intimacy, love, sexuality, communication, conflict, relationship satisfaction, relationship longevity, and relationship dissolution. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
340. Social Psychology of Emotion (3 credits)
This seminar examines the psychology of emotion, emphasizing cognitive, social, and cultural aspects that have been studied from the perspective of social psychology. The course addresses questions such as the following: How do emotions affect thought, motivation, and social interaction? What determines whether they are functional or dysfunctional? In what ways are emotions influenced by culture? What is known about specific emotional states, such as anger, love, embarrassment, shame, guilt, jealousy, or envy? The class is taught in a seminar format and requires class attendance and participation. Readings will be at an advanced level, and multiple writing assignments will be required throughout the semester. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
341. Emotions and Psychopathology (3 credits)
When are emotions functional and when are they dysfunctional? What do “flat affect” and “flashbacks” feel like? Is it possible to feel depressed and elated at the same time? Do psychopaths feel fear? This seminar will focus on answering these and similar questions on the linkages between emotional and social processes and how they are (or are not) disrupted in different types of psychopathology. We will begin with a review of the basic emotional processes and contemporary theories of emotions. We will continue with a discussion of methodological issues associated with study of emotion in diverse populations. We will then examine the role of emotions in etiology, presentation and treatment of several mental disorders, including mood disorders (unipolar depression and bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders (phobias and PTSD), schizophrenia, psychopathy, alcohol abuse, and borderline personality disorder. Our class time will include discussion, watching and discussing video case studies and class exercises. Prerequisites: PSYC-001, PSYC-002 and PSYC 151
347. Special Topics in Psychology (3 credits)
This course can vary in content from semester to semester, and indeed from section to section in the same semester. Each section of this course will typically be taught by an advanced graduate student in the Psychology Department, and will explore material bearing on that student’s doctoral dissertation. Since the course content varies in the manner described, a student may enroll in the course more than once. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
349. Stress, Coping, and Health (3 credits)
Everyone experiences stress, and stress can have serious consequences for mental and physical health. But how does stress come to affect health? And what can we do to minimize the harmful effects of stress? This course reviews the foundations of stress theory and critically examines research on how stress might affect psychosocial, behavioral, and biological processes to impact health and disease risk. Individual and contextual factors that can protect against stress, as well as coping strategies and interventions that can help deal with or reduce stress are also examined. Prerequisites: PSYC-001 and PSYC-002.
353. Culture and Psychopathology (3 credits)
This course explores a portion of the accumulated evidence for a relativistic, rather than a universal, model of psychological disturbance. In this relativistic model, the experience and manifestation of mental illness is shaped primarily by indigenous beliefs and cultural value systems. Reading material will be drawn from the psychological, sociological, and anthropological literature using a wide variety of sources including books, empirical studies, theoretical essays, and ethnographies. Among the topics to be considered are cross-cultural differences in classification and epidemiology, the relation between culture and theories of psychopathology, culture-bound syndromes, cross-cultural perspectives on depression, aggression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia, and cultural variations in treatment and healing practices. Prerequisites: PSYC-002 and PSYC-151 or PSYC-242.
354. Theories of Psychotherapy (3 credits)
This course is designed to familiarize students with basic concepts in theories of psychotherapy and provide a review of selected theories and their applications. Freudian, post-Freudian, existential, humanistic, behavioral, and cognitive approaches will be covered. The theories presented will be critically evaluated, contrasted, and applied to understanding of real-life treatment situations with diverse populations. Multiple instructional approaches will be used, including lectures, class discussions, experiential exercises, and videos. Prerequisites: PSYC 001 and PSYC 151.
355. Neurophilosophy (3 credits)
Science used to be philosophy and it may be again. What we now think of as science grew largely out of the work of “natural philosophers” who used empirical (evidence-based) measures to test philosophical theories. Today, in the neurosciences, new techniques open the way to new evidence concerning fundamental philosophical questions of the nature and behavior of our minds. In this course, we will read into the contemporary literature, particularly the literature of cognitive neuroscience, in which empirical brain-based methods have been used as tools for asking philosophical questions. We will consider the topics of consciousness, morality, love, human-ness, individual differences and equality, and conceptions of self and others, as well as the natures of perception, thought, belief, knowledge, and memory. We will directly consider the capacities and limitations of neuroscientific methods for philosophical inquiry, and discuss emerging and future directions in this area. Prerequisites: (PSYC 001 or BIOL 103 or BIOL 104) and (PSYC 234 or BIOL 354 or BIOL 175).
358. Empathy and Communication (3 credits)
Are humans innately selfish or empathic? What do we mean when we say “empathy?” Do selfish or empathic behaviors succeed best in the long term? What is a psychopath? In this seminar, we will explore these questions and others related to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of empathy in interpersonal interactions. We will begin with an exploration of the multiple ways that empathy can be defined and conceptualized, with a focus on the differences among empathy, empathic accuracy, and perspective-taking. As the course continues, we will examine the neural structures that subserve empathic abilities, how the capacity for empathy develops during childhood, the relationship between empathy and both altruistic and aggressive behaviors, and psychopathologies associated with impaired empathic capacities. The course will be taught as a seminar, and all students are expected to participate. Readings will be drawn from recent and classic academic literature. Prerequisites: PSYC 001 and PSYC 002.
361. Children and Technology (3 credits)
Children and adolescents now grow and develop in a rapidly changing digital world from the earliest days of their lives. Our children now grow up digital natives. Yet the developmental needs of children, such as attachments and friendships with others, identity construction, the formation of romantic relationships, and differentiating fantasy from reality, remain a constant in their lives. How does the rapidly changing digital experience map on to the developmental needs of children? In this seminar, we will explore how established and emerging technologies influence children’s developmental outcomes. The technologies explored include television, computers, videogames, tablets, and mobile phones, as well as the content and games that children and youth use on these platforms. Social policy issues will be considered such as influences and regulatory polices about aggression, pornography, and educational media. Prerequisite: PSYC 001.
362. Children’s Development (3 credits)
How does a child grow and develop into the person that he or she becomes by the end of the adolescent years? How do biological and environmental influences interact to produce social, cognitive, and physical outcomes? For instance, why does one child grow up to be aggressive while another becomes prosocial? How does sexual orientation develop? Why do young children believe in magical beings, and why does that belief change as they grow older? How do children learn new behaviors at different points in their lives? What do dreams mean? Ultimately, how does a child move from one point in development to a later one? These kinds of questions are the focus of this course, which uses various developmental theories, including psychoanalytic theory, social cognitive theory, cognitive theories, and ethology to describe, predict, and explain social, cognitive, and physical development. Be prepared to reflect on and share experiences from your own childhood to answer these questions! This course meets a seminar requirement in the Department of Psychology and is also a part of the Education, Inquiry, and Justice minor.
364. Early Intervention Strategies (3 credits)
This seminar addresses the role that interventions play in the lives of children and families. We will explore the fundamental question of the malleability of development and examine various strategies for shifting children onto promising pathways. The class is organized around case studies of specific intervention strategies organized by both focal age group (e.g., infants and toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents) and content areas (education, juvenile justice, child welfare services). We also discuss methodological and policy considerations that emerge in this literature. Prerequisities: PSYC 001 and (PSYC 153 or PSYC 160 or PSYC 262 or PSYC 265 or PSYC 266)
365. Child and Family Policy (3 credits)
This course is designed to engage students in a critical examination of the relation between knowledge and advocacy, and the influence of both on the development of child policy in the United States. Students will be introduced to the opportunities, dilemmas, and constraints that affect the relation between science and policy, particularly federal legislative policies for children and families. Roles for psychologists in the policy arena, as well as ethical issues associated with these roles will also be explored. Prerequisites: PSYC-001 or permission of instructor.
367. Infancy (3 credits)
This course introduces upper-level undergraduates to fundamental concepts of human development from conception to 2 years of age and will evaluate and critique the methods, the data, and the interpretations arising from the study of the preverbal cognitive mind. Assessment will consist of a semester-long research proposal project where students integrate their writing and research skills. Student will conduct a peer review of each other’s proposals and then based on feedback each student will revise the proposal. In the final class students will present their ideas to the class. Students will also be expected to discuss research both online in Canvas and in class and to present a research article to the class. The final is a take-home policy paper. Students will also write written reflections on their observations at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Developmental Evaluation Followup Clinic (DEC) and Hoya Kids childcare.
368. Children, Families, and the Law (3 credits)
Psychology research and practice can inform several areas of law affecting children and families, including child maltreatment, adolescent reproductive rights, juvenile delinquency, and child custody, among others. We will examine the psychological assumptions about the interests of children, parents, and the state that are present in the law. We will also investigate how psychological theory and research is designed and applied to legal dilemmas facing children and families. Readings will come from both law and psychology. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
370. Psychology and Literature (3 credits)
Insights from selected great works of literature and psychological science are used to explore the self, emotions and culture, intelligence, personality, conformity, obedience, group dynamics, collective conflict and war. The relationship between literature and psychological science is also explored. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
371. Contemporary Research on Emotion (3 credits)
This seminar covers the traditional psychological approaches to emotion: biological, cognitive, communicative, psychopathological, developmental, and functionalist. Recent theory and research will be examined and critically evaluated. The goals of the class will be to develop an understanding of the multifaceted nature of emotions and an awareness of how they function in everyday life. The course will be taught in seminar format, with class participation expected of all students. Readings are drawn from the academic literature and are at an advanced level. Students will write reflections on every reading assignment, plus two longer papers designed to develop their skills at observation, research, and analysis. Prerequisites: PSYC-001.
375. Political Psychology (3 credits)
This course explores political thought and action through the lens of psychological science. The introductory discussions focus on the varieties of perspectives in psychological science and competing constructions of human nature. The relationship between the psychological citizen and political systems is examined. There follow discussions of politics and culture in global context, politics and personality, political decision making and participation, collective political processes, and intergroup and international relations. Prequisites: PSYC-001 or permission of instructor.
IDST-324. Critique of Social Science (3 credits)
This course is the “capstone” seminar for students earning the minor (or, in the case of SFS students, a certificate) in the Interdisciplinary Studies program in Social and Political Thought. The course is devoted to a critical examination of modern social science as an avenue to understanding human behavior, and hence will be devoted primarily to discussions of important historical, philosophical, and methodological issues in social science. The objective of this course is for the participants to achieve a critical perspective on social science not only as an academic discipline but as a social – and hence moral – force.
LING-333. Cross-Cultural Communications (3 credits)
This course approaches cross cultural communication from the perspective of interactional sociolinguistics and explores the connections between language and culture by investigating some of the aspects of language use that vary by culture. These include turn taking organization, politeness, and conversational rituals. The course will also survey differences that arise when cultures intersect; particular attention is paid to interactions between different genders and generations, different ethnicities and races, interactions in professional settings, and interactions via social media.
PHIL-401. Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: Language (3 credits)
In this course we will concentrate on understanding the function of language in human beings. We will study the problem of language in the psychoanalytic tradition (mainly but not exclusively Freud and Lacan), in child development, in understanding and treating mentally ill persons, and in a couple of philosophers.
Majors are required to take two additional courses from the combined offerings of Core, Seminar, and Elective courses.
Electives count toward the major, but do not count toward filling the three core area requirements. Electives include more than three area courses, more than two 300-level seminars as well as courses taken during study abroad that were not pre-approved as fulfilling an area requirement, but were pre-approved as fulfilling an elective. In addition, any other Psychology course at any level that does not already fulfill a specific requirement of the major may also serve as an elective.
The following cross-listed courses count as PSYC Electives:
EDIJ-253. Children with Disabilities (3 credits)
Research repeatedly indicates that children living in homeless environments experience increased health problems, developmental delays, anxiety, depression, behavioral problems and lower educational achievement. During the past seven years, child poverty rates in the US has increased significantly, leaving 13 million children living in poverty (in 2011, the federal poverty line was an annual income of $22,350 for a family of four.). Extreme poverty rates (those earning wages totaling less than half of the federal poverty line) have increased by nearly 24 percent during this time, with 5.8 million children living in extreme poverty. Young children (ages five and under) are even more likely to live in poverty, with 21 percent (more than two in every nine young children) living in poverty. Washington, DC has the highest rate of child poverty in the United States at more than 33 percent. Young children who are homeless face a multitude of risk factors that affect their happiness, mental and physical health, and subsequent school achievement.
ICOS-201. Introduction to Cognitive Science (3 credits)
Cognitive Science is the study of the mind, i.e., of how knowledge is acquired and used. Cognitive scientists use theories and methods drawn from many disciplines including cognitive psychology, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, physics, mathematics, biology, and anthropology. They ask questions such as: How do people acquire language? What are the neural bases of perceiving, learning and remembering? What is the nature of knowledge? Can machines think? How do experts differ from novices? Are there innate ideas? How did human intelligence evolve? This course introduces students to the conceptual frameworks and methods used in the various disciplines which constitute Cognitive Science. The course is team-taught by professors from several Main Campus and Medical Center departments.
ICOS-202. Research Modules in Cognitive Science (3 credits)
This course introduces students to research strategies of the different disciplines of Cognitive Science, using faculty research programs at Georgetown as examples. Approximately 6-8 Main Campus and Medical Center faculty offer research modules, of which students select three. In each module, students learn about and become engaged in the current research of the faculty member. A short paper or small project is normally required to complete each module.
LING-271. Introduction to Psycholinguistics (3 credits)
This course provides a basic overview of how the mind and the brain process language. We will cover topics such as the following: speech perception, word recognition, sentence comprehension, language production, connectionism, first language acquisition and bilingualism.
NSCI-499. Introduction to Neuroethics (3 credits)
This course examines the emerging field of neuroethics, as both the “neuroscience of moral cognition and action” and the “ethics of neuroscientific research and its applications”. The format is didactic lecture, with discussion of the current literature with companion readings focused on advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology, and the ethical, legal and social issues fostered by such uses in medicine, public life and national security. The primary literature comprises the course with an emphasis on identifying and addressing key Neuroethical social questions, problems and solutions germane to (students’) neuroscientific research and its translation in healthcare and society. The course is restricted to Neuroscience students. MS and undergraduate students require prior approval from the course director.
UNXD-200. Principles in Childhood and Society (1 credit)
This is a required gateway module that introduces students to the Challenges in Childhood and Society course cluster and its major content. This 1 credit module runs the first 4 weeks of the semester and focuses on theory and research related to children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral health and the social contexts in which they live, learn, and play. The gateway module is organized around key influences that challenge or protect children during their journey to adulthood: genetic, prenatal and environmental factors; family, peers, and significant adults; educational and health systems; mass media and community exposure; and political, socio-cultural, and economic forces. The module introduces students to these complex and interacting pressures on children’s development, their biopsychosocial origins, and their impact on educational, economic, health, and mental health outcomes. In combination with 2 other 1 credit modules from the CC&S course series these 3 credits can be bundled to make a course. For Psychology majors and minors, the single 3 credit bundled course can be applied toward an elective. For more information on the course cluster, please visit the CC&S website.
Required Courses for Minors
Minors are required to take six courses to fulfill the requirements that are specified below. See above for course descriptions.
- Minors are required to take PSYC-001 General Psychology.
- Minors with AP credit for PSYC-001 are exempt from this requirement, but must substitute an additional Psychology elective.
- Minors are required to take two core courses from Area A and one from Area B.
- Area A. Developmental and Social Foundations
- Area B. Cognitive and Biological Foundations
- Minors are required to elect two additional courses from the combined offerings of Core, Seminar, and Elective courses.
Research Opportunities, Reading and Research Tutorials, REBL
The Department of Psychology offers a variety of research opportunities including Reading and Research Tutorials. Reading tutorials ordinarily involve a review of professional literature on a subject agreed upon by the student and faculty member. Research tutorials involve either empirical or theoretical research of a more original nature. Students are also strongly encouraged to seek involvement in the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. The latter offers support for student research and has a competitive summer fellowship program.
Students are encouraged to join research labs and/or enroll in reading tutorials and independent research tutorials. Both reading and research tutorials taken under the guidance of a member of the Georgetown University Psychology Department faculty or under the collaborative guidance of a faculty member at another institution and a member of the Georgetown University Psychology Department faculty can be counted as elective courses toward the major. However, neither reading nor research tutorials can be used to satisfy the distribution requirements of the major. Research tutorials and/or participation in research are particularly recommended for any student wishing to pursue graduate study in psychology. Research Tutorials typically involve a student conducting a small project as part of the larger, ongoing research program of a faculty member. In most cases, a faculty member is not able to accept more than a few students for tutorials each semester.
Students also have the option to enroll in PSYC 401 – 403 Research Experience-Based Learning (REBL) and conduct research for course credit, including course credit in the major/minor. The learning goals for the REBL course draw on all of the learning goals of the undergraduate psychology program. Much of the work will target Goal 2 – Epistemological Foundations – because students will learn firsthand about the methods psychologists use for generating knowledge. Each specific research experience will also impart Foundational Knowledge (Goal 1) about the area of scientific inquiry in which you are participating, the skills and perspectives necessary to apply the knowledge to everyday life (Goal 3), and the Values in Psychology (Goal 4) involved in the ethical practice of research. For more detailed information on REBL and how to enroll, please read the syllabus.
In planning an undergraduate program, majors should keep in mind that no more than fourteen (14) courses in psychology may be counted towards graduation. All courses are three (3) credits unless arrangements are made with the professor prior to registration. Permission of the instructor is required for all tutorials. Specific requirements are agreed upon between the student and faculty member, but typically, tutorials involve regular weekly meetings and require a paper due at the end of the semester. Tutorial registration forms may be obtained from the College Dean’s Office (108 White-Gravenor) and must be completed prior to registration.
Majors are advised to consult with faculty members early if they wish to do a tutorial. Students who are unsure which faculty members to approach for a tutorial on a given subject should consult with their advisor. Information about individual faculty is located on our Faculty page.
Important: Tutorial Forms are to be signed by:
- Professor with whom you are taking the tutorial
- The Department Chair OR the Director of Undergraduate Studies
PSYC-499 Honors Symposium (3 credits): This course recognizes the Department’s Honors Program.
The Department of Psychology’s Honors Program provides enriched research training for a small group of the most motivated and accomplished psychology majors. The Honors Program provides students with the opportunity to be immersed in the research process under the mentorship of a faculty member. In close interaction with their mentor, students will complete a research project that will constitute a novel contribution to the psychological sciences. At the end of their senior year, students are expected to submit an honors thesis and present a poster at the Honors Symposium.
The Honors Program Director is Professor Anna Johnson.
Practices and Procedures
ar academic year.
Criteria for Acceptance
- The willingness of a full-time psychology faculty member to mentor a student is the most important criterion for acceptance into the Honors Program.
- Students should have an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher. In exceptional circumstances, an exemption to this rule may be issued by the faculty mentor.
- Students should have completed or be currently completing Research Methods and Statistics (PSYC-002) when they apply. In exceptional circumstances, an exemption to this rule may be issued by the faculty mentor.
***Please note: students must identify a mentor and obtain that mentor’s agreement to support honors thesis work before completing the application to join the Psychology Honors program.***
All interested students should submit the Honors Application Form to the director. Download the application form.
- Applicants can apply in March, April, or May of their Junior year to conduct honors research during their Senior year only; they may also apply in March, April, or May of their Sophomore year to conduct honors research during both their Junior and Senior years.
- The Honors thesis must be turned in to the director after it has been approved by the student’s mentor.
Ordinarily, students interested in joining the Psychology Honors Program should be fully engaged in the Program for at least the Fall and Spring semesters of their 4th year. However, the particular research approach and teaching schedules of some faculty may result in different timing for students interested in working with them. Further, in the case of students who plan to study abroad during the junior year, the student and mentor must come to an agreement about how study abroad will affect the student’s work as part of the Honors Program, prior to the student entering the Program.
Nature of Psychology Honors Program Activity and Product
To qualify to graduate with Honors in Psychology, students must:
- Complete an Honors thesis that meets the set requirements by the specified deadline and agree to it being posted on the Honors Program’s webpage.
- Attend at least 5 Honors research meetings, and make a presentation about their Honors thesis in one such meeting.
- Maintain satisfactory progress during the Honors year; if the mentor indicates that progress is unsatisfactory by the end of the first semester of the Honors program, the student will be terminated from continuing in the Honors program in the second semester.
- Present a poster in the Annual Psychology Honors Research Conference to be held in the Spring semester of each year.
Ordinarily students will participate in an ongoing research program directed by a professor. The particular form and method of the project will be decided by the mentor and the student. However, the Honors thesis must ‘stand alone’, make a novel theoretical, empirical, or integrative contribution to a branch of psychology, and be of high enough quality to be submitted for publication or for presentation at a scientific professional conference. Not all conferences are scientific, but all are professional. The faculty mentor will determine if the thesis meets these requirements and, in some cases, the mentor may invite a second reader to evaluate and contribute to the thesis.
‘Brown-Bag’ Honors Meetings
Enrollees in the Honors Program will attend six research meetings during each academic year, three in the Fall and three in the Spring semester. These meetings will be coordinated by the director of the Honors Program. The 1st meeting is organization; the 2nd and 3rd are research proposal presentation meetings; the 4th and 5th are data progress update meetings; and the 6th is poster presentation preparation. Each student will make at least one presentation at these meetings. The goal of these meetings is to provide the student with an insider’s view of the research process. Students will critically discuss research literature related to their Honors Theses, as well as their progress.
Students will register for ‘Honors Symposium’ PSYC 499 (3 credit hours) in the first semester of entrance to the Honors Program. This will count as fulfilling one of the two Seminar requirements for the Psychology Major.
Graduation with Honors
All students who successfully complete Honors requirements will have ‘Honors Psychology Major Complete’ recorded on their transcripts.
Other Opportunities for Psychology Majors
If you are interested in pursuing a career in psychology, it is vital to gain research experience. Most graduate schools are interested in students who have more than an average amount of research experience. There are a number of ways for you to obtain this type of experience. Please review the Research Opportunities section of our website which details such opportunities. Also, information on independent tutorials and research-based credit is given above. In addition, from time to time the Department sends out over its Majors and Minors ListServ information about outside opportunities; if you find that you are missing from this listserv, please e-mail Molly McGeady. Please be sure to give your full name and the e-mail address that you wish messages to be sent. The Department also posts outside opportunities on our blog.
Undergraduate Student Funding
Psychology majors can apply for small amounts of need-based funding to support research or other professional development activities. Typically, such funding requests will not exceed $250 and will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. If interested in applying for funding, students should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Deborah C. Stearns, with a specific description of the funding need.
Taking Courses at Other Universities in the D.C. Metropolitan area and United States
Taking Courses at Other Universities in the D.C. Metropolitan area and United States
A large number of courses are available through other universities in the area, otherwise known as the Washington Metropolitan Area Consortium of Universities; a listing of schools in the Consortium as well as information about registering for such classes are available here. Psychology courses taken in the Consortium (or on other campuses around the country) must be approved in advance by your advisor and by your Dean. Of note: General Psychology (PSYC-001) and Research Methods and Statistics (PSYC-002) must be taken at Georgetown.
A total of 15 credits received for Psychology courses taken at other universities may be transferred and used for completion of the B.A. degree in Psychology at Georgetown University. Students should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Professor Deborah Stearns) regarding the details of transfer and equivalence of courses across universities.
Applying to Other Professional Training Programs
Many Psychology Majors and Minors wish to pursue professional training in areas other than psychology. These often include medicine, law, education, business, and many others. For detailed information on Graduate Programs in Psychology and how to go about pursuing a graduate degree in Psychology, please see the Applying to Graduate School section.
In addition to the normal degree requirements of a psychology major, some students wish to enroll in the Pre-Med program. This includes: Introductory Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, and Elementary Physics. If you wish to apply to medical school, it is important that you consult with a Dean of the College and Professor Moghaddam. As a pre-med major it is recommended to ask Professor Fathali Moghaddam to serve as your faculty advisor as he is a member of the Pre-Medicine Recommendation Committee.
Each year, students can take advantage of study abroad programs by spending a semester or year abroad. There are a great many educational opportunities connected with these programs. Study abroad provides a valuable and unforgettable educational experience. Majors may transfer up to 2 courses for a semester abroad and up to 4 courses for a year abroad. Minors may transfer up to 2 courses for either a semester or year abroad. One-semester programs are preferred over full-year programs. Speak with your advisor, with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Professor Deborah Stearns), or with the Dean of the College, as soon as you begin to think about study abroad. Remember that before you go abroad, your program must have the written approval of the Dean of the College and your advisor and/or the Directors. You will need to bring in course descriptions and syllabi, if you have them, in order to pre-approve your transfer courses. Final approval requires syllabi and (if needed) readings lists for the semester when you took the class. If a course is a close match with one of the Area A or B courses, we can evaluate it and provide Area credit should the course be deemed a close substitute. Individual research projects may be transferable as electives provided that such projects are credited as being courses at the host university. Please refer to Georgetown College’s Study Abroad section on their website
The Georgetown Chapter of Psi Chi
Psi Chi is an organization dedicated to the advancement of the science of psychology. Membership is open to graduate and undergraduate psychology students who meet eligibility criteria.
The Georgetown Chapter of Psi Chi, directed by Professor Ian Lyons, is focused on engaging students with the faculty, with research, with other students, and with their community. Each year Psi Chi sponsors several events such as the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Fair. Students also have book drives, movie nights, trips, speakers, and other events. Many of the students in Psi Chi also pursue Honors and develop an Honors Thesis with a Psychology faculty member. There are a variety of fellowships and awards available to Psi Chi members that support their research and attendance at conferences. Not all Psi Chi members continue to pursue Psychology in graduate school, but all look upon the experience as formative in their undergraduate career.
Students and faculty are elected to membership by the chapter at the institution, according to the provisions in the national Psi Chi Constitution. Any chapter, at its discretion, may establish higher academic standards for eligibility, but may not require service standards for eligibility. Membership in Psi Chi is open to qualified candidates of any age, sex, sexual orientation, race, handicap or disability, color, religion, and national and ethnic origin.
- Completion of 3 semesters or 5 quarters of the college course
- Completion of 9 semester hours or 14 quarter hours of psychology courses
- Ranking in the top 35% of their class in general scholarship
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in both Psychology classes and in cumulative grades
Applying to Psi Chi
Applications to become a member of Psi Chi are accepted beginning in May and continuing through the summer, each year. To apply, please visit Psi Chi’s “Become a Member” page, click on the “Apply Now” button at the bottom of the page, and enter “Georgetown University” as your chapter. We will then process your information via the Registrar’s Office and approve your membership if you meet the requirements. If accepted to Psi Chi, there is a one-time $80 membership fee.
Note: For students invited to join in Fall 2018, membership fees are due to Molly McGeady by September 7, 2018.
Psychology Colloquium Series
Every year the Department of Psychology sponsors lectures by outstanding scholars on matters of interest to psychologists. You are encouraged to attend these lectures as often as possible. Announcements are made in classes, sent via e-mail, and available on our Home page.
Careers in Psychology
Many students are concerned about the career opportunities available in psychology. Advisors can be very helpful in selecting realistic career goals. Students should also plan to do some reading on their own. Job and internship information and notices of other opportunities are sent via email from the Psychology Listserv. In addition, the libraries, career center, and the internet provide further reference on graduate programs and careers in psychology.
Applying To Graduate School: General Considerations
For detailed information on Graduate Programs in Psychology and how to go about pursuing a graduate degree in Psychology, please read this document, authored by Professor Abigail Marsh. Some general information, also included in the document, may be found below.
Applying to graduate or professional school in any discipline can be a time consuming experience. Start very early. It is suggested to ask a faculty member to serve as a mentor at every step of the process. Don’t apply without help. An application prepared with the consultation of a faculty member is almost certain to be better than one without any advice. In addition, professors from the Department have collaborated on a booklet about different graduate programs and tips for getting into them. The booklet Advice for Applying to Graduate School for Psychology Majors is available at the Main Office (306 WGR and online). As a general rule, when applying to graduate school, seek advice from faculty members who teach and/or research in the particular specialty you wish to pursue. Write for catalogs and application forms no later than October of your senior year. Consult the web page for each program in which you are interested. Ask for all relevant information about the program of interest, including applications, financial aid, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. Most applications are due by February 1st or shortly thereafter, but some are due as early as late December. It will take many hours to fill out the forms. Each application requires a carefully prepared essay. Every September or October the Department offers a Graduate School Information Session. Please be sure to attend.
Many programs are specialized; students should choose a program based on their interests. Speak with all of the faculty members who know you well and get their advice. Once you consider applying to a particular program, check (in this handbook) to see if any of the faculty members have ever attended that school. If they have, ask them to share their knowledge of the program and chances of being accepted. Most students apply to eight or ten different programs. Some programs are harder to get into than others.
It is not recommended to apply to schools where acceptance is considered relatively easy. As Georgetown graduates have demonstrated, many majors can compete successfully for admission to the very best graduate schools in the country. Faculty in the Department can help set sights at a realistic level. Prior research experience is usually a pre-requisite for admission to a graduate program. Be sure to work with your research mentor or advisor at Georgetown on the best match for you. If you need letters of recommendation, ask faculty members weeks or even months in advance [one month minimum is recommended], and be prepared to send your transcript, CV, statement of purpose, and list of schools if they agree to write for you. Many faculty will want to meet with you to discuss your application and reasons for applying to graduate school.
Arrange to take the GRE (both the General and the Psychology Subject Tests) as early as possible. Most graduate schools require these tests. Information and application forms are available online. Most graduate schools require at least three letters of recommendation from faculty members (usually in psychology) who know you well. A letter from a professor whom you met last week at the departmental picnic is not what graduate schools have in mind. Graduate schools want a detailed analysis of all of your strengths and weaknesses. Although there are exceptions, as a rule it is hard for a faculty member to write a very strong recommendation if your work in his/her class was lower than a B.
Standard Procedure for Asking for Letters of Recommendation
- Inquire whether the professor is willing to write a strong letter. If so, provide the forms used by each graduate school, an addressed, stamped envelope for each letter (if letters are mailed), and copies of your transcript, curriculum vitae, and essay describing professional goals. With each request, include a brief note explaining why the program is of interest, the date on which the letter is due, and specify any faculty members at the graduate school with whom you would like to work. Also specify whether you are interested in a teaching or research assistantship.
- A week before the application and letter of recommendation are due, call each school to which you have applied to be certain that your file is complete, i.e., all letters, scores and forms have been received.
- If possible, arrange a visit to the graduate school. Talking to faculty members and current graduate students can provide you with valuable first-hand information about the program. Since psychology professors can give you advice on questions to ask and things to consider during your visits, consult one or two before you go. It is extremely useful to talk to the graduate students currently in the department. Although the field of psychology is highly competitive, there are still many excellent opportunities for highly-motivated, qualified students. When your applications have been acted on, please let us know the results.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Frequently Asked Questions
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a general test which measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study. The GRE Subject Test is designed to help graduate school admission committees and fellowship sponsors assess the qualifications of applicants in specific fields of study. The tests also provide students with an assessment of their own qualifications. The Writing Assessment substantially expands the range of skills assessed by the GRE General Test and the GRE Subject Tests, including your ability to articulate complex ideas and effectively examine claims and accompanying evidence to support ideas with relevant reasons and examples to sustain a well-focused, coherent discussion.
The General Test Consists of Three Scored Sections:
The verbal measure tests your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences, and recognize relationships between words and concepts. Because students have wide-ranging backgrounds, interests, and skills, the verbal sections of the General Test use questions from diverse areas of experience. The areas tested range from the activities of daily life to broad categories of academic interest such as the sciences, social studies, and the humanities.
The quantitative measure tests your basic mathematical skills and your understanding of elementary mathematical concepts, as well as your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems in a quantitative setting. The content areas included in the quantitative sections of the test are arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. These are content areas usually studied in high school.
The analytical writing section consists of two analytical writing tasks: a 45-minute “Present Your Perspective on an Issue” task and a 30-minute “Analyze an Argument” task. The “Issue” task states an opinion on an issue of general interest and asks you to address the issue from any perspective(s) you wish, as long as you provide relevant reasons and examples to explain and support your views. The “Argument” task presents a different challenge — it requires you to critique an argument by discussing how well reasoned you find it. You are asked to consider the logical soundness of the argument rather than to agree or disagree with the position it presents. These two tasks are complementary in that the first requires you to construct a personal argument about an issue, and the second requires you to critique someone else’s argument by assessing its claims.
The Subject Tests
The GRE Subject Tests are intended to indicate students’ knowledge of the subject matter emphasized in many undergraduate programs as preparation for graduate study. Since past achievement is usually a good indicator of future performance, the scores are helpful in predicting students’ success in graduate study. Because the tests are standardized, the test scores permit comparison of students from different institutions with different undergraduate programs. For some Subject Tests, sub-scores are provided in addition to the total score; these sub-scores indicate the strengths and weaknesses of individual student’s preparation, and they may help students plan their future studies.
Subject Tests are currently available in 8 disciplines: Psychology; Mathematics; Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Literature in English; Computer Science; Biology; Chemistry; and, Physics. The following information will help guide you if you decide to spend time preparing for the GRE. A general review of your college courses is probably the best preparation for the test. However, the test covers a broad range of subject matter, and no one is expected to be familiar with every question. Use the Subject Test practice book to become familiar with the types of questions used in the test, paying special attention to the directions. If you thoroughly understand the directions, you will have more time during the test to focus on the questions themselves.
It is to your advantage to take the GRE in the early Fall of your senior year. If you take it any later, graduate school admissions offices that you have applied to may not get the scores in time to make their admission decision.
The General Test and Writing Assessment are separate tests that are given year-round at computer-based test centers worldwide. Appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. You may take the computer-based General Test and the Writing Assessment once per calendar month up to 5 times per year. The written version of the GRE is given nationally several times every year. A computerized version of the General Test is administered almost daily at several testing centers in the D.C. area. To schedule your test you can call 1.800.GRE.CALL or register on-line.
Scores are usually available instantly but sometimes take as long as 8 weeks depending on where you took the test.
No. It is best to check with the intended recipient after a reasonable period of time, e.g., eight weeks. In all fairness to Educational Testing Service, lost scores are not always their fault. Scores can get lost in the mail or in graduate school offices. It could even be your own fault. Every year two or three students forget to tell Educational Testing Service where they want the scores sent. In that case, scores are sent only to the student.
All of your scores within the last five years period will be sent to the graduate school(s) to which you apply. It is up to each graduate school to decide which scores they will use. The percentile is the most important part of the score. If you score above the 80th percentile, you are in good shape. There are no guarantees, however, and most schools do not rely on these alone for admission.
Graduate programs have different requirements. Georgetown’s Graduate Program in Psychology requires the General test. Check with the school’s requirements to which you are applying and proceed from there.
GRE General Test questions are designed to measure skills and knowledge gained over a long period of time. Although you might increase your scores to some extent by preparing for a few weeks or months before the test, last-minute cramming is unlikely to help.