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Cornell University    
  Jul 22, 2017
Courses of Study 2011-2012 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


In the College of Arts and Sciences .


Course Offerings 

The major areas of psychology represented in the department are perception, cognition, and development (PCD), behavioral evolutionary neuroscience (BEN), and social and personality psychology. These areas are very broadly defined, and the courses are quite diverse. BEN includes animal learning, neuropsychology, interactions between hormones, other biochemical processes, and behavior. PCD includes such courses as cognition, perception, memory, and psycholinguistics. Social and personality psychology is represented by courses in social psychology and personality (e.g., Psychology and Law, Judgment and Decision Making and Moral Psychology), as well as courses in fieldwork and psychopathology. In addition to the three major areas mentioned above, the department emphasizes the statistical and logical analysis of psychological data and problems.


M. Christiansen, T. Cleland, J. E. Cutting, T. J. DeVoogd, D. A. Dunning, S. Edelman, M. Ferguson, D. J. Field, B. L. Finlay, T. D. Gilovich, M. Goldstein, B. P. Halpern, A. M. Isen, R. E. Johnston, C. L. Krumhansl, D. A. Levitsky, J. B. Maas, D. A. Pizarro, H. S. Porte, D. T. Regan, E. A. Regan, H. Segal, D. Smith, B. J. Strupp, V. Zayas

The Major:

Admission to the major is usually granted to any student in good standing in the college who has passed three or more psychology courses with grades of C+ or better. Provisional admission requires two such courses. To apply to the major and receive an advisor, a major application form may be obtained from the department office (211 Uris Hall) and should be completed and taken to one of the faculty members whose name is listed on the form.

Requirements for the major are:

  1. a total of 40 credits in psychology (including prerequisites), from which students majoring in psychology are expected to choose, in consultation with their advisors, a range of courses that covers the basic processes in psychology (laboratory and/or field experience is recommended); for any courses taken in 2009–2010 or later to count toward the 40 required credits, the student must earn a grade of C– or better; and
  2. demonstration of proficiency in statistics before the beginning of the senior year. (See the section below on the statistics requirement .)

Normally it is expected that all undergraduate psychology majors will take at least one course in each of the following three areas of psychology:

  1. Perception, cognition, and development (PCD)
  2. Behavioral evolutionary neuroscience (BEN)
  3. Social and personality psychology

The following classification of Department of Psychology offerings is intended to help students and their advisors choose courses that will ensure that such breadth is achieved.


With the permission of the advisor, courses in other departments may be accepted toward the major requirements.

Fieldwork, independent study, and teaching:

The department requires students to observe the following limits on fieldwork, independent study, and teaching.

  1. Undergraduates may not serve as teaching assistants for psychology courses if they are serving as teaching assistants for any other course during the same semester.
  2. An undergraduate psychology major cannot apply more than 12 of the credits earned in independent study (including honors work) and fieldwork toward the 40 credits required by the major.

Statistics requirement:

Proficiency in statistics can be demonstrated in any one of the several ways listed below.

  1. Passing PSYCH 3500 .
  2. Passing an approved course or course sequence in statistics in some other department at Cornell.
  3. Passing a course or course sequence in statistics at some other college, university, or college-level summer school. The course or sequence must be equivalent to at least 6 semester credits. The description of the course from the college catalog and the title and author of the textbook used must be submitted to Professor Cleland for approval.
  4. Passing an exemption examination. This examination can be given at virtually any time during the academic year if the student gives notice at least one week before. Students who have completed a theoretical statistics course in a department of mathematics or engineering and who wish to demonstrate competence in applied statistics usually find this option the easiest. Students planning this option should discuss it in advance with Professor Cleland.

Concentration in biopsychology:

Psychology majors interested in psychology as a biological science can elect to specialize in biopsychology. Students in this concentration must meet all of the general requirements for the major in psychology and must also demonstrate a solid background in biology, the physical sciences, including at least introductory chemistry and mathematics. Students will design with their advisors an integrated program in biopsychology built around courses on physiological, chemical, anatomical, and ecological determinants of human and nonhuman behavior offered by the Department of Psychology. Additional courses in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, neurochemistry, neurobiology, and behavioral biology may be designated as part of the psychology major after consultation between the student and his or her biopsychology advisor.

Concentration in social and personality psychology:

Psychology majors who wish to specialize in social psychology are expected to meet the general requirements set by their department, including statistics. To ensure a solid interdisciplinary grounding, students in the concentration are permitted to include some major courses in anthropology, economics, sociology and other related fields. Advisors will assist students in the selection of a coherent set of courses from social organization, cultural anthropology, experimental psychology, social methodology, and several aspects of personality and social psychology.

Undergraduate honors program:

The honors program is designed for exceptional students who wish to pursue an intensive and independent program of research in psychology. Successful participation serves as evidence of the student’s facility in the two most important skills required of an academic psychologist: namely, the capacity to acquire and integrate a substantial body of theoretical and factual material and the ability to devise and execute a creative empirical research project.

The honors program offers students the closest contact and consultation with faculty they will likely experience while at Cornell, and all qualified majors who are planning graduate work in any academic field should consider applying. However, it should also be noted that conducting honors research and completing a thesis is an extremely demanding undertaking, both in time and effort. Due to the demands of both research and writing, it is expected that after the Christmas break, honors students will return to campus as early as possible to continue their work, as well as remain on campus through all of spring break.

The focus of the honors program is conducting an experiment, analyzing the data that result, and describing the project in a thesis that closely approximates a professional-level research report both in form and quality. The research project is to be conducted under the close sponsorship of a faculty member. Subject to approval, the sponsor need not be in the psychology department per se. Students who successfully complete the honors program graduate with a certain level of honors, which is noted on their diplomas. The customary level is cum laude, awarded to approximately two-thirds of psychology honors graduates. Approximately one-third receive the next-highest level of honors, which is magna cum laude. A student who has both an unusually strong academic record in psychology and completes a thesis of exceptionally high quality will be considered for summa cum laude, the highest level of honors. However, those are unusual cases. The T. A. Ryan Award, accompanied by a cash prize, is awarded to the student who conducts the best honors project in a given year. Students in the program register for 3 or 4 credits of PSYCH 4710 Independent Study  in both fall and spring semesters. Format and binding of the thesis follows guidelines for the doctoral dissertation and master’s thesis, outlined by the Cornell University Graduate School. Stylistic format is APA style. Alternative style formats are possible, if approved in advance.

Computing in the Arts Undergraduate Minor:

A minor in Computing in the Arts with an emphasis on psychology is available both to psychology majors and to students majoring in other subjects.  For more information, please see the section “Computing in the Arts Minor .”

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