Academic Program

faculty student

Psychology is concerned with the systematic study of human behavior and experience. Psychologists use diverse approaches to understand human relationships, mental and emotional life, and decision-making, as well as the relationships between language, perception, the mind, and the brain. Topics also include the influence of other people on the individual and the origins and treatment of mental illness.

The Academic Program

The courses and seminars of the department are designed to provide a sound understanding of the principles and methods of psychology. Students learn the nature of psychological inquiry and psychological approaches to various problems encountered in the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences.

The Psychology Department offers a course major and minor, honors major and minor, and regularized special majors in neuroscience and in psychology and education. Students may, with approval, develop other individualized special majors, such as psychology and economics.


The most common way to fulfill the prerequisite for further work in psychology is to take PSYC 001 Introduction to Psychology. A second entry point is a psychology first-year seminar: PSYC 006 First-Year Seminar: Happiness or PSYC 007 First-Year Seminar: Early Social Cognition.

Advanced Placement

Alternatively, a student may meet the prerequisite for psychology courses with a grade of AP 5 on the psychology Advanced Placement test or a grade of 6 or 7 for psychology in the International Baccalaureate Program, but this practice is not encouraged. In either case, an entering student should seek guidance from the department chair or academic assistant about selection of a first psychology course. Students electing the AP or IB placement option are not permitted to take a core course (numbered in the 30s) in their first semester. (Swarthmore credit is not granted for AP or IB work in psychology.)