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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.


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 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. During their first semester, students electing the AP or IB placement option are only permitted to take (1) a psychology first-year seminar, (2) COGS 001 (Introduction to Cognitive Science), or (3) any other psychology course with a number less than PSYC 020.  (Note that Swarthmore credit is not granted for AP or IB work in psychology.) Psychology courses with a course number at or above PSYC 020 (including core courses, which are numbered in the 30s) are not available to First Year Students until the second semester of their first year.

Psychology Department Credit/No Credit Policy

Apart from PSYC 001: Introduction to Psychology, it is strongly recommended that all courses that count toward a major, minor, or special major involving psychology be taken for a grade.

Moreover, students who are completing a program in psychology (a major, minor or special major) cannot take the following credits for credit/no credit:

PSYC 025: Research Design and Analysis
Seminars (PSYC 130, PSYC 131, PSYC 131A, PSYC 131B, PSYC 132, PSYC 133, PSYC 134, PSYC 135, PSYC 136, PSYC 137, PSYC 138A, PSYC 138B, PSYC 139)
Thesis (PSYC 96/97, PSYC 099, PSYC 180)
Research Practica courses (PSYC 101, PSYC 102, PSYC 103, PSYC 104, PSYC 105, PSYC 106, PSYC 108, PSYC 109, PSYC 110, PSYC 111)
Clinical Field Placement course (PSYC 90)
Independent Research Projects and Senior Research Projects (PSYC 94 and PSYC 98)