Offices & Services

Offices: Registrar - Catalog


Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics


Cynthia Gibson, Chair

Christopher Beasley

Michael Kerchner

Lauren Littlefield

Kevin McKillop

Tia Murphy

Amanda Sommerfeld

George Spilich


Psychology addresses the fundamental premises of human behavior and the brain’s complex role in determining who we are. Students are kept abreast of the latest scientific advances and research methods in this burgeoning field. The department offers a bachelor of arts degree in psychology, as well as two specialized programs: a bachelor of arts concentration in clinical/counseling and a bachelor of science concentration in behavioral neuroscience.


The curriculum in psychology is designed to provide a strong background in the biobehavioral sciences and to prepare students for entry into graduate programs in experimental psychology, clinical/counseling psychology, neuroscience, medicine, and related fields. The course offerings reflect both the basic scientific content of psychology and its application in the clinical setting or in the business world. The department heavily stresses faculty-student interaction through laboratories and internships. A psychology club is open to all interested students, and a chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, hosts speakers and supplementary activities.


The curriculum is three-tiered. Students first survey the domain through a year-long general psychology course (tier 1) and then progress through a two-semester methods sequence in statistics and research design while they broaden and deepen their understanding through lab-oriented cognate coursework (tier 2). Students preparing for graduate or professional school are encouraged to work with faculty in a mentor-apprentice fashion no later than their third year; such work often culminates in faculty/student presentations at conferences or co-authored professional publications. Junior seminar (PSY 399) helps students prepare for the senior year as well as consider post-graduate plans. In their last year, majors design and conduct an original research project or write a theoretical review to address some unanswered question in the field under the guidance of a faculty mentor (tier 3). The conceptualization of the senior capstone project is typically proposed during the spring of the junior year. In addition to the written thesis, the results are presented in poster format during the second semester of the senior year. Senior Capstones judged by the departmental faculty to be outstanding earn honors status, and the author of one exceptional project per year can be granted the Psychology Department Senior Capstone Award.


The Virginia Conner ’85 Prize is given annually to the graduating psychology major “who has demonstrated outstanding ability and achievement in the biobehavioral sciences.” (See page 81 in this Catalog for additional honors and awards given by the department.) Recent graduates have earned their Ph.D. or M.D. from such universities as Toronto, Columbia, Purdue, Delaware, Drexel, South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia Commonwealth.


Grants awarded to the department by the National Science Foundation and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund have provided state-of-the-art laboratory instrumentation within our renovated facility. The Daniel Z. Gibson/John A. Wagner Psychology Department Fund provides honoraria for prominent speakers. Money is also available to support student travel to professional conferences.


Teaching and research facilities include: computerized labs in biostatistics, biofeedback/psychophysiology, cognition, sensation and perception, a developmental/social lab with digital video capabilities, a psychometric testing lab complete with personality and cognitive instrumentation, a neuroscience lab with histology and surgery capabilities, and transcranial doppler and topographic EEG machines to map brain functioning.


Qualified students may spend a semester or two in their junior and/or senior year in which they earn academic credit and clinical experience providing psychological services. A wide array of internship and practicum experiences in local settings is available. Working closely with a therapy team, student interns participate in all aspects of treatment. A junior year abroad program allows students to broaden their horizons at approved institutions; if possible, Psychology majors are encouraged to choose the fall semester of the junior year to go abroad because Junior Seminar is offered each spring.


First-Year And Sophomore Courses

Psychology 111 and 112, the General Psychology sequence, count toward Social Science distribution requirements. PSY 111 is not a prerequisite for PSY 112; they can be taken in any order.


Students interested in pursuing psychology beyond the introductory sequence should complete PSY 209, Statistics and Research Design I, by the end of their sophomore year. Most 300- and 400-level offerings have PSY 209 as a prerequisite.


Writing in the Major Courses

Statistics and Research Design II (Psychology 309) and Junior Seminar (Psychology 399) focus on psychological research. Together, these two courses refine reading, writing, and thinking skills necessary for performing research. Written components of these courses are specifically designed to hone students’ ability to write detailed critiques of journal articles and create succinct research proposals.


Senior Capstone Experience

Students majoring in psychology must satisfy their requirements for the degree by completing either an empirical research project or a theoretical review paper. Specific guidelines for the Senior Capstone Experience (SCE) are available online, complete with downloadable SCE resources, such as the syllabus with annual deadlines and formatting examples: The SCE in Psychology is graded as any other course and gets factored into the student’s GPA. In addition to proposing, writing, and defending the SCE, an additional component of the SCE is an assessment of knowledge and skills in the field of psychology. This assessment may vary between the ETS Psychology Major Field Test, skill-based testing using rubrics/ratings, and development of a portfolio. All seniors in a given year will be assessed through the same mechanism.


Students with a dual major in Psychology and another discipline who wish to pursue an integrative capstone project must declare this intent early in the first semester of their senior year and secure an agreement from the relevant departments and faculty mentors before commencing their capstone project. The department cannot guarantee that an integrated project acceptable to both departments can be implemented in all instances.


Major Requirements For The B.A. In Psychology

For broad exposure to many disciplines within psychology, courses in the major emphasize empirical testing of theoretical psychological models. The broad Psychology major is especially recommended for those students who wish to double major in psychology and another field or for those who are not interested in the clinical/counseling concentration or the behavioral neuroscience concentration.


  1. A. Two-semester introductory sequence in the natural sciences: Take one of the following sequences:

BIO 111 and 112 - General Biology

CHE 111 and 112 - General Chemistry

PHY 111 and 112 - General Physics


  1. B. The Psychology Core: All of the following psychology courses are required:

PSY 111 and 112 - General Psychology

PSY 209 - Statistics and Research Design I

PSY 309 – Statistics and Research Design II

PSY 399 – Junior Seminar

PSY SCE – Psychology Senior Capstone Experience


  1. C. Laboratory Requirement: Majors must complete five of the following courses. Three of these must be laboratory courses (+ indicates a laboratory course), and there must be at least one course from each of the three disciplinary areas:


General Experimental

PSY 202 – Lifespan Developmental

PSY 205 – Drugs, Society and Behavior

PSY 220 – Human Sexuality

PSY 221 – Social Psychology

PSY 231 – Personality

PSY 302 – Advanced Developmental Psychology +

PSY 316 – Cognitive Psychology +

PSY 321 – Experimental Social Psychology +



PSY 233 – Psychopathology I

PSY 234 – Psychopathology II

PSY 304 – Theories & Processes of Counseling                     

PSY 320 – Health Psychology +                                             

PSY 333 – Psychological Testing        

PSY 403 – Behavior Modification +     

PSY 433 – Child Assessment +



PSY 210 – Biopsychology +

PSY 305 – Psychopharmacology +

PSY 313 – Learning +

PSY 317 – Sensation and Perception +

PSY 319 – Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology +

PSY 410 – Neuroscience Research Methods +


Major Requirements For The B.A. In Psychology With A Clinical/Counseling Concentration

Concentration Advisor: Dr. Littlefield


This concentration is designed to prepare students interested in the helping professions and human services.  Coursework provides students with a foundation for graduate work in counseling, school psychology, clinical psychology, and the allied health fields. Students are also prepared for entry-level positions in human resources, management, child care or school settings as well as work as clinical/counseling assistants or research assistants.


  1. A. Two-semester introductory sequence in the natural sciences: Take one of the following sequences:

BIO 111 and 112 - General Biology

CHE 111 and 112 - General Chemistry

PHY 111 and 112 - General Physics


  1. B. The Psychology Core: All of the following psychology courses are required:

PSY 111 and 112 - General Psychology

PSY 209 - Statistics and Research Design I

PSY 309 – Statistics and Research Design II

PSY 399 – Junior Seminar

PSY SCE – Psychology Senior Capstone Experience

(SCE topic must be pre-approved by a clinical/counseling concentration advisor)


  1. Counseling/Clinical Core - Four (4) of the following courses are required:

Personality (PSY 231)

Psychopathology I (PSY 233)

Psychopathology II (PSY 234)

Psychological Testing (PSY 333)

Special Topics in Clinical/Counseling/Community Psychology (PSY 294, 394)

Theories and Processes of Counseling (PSY 304)

Psychology Internship (PSY 490, 491, 492, 493)


  1. Counseling/Clinical Lab Courses- Choose two of the following, only one of which can be Advanced Developmental Psychology or Experimental Social Psychology:

Advanced Developmental Psychology (PSY 302)

Health Psychology (PSY 320)

Experimental Social Psychology (PSY 321)

Behavior Modification (PSY 403)

NRM: Human Neuropsychology (PSY 410)

Child Assessment (PSY 433)

Advanced Problems (PSY 440); with prior approval

FOR DUAL CC and BN CONCENTRATORS: Only one of the courses above may be applied toward the requirements for both concentrations.


  1. Biological Lab Courses- Choose one of the following:

Biopsychology (PSY 210)                                            

Psychopharmacology (PSY 305)                     

Learning (PSY 313)

Sensation & Perception (PSY 317)                 


Strongly encouraged courses to round out the concentration are Lifespan Developmental Psychology and Drugs, Society & Behavior, as well as an array of courses in other fields (i.e., Biology, Business Management, Education, Philosophy, Sociology…). Discuss areas of potential interest with your academic advisor.


Major Requirements For The B.S. In Psychology With A Behavioral Neuroscience Concentration

Concentration Advisor: Dr. Gibson


The concentration in behavioral neuroscience is designed for students with a focused interest in the biological bases of behavior and thought. The concentration is well suited for students who are contemplating professional or research careers in medicine, pharmaceuticals, veterinarian medicine, animal science, neurology, and neuroscience. Because BN concentrators have additional laboratory requirements beyond other Psychology majors, students in the BN track earn a Bachelors of Science (B.S.).


  1. A. BN students are required to complete all of the following natural science sequences:

BIO 111 and 112 - General Biology

CHE 111 and 112 - General Chemistry


  1. B. The Psychology Core: All of the following psychology courses are required:

PSY 111 and 112 - General Psychology

PSY 209 - Statistics and Research Design I

PSY 309 – Statistics and Research Design II

PSY 399 – Junior Seminar

PSY SCE – Psychology Senior Capstone Experience

(SCE topic must be pre-approved by the BN concentration advisor)


  1. C. The Behavioral Neuroscience Core: The following two laboratory courses are required:

PSY 210 - Biopsychology

PSY 410 - Neuroscience Research Methods


  1. Additional Laboratory Courses: Three of the following courses are required, with at least one from group D1 and one from group D2:

Group D1

PSY 305 – Psychopharmacology

PSY 313 – Learning

PSY 319 - Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology

With advance approval of the BN concentration advisor, one of the following can be chosen: on-/off-campus research; Advanced Problems (PSY 440); or an upper-level laboratory course in Bio­logy, Chemistry, or Physics. If choosing this option, one additional course must also be chosen from D1.


Group D2

PSY 316 - Cognitive Psychology

PSY 317 - Sensation & Perception

PSY 320 - Health Psychology


  1. Fundamental Psychology: One of the following courses is required:

PSY 202 – Lifespan Developmental Psychology

PSY 221 – Social Psychology

PSY 233 or 234 – Psychopathology I or II

PSY 333 – Psychological Testing


NOTE: Students in the BN concentration are encouraged to take additional 300- and 400-level PSY courses, as well as other upper-level BIO and CHE courses. Those students planning to apply to graduate neuroscience programs, medical, or veterinary schools should also consider MAT 201, MAT 202, PHY 111, PHY 112, CHE 201, and CHE 309/BIO 409. Such students should consult with the Pre-medical advisor or their behavioral neuroscience advisor.


Minor Requirements

The following courses fulfill the requirements for a minor in psychology.  Four of the six courses must have the PSY prefix and be completed at Washington College.

PSY 111, 112

A year of Statistics (either BUS 109, ECN 215, MAT 109 or PSY 209; and PSY 309)

Any psychology lab course (not including PSY 209 or PSY 309)

Any additional elective course in psychology.


Course Descriptions

111, 112. General Psychology

An introduction to the scientific study of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of human experience. Topics include the anatomical and functional organization of the nervous system, consciousness, learning, memory, development, emotion, social interactions, psychopathology, and society and culture. This course surveys the methods and major findings of the various fields of psychology. PSY 111 introduces the student to the cognitive, neurological, and biological aspects of psychology in addition to basic research methodologies. PSY 112 covers the clinical/counseling, developmental, personality, and social aspects of psychology.


  1. Lifespan Developmental Psychology

This course will provide a broad overview of human growth and development from infancy to old age. Changes in biological, cognitive, emotional, and social domains will be discussed at each period of the lifespan. Topics will include heredity, learning, emotional development, temperament, attachment, gender development, developmental disorders, peer relationships, families, and aging. Recent research and current issues will be highlighted.


  1. Drugs, Society and Behavior

A survey of human physiological and behavioral responses to commonly used drugs. Special emphasis is placed on nonprescription drugs (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine), psychotherapeutic agents (anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressant medications, anti-psychotic drugs), and other psychoactive drugs (opiates, hallucinogens, marijuana). Societal issues related to illicit and therapeutic drug use, abuse, legislation and policies will also be topics of exploration and discussion.


  1. Statistics and Research Design I with Lab

Consideration of sampling theory, the design of experiments, and the analysis and presentation of data with emphasis on correlation, t-test, chi square, and the analysis of variance. Attention is given to parametric and non-parametric procedures. Students learn both to hand calculate and to use a simple computer analysis package to analyze data. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112.


  1. Biopsychology with Lab

The study of the biological bases of human and non-human behavior. The emphasis is on the organization of the nervous system as it relates to behavior and conscious thought. Specific topics may include: structure and function of the nervous and endocrine systems; mechanisms of neurotransmission; neurologic disorders; feeding; reproduction; aggression; sleep and dreaming; functional organization of sensory and motor systems; lateralization of function and language disorders; learning and memory; and the biological bases of emotion and psychopathology. Laboratory. Prerequisite 111, 112 or Biology 111, 112.


  1. Human Sexuality

A biological approach to the study of human sexuality. This course emphasizes topics such as the anatomy and physiology of the human reproductive system, conception and contraception, STDs and infertility and then continues on to discuss the influences that shape sexual attitudes as well as the values and behavior systems that influence human sexual behavior. An overview of attitudes towards sexuality across cultures is included.


  1. Social Psychology

The course surveys the major topics and theories of social psychology, such as social perception, attitudes, altruistic behavior, aggression, attraction, social cognition, as well as applied areas of social psychology and the legal system and the social psychology of health behavior. Special emphasis is placed on original research and recent developments in the field.


  1. Personality

Discussion of the major approaches to personality from the psychodynamic approach of Freud to the contemporary cognitive approaches of Kelly, Bandura, and Mischel. Research regarding major personality attributes (need for achievement, authoritarianism, intelligence) may also be discussed.


  1. Psychopathology I

Evaluation of the etiology of various forms of behavior disorders (anxiety, mood, substance abuse, psychotic), their symptoms, and treatment. These disorders will be considered in relation to clinical theories, research, and practice. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112.


  1. Psychopathology II

Evaluation of the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of behavior disorders within the broad areas of childhood/developmental disorders and medical/organically-induced abnormal behavior. Specific topics include disorders of personality, impulse-control, eating, sleep, sex, and neurocognition. Disorders will be considered in relation to clinical theories, research, and practice. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112. Psychopathology I is NOT a prerequisite.


  1. Advanced Developmental Psychology

This course will explore the primary literature on the theory and research of childhood social development.  The specific topic within social development to be covered will vary based on current research goals. Students will have opportunity to engage in research projects in natural or laboratory settings, which may require additional time outside of class. Must have taken or must be taking PSY 202 and PSY 209.


  1. Theories and Processes of Counseling

An examination of the major theories of counseling (psychoanalytic, rational-emotive, client-centered and behavioral), an examination of the major ethical and legal issues, and an opportunity to acquire practical counseling process skills such as listening, problem-solving, vocational counseling and goal setting. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112, or two semesters of sociology.


  1. Psychopharmacology with Lab

An in-depth study of the chemistry and pharmacology of the nervous system. Laboratory exercises will emphasize the use of laboratory animal models in pharmacological research. The actions of pharmacological agents on both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system will be explored. Laboratory exercises emphasize the use of behavioral measures used by pharmaceutical researchers to assess dose effects, drug tolerance, withdrawal, and drug interactions. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 210 or Biology 111, 112. Psychology 209 is recommended.


  1. Statistics and Research Design II with Lab

A survey overview of appropriate research designs employed in psychological research.  Emphasis will be on evaluation and application of scientific methods and data analysis in inferential statistics. Specific topics include factorial designs and analysis of variance, appropriate group comparison tests of significance, prediction and multiple regression, and an overview of other advanced research designs and analyses. Examples will be drawn from a wide range of behavioral sciences. Principles relating to the planning, implementation, and ethics of psychological research will be examined and emphasis will be placed upon critical evaluation of published research. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to instruction in SPSS, a computer-based statistical package. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 and Psychology 209.


  1. Learning with Lab

Reviews of theoretical and empirical research related to classical, operant and cognitive aspects of learning. Emphasis in lectures and the laboratory will be on the use of these theoretical contributions within the discipline of Applied Behavioral Analysis. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112.


  1. Cognitive Psychology with Lab

A survey of research in the areas of human learning, memory, attention, problem-solving, and general comprehension processes. Special topics include: eyewitness testimony, reading and comprehension problems, and brain damage. A computer-based laboratory, topographic EEG/ERP, and eye movement research are used for class projects. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 and Psychology 209.


  1. Principles of Sensation and Perception with Lab

A survey of the methods by which humans detect and process external stimuli and the brain pathways involved in creating meaningful perceptions out of sensory information. Special attention is directed to experimental approaches, sensory physiology, perceptual illusions and deficits in each sensory modality, including vision, audition, olfaction, taste, and touch.  Laboratory demonstrations and simulations are intended to provide concrete examples and provide a mechanism for exploring each sensory modality. Laboratory. Prerequisites: Psychology 111, 112, and Psychology 209.


  1. Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology with Lab

An approach to the study of behavior that includes comparisons across the wide diversity among animal species and stresses the interaction between behavioral and cognitive adaptations and the demands of the environment. The emphasis in the lab will be on the methods and skills needed for quantification and analysis of behavioral data in naturalistic and laboratory settings. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 or Biology 111, 112; and Psychology 209.


  1. Health Psychology with Lab

Examines psychological effects of health behavior, physical effects of psychological experiences, and theories of health behavior. Course emphasizes psychological theories of various health processes that can be broadly applied to various disciplines such as community health promotion and prevention, organizational and workplace health programming, medical professions, and clinical and counseling interventions. The cultural context of health experiences is emphasized throughout. Laboratory component is a qualitative study of individuals’ health experiences. Students will develop original research topics related to the qualitative investigation of people’s health experiences and learn skills for conducting this research. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 OR two semesters of Sociology.


  1. Experimental Social Psychology with Lab

Thorough and critical examination of current social-psychological thought and theory. Student-initiated research in laboratory or natural settings. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 (or two semesters of sociology).


  1. Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Examines work and organizational behavior from psychological, business science, and sociological viewpoints. Topics include personnel psychology, job motivation, and job satisfaction, and other job attitudes are examined along with organizational culture, group process, leadership, and organizational development. Concepts are appropriate for application to corporations and small businesses as well as community groups and nonprofit organizations. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 OR two semesters of Business Management OR two semesters of Sociology.


  1. Psychological Testing

An analysis of the construction, interpretation, and application of various psychological tests and measurement tools. Personality, intelligence, vocational, achievement, and aptitude tests will be evaluated. Offered as an honors course on occasion, this course then involves an additional component of group research projects. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112. Psychology 209 is recommended but it can be a co-requisite.


  1. Junior Seminar

This required 2-credit course, normally taken during the second semester of the junior year, teaches foundational skills that are essential to psychology as a profession, such as ethics certification, writing in the discipline, and proposal development.  By taking this seminar, students will have the opportunity to clarify achievement goals and develop academic and career plans.


  1. Behavior Modification with Lab

Concerns the development of skills in altering human behavior according to principles derived from experimental psychology. Attention will be focused on the advantages and limitations of this approach to behavior change and treatment. Laboratory. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 or permission of the instructor.


  1. Neuroscience Research Methods with Lab

This course is recommended for students who are preparing for graduate study in neuroscience or medicine and combines seminar and lab work. The topics discussed in the seminar vary from year to year (e.g., Psychopharmacology of Mood Disorders, Animal Models of Mental Illness, Traumatic Brain Injury, Cognitive & Neurological Assessment) and may be repeated with permission of the concentration advisor. During the final portion of the course, students design and conduct a pilot research project. The project should be a means for the student to hone skills (e.g., perfect a specific surgical procedure) or apply specific research techniques (e.g., neural tract-tracing, histochemistry, clinical neurological assessment, animal behavioral assessments, or topographic EEG mapping) available to students in the department laboratories for his or her senior thesis project. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112 or Biology 111, 112; and Psychology 209; or permission of the instructor.


  1. Child Assessment with Lab

This course provides the student with knowledge and experience in the clinical assessment of children. In addition to clinical report writing, students will learn observational techniques, interviewing skills, behavioral/emotional scales, and measures of cognitive assessment that are specific to children and adolescents. Prerequisite: Psychology 333.



490, 491. Psychology Internship

Internship Coordinator: Dr. Littlefield


Supervised experience in an agency providing some aspect of psychological services. The class includes seminar sessions designed to help students achieve a fuller understanding of their placement experiences. A large variety of placements are available. A total of eight internship credits can be accrued. PSY 490 is used for 2 and 4 credit experiences. PSY 491 indicates that 6 or 8 credits were earned during a summer experience. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112, junior/senior standing, and permission of instructor.


SCE: Senior Capstone Experience

The culmination of the students academic experiences, the SCE in Psychology is intended to provide each student with an opportunity to deeply explore a research topic in psychology. In consultation with a faculty mentor, a process of active inquiry is facilitated that requires critical thinking, integration of acquired knowledge and skills, and mastery of intellectual accomplishment beyond the classroom. A theoretical review of a problem/question in the field or a data-driven research project is completed by each student.


Special Courses

490, 491. Psychology Internship


194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics in Psychology

The study of topics in psychology that are not regularly offered in the curriculum. Courses may be interdisciplinary in nature. Prerequisite: Psychology 111, 112.


195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research

A ten-week on-campus research project to be guided by a faculty mentor. Based on mutual interests, the student and faculty mentor will develop a research project, supported by a reading list and involving theoretical, laboratory, or field investigations supervised by the faculty mentor. Participants will produce a final report detailing the findings of their research. Selection of students will depend on academic background, scholastic achievement, and the results of a personal interview with the faculty mentor. Not offered as pass/fail. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.


196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research

Guided research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Based on mutual interests, the student and faculty mentor will develop a research project, supported by a reading list and involving laboratory or field investigations supervised by the faculty mentor. Participants will produce a final report dealing with the finding of their research. Selection of students will depend on academic background, scholastic achievement, and the result of a personal interview with the faculty mentor. Not offered as pass/fail. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor and psychology department chair.


197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Studies in Psychology

An in-depth study of an area of particular interest to a student and faculty member not regularly covered within the curriculum. Not offered as Pass/Fail. Prerequisite: Permission of the faculty mentor and psychology department chair.


  1. Advanced Problems

Advanced independent research under the direction of a faculty mentor. The interested student must petition the psychology department chair for this course and show evidence of the maturity required for its completion. Prerequisite: Psychology 395, 396 or 397 and consent of the faculty mentor.