Psychology Department

The field of psychology is a hybrid of sciences. It is informed by, and informs, the natural and behavioral sciences in equal measure. It is a broad field that investigates mechanisms that underlie a wide range of mental processes and behaviors. Researchers are interested in all of the interacting psychological functions - cognitive, affective, behavioral, physiological, social, developmental - that drive and define the human experience.

In recent years, the general structure of science has been mapped through analysis of citation data from natural and social sciences journals. The purpose of this work is to illuminate patterns of scientific influence within and among the sciences.

Psychology, along with mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth sciences, medicine and the social sciences, has been identified as one of seven major hub sciences. The hub sciences generate research with high rates of citation by scientists across many other fields.

It can be helpful to conceptualize the field of psychology in these ways. Its dendrites and axons reach across disciplinary boundaries. It is an integrative scientific field with multidisciplinary foundations, rich linkages to other sciences, and applications within diverse career paths. If it is appealing to position your academic life in such intersections, psychology may be the major for you.

The W&L psychology curriculum encourages individualization of the major in several ways:

  1. First, students may choose to earn a B.A. or a B.S. degree. The B.A. tends to be a good fit for students who are interested in the breadth that psychology has to offer, including the applications of this science to multiple disciplines and career paths. The B.S. works well for students who are particularly interested in studying psychology in the context of, or in interaction with, other STEM fields. Both the B.A. and B.S. paths provide excellent preparation for students who may pursue graduate school in psychology or other research disciplines.
  2. Second, a majority of our students choose to join a faculty member's research team. This team experience provides majors with a close-knit academic home on campus and allows them to spread their wings in a professional research context. Some lab members, especially those who are selected as W&L Summer Research Scholars, have the opportunity to become credentialed in research by presenting the lab's findings at a professional conference and/or earning authorship on a published article.
  3. Finally, majors may choose to complete a capstone experience in one of four ways: a topical specialization paper; an independent senior research thesis; a community-based research project; or an applied science internship. Capstone experiences allow students to synthesize and expand their knowledge base in psychology while exploring an avenue for applying it in the real world.

All W&L psychology majors graduate with considerable research experience and a strong foundation in research design, data analysis, technological skills and professionalism. This is because we know that in the process of conducting research, psychology majors develop a skill set that is essential to any future professional path they will choose. Research requires skill in organization, problem-solving, collaboration and data analysis. Faculty members in the W&L Psychology Department invest in helping each major to develop these durable skills in our classrooms and labs.



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

W&L's Murdock Quoted on FUSION

Karla Murdock, Elmes Professor of Psychology, was quoted in a recent piece on the media site FUSION.

Frederick Prete

Friday, March 25, 2016

Professor Prete Will Lecture on Teaching Science and Math

Frederick Prete, associate editor of the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, will give a lecture on March 31 at 5 p.m. in Parmly Hall room 307 in the Science Center of Washington and Lee University.

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