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Undergraduate Program


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Undergraduate Program Description

Psychology is the scientific study of how and why people think, feel, and behave as they do. Psychology focuses on basic, normal psychological functions such as memory, emotion, visual perception, social interaction, development and learning, and problem solving and creativity, as well as on abnormal processes such as psychopathology, dementia, and retardation. Psychologists study universals as well as individual and cultural differences in mental functioning. Our courses embody the philosophy of Boston College’s liberal arts education, providing students the opportunity for intellectual growth and a deeper understanding of the scientific method as applied to the human condition. Our courses also provide the knowledge and tools necessary for students to prepare for graduate training.

The Psychology Department offers two majors: The Psychology Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) major, and the Psychology Bachelor of Science (B.S.) major. Both degree options introduce students to the broad range of topics that psychologists study, while also allowing students to choose an individualized course of study and focus on some aspects of psychology in greater depth. Both options allow students to gain research experience working in one or more of our psychology labs.

The Psychology B.A. major is particularly suited to students who wish to understand human behavior and mental functioning at the behavioral level. Students will take Psychology courses relevant to social, developmental, and cognitive psychology and will learn how animal models can be used to inform human behavior. Together these courses will provide students with an appreciation for the theories that have been put forth to explain human behavior and for the importance of considering clinical, cultural, social, and developmental factors when trying to understand why humans think, feel, and act as they do.

The Psychology B.S. major is particularly suited to students who wish to explore the brain mechanisms of human and animal behavior and mental functioning. Students will take courses from the Psychology, Biology, and Chemistry Departments that are related to evolution, genetics, physiology, neurobiology, and the neural basis of higher cognitive and emotional processes in humans. Together these courses will provide students with a strong foundation in the neurobiological processes that underlie behavior, motivation, and cognition. Pre-med students who are interested in majoring in Psychology are advised to pursue the Psychology B.S. major.

Requirements for B.A. Majors

Students must take a minimum of 33 credits in the Department, including the following required courses:

  • Introduction to Psychology as a Natural Science (PSYC1110) and Introduction to Psychology as a Social Science (PSYC1111) should both be taken (preferably in different semesters) as soon as possible after entering the major. The courses can be taken in either order (3 credits each).
  • Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I (PSYC1120) (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible.
  • Either Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II (PSYC1121) (3 credits) or a Research Practicum (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible.
  • At least three 2000-level courses, which must include at least one course each from three of the following four clusters:

                    Biological (PSYC2285 or PSYC2289)
                    Cognitive (PSYC2272 or PSYC2274)
                    Developmental and Clinical (PSYC2234 or PSYC2260)
                    Social and Personality (PSYC2241 or PSYC2242) (3 credits each)

  • Four additional courses in Psychology, at least three of which must be at the 3000-level or higher and the fourth course at the 2000-level or higher. (3 credits each)

Requirements for B.S. Majors

Students must take a minimum of 59 credits, including the following required courses:

Thirty (30) credits within the Department

  • Introduction to Psychology as a Natural Science (PSYC1110) and Introduction to Psychology as a Social Science (PSYC1111) should both be taken (preferably in different semesters) as soon as possible after entering the major. The courses can be taken in either order. (3 credits each)
  • Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I (PSYC1120) (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible.
  • Either Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II (PSYC1121) (3 credits) or a Research Practicum (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible. The Research Practicum option is recommended for Psychology B.S. majors.
  • PSYC2272 (3 credits) Cognitive Psychology: Mental Processes and their Neural Substrates
  • PSYC2285 (3 credits) Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Any one of the following (3 credits) courses:

                    PSYC2234 Abnormal Psychology
                    PSYC2241 Social Psychology
                    PSYC2242 Personality Theories
                    PSYC2260 Developmental Psychology

  • Three (3 credits each) Psychology neuroscience courses: one from one of the following clusters, and two from the other cluster. One of these three courses must be a designated laboratory course from one of these clusters. A Research Practicum may also be used to fulfill this designated laboratory requirement, but the Research Practicum will not count toward one of these three required neuroscience cluster courses.

                    Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience Cluster:

                    PSYC3329 Psychophysiology of Stress
                    PSYC3338 Topics in Abnormal Psychology
                    PSYC3341 Psychology of Morality
                    PSYC3371 Cognitive Neuroscience: Exploring Mind and Brain
                    PSYC3372 Affective Neuroscience
                    PSYC3373 Learning and Motivation
                    PSYC3375 Psychology and Neuroscience of Human Memory
                    PSYC3378 Vision
                    PSYC3379 Disorders of Language and Communication
                    PSYC3391 Ethical Controversies in Psychology and Neuroscience
                    PSYC4437 Stress and Behavior
                    PSYC4473 Event-Related Potentials (laboratory course)
                    PSYC5540 Advanced Topics in Social Psychology
                    PSYC5541 Moral Emotions
                    PSYC5571 Controversies in Cognitive Neuroscience
                    PSYC5574 Neuroscience of Sensation and Perception
                    PSYC5575 Advanced Affective Neuroscience
                    PSYC5576 Methods in Human Brain Mapping (laboratory course)

Any one of the following courses in a Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience laboratory (Brownell, Kensinger, MacEvoy, Slotnick, Young). (Only one semester of a thesis or scholar’s project course can be used to satisfy this requirement):

                    PSYC4490 Senior Thesis I (laboratory course)
                    PSYC4495 Senior Honors Thesis I (laboratory course)
                    PSYC4497 Scholars Project Research (laboratory course)

                    Systems Neuroscience Cluster:

                    PSYC3380 Neuroscience of Psychopathology
                    PSYC3381 Neurobiology of Social Behavior
                    PSYC3382 Neurobiology of Stress
                    PSYC3383 Neurobiological Basis of Learning and Memory
                    PSYC3384 Neurophysiology
                    PSYC3385 Neurobiology of Motivation and Emotion
                    PSYC3386 Psychopharmacology
                    PSYC3387 Developmental Neuroscience and Behavior
                    PSYC3388 Neurobiology of Eating and Eating Disorders
                    PSYC5580 Neural Systems and Stress
                    PSYC5581 Neurobiology of Mental Illness
                    PSYC5583 Molecular Basis of Learning and Memory
                    PSYC5585 Brain Systems: Motivation and Emotion

Any one of the following courses in a Behavioral Neuroscience laboratory (Christianson, Petrovich, Veenema). (Only one semester of a thesis or scholars project course can be used to satisfy this requirement):

          PSYC4490 Senior Thesis I (laboratory course)
          PSYC4495 Senior Honors Thesis I (laboratory course)
          PSYC4497 Scholars Project Research (laboratory course)

Minimum of 29 credits outside the Department

  • Three Biology Courses (at least 9 credits total):

                    BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells

            Any two of the following Biology courses:

                    BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution
                    BIOL3030 Introduction to Physiology
                    BIOL3040 Cell Biology
                    BIOL3150 Introduction to Genomics
                    BIOL3190 Genetics and Genomics
                    BIOL4260 Human Anatomy
                    BIOL4320 Developmental Biology
                    BIOL4350 Biological Chemistry
                    BIOL4420 Principles of Ecology
                    BIOL4450 Animal Behavior
                    BIOL4590 Introduction to Neuroscience
                    BIOL4850 Research in Neuroscience Lab
                    BIOL5270 Neurobiology of Disease
                    BIOL5510 Cell Biology of the Nervous System

  • Two Chemistry courses (8 credits total):

             CHEM1109 General Chemistry I with Lab (CHEM1111)
             CHEM1110 General Chemistry II with Lab (CHEM1112)
  • Two Mathematics courses (at least 6 credits total):

    Two courses at the level of MATH1100 or above (ADMT1004 Finite Math is also accepted), one of which may be a Computer Science course in CSOM (CSCI1021 or CSCI1074). MATH1100 and MATH1101 (Calculus I and II) are highly recommended for those who plan to go on to a Doctoral Program in Neuroscience.

  • Two of the following courses (at least 6 credits total):

    At least two additional one-semester courses from Chemistry, Physics, Biology, or from the Psychology Neurosciences courses listed above at the 3000-level or above. Students planning on applying to Doctoral Programs in Neuroscience should consult with their advisor about which of these courses to choose. Biology courses must be 3000-level or above. Chemistry and Physics courses must be 2000-level or above. Important: Whenever an upper-level Biology, Chemistry, or Physics course that has an associated lab is taken, the student must also take the lab.

    Highly recommended for those who plan to go on to a Doctoral Program in Neuroscience are: CHEM2231 Organic Chemistry I and CHEM2232 Organic Chemistry II, or PHYS2209 Introduction to Physics I and PHYS2210 Introduction to Physics II.

Advanced Placement

For either the Psychology B.A. major or the Psychology B.S. major a score of four or five on the A.P. Psychology examination may be substituted for either PSYC1110 or PSYC1111, but students substituting an A.P. exam score for one of these introductory courses are required to take an additional upper level Psychology course to complete their major in Psychology.

The Department also accepts a score of four or five on the A.P. exam for the natural science and math courses associated with the Psychology B.S. major. Students are not required to take any additional upper-level courses to replace these natural science and math substitutions.

Senior Thesis

Students in both the Psychology B.A. and Psychology B.S. majors may choose to write a thesis during the senior year. In most cases, the thesis will involve original, empirical research, although theoretical papers will also be permitted. Students must obtain the consent of a faculty member to serve as their thesis advisor.

Those who are interested in writing a thesis are encouraged to participate in an Independent Study with a prospective thesis advisor during the junior year to develop a thesis proposal.

Seniors who are engaged in writing a thesis may enroll in PSYC4490 in the fall and/or PSYC4491 in the spring. Only one semester may count as an elective to fulfill the psychology major requirement. Students who plan to write a thesis are advised to complete Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I (PSYC1120) and either PSYC1121 or a Research Practicum before their senior year.

Students whose theses are judged to be of exceptional merit will receive a note that their “Senior thesis passed with distinction.” This is kept on file in the Psychology Department but not noted on their transcripts.

Clinical Concentration

The Undergraduate Clinical Concentration is designed for Psychology majors with a particular interest in careers in clinical or counseling psychology or clinical social work. The concentration lays a solid foundation in coursework, research, and field experiences to help students decide whether they wish to apply to a graduate program and obtain licensure to practice in a clinical field.

To complete the clinical concentration, students must satisfy both the Psychology major requirements and some additional course requirements. A complete description of the concentration, along with a listing of the additional required courses, is available at Students should contact the concentration adviser, Karen Rosen, for additional information, if necessary.

This concentration is normally not open to Psychology B.S. majors. We are concerned that the heavier load of the B.S. requirements along with the added requirements of the Clinical Concentration will interfere with students becoming involved in research early in their studies and their undertaking an independent research project in their senior year. However, B.S. Majors may petition the Department for permission to pursue the Clinical Concentration by contacting Dr. Michael Moore, the Department's Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible.

Honors Program

The Psychology Honors Program offers students in both the Psychology B.A. major and the Psychology B.S. major an excellent opportunity to get involved in research. The program is for students with strong academic records who wish to devote a substantial amount of time in their senior year to a senior honors thesis.

Students who are eligible to participate in the Psychology Honors Program receive a letter from the Honors Program Director at the beginning of their junior year. Students who meet or exceed the GPA requirement, in Psychology and overall, will be invited to join the Honors Program. The Honors Program requires a GPA of 3.5 for the class of 2016 and prior, and 3.6 for the class of 2017 and on. If they are interested in participating in this program, students need to identify a Psychology faculty member who is willing to supervise them in their work. Students then need to complete a preliminary application by November 1 of their junior year. On this application, they need to indicate the issue or topic they would like to investigate in their honors thesis and the name of a faculty member in the Psychology Department who has agreed to work with them.

By May 15 of their junior year, students need to submit a Thesis Proposal Approval Form to the Psychology Department. At this point the student begins the process of executing the research plan, analyzing the data, and writing the thesis.

The principal requirement of the Honors Program is the successful completion of the Honors Thesis. During their senior year, students should enroll in PSYC4495–4496 Senior Honors Thesis I and II. In addition, students in the Honors Program are required to take one additional upper-level course (5000-level or above). One semester of the Senior Honors Thesis course (PSYC4495) may count toward the major requirements for both B.A. and B.S. Psychology majors. The second semester of the Senior Honors Thesis course (PSYC4496) and the 5000-level course are taken in addition to the courses required for the majors. Therefore, students in the Honors Program will have completed two courses in Psychology beyond the basic major requirements.

A copy of the thesis, accompanied by an Honors Thesis Approval Form needs to be submitted to the Department by May 1 of the senior year. A presentation of the student's honors thesis at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference in May of the senior year will provide all students in the Honors Program the opportunity to share their work with members of the Psychology Department.

Those students who fulfill all of the Honors Program course requirements, maintain their required GPA in Psychology and overall at the time of graduation, and successfully complete the final written thesis, will be deemed to have completed the Psychology Honors Program successfully.

For further information about the requirements of the Honors Program, distinctions between the A&S Honors and Psychology Honors Programs, and what to do if you are planning to study abroad, visit the Psychology Department website and/or contact the Director of the Honors Program in the Psychology Department.

Information for Study Abroad

Psychology majors should arrange an appointment with their advisor for permission to study abroad. Psychology majors should meet with the Associate Chair for permission to apply courses taken abroad towards meeting major requirements. These decisions about international study are made on a case-by case basis. Approval should be obtained before the start of the study abroad program.

Fifth Year Program: B.A.-B.S./M.A.

The B.A.-B.S./M.A. program is limited to students who are majoring in Psychology at Boston College. The program is designed to allow selected students to earn both a B.A. or B.S. and an M.A. in Psychology in five years. The purpose of the program is to allow students a greater opportunity for concentrated study and research training. Such training is excellent preparation for application to a Ph.D. program in any area of psychology. Undergraduate Psychology majors may apply to continue their studies beyond the B.A.-B.S. and to earn an M.A. with the equivalent of another, consecutive year of full-time study. It is limited to Boston College undergraduates, and the fifth year must follow immediately after the fourth.

The Psychology Departments areas of concentration are:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Quantitative Psychology

Visit the Department's website at for additional information on these areas.

Fifth Year Program: B.A./M.S.W.

Please note: This program is available only to Psychology B.A. majors.

In cooperation with the Graduate School of Social Work, the Psychology Department offers a dual five-year Master’s degree program for those students who have decided upon a career in social work. Students in this program complete their undergraduate requirements including those for the Psychology B.A. major during their first four years. In addition, in their junior year students begin to take Social Work courses. Upon successful completion of all undergraduate requirements, students receive the B.A. after their senior year at which time they are formally enrolled in the Graduate School of Social Work. Upon successful completion of all graduate requirements at the end of the fifth year students are awarded the M.S.W. Students apply for admission to the five-year program during their sophomore year. Contact faculty advisor Michael Moore in the Psychology Department for more information.

Faculty Advisement

All Psychology majors should seek psychology faculty advisement prior to each University registration period. Psychology faculty members provide expanded office hours during these periods. Students interested in studying abroad should seek the consent of their advisor. Students who desire to change advisors should contact the associate chair.

Psychology majors who do not have an academic advisor (e.g., majors in their first year of study or recent transfer students) should consult with the Assistant Chairperson prior to registration.

Social Science Core Requirements

Non-majors may fulfill the Social Science Core requirement with any two Psychology courses with a number between 1010 and 1111 (e.g., PSYC1011, PSYC1021, PSYC1029, PSYC1032, PSYC1072, PSYC1110, and PSYC1111).

Students receiving a 4 or a 5 on the Psychology AP exam are considered to have fulfilled half the Social Science Core requirement and may, if they wish, take any Psychology Core Course to fulfill the second required semester of Social Science Core.


Prerequisites for courses, if any, are listed with each course description. If none is listed, the course has no prerequisites.

Guide to Psychology Course Numbering

PSYC1000–PSYC1009: Courses that do not satisfy the Social Science Core requirement and do not provide credit toward completion of the Psychology major.
PSYC1010–PSYC 1099: Core courses, primarily for non-majors, that satisfy the Social Science Core requirement but do not provide credit toward completion of the Psychology major.
PSYC1110–PSYC1111: Courses that satisfy the Social Science Core requirement and also provide credit toward completion of the Psychology major.
PSYC1120–PSYC1999: Introductory, statistical, and methodological courses that are required for Psychology majors.
PSYC2000–PSYC2999: Introductions to primary subdisciplines of psychology, serving as prerequisites to more advanced courses.
PSYC3000–PSYC3999: More advanced and/or specialized courses, requiring one or more 2000-level courses as prerequisites.
PSYC4000–PSYC4999: Research practica and advanced seminars in various areas of psychology limited to Psychology majors.
PSYC5000–PSYC5999: Seminars and Advanced Topics courses open to advanced undergraduates and to graduate students.
PSYC6000 and above: Graduate-level courses.