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Psychology

morrissey college of arts and sciences

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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 understanding basic functions such as memory, emotion, visual perception, social interaction, development and learning, and problem solving and creativity, as well as on alterations to these functions in psychopathology, developmental disorders, or neurological disorders. Faculty in our department approach these topics from multiple, converging levels, using assessments of individual behavior, dynamic group interactions, and investigations of the neural processes and computations that give rise to behavior. 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 three majors: the Psychology Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) major, the Psychology Bachelor of Science (B.S.) major, and the Neuroscience Bachelor of Science (B.S.) major. The Neuroscience B.S. major is new and is open to the classes of 2020 and after, but it cannot be declared until September 1, 2019. All three 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. Each option allows 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 function. Students will take Psychology courses relevant to social, developmental, biological, 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, biological, and developmental factors when trying to understand why humans think, feel, and act as they do. The major introduces 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.

The Psychology B.S. 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. The Psychology B.S. major covers most of the requirements for premed.

Please note: The requirements for the Psychology B.S. major will change starting with the class of 2023. For details on these new requirements, please visit 

https://www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/mcas/departments/psychology/undergraduate/psychology-majors.html

The Neuroscience B.S. major is a new major that may be declared on or after September 1, 2019. It is a research-focused degree for students who are interested in understanding the biological basis of brain function in relation to thought and behavior. The major has co-requisites in Biology and Chemistry as well as elective natural science co-requisites, and emphasizes exposure to hands-on, laboratory science. Students will take courses 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. The Neuroscience major covers many of the requirements for premed. 

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Requirements for Psychology B.A. Majors

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

  • PSYC1110 Introduction to Psychology as a Natural Science (3 credits). This course should be taken as soon as possible after entering the major. 
  • PSYC1111 Introduction to Psychology as a Social Science. This course should be taken as soon as possible after entering the major. PSYC1110 and PSYC1111 can be taken in either order.
  • PSYC1120 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible.
  • Either PSYC1121 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II (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 (3 credits each):

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

  • 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).

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Requirements for Psychology B.S. Majors

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

30 credits within the Department

  • PSYC1110 Introduction to Psychology as a Natural Science and PSYC1111 Introduction to Psychology as a Social Science 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).
  • PSYC1120 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I (3 credits). This course should be taken in the sophomore year, when possible.
  • Either PSYC1121 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II (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.
  • PSYC2285 Behavioral Neuroscience (3 credits)
  • Either of the following courses (3 credits):

                   PSYC2272 Cognitive Psychology: Mental Processes and their Neural Substrates
                   PSYC2274 Sensation and Perception

  • Any one of the following courses (3 credits):

            PSYC2234 Abnormal Psychology
            PSYC2241 Social Psychology
            PSYC2242 Personality Theories
            PSYC2260 Developmental Psychology
  • Three Psychology neuroscience courses (3 credits each): 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
                    PSYC3374 Cognitive Aging
                    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
                    PSYC4472 Social Neuroscience
                    PSYC4473 Event-Related Potentials (laboratory course)
                    PSYC4476 Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory
                    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, Ritchey, 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:

                    PSYC3376 Developmental Neuroscience
                    PSYC3380 Neuroscience of Psychopathology
                    PSYC3381 Neural Circuits for Emotional Memory
                    PSYC3382 Neurobiology of Stress
                    PSYC3383 Neurobiological Basis of Learning and Memory
                    PSYC3384 Neurophysiology
                    PSYC3385 Neurobiology of Motivation and Emotion
                    PSYC3386 Psychopharmacology
                    PSYC3388 Neurobiology of Eating and Eating Disorders
                    PSYC3389 Sex and Aggression
                    PSYC3390 Neurobiology of Psychiatric 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, McDannald, Petrovich). (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)

29 credits outside the Department

  • Three Biology Courses (9 credits):

                    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
                    BIOL4330 Human Physiology
                    BIOL4350 Biological Chemistry
                    BIOL4590 Introduction to Neuroscience

  • Two Chemistry courses (8 credits):

         CHEM1109 General Chemistry I with Lab (CHEM1111)
         CHEM1110 General Chemistry II with Lab (CHEM1112)

  • Two Mathematics courses (6 credits):

Two courses at the level of MATH1100 or above (MATH1004 Finite Probability & Applications is also accepted). 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 (6 credits):

At least two additional upper-level, one-semester courses from Chemistry, Physics, Biology, or the Psychology Cognitive/Affective Neuroscience or Systems Neuroscience clusters listed above. Students planning on applying to Doctoral Programs in Neuroscience should consult with their advisor about which of these courses to choose. Biology and Physics courses must be 3000-level or above. Chemistry 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.

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Requirements for Neuroscience B.S. Majors

This major is open to the classes of 2020 and after and may be declared starting on September 1, 2019.

Students must take a minimum of 57 credits, including the following required courses.

Foundation (24 credits)

  • Either PSYC1110 Introductory Psychology as a Natural Science (3 credits) or PSYC1029 Mind and Brain (3 credits)
  • Either PSYC2272 Cognitive Psychology: Mental Processes and their Neural Substrates (3 credits) or PSYC2274 Sensation and Perception (3 credits)
  • BIOL2000 Molecules and Cells (3 credits)
  • CHEM1109 General Chemistry I with lab (4 credits)
  • CHEM1110 General Chemistry II with lab (4 credits) 
  • MATH1100 Calculus I (4 credits)
  • PSYC2285 Behavioral Neuroscience (3 credits) or BIOL4590 Introduction to Neuroscience

Computation (6 credits)

  • Any one of the following courses:

            PSYC1120 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I
            BIOL2300 Biostatistics
            MATH1180 Principles of Statistics for the Health Sciences
            MATH3353 Statistics

  • Any one of the following courses:

            PSYC1121 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II
            CSCI1101 Computer Science I
            CSCI1102 Computer Science II
            CSCI2227 Introduction to Scientific Computation
            MATH1103 Calculus II
            MATH2210 Linear Algebra
            A PSYC Research Practicum (cannot be double counted to fulfill Praxis requirement)

Cognitive Neuroscience (6 credits)

  • Any two of the following courses:

            PSYC3371 Cognitive Neuroscience: Exploring Mind and Brain    
            PSYC3372 Affective Neuroscience
            PSYC3375 Psychology and Neuroscience of Human Memory
            PSYC3378 Vision
            PSYC4446 Social Neuroscience
            PSYC4476 Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory
            PSYC4437 Stress and Behavior

Systems Neuroscience (6 credits)

  • Any two of the following courses:

            BIOL4450 Animal Behavior
            PSYC3381 Neurobiology of Social Behavior
            PSYC3384 Neurophysiology
            PSYC3382 Neurobiology of Stress 
            PSYC3383 Neurobiological Basis of Learning and Memory 
            PSYC3384 Neurobiology of Sensory and Motor Systems 
            PSYC3385 Neurobiology of Motivation and Emotion 
            PSYC3386 Psychopharmacology 
            PSYC3387 Developmental Neuroscience and Behavior
            PSYC3388 Neurobiology of Eating and Eating Disorders

Electives (12 Credits)

Of these 12 elective credits, up to 6 credits may come from Biology or Physics courses at the 3000 or above level or Chemistry courses at the 2000 or above level.

Of these 12 elective credits, up to 12 credits may come from courses listed under the Cognitive Neuroscience heading (see above) and courses listed under the Systems Neuroscience heading (see above)

Of these 12 elective credits, up to 12 credits may come from courses listed below.

            CHEM4465 Introduction to Biochemistry 
            CSCI3341 Artificial Intelligence 
            CSCI3343 Computer Vision CSCI3345 Machine Learning 
            PSYC5570 Advanced Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience 
            PSYC5571 Controversies in Cognitive Neuroscience 
            PSYC5574 Neuroscience of Sensation and Perception 
            PSYC5575 Advanced Affective Neuroscience 
            PSYC5585 Brain Systems: Motivation and Emotion 
            PSYC5589 Neural Systems and Social Behavior 
            SCWK7726 Neuroscience of Human Relationships and Development* 
            SCWK7724 Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience in the Life Course*

            *Requires instructor approval; content is specialized for social work prep.

Praxis (3 credits)

  • Any one of the following courses:

            PSYC2205 Undergraduate Research* 
            PSYC2206 Independent Study* 
            PSYC4473 Event-Related Potentials 
            PSYC4490 or 4491 Senior Thesis I or II (only one course)*
            PSYC4495 or 4496 Senior Honors Thesis I or II (only one course)* 
            PSYC4474 Research Practicum in Sensation and Perception 
            PSYC4481 Research Practicum in Behavioral Neuroscience 
            PSYC5579 Methods in Human Brain Mapping

*Students may conduct research with any faculty member, including those conducting neuroscience research outside of the Psychology Department. Projects should have significant neuroscience components, and course proposals are subject to review by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

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Advanced Placement

All majors: A score of four or five on the Psychology A.P. exam may be substituted for either PSYC1110 or PSYC1111, but students making this substitution are required to take an additional upper-level Psychology course (one numbered 2000 or higher) to complete their major.

Psychology B.S. and Neuroscience majors: A score of four or five on the A.P. exams for the natural science and math courses associated with these majors may be substituted for the required courses in those subject areas. Students are not required to take additional upper-level courses to replace these natural science and math substitutions.

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Senior Thesis

Students in all three 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 a major requirement. Students who plan to write a thesis are advised to complete PSYC1120 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research I and either PSYC1121 Introduction to Behavioral Statistics and Research II 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.

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Clinical Concentration

The Undergraduate Clinical Concentration is designed for 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 their 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 www.bc.edu/bc-web/schools/mcas/departments/psychology/undergraduate/academic-opportunities/related-coursework.html. Students should contact the concentration adviser, Karen Rosen, for additional information, if necessary.

This concentration is normally not open to Psychology B.S. or Neuroscience B.S. majors. The department is 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 and Neuroscience 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. Note that the clinical concentration is easily compatible with the new Psychology B.S. requirements to be introduced starting with the class of 2023.

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Honors Program

The Psychology Honors Program offers students in our majors 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 3.6. 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. Students then begin the process of executing the research plan and continue to work on the research project (including data collection and analysis and completing the final written thesis) throughout the senior year.

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. 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 must 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 MCAS 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.

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Study Abroad

Psychology and Neuroscience majors should arrange an appointment with their advisor for permission to study abroad. Students 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.

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Fifth Year M.A. Program

The Fifth Year M.A. program allows selected students to earn both a B.A. or B.S. in Psychology or in Neuroscience and an M.A. in Psychology in five years. The purpose of the program is to give 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. The Fifth Year M.A. program is limited to Boston College undergraduates who are majoring in Psychology or Neuroscience, and the fifth year must follow immediately after the fourth.

The Psychology Department has the following areas of concentration. Visit the Department's website for additional information on these areas.

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

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

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.

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Faculty Advisement

All majors should seek psychology faculty advisement prior to each 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.

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 Associate Chair prior to registration.

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Social Science Core Requirements

Students 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 four or five on the Psychology AP exam are considered to have fulfilled half of the Social Science Core requirement.

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Prerequisites

Course prerequisites are listed with each course description. If none is listed, the course has no prerequisites.

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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–PSYC1099: Core courses that satisfy the Social Science Core requirement but do not provide credit toward completion of the Psychology major, with the exception of PSYC1029, which counts toward completion of the Psychology B.S. and Neuroscience B.S. majors.
PSYC1110–PSYC1111: Courses that satisfy the Social Science Core requirement and also provide credit toward completion of the Psychology and Neuroscience majors.
PSYC1120–PSYC1999: Introductory, statistical, and methodological courses.
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 and Neuroscience majors.
PSYC5000-PSYC5999: Seminars and Advanced Topics courses open to advanced undergraduates and to graduate students.
PSYC6000 and above: Graduate-level courses.

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