Overview | Requirements | Courses | Faculty


Psychology concerns the study and understanding of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The courses offered by the department are directed toward the study and appreciation of the complex factors that influence behavior and covert experience in people and other animals, using methodology designed to enhance objectivity and responsibility. Studying psychology has a twofold function: (1) to further the intellectual development of the student; (2) to enhance preparation in professions within and related to psychology, such as clinical practice, research, counseling, education, social work, medicine, law, and business.


MAJOR: The major consists of twelve 4-unit courses (48 units). Students may apply to the major and receive credit for upper-division coursework after having successfully completed Introduction to Psychology and Methods in Psychological Science. Majors select an academic advisor from among the department’s full-time faculty for consultation regarding their course programs. Though not strictly sequenced, the major is structured to provide both breadth and depth. The Departmental Core comprises three of the twelve required courses and provides an overview of the field (Psyc 101) and foundation in scientific methodology (Psyc 200 and 201).  All of these must be passed with a grade of C- or better. To achieve breadth students must take at least one course in each of our four Fundamentals Domains (16 units), to survey psychology’s diverse subdisciplines . To achieve depth students must take at least two additional Fundamentals courses (8 units) to gain additional knowledge within at least one Domain. Also, one of these two must be an advanced (400 level) course.

The remaining three courses (12 units) represent electives that students can use to explore focused topics with in-depth, crosscutting explorations and to prepare for psychology careers (see courses listed in the Specialized and Integrative Themes section below). Some Kinesiology courses may be counted as electives. Up to 4 units in Independent Study / Honors courses (Psyc 397 / 499) will be treated as one 4-unit, elective course, even if the units are accumulated over multiple semesters. Students intending to pursue any career within psychology should consult with their advisors about structuring their course program to prepare them for future graduate level training. Such students will be encouraged to take more than the minimum number of required courses and ensure an impressive depth of knowledge in an area relevant to their anticipated career path. For all psychology careers, students will need to develop strong analytical and methodological skills; these are most often acquired through engagement in research (Psyc 295, 395, 397, or 499). Students may also acquire basic professional experience through a Practicum course (Psyc 498), which is particularly important for students pursuing a career in clinical psychology. Students transferring from another institution or who anticipate participating in the College's study abroad programs should plan their schedules carefully to meet major requirements, including the fulfillment of prerequisites for courses to be taken later.

CREDIT FOR COURSES TAKEN ELSEWHERE: The department will apply toward the psychology major most broad-based courses in Introduction to Psychology taken at accredited colleges and universities. Students with an Advanced Placement score of 4 or 5 on the Psychology examination or with an International Baccalaureate Psychology exam score of 6 or 7 will be placed out of Introduction to Psychology. In addition to Introductory Psychology, the department will accept a maximum of two psychology courses taken at other institutions and passed with grades of C or better toward the completion of the Psychology major. Please consult with your academic advisor and the department chair for course approval. Students transferring from another institution in the junior year or students who have taken a leave up absence for more than 1 semester may transfer Introductory Psychology and up to four other psychology courses, with approval from the department chair.

WRITING REQUIREMENT: The Psychology department has elected to take a "writing-across-the-major" approach to the College’s second stage writing requirement. The department has selected an approach that is both evaluative and educational. See the Writing Program for additional information.

Toward the end of the Fall semester of their senior year, students will submit a portfolio containing writing samples from 300/ 400 level courses taken for credit toward the Psychology major to the department. The portfolio will include at least twenty finished text pages, including (1) a research paper (empirical or library) of at least eight text pages, and (2) evidence of mastery of APA publication style. One writing sample in the portfolio must be (3) on a topic that required integration of information from two or more subdisciplines, and one writing sample in the portfolio must be (4) on a topic that required understanding of the variation between individuals, groups, or species relevant to social justice and/or well being. Academic advisors will assess students’ work. If the portfolio does not pass after an attempt at revision, the student will be informed that s/he will need to complete a supplemental writing assignment to address any writing skill deficits. Refer to the Department Moodle site for more details.

SENIOR COMPREHENSIVE: Senior majors must take and pass a comprehensive examination early in the semester that precedes graduation (i.e., spring of senior year for most students).


MINOR IN NEUROSCIENCE: See catalog listing.

HONORS: Honors in Psychology may be awarded to qualified students. Eligible students are those who have earned an overall college grade point average of 3.25 or better and a grade point average in Psychology of 3.5 or better, and completed an empirical project that demonstrates the student's psychological sophistication, intellectual creativity, and research skills, culminating in an APA-style manuscript. Only courses completed at Occidental are used to calculate grade point average. Consult the Psychology Department Moodle website for information pertaining to the honors proposal, thesis readers, enrollment expectations, and the evaluation process including critical dates


Psychology Departmental Core

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101 - Introduction to Psychology

Introduction to the primary subject matter areas, assumptions, and methods of psychology as the science of behavior. Topics include: physiology, learning, perception, motivation, development, emotion, cognition, social processes, personality, and psychopathology. This course is a prerequisite for all upper division coursework. Open only to frosh and sophomores. Core Credit only when taken at Occidental. Students with a 4 or 5 on the AP Psychology exam or a 6 or 7 on the IB Psychology exam are not eligible for Psych 101, but may take 200- or 300-level classes.

200 - Methods in Psychological Science

Introduces scientific methodology in the context of psychological research. Basic concepts in scientific inquiry and specific observational, correlational, and experimental techniques are covered. Includes an introduction to descriptive statistics. Prerequisite: Psychology  101 or 102 with a grade of C- or better. This course is a prerequisite to many 300-level courses in Psychology.

201 - Statistics in Psychological Science

Introduces parametric and nonparametric inferential statistics used in psychological science, through analyses of variance appropriate to complex experimental designs. Includes a review of research methods and descriptive statistics and work with the SPSS computer statistics package. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 with a grade of C- or better.

Biologically Based Analyses Domain

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312 - Physiological Psychology

The study of neural, glandular, and metabolic processes mediating behavior, thought, and feelings. This course is identical to Psychology 322 except that students who enroll in Psychology 312 may not enroll in the laboratory (Psyc 322L). Students who have received credit for Psychology 322 may not enroll. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102. Offered in Fall only.

322 - Physiological Psychology

The study of neural, glandular, and metabolic processes mediating behavior, thought, and feelings. This course is identical to Psychology 312 except that students who enroll in Psychology 322 may enroll concurrently or subsequently in the laboratory (Psyc 322L). Core Laboratory Science credit will only be awarded for students completing both Psychology 322 and 322L. Students who have received credit for Psychology 312 may not enroll. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102. Offered in Fall only.

322L - Laboratory for Physiological Psychology

Prerequisites: Psychology 200 with a grade of C- or better and 322. May be taken concurrently with Psychology 322.
2 units

336 - Evolutionary Psychology

This course surveys the emerging field of Evolutionary Psychology. It begins with the historical, social, and political context of evolutionary theory, reviews tenets of modern evolutionary theory, explores the relationship between evolution and other change processes, and applies evolutionary reasoning to psychological phenomena and contemporary social issues. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102.

403 - Psychophysiology

A study of the relation between psychological states and processes (cognition, learning, emotion, psychopathology) and physiological response processes (autonomic nervous system responses, covert muscle activity, EEG, FMRI). Includes six three-hour laboratories per semester. prerequisites: psyc 200 or cogsci 310, and one of psyc 301, psyc 306, psyc 322, psyc 330, psyc 448, or cogsci 370

Information Processing Domain

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301 - Learning

This course will introduce general concepts of learning in humans and other animals that will be rooted in the principles of learning developed from nonhuman animal research. Explores fundamental concepts, phenomena, and principles of learning, such as reinforcement, Pavlovian conditioning and retention/forgetting. Issues addressed are traditional views of learning, biological and cognitive constraints, the role of nonhuman animal models, and the utility of learning theory. Prerequisite: Psychology  101 or 102.

302 - Perception

Consideration of contemporary research and theory related to sensation and perception. Topics ranging from sensory neurophysiology to phenomenology are covered. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102.

306 - Cognitive Psychology

The study of theoretical models that address the mental processes underlying knowledge and thought and the empirical research in support of those models. Emphasis is placed on how people solve problems, make decisions, draw inferences, attend to their environment, communicate, remember, and learn. Much of the material is applied to real-life settings. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102 or Cognitive Science 101. Psychology 200 or Cognitive Science 310 are highly recommended.

436 - Comparative Cognition

This course concerns cognition, broadly defined, across diverse taxa of nonhuman species. Processes including perception, memory, spatial navigation, associative learning, social cognition, and reasoning will be examined. Comparison to humans will be considered. Theory and empirical research will be examined in depth, including detailed consideration of methodological issues that arise when one species studies another. Students will have significant responsibility for discussion and individual inquiry. Prerequisite: Psyc 301, 302, 306, or 336.

444 - Thinking and Reasoning

This course will examine contemporary research on higher-order cognition. Topics will include inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, causal reasoning, moral reasoning, concept acquisition, belief formation, and analogical inference. Students will read empirical papers representing a variety of experimental methods and a variety of theoretical perspectives. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 and 301, 302 or 306.

Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations Domain

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321 - Developmental Psychology

The study of continuity and change across development. Emphasis on application of research methods to issues related to cognitive, emotional, personality, and social development. The course will focus primarily on these issues in infancy and childhood. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102.

323 - Social Psychology

Behavior of individuals and groups in and across social contexts. Topics include self, social cognition, attitudes and persuasion, liking and loving, prejudice, aggression and social conflict, group identity, consciousness, and social action. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 with a grade of C- or better. Psychology 201 is highly recommended.

448 - Theories of Personality

Introduction to and evaluation and application of classic and contemporary theories of personality including psychoanalytic, humanistic, behavioral, cognitive, and object relations models. Primary sources, autobiographies and case studies will supplement traditional texts. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102, and 321, 323, or 330.

Application-Oriented Domain

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223 - Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations and Dialogue

This highly interactive seminar draws on theoretical, empirical, and narrative essays as well as structured in-class activities to provide students with an intellectual, applied, and personal understanding of contemporary intergroup relations.  Course topics include:  social identity development and implications; prejudice, stereotyping, and group differentiation; privilege, power, and oppression dynamics; conflict negotiation and resolution; and communication and group facilitation skills.  Social justice issues are framed for gender, race, class, sexuality, and ability.  Effective dialogue seminars are inclusive and enhanced by the participation of diverse identity, students from multiple disciplines and political perspectives are encouraged to enroll.  Prerequisites:  Psychology 101 or other Social Science Intro course.

330 - Abnormal Psychology

The study of psychopathology, including diagnosis and classification, core dysfunctions, and physiological and psychosocial causative factors. Intervention, treatment, and preventative strategies will also be discussed. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 with a grade of C- or better.

334 - Health Psychology

Consideration of psychological influences on health and illness, including health-and illness-promoting behavior and lifestyles, cognitive and emotional processes, and social and institutional practices. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 with a grade of C- or better.

340 - Organizational Psychology

Introduction to the study of theories and applications of psychology in profit and not-for-profit organizations. Representative topics include understanding how ability, personality, perception, motivation, leadership, and group dynamics affect productivity and worker satisfaction. Issues of fairness and accuracy of assessment will also be discussed. Emphasis is on practical and personal learning of the dynamics of the work environment. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102.

431 - Clinical Psychology

Introduction to the techniques and processes of clinical psychology and psychotherapy. Topics include major schools of thought and approaches, specific techniques of assessment and treatment, relevant research, assessment of effectiveness, and issues of gender and culture. Prerequisite: Psychology 200 and 330 with a grade of C- or better. Psychology 201 is highly recommended

Specialized and Integrative Themes

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111 - The Origins of Knowledge

The average adult possesses over 50,000 concepts, ranging from physical concepts like "force" and "density" to biological concepts like "growth" and "reproduction" to mathematical concepts like "integer" and "fraction." This course will explore the cognitive foundations of that vast conceptual repertoire and the mechanisms by which we enrich, revise, and restructure those foundations. Emphasis will be placed on analyzing current research at the intersection of cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology. No prior coursework in Psychology or Cognitive Science is required.

295 - Directed Research in Psychology

Students working with department faculty on faculty-initiated research projects for a minimum of five hours per week may enroll in this course. Responsibilities in the research project will vary from assistance with data collection to participation in data analysis and interpretation and conceptualization of future research. Graded on a Credit/No Credit basis only.  Psychology 101 or 102, or relevant introductory course in another department and permission of instructor. May be repeated once for credit if the second project is different from the first. Can be repeated one time.
2 units

350 - Psychology of Gender

The course will survey diverse psychological perspectives on gender and its personal and cultural implications. Will explore: meanings of gender, evolutionary, physiological, developmental, and sociocultural roots of gender difference; the relation of gender to cognition, personality, sexuality, health, interpersonal relationships, and political power; the commensurability of various theoretical approaches to gender. Prerequisite: Psychology 101 or 102.

375 - Sociopolitics of Race: Color-blind/Color-insight

This seminar explores the social politics of race through the lens of color-conscious and color-blind ideologies. Topics focus on the construction of race; racial identity development and socialization for differently positioned group members; psychological impact of race and racial identification for academic achievement, esteem, and health; contemporary research on colorblind and color conscious ideologies and primes; and social policy. Interdisciplinary readings include Psychological theory and research (Steele's Whistling Vivaldi, Sue's Microaggressions, Contemporary journal articles), Critical Theory ( Delgado and Stefanic's Critical Race Theory), and Sociology (Bonilla-Silva's Racism without Racists). Heavily discussion-based. Prerequisites: Any American Studies course at the 200 or 300 level OR any of the following:  Psychology 110, 323, or 333 or American Studies 290 / 390. Same as AMST 375.

385 - Chicanx in Contemporary United States Society

The course examines interdisciplinary scholarship about the psycho-social experiences of Chicanax in contemporary United States society. We draw on history, cultural studies, literature, sociology, and psychology to explore how power and social identity influence health, education, gender dynamics, and political consequences among group members. Empowerment and social justice through knowledge are course goals. Prerequisite: Psychology 101, American Studies 101, History 101 or 102, Politics 101, or Sociology 101. First year students may take this course with permission of instructor.

395 - Directed Research in Psychology

Students working with department faculty on faculty-initiated research projects for a minimum of five hours per week may enroll in this course. Responsibilities in the research project will vary from assistance with data collection to participation in data analysis and interpretation and conceptualization of future research. Graded on a Credit/No Credit basis only. Prerequisites: Psychology 200 and permission of instructor. May be repeated once for credit if the second project is different from the first.
2 units

395A - Research Seminar in Psychology

Students enrolled in Psychology 395 may co-enroll in 395A, and will attend a weekly two-hour seminar with two major components. First, the instructor will provide structured review of research methodology, statistics, and ethics and issues in professional development. Second, seminar participants will engage in peer learning and teaching opportunities and will write an APA style paper on their research topic. Commitment is for approximately five hours per week in addition to the seminar meeting. Prerequisite: Psychology 200. Co-requisite: Psychology 395.
2 units

397 - Independent Study in Psychology

Students with advanced competency will conduct an in-depth literature review on a topic of mutual interest to her/him and a faculty mentor. Completed upper-division coursework directly relevant to the project is required. Students will write an APA-style paper on her/his research. Prerequisite: Psychology 200, permission of instructor.
2 or 4 units

400 - Capstone in Psychology

This capstone course will help senior psychology majors to integrate across subdisciplines in psychology, consolidate their experiences in the psychology major through review and discussion of primary coursework in psychology, and connect their studies in psychology to the roles that psychology plays in society and the professional world. Prerequisite: Senior standing in psychology (i.e., intended for graduating seniors)

428 - Adolescence

The study of social, cognitive, physical, and psychological development during adolescence and emerging adulthood. Topics include sexual development and the social consequences of being sexually active, the function of family support, the increasingly important role of peer relationships, drug abuse and antisocial behavior, and school adjustment. Prerequisites: Psychology 200 and 321.

460 - Assessment of Individual Differences

Psychological assessment involves the measurement and evaluation of psychological characteristics, including cognitive ability, personality traits, motivation, and more. A blend of theory-driven research and practical analysis techniques will be covered to explain how common and experimental instruments work, and to examine whether certain methods are valid, in academic, organizational, criminal, and mental health contexts. Prerequisites:PSYC 201 and 321 or 340.

490 - Contemporary Topics Seminar

PSYCH 490 seminars taught by Dr. Dess, Dr. Chapman or Dr. Schell can be applied to the Neuroscience minor.

Eating: From Cells to Society. Eating is fundamental to life, more so than drinking or sex. It infuses the thoughts, feelings and behavior of humans and other animals and thus serves as a model system for psychological inquiry. It is also, for better and for worse, intensely personal and thus serves as a model system for inquiry into the self. This course will explore eating from cellular to cultural levels of analysis. Prerequisites: Psychology 200 and one of the following: Psychology 302, 323, 321, or 336.

Teamwork Within Diverse Environments. Examination of how individual and group differences influence the performance of workgroups. The course focuses on theoretical and practical concerns related to the key topics of teamwork and leadership, as they are performed within the context of a diverse work environment. Some related issues of fairness in managing diversity will also be introduced. Prerequisites: Psychology 201 and either Psychology 340 or 323.

Trauma. This course focuses on the experience of, and responses to trauma in its many forms - natural disaster, war and genocide, child abuse, assault and violence. The impact of trauma for both the individual and society at large are examined in the context of a stress, coping, resilience framework. Prevention and intervention strategies will be explored. Prerequisites: Psychology 330.

Visions of Love and Community. This seminar examines love as an interpersonal, intergroup, and structural experience. We draw from social, evolutionary, and personality psychology to explore theories of love, relationship formation, satisfaction, and dissolution; the biological bases of attraction; common challenges in relationships (jealousy, conflict, violence), and critical challenges to “love” within individualistic, capitalistic, patriarchal, and heterosexist societies. Students will better understand how familial, interpersonal and institutional relationships shape one’s sense of identification with and communal responsibility for others. Prerequisite: Psychology 200, 323 and one of the following: 321 or 448.


498 - Practicum in Psychology

This course involves applied psychological work in a variety of community settings. Students will assist professionals in mental health, educational, social services, business, or not-for-profit settings. Instructor permission is required. Prerequisites: Psychology 200 and three courses from: Fundamentals Domains or Psychology 201. For Practicum in Clinical Psychology, one course must be Psychology 321 or 330. For Practicum in Organizational Psychology, one course must be Psychology 340. A minimum grade of C- in all prerequisite course and a B average in Psychology courses are required.

499 - Honors Research in Psychology

Data collection, analysis and write-up of Honors thesis. Depending on the structure and timeline of the proposed project, a student may take 4 credits in one semester, 2 credits for each of two semesters, or fewer credits.  Prerequisite: permission of department.
2 or 4 units

Courses that may be taken for credit towards the Psychology major or minor

PSYC 309. Developmental Motor Behavior. Same as KINE 309
PSYC 310. Motor Learning and Control. Same as KINE 310
PSYC 311. Sport and Exercise Psychology. Same as KINE 311


Regular Faculty

Brian Kim, chair

Associate Professor, Psychology

B.A., Cornell University; M.A., Ph.D., Michigan State University

Nancy Dess

Professor, Psychology; Advisory Committee, Kinesiology; Advisory Committee, Neuroscience

B.A., UCLA Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Andrea Hopmeyer

Professor, Psychology

B.A., Clark University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Lynn Mehl

Professor, Kinesiology and Psychology

B.S., M.S., Ph.D., University of Southern California

Jaclyn RodrĂ­guez

Professor, Latino/a and Latin American Studies

A.B., Occidental College; M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan

Anne Schell

Professor, Psychology; Advisory Committee, Neuroscience

B.S., Baylor University; M.A., Ph.D., USC

Andrew Shtulman

Associate Professor, Cognitive Science; Psychology

B.A., Princeton University; Ph.D., Harvard University

On Special Appointment

Clinton Dale Chapman

Non-Tenure Track Associate Professor, Psychology

B.S., M.S., Montana State University; Ph.D., University of Oklahoma