Why do people do what they do? Do animals think and remember? How do people cope with prejudice and discrimination? What happens to our memories as we age? How does poverty impact infant attention and cognition? How do children learn about race and gender? How do individuals' personalities differ? How do people adjust and adapt to new cultures?
These are some of the questions engaging the faculty and students in the Psychology Department at Whitman College. Our department offers a wide range of courses and research laboratories designed to give students both theoretical and practical knowledge about the exciting discipline of psychology. We designed our comprehensive curriculum to achieve three types of learning: first, students acquire basic understanding of concepts, principles, theories, conventions, vocabulary, and the models of psychology; second, students practice and refine skills to perform rigorously and cogently in quantitative analysis, writing, speaking, theoretical integration, personal growth, application and group process; and third, students develop interdisciplinary perspectives and understanding of how psychology is similar to and different from other disciplines, particularly its closest neighbors - philosophy and biology.
Our program teaches psychology as a science, but we also teach psychology in its practical applications for improving human welfare. Our requirements include an introductory survey course, statistics and research methods courses, at least 1 course from each the 3 foundational areas of psychology (Clinical/Personality, Cognitive/Learning/Physiology, and Social/Developmental), a seminar, a senior capstone course, and a year-long thesis. Additionally, psychology majors take at least one course in philosophy and in biology. Many elective courses in psychology are also offered each academic year.
An important aspect of our program is the senior year experience. All seniors take the senior capstone course that examines the theoretical, historical, and ethical issues of central importance to the discipline, which situates their major in the context of the larger discipline. Seniors also complete a year-long thesis, which usually takes the form of original empirical research in collaboration with peers. Seniors in our program experience a strong sense of community as they work on their theses and prepare for their thesis oral exams.
The Psychology Department has well-equipped animal and human laboratory facilities for undergraduate teaching and research. The comparative psychology lab allows students to investigate behavior and cognition in pigeons and rats, and the avian communication lab's focus is on songbirds. Human laboratory facilities include the infant and adolescent development, cognitive aging, personality, and experimental psychopathology labs. Rooms are available for students to sign out for research with human participants, testing, and other laboratory exercises.
Psychology majors in our department have published their research in numerous journals. In addition, our students regularly present their research at regional professional meetings, where their papers are accepted in a blind peer-review process. Many of Whitman's psychology majors go on to graduate school and have reported that they appreciate the rigorous training that our program provided them, particularly the senior thesis experience.