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Course Descriptions

Courses in psychology are designed to explore the principles of human and animal behavior. The curriculum is designed to meet three goals:

  • To provide a basic background in principles and exploratory methods of psychology in preparation for graduate studies in areas such as experimental, clinical, and physiological psychology and medicine;
  •  To prepare students to function at the bachelor’s level in careers which involve applications of psychology to such areas as education, business, and human services;
  • To contribute to the general education of all students.

PSYC 100 - General Psychology (LSI)

A broad overview of topics in psychology and an introduction to scientific methodology. Offered each semester.

PSYC 211 - Learning and Conditioning (LSL)

Train your own rat! An introduction to the principles of learning and conditioning in both humans and animals. Topics include classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and applied behavior analysis. Laboratory work includes conditioning rats. Offered once per year.

PSYC 212  - Perception and Cognition 

Overview of perceptual and cognitive psychology. Topics include visual and auditory illusions, motion and depth perception, face recognition, attention, memory and amnesia, first and second language acquisition, problem solving, judgment and decision making, intelligence, and creativity. Students participate in computer-based experiments that are classics in the field of human perception and cognition. Offered once per year.

PSYC 213  - Behavioral Neuroscience 

An introduction to the structure and function of the neuron, basic neuro-chemistry, neural substrates involved in learning and memory, behavioral disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and sexual behavior in humans and animals. Offered each semester.

PSYC 227  - Statistics 

An introduction to statistical procedures in psychology.Topics may include basic measurement, probability, measures of central tendency and variability, correlation, regression, hypothesis testing, the t-test, analysis of variance, and non-parametric techniques. Students may not receive credit toward graduation for both this course and sociology 227 or business administration 227. Offered each semester.

PSYC 251  - Abnormal Psychology (LSI) 

Understanding the nature, causes, and treatment of various mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, autism-spectrum disorders, schizophrenia-spectrum disorders). Offered each semester.

PSYC 252  - Child and Adolescent Development 

The process of human development from conception through adolescence. What are the general stages of development? What role does genetics versus the environment play in development of our characteristics and personalities?  Offered once per year.

PSYC 253  - Lifespan Developmental Psychology 

A comprehensive overview of human development from womb to tomb. Topics include the biological, psychological, and social forces that drive and shape development, and the dynamic impact of context and culture on these processes. Offered once per year.

PSYC 259  - Social Psychology 

Understanding how the social world impacts people. Topics include attitudes, stereotypes, aggression, communication, persuasion, attraction and intimacy, and the application of psychology to social problems such as improving people’s health and improving the criminal justice system. Offered each semester.

PSYC 300  - Research Methods in Psychology (W)

Learn how to design, analyze, and report research studies. Prerequisites: psychology 100 and psychology 227. Offered each semester.

The below courses are “seminar-style” courses which tend to enroll 12-16 students and focus on more specific topics relevant to our professors’ areas of expertise. Most psychology majors will take 5 - 7 of these courses. Courses are also available to non-majors. Each course is generally offered either once per year or once every other year.

Crime and the Justice System: A Social Psychology Perspective

This course focuses on topics related to crime, the justice system, and serial killers. Questions investigated in the class include: “Why do people confess to crimes they didn’t commit?” “Can we trust eyewitness memories?” “How do popular television shows, like CSI and Criminal Minds, affect people when they serve on juries?” and “Is criminal profiling a legitimate science?” amongst others. Students will read a book on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as study and discuss several current unsolved crime cases. For their final project in the class, students will pick a topic related to crime that is of interest to them and explore it in more depth.

Introduction to Clinical and Counseling Psychology

This seminar introduces key issues in the field of Clinical and Counseling Psychology. This course builds on your knowledge of psychopathology (as covered in abnormal psychology) and focuses on evaluating and comparing the major therapeutic approaches (e.g., psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive-behavioral). Additional aspects of Clinical and Counseling Psychology will be covered, including current issues and controversies (e.g., DSM controversies, the involvement of psychologists with the Department of Defense). We will read primary sources and articles, view therapy videos, and participate in integrated, multidisciplinary learning opportunities. 

Advanced Behavioral Processes 

How can we predict what behavior an animal (including humans) will exhibit in a certain situation? How can we use our understanding of learning to shape and change animal behavior? In this course we study basic learning theory (classical and operant conditioning) in an effort to answer these questions and better understand how the external environment shapes behavioral output. An accompanying lab allows students to use the principles discussed to study learning and memory in rat subjects. The lab also includes a sheep brain dissection in which students will be able to see the structures of the brain involved in various learning paradigms.

Mental Health and Aging

Mental health and aging is a service learning course that challenges some of the common myths and stereotypes of aging, both in class and by direct interaction with older folks in the local community. In the first part of the semester, we will look at some of the more common mental health conditions that elders may face (depression, anxiety, dementia); these conditions contribute to the myth that most elders are "sick, sad, and depressed". The reality is, however, that most individuals over the age of 65 are not only healthy, but happier than younger adults. In the second half of the semester, we will explore the resiliency factors that contribute to high levels of life satisfaction and happiness (resilience, a sense of control in life, social support, to name a few).  What students most enjoy about this course, however, is the opportunity to form relationships with older members of our community through volunteering on a regular basis –  students in the course have called bingo, taught short classes on social media, and even learned a few things about card games and life from their community partners.

Advanced Human Neuroscience

This course surveys the theory and practice of using recordings of electrical (and magnetic) activity of the brain to study cognition and behavior. It explores what brainwaves reveal about normal and abnormal perception, attention, decision-making, memory, and language comprehension. The course aims to give students an idea of how we can use direct measurements of neural activity to and learn more about human behavior and answer questions in psychology that we can’t answer if we just look at someone’s behavior. 

Psychology & the Environment

In this course, you will be challenged to apply psychological science to better understand how people interact with the natural environment. For example, we will explore (a) how human behavior impacts the natural environment and (b) how the natural environment influences human well-being. Students will also learn about current environmental threats and efforts to promote environmental sustainability.  Learning will occur through a variety of activities: readings, discussion, videos, guest speakers, and, most important, a laboratory experience in which you will design and conduct your own original research study.

Medical Neuroscience

This course will take a case study approach to understanding neuroanatomy.  Students will be given case studies throughout the semester and will be required to investigate the symptoms to determine possible diagnoses. The course will examine how an individual's behavioral and cognitive deficits can be traced to underlying pathology in the peripheral and central nervous systems.

Foundations of Learning

The brain is such an amazing organ! It is constantly changing and adapting based on the way we navigate our world and in response to specific learning experiences. This course involves an examination of learning, conditioning, and underlying mechanisms through discussion and evaluation of primary sources. Topics include modern theories of classical conditioning, consolidation and reconsolidation, and extinction.

Psychology of Gender

In Psychology of Gender, students will explore the differences between men and women and, more importantly, why these differences may exist. For instance, are most men more aggressive than women because of certain hormones or because they were raised differently and given different toys and video games to play with as children? Social factors will be discussed as potential causes of differences, ranging from Disney movies to toy commercials to treatment in schools, as will potential biological causes, such as testosterone levels. A large section of the course is devoted to differences in mating and attraction, including a focus on controversial questions such as “Why do men tend to focus more on attractiveness in a partner while women focus more on status or signs of resources?” Or “Why are men, on average, more open to casual sex?” Additional focus is given to gender identity and sexual orientation, with discussions of such cases as David Reimer, who was born a boy but raised as a girl following a childhood medical accident, and individuals who have, for instance, female genitalia but male chromosomes. By the end of the course, students should have a deeper knowledge of the differences between men and women, why these differences may exist, and a deeper appreciation for the idea of “gender” as a whole.

Identity, Social Justice, and Psychology

This service-learning course examines various aspects of identity development through the lens of contemporary social concerns. We will consider how, when full human development is impeded by conditions of poverty, discrimination, and injustice, associated costs to identity accrue not just for the oppressed, but for those participating in oppression, even indirectly. During the semester, students will spend out-of-class time interacting with community members, understanding how their neighborhoods and identities have been shaped both positively and negatively by race relations, migration, and aging. We will also discuss how small actions can spark long-term change. Together with these neighborhood partners, we will try to capture the unique identity of the West side of Bloomington, ultimately supporting the revitalization of this vibrant community through a service project.

History and Systems of Psychology (IT)

A study of the historical, philosophical, and conceptual foundations of contemporary psychology. The course will trace "history of ideas" from early Greek philosophy to modern psychology, with particular emphasis on the Darwinian revolution.

Sports and Exercise Psychology 

This course examines a wide variety of topics in sport and exercise psychology by investigating how psychological factors influence participation and performance in sports and exercise and how, in turn, participation in sports and exercise affects the psychological makeup of an individual. We examine research and theory that has been utilized and developed in the study of sport and exercise behavior and the application of psychological concepts and principles to improve sport and exercise performance (e.g., imagery and mental practice, arousal, motivation, expertise, confidence, attention, etc.).  

Mental Health Immersion Semester Signature Work Seminar

In this course, students who are registered for the Mental Health Immersion Semester will design, develop, and implement a signature work project. The scope and nature of the project will be determined and will be developed with the supervision of the course instructors. Examples of possible projects are to present a workshop on conflict management, or coping with stress, etc. to appropriate student groups. Students will engage in reflective assignments that encourages them to consider their work from multiple perspectives (e.g, cross-disciplinary, diversity, ethics). Progress will be documented with a portfolio and will culminate at the end of the semester with a formal presentation to an invited audience.

Brain Injury and Recovery

The brain is an incredibly plastic organ that quickly responds to environmental change. This course will investigate the mechanisms of plasticity that follow brain injury and the impact that these changes have on behavior. Topics include cell death and survival, spontaneous recovery and rehabilitation with a focus on stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury.

Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience (W) (EXP)

We will study the neural mechanisms of behavior in animals, investigated through laboratory demonstrations and student conducted experiments. 

Science and Practice of Mental Health Treatment Seminar

In this integrative seminar, students will study the scientific foundations and current practices of mental health fields through traditional and experiential learning methods. Readings, experiential activities, guest speakers, regional travel, and conference participation will comprise the main elements of this seminar.

Internship/Internship with Directed Study

Supervised experiential learning for students in psychology. Placements include, but are not limited to, mental health clinics, educational agencies, and correctional systems. A substantial written project is required. 

Thesis In psychology

Independent research conducted in collaboration with a faculty member. This course will provide students with research experience that will provide a foundation for graduate study. Students will complete and defend a thesis. 

Introduction to Clinical Psychology

This course reviews the profession of clinical psychology and the major psychotherapeutic approaches to treatment, including their development and application. In addition to theories, we learn about ethical considerations, current issues, and controversies. Topics include evidence-based treatment, prescriptive authority, and our evolving understanding of mental health.   

Helping Skills

This is an introductory course covering the basic helping skills used by clinical/counseling psychologists and other helping professionals.  Thus, the course is relevant for students considering careers in psychology, education, medicine, social work, business, or other fields that emphasize human interaction.  Students will learn about the process of helping, specific helping strategies, and underlying psychological theories. You will also learn how ethical principles, research, and sensitivity to diversity impact the helping process.  Come prepared to actively practice skills, provide feedback to other students, be videotaped, and to document your personal development.

Aggression and Violence: A Social Neuroscience Approach

In this course, co-taught by a professor of social psychology and a professor of neuroscience, students will learn about the social and physical causes of violence and aggression. Social topics range from violent video games to weather to parental care; neuro topics range from traumatic brain injury to genetics to hormones. For a final project, students will select a serial killer and research what factors may have led to this person’s crimes. Students will also tour the local juvenile detention center and county jail.


As indicated, some Psychology courses meet the following General Education requirements:

LSI – Life Sciences Issues Course

LSL – Life Sciences Lab Course

IT – Intellectual Traditions

U – Encountering U.S. Diversity

W – Writing Intensive Courses

Amanda Vicary - Chair and Associate Professor of Psychology

Department - Psychology