How do people make decisions? What are the lifelong effects of children's early relationships with caregivers? What is implicit bias? Why do people in a crowd so often fail to step up in an emergency? Does personality change over time? What causes psychological disorders, and how can we treat them? How are these processes implemented in the brain? These are just some of the fascinating questions addressed in the field of psychology.
The Department of Psychology includes 12 faculty whose research covers most major areas within the discipline, including biological, clinical, cognitive, developmental, personality, and social. All faculty members are committed to the complementary goals of providing high-quality undergraduate education and producing high-quality empirical research. The goal of our curriculum is to help students understand different theoretical approaches used within the field, develop the skills necessary to study questions within the field, and to demonstrate how tools in psychology help explain real-world behavior.
Psychology is consistently among one of the largest among Amherst’s departments in terms of numbers of majors, and psychology courses tend to attract a large number of majors as well as non-majors. Each year about 30% of our senior majors complete thesis projects.
The influence of psychology at Amherst extends beyond the department and the college. In 1962, Rose Olver was hired as the first female professor at Amherst and in 1968 she became the first female tenured professor; she was also instrumental in establishing the Women and Gender Studies program (now known as SWAGS) in the mid-1980s. Psychology professor Charles (“Al”) Sorenson was instrumental in establishing the first neuroscience program in the country (1973-74) and the first undergraduate major in neuroscience in the United States.
Although some majors pursue careers as professors or clinicians, the skills acquired in a psychology major - understanding yourself and the world around you – are essential in virtually all careers. Psychology majors work in a range of careers, including health professions, finance, law, government, and education. Current employers of Amherst psychology majors include the NIMH, Dana Farber, JP Morgan, Qualtrics, Cantor Fitzgerald, and Major League Baseball.