Courses by Depth Areas

Abnormal / Health Psychology

Courses in this area focus on understanding psychological processes involved in both healthy and maladpative adjustment. The survey course in this area, "Abnormal Psychology" (PSY 105), provides a broad overview of psychological disorders, including how psychological disorders are classified and treated, and the contribution of biological and experiential factors to the development of psychopathology. Other courses in this area build on this foundation to explore a wide range of issues related to abnormal behavior as well as the role of psychological processes in physical well being.

Biological Bases of Behavior

The human brain may be the most sophisticated machine in the universe. This exceptionally compact device is responsible for virtually all behavioral and mental achievement, from the criminal to the sublime. Brain research, often called "the last frontier," has accelerated in recent years, and it has begun to reveal remarkable insight into memory, perception, emotion and an array of other behavioral and mental processes.

The brain is the centerpiece of a biological approach to behavior, but its role must be understood within the broad context of its evolution, and of the forces that shape it during an individual's development. Moreover, one must appreciate its relationship to other aspects of physiology, such as the endocrine and immune systems. The courses in this track have been designed to provide this broad perspective on the brain and behavior. The initial course is "Biological Bases of Behavior" (PSY 106), which is also a core course in the major's concentration in the Neurosciences. http://www.dibs.duke.edu/education/undergraduate-neuroscience.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of what people and animals know and do. Relying on experimental evidence, models and theory, it studies how people and animals attend, learn, perceive, reason, and remember, and it examines how people in particular solve problems and use concepts, images, language and other modes of representation.

The course titled "Cognitive Psychology" (PSY 102) introduces the major topics. Subsequent courses focus on specific issues (perception, memory, reasoning, and language development, etc.) and on the research and modeling methods used to address them. Faculty research interests include sensory capabilities (audition, vision, taste, smell, touch), perception and perceptual coding, stimulus definition, mental representation, psycholinguistics, cognitive aspects of aging, individual differences in cognition, and perceptual and cognitive development.

Students can receive training in these general areas as well as in such specific issues as autobiographical memory, memory for rhyme and prose, categorization, imagery, specific learning, memory expert/novice differences, everyday cognition, and differences in perception by infant, children, adults and the aged.

Developmental Psychology

The developmental track emphasizes development across age. It encompasses a broad review that includes biological, cognitive, emotional, and social processes as they develop across infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. It includes such diverse areas as the development of sensory and motor systems, the development of children's thinking and reasoning, and the development of social behavior in families, peer groups, and social institutions. Theoretical orientations represented are also diverse and range from views of human and animal development that emphasize biological evolution, to those that stress social learning or the organization of mental structures. See the Bulletin about the multi disciplinary undergraduate certificate programs in Human Development and Early Childhood Studies. The survey course in this area is "Developmental Psychology" (PSY 103).

Social Psychology

Human social behavior is influenced by a wide array of factors involving both aspects of the situation in which people find themselves and processes that operate within the individual.  The courses in the social psychology area examine the diversity of factors that influence people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, including situational factors (such as other people, social roles, and aspects of the social environment), internal motivational and cognitive processes  (such as goals, attitudes, self-views, and nonconscious processes), personality characteristics, and physiological processes.  Topics include social cognition, motivation and goals, close relationships, self and identity, stereotyping and stigmatization, group behavior, personality, social neuroscience, and courses that apply social psychology to health, business, and marketing. 

Students who are interested in this track must take Social Psychology (104) and are encouraged to take Personality (221).  While the track courses are available to all students, they are especially relevant for those who plan to go to graduate school in social, personality, clinical, or counseling psychology, and for students whose career plans involve a people-centered vocation or profession.

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