Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.


Chair, 2008-09: Dana L. Gross, developmental psychology

Faculty, 2008-09: Deborah J. Anderson, clinical and health psychology; Harry Brull, industrial/organizational psychology; Grace Cho, developmental psychology; Shelly Dickinson, conditioning and learning, behavioral neuroscience; James Dickson, Jr., experimental, comparative, and biopsychology; Scott Gregory, industrial/organizational psychology; Charles W. Huff, Jr., social psychology, social and ethical issues in computing; Molly Kodl, clinical psychology; Donna McMillan, personality psychology, clinical psychology; Gary Muir, neuroscience, spatial cognition; Clark Ohnesorge, cognition, perception; M. Minda Orina, social psychology; Bonnie S. Sherman, perception, cognition, and neuropsychology; Howard I. Thorsheim, psychophysiology, cognitive science, learning, performance and systems

The Department of Psychology is committed to maintaining a rigorous academic curriculum within a supportive community structure. It seeks to address broad questions posed by a liberal education and specific concerns of individual students. St. Olaf College’s mission statement provides a framework for curriculum, personal development, and community relations. Because life is more than facts and theories, the Psychology Department encourages students to be “responsible citizens dedicated to service,” as well as scientific “seekers of truth.”

Psychology courses contribute to general education by fulfilling both foundation studies (ORC and WRI) and core studies (HBS, NSL, EIN, NST/IST and SED, MCS-D, MCS-G). They introduce the disciplinary knowledge that nurtures growth and behavioral change while providing background for advanced study. Psychology contributes to majors in social work, family studies, and nursing, to concentrations in environmental studies, asian studies, linguistic studies, neuroscience, and women’s studies and to the psychology core of the social studies education major.

Psychology majors are prepared for graduate and professional programs in psychology, medicine, law, physical therapy, social work, nursing, and ministry and for entering positions in business, government, or industry.


The Department of Psychology follows the American Psychological Association’s guidelines of “synthesizing the natural and social science aspects of the discipline, in part, by requiring students to take courses in both knowledge bases.” Thus both interpersonal and investigative skills are enhanced. Students benefit from research in the library, laboratory, and field, as well as from internships. Through course structure and faculty diversity, the department challenges students to think critically and creatively as they investigate ways in which animals, especially humans, adapt to their environment through biological, social, emotional, spiritual, perceptual, behavioral, linguistic, and cognitive processes.



Psychology majors are required to take 12.25 courses to complete the major. The major consists of 9.25 courses in the Department of Psychology with three courses from other departments.

The requirements fall into five categories: foundation courses in the major, content core courses, Level III capstone courses, an elective course in the department, and general education requirements for the major.

Foundation Courses in the Major

Each of the following three foundation courses:

  • Psychology 125, Principles of Psychology
  • Psychology 126, Investigative Explorations in Psychology (a .25 credit lab course)
  • Psychology 231, Research Methods in Psychology
Content Core of the Major

Two courses from the Natural Science Content Core:

  • Psychology 238, Biopsychology
  • One of: Psychology 235, Sensation and Perception; Psychology 236, Learning and Conditioning; or Psychology 237, Cognition, Learning and Memory

Two courses from the Social Science Content Core:

• Psychology 241, Developmental Psychology; Psychology 249, Social Psychology; Psychology 264, Psychopathology; or Psychology 271, Personality Psychology

Level III Capstone Courses

Two of any Level III courses except Psychology 394, Internship, which does NOT count toward the Level III requirement. Only one Psychology 398 or 396 may fulfill the Level III requirement.

General Education Requirements for the Major

One course in each of the following three areas:

  • An introductory course in statistics that emphasizes descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing: Statistics 110, 212, or 263
  • An introductory biology course with a lab: Biology 123, or 125 or 126
  • A course in sociology or anthropology that emphasizes foundational principles of the cultural basis of behavior and carries MCS-D or MCS-G credit.
Elective Psychology Course

• One additional psychology course


Distinction in the major is awarded based on a portfolio that the major submits to the department for judging. The submitted portfolio consists of:

  • The major’s course transcript and psychology GPA
  • An annotated history of relevant experiences, written by the student
  • The candidate’s personal statement
  • A major paper

Further detail about the distinction process and the portfolio can be found on the Department of Psychology web pages.


The Psychology Club, open to all students interested in psychology, is an active organization on campus, as is Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. Together they offer group activities of psychological interest. Psychology majors are eligible for affiliate membership in the American Psychological Association and to receive its publications and announcements.

Special study programs include the Social Studies Education Program with a major in psychology and internships programs to pursue special areas of interest in the field.

Research groups in the department allow students to participate in research as a part of a group following a research program associated with a faculty member. Participation in these research groups allows students to learn how research is done in psychology, to practice the skills they will need in graduate school and other employment and to begin the process of becoming a psychologist. Often the research done in research groups is presented as posters at national and regional conferences and is published in professional journals.

Departmental honors and awards include the Gordon Allport Award granted each spring to the junior whose aspirations are in basic sympathy with Allport’s views and who has made efforts to develop his or her own talents, interests, and personalities toward fulfilling his or her individual potential. A Psychology Endowment Fund provides funding for equipment and supplies for students undertaking research in the department.


125 Principles of Psychology

This course examines the basic principles and methods of psychological science from an evolutionary and cultural perspective. Students use critical thinking skills to examine fascinating topics: dreaming, cultural influences, identity, learning, thinking, and the biology of behavior. Applying basic research methods, students act as skeptical scientists. This course applies to almost any career choice in today's world and provides insight into self and others. Offered each semester.

126 Investigative Explorations in Psychology

Students engage in hands-on laboratory experiments to (1) understand the experimental basis of current scientific theory in psychology; and (2) develop proficiency in using equipment, testing hypotheses, collecting data, and interpreting results. Phenomena selected for these introductory investigations are robust, central to introductory psychology, of interest to students, and relevant to psychological research. Prerequisite/corequisite: Psychology 125. Offered each semester.

225 Psychophysiology

Psychophysiology, an area of cognitive neuroscience, reveals new insights about cognition and emotions by measuring corresponding changes in physiological activity such as brain waves, heart rate, muscle tone, body temperature, and blood pressure. Students gain hands-on laboratory experience and training in techniques of electro-encephalography, electro-cardiology, electromyography, skin temperature measurement, and biofeedback. Prerequisite: Psychology 125. Offered during Interim.

226 Human Development in East Asia: Perspectives from China and Japan

Students reflect on their own culture as they explore childhood and family life in China and Japan. Developmental and cross-cultural research, memoirs, works of fiction, and films are used to study parents' beliefs and childrearing practices as well as the development of the self, peer relationships, school achievement, and role changes during adulthood. With life expectancy increasing around the world, students also discover how China and Japan are responding to the graying of their populations. Prerequisites: Psychology 125 or Asian Studies 121, 211, or 212. Offered during Interim.

231 Research Methods in Psychology

This course prepares the student with tools for understanding how research studies in psychology are conceptualized, designed, carried out, interpreted, and disseminated to the public. Use of library and Internet resources, ethical guidelines in the conduct of research and the skills of good scientific writing are emphasized. Students work independently and in small groups to design and conduct their own research projects. Prerequisites: Psychology 125, Statistics 110, 212, or 263. Offered each semester.

235 Sensation and Perception

This course offers the opportunity to study our senses and sensibilities -- sensations of cold, tenderness and pain, perceptions of movement, pitch, symmetry, and color. Students participate actively in psychophysical, physiological, and perceptual laboratories and classes on vision, audition, somesthesis, and the chemical senses. The course includes lecture and laboratory work. Prerequisite: Psychology 125 or Neuroscience 234. Offered each year.

236 Conditioning and Learning

How do psychologists characterize the most basic aspects of the learning process? While some emphasis is on analysis of the behavioral viewpoint (Pavlov, Skinner), students also examine the ways current investigators apply these basic principles to problems in other fields. These include behavioral therapy for a variety of psychological disturbances, research on the neurobiology of drug reward, and analysis of consumer behavior. The course includes lecture and laboratory work with nonhuman animals. Prerequisite: Psychology 125 or Biology 125. Offered each year.

237 Cognition, Learning and Memory

Focus includes information processing, learning and remembering speech, artistic, musical and athletic performance, invention and other forms of creativity. Students unlock the mind's mysteries using state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation, developing cognitive science knowledge and research skills. The course includes lecture and laboratory work. Prerequisites: Psychology 125, Statistics 110, 212 or 263. Offered each year.

238 Biopsychology

How do biological factors influence fundamental aspects of psychology and behavior? In this course, students learn about relationships between the brain and behavior and use neuroanatomical, physiological, and biochemical levels of analysis to understand basic behavioral processes and systems, including sensation, movment, emotion, sleep and arousal, hunger, motivation, learning, and psychopathology. Prerequisite: Psychology 125 or Biology 123 or 125. Biology 123 or 125 strongly recommended. Offered each semester.

241 Developmental Psychology

This course helps students better understand human development from the moment of conception and across the life span. The course focuses on biological and environmental factors that shape human development. Major changes in physical, cognitive, personality and social development are discussed. Prerequisite: Psychology 125. Offered each semester.

249 Social Psychology

Why are people prejudiced and how can we reduce prejudice? Why do people help others? What is self-esteem and how do we defend it? How does romantic attraction develop? What are emotions and how do they influence us? In this introduction to the ways people interact and think about each other, students design their own theories of social behavior. Prerequisite: Psychology 125. Offered each year.

250 Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Students apply psychological facts and principles to the problems that permeate business and industry. Topics include organizational structure, personnel management, employee-supervisor relationships, job satisfaction and motivation, communication and leadership. Prerequisite: Psychology 125, Statistics 110, 212 or 263. Offered Spring Semester only.

255 Environmental Psychology at Rocky Mountain National Park

This course investigates the human relationship with the natural world, examining ways in which the natural environment is important psychologically to human beings. Integrating aspects of theoretical and empirical psychology, environmental studies and literature, we explore meanings, values and questions such as: How are we affected by nature? What affects people's attitudes and behaviors toward the environment? How do we respond to environmental challenges? How does the field of psychology address the natural world? Prerequisite: Psychology 125 or Environmental Studies 137. Offered during Interim.

264 Psychopathology

Why are certain experiences or patterns of behavior considered psychologically "abnormal?" Students investigate a wide array of psychological disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia. We examine models used to conceptualize abnormal behavior, as well as current evidence and theories regarding the etiology and treatment of these important and sometimes devastating disorders. Not open to first-year students. Prerequisite: Psychology 125. Offered each semester.

271 Psychology of Personality

Students examine theories of normal personality development in an effort to understand the factors that shape personality. Is personality biologically determined? Is it a result of interpersonal experiences, learning and reinforcement? Are other factors involved as well? We investigate prominent personality theories and research and their conceptualizations of this fundamental aspect of human experience. Prerequisite: Psychology 125. Offered each year.

294 Academic Internship

298 Independent Study

This opportunity to investigate in-depth a topic of interest, typically culminating in a library research-based paper, is strongly recommended as preparation for Psychology 398. Prerequisite: Psychology 125, and at least three courses in the department and permission of instructor. Psychology 231 is strongly recommended. Offered each semester.

331 Visual Thinking

This seminar explores research on mental imagery and visual perception, focusing on the use of imagery in thinking. Drawing on both 19th-century empirical studies of visual imagery and contemporary brain scan research, students explore individual differences in mental representations of problem solving and abstract concepts, including numbers, colors, and time. Students also research mental conceptions as represented in dance notation, pictorial instructions, and scientific images. Prerequisites: Psychology 231 and 235, or 237. Offered each year.

336 Neuroscience of Addiction

This seminar explores current knowledge of mechanisms involved in behavioral responses to drugs of abuse at the systems, cellular, and molecular levels. The action of stimulant drugs, alcohol, and the opiates on reward pathways are discussed in terms of behavioral neurobiology, pharmacology, and gene expression. Consideration is given to the role of environmental cues and stress in relapse to drug-seeking both in animal models and human studies. Prerequisites: Psychology 231 and 238, or Neuroscience 234. Offered alternate years.

337 Neurobiology of Learning and Memory

Memory is a fundamental part of human existence, but what do we currently know about the neurobiology that underlies this remarkable ability? In this seminar, students present and discuss recently published research that examines the neurobiology of learning and memory from molecular, cellular, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience perspectives. Prerequisites: Psychology 238 or Neuroscience 234. Offered most years.

338 Neurobiology of Psychopathology

With recent advances in neuroscience, we can now describe the biological correlates of many psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. In this discussion-based course, students use published research findings to examine the connections between the symptoms of these pathologies and changes in brain neurobiology, biochemistry, and physiology. Prerequisites: Psychology 231, 264, and 238, or Neuroscience 234. Offered alternate years.

341 Infant Behavior and Development

This seminar explores current research and theory, practices, and policies regarding child development from birth to age three. Students learn about prenatal development, birth and the newborn, physical development, the infant-caregiver relationship, infant cognition, and language development. Students also consider evidence about childcare, early intervention, and the influence of media and interactive toys designed for very young children. Cross-cultural comparisons highlight issues of diversity. Prerequisite: Psychology 231 and 241. Offered most years.

342 Positive Psychology: The Science of Optimal Human Experience

This seminar investigates "the good life," exploring what psychology can tell us about human flourishing and psychological well-being. Empirical evidence is examined to understand some of the best aspects of life, such as the function of positive emotions, the role of traits in well-being, sources of meaning and life satisfaction, and character strength and virtue. Personality and sociocultural factors are emphasized in this exploration of the positive potentials of human life. Prerequisites: Psychology 231, and 249 or 271. Offered most years.

375 Clinical/Counseling Psychology

This course examines several major theoretical perspectives on psychotherapy. Students review empirically supported treatments for specific clinical disorders, as well as "nonspecific" factors that affect the therapeutic process. Students explore ethical and legal challenges related to psychotherapy delivery, as well as multicultural and other diversity issues. Course format is primarily discussion-based. This course is only open to juniors and seniors and is offered most years. Prerequisites: Psychology 231, and 264 or 271.

378 Health Psychology

What is the mind-body connection? We explore the major issues, theories, and interventions in health psychology. Students review evidence for the impact of psychological and behavioral factors on the immune system and health. Psychosocial approaches to the major diseases, their rationale, and the evidence supporting these interventions are examined. Introductory biology and psychopathology strongly recommended. Prerequisite: Psychology 231, 264, and 238 or Biology 123 or 125. Offered most years.

385 Human Neuropsychology

Complex cognitive processes such as memory, language and spatial perception have a neurological basis. This course provides the opportunity to examine the relationship between human brain structures and their expression in cognition. Students examine cerebral asymmetry, head trauma, learning disabilities and aphasia. The course includes three hours lecture and three hours laboratory per week. Prerequisites: Psychology 231, and 238 or Neuroscience 234; completion of BTS-T. Offered each year.

390 Issues in Psychology

Seminars allow in-depth study of particular themes or topics in psychology. Prerequisite: Psychology 231. See department website for descriptions and additional prerequisites. May be repeated if topics are different. Offered most years.

391 Topics:

Sample Topic: The Psychology of Good and Evil

Why do we feel it is important to judge behavior as morally good or bad? How do we make these judgments? What makes it possible for people to commit acts of extraordinary heroism or evil? Good answers to these questions require knowledge of philosophical and theological ethics and of the empirical work on moral action and judgment. Students read both and ask how they do (and should) inform each other. Prerequisite: Psychology 231 and Psychology 249.

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394 Internship

395 Advanced Research in Behavioral Neuroscience

A wide array of techniques is used to answer fundamental questions about how the brain and nervous system work in the expression of behavior. Through readings, discussion, and hands-on laboratory experiences students examine various research methods in behavioral neuroscience, considering the strengths and weaknesses of each. Emphasis is placed on ethical considerations of animal research and the application of basic science data to human problems. Topics may include feeding behavior, drug-seeking, and pain perception. Prerequisites: Psychology 231 and Neuroscience 234 or Psychology 238. Offered during Interim.

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offer based on department decision.

398 Independent Research

Students have the opportunity to work in-depth on a research project of interest under the supervision of a member of the psychology department faculty. Prerequisite: Statistics 110, 212 or 263, Psychology 231, four additional courses in the department, and permission of instructor. Psychology 298 is strongly recommended. Offered each semester.