Psychology

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Program Overview

Psychologists take as foundational the idea that behavior and mental processes can only be understood by appreciating the complex ways in which they are shaped by biological, psychological, and socio-cultural forces. As a psychology major, you will gain exposure to these different perspectives by taking courses that range from the study of neuro-chemical activity in the brain, to developmental influences on thought and behavior, to memory, attention, and learning, to social influences and group memberships that give rise to conformity with norms, prejudice, and prosocial behavior.

You will also learn the scientific principles that underlie psychology’s accumulation of knowledge across these domains. You will learn to think and problem-solve like a psychological scientist, developing skills in scientific reasoning and research methodology that will help you to appreciate the importance and efficacy of taking an evidence-based approach to understanding and addressing social, cognitive and behavioral issues across the lifespan and across various applied settings.

Psychology is often referred to as a “hub” discipline because of its many interdisciplinary links with other fields such as the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, education, and public policy. Scientific contributions from psychology often inform the work being done in these fields, and psychologists regularly incorporate insights generated in other disciplines into their own work. Psychology thus stands well placed to facilitate the kinds of interdisciplinary conversations necessary to provide answers to the most pressing social and behavior issues facing modern society. Additionally, psychology’s interdisciplinary nature prepares majors not just for advanced training in psychology, but also for advanced training in related fields such as law, education, business, social work, and public policy, as well as for entry-level positions in fields such as business, human resources, public relations, and community development.

About the Department

The Psychology Department at Fairfield University guides students in developing an understanding of the content and methods of psychological science as well as an appreciation for the many ways in which psychology can be applied to better understand and address a wide range of clinical and applied issues.

The Department places a particular emphasis on hands-on engagement with psychology. In addition to requiring all majors to complete at least one experiential learning course (Research Methods, PY 202), there are multiple opportunities for students to engage in psychological research, teaching internships, and community service. 

What Makes Our Program Special 

  • A broad range of faculty expertise, from biological psychology, to learning and cognition, to developmental psychology, to community psychology, to personality, to clinical disorders and treatment, to the psychology of prejudice and well-being
  • A wide range of applied internship opportunities
  • A variety of undergraduate research opportunities in which students work directly with faculty mentors
  • Opportunities for advanced undergraduates to serve as teaching interns
  • Well-equipped research facilities
  • Strong record of placement of psychology majors in advanced graduate programs
  • Small class sizes - It is rare for even introductory classes to have more than 25-30 students and upper-level classes often have no more than 15 students

Psychology Science In The News

Requirements

BS with a Major in Psychology (applies to all students in the classes of 2021 and later)

The curriculum for a BS.degree in psychology is:

Required Courses Suggested Time
PY 101: General Psychology Semester 1 or 2
PY 201: Statistics for the Life Sciences Semester 3 or 4
PY 202: Research Methods Semester 4 or 5
One Senior Seminar Semester 7 or 8

 

Students must also complete 8 additional courses, including at least one course from each of the five content areas listed below.

  • Content Area 1: Understanding Biological Processes
    • Behavioral Neuroscience (261)
    • Drugs and Behavior (274)
  • Content Area 2: Understanding Developmental Processes
    • Developmental Psychology (211)
    • Developmental Psychology with Lab (212)
  • Content Area 3: Understanding Cognitive and Learning Processes
    • Cognitive Psychology (251)
    • Learning and Applied Behavior Analysis (252)
  • Content Area 4: Understanding Individual, Social, and Cultural Processes
    • Social Psychology (221)
    • Personality (232)
    • Stereotyping, Prejudice, & Discrimination (222)
  • Content Area 5: Understanding Clinical Processes and Applied Contexts
    • Abnormal Psychology (231)
    • Human Neuropsychology (236)
    • Psychological Testing (238)

Possible elective courses:

  • Experiential learning courses:
    • Internship in Applied Psychology (PY 391/392)
    • Supervised Research (PY 295)
    • Neuroanatomy & Behavior (365)
    • Independent Research (PY 395)
    • Internship in the Teaching of Psychology (PY 291)
  • Additional courses:
    • Psychology and the Law (122)
    • Gender and Mental Health (233)
    • Theories of Psychotherapy (234)
    • Sensation and Perception (262)
    • Hormones and Behavior (274)
    • Special Topics in Psychology (281)
    • Industrial/Organizational Psychology (420)

When a student takes more than one course in one of the five content areas above, that course counts as an elective.

Permission of instructor is required prior to taking PY 391-392 and PY 395. Students are allowed a maximum of two applied internships and one teaching internship. Students may take PY 295 only once and PY 395 only once.

In their senior year, psychology majors may be required to participate in a departmental assessment, such as an exit questionnaire, interview, focus group, or Major Field Test in Psychology.

 

BA with a Major in Psychology (applies to all students in the classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020)

The curriculum for a BA.degree in psychology is:

Required Courses Suggested Time
PY 101: General Psychology Semester 1 or 2
PY 261: Behavioral Neuroscience Semester 2 or 3
PY 211/212: Developmental Psychology for Majors with or without Lab Semester 2 or 3
PY 201: Statistics for the Life Sciences Semester 3 or 4
PY 202: Research Methods Semester 4 or 5
One Senior Seminar Semester 7 or 8

 

Students must also complete four elective courses, including at least one from each of the two groups listed below.

  • Group I
    • PY 221: Social Psychology
    • PY 231: Abnormal Psychology for Majors
    • PY 232: Theories of Personality
  • Group II
    • PY 251: Cognitive Psychology
    • PY 252: Learning and Applied Behavior Analysis
    • PY 262: Sensation and Perception

Permission of instructor is required prior to taking PY 391-392 and PY 395. Students are allowed a maximum of two applied internships and one teaching internship. Students may take PY 295 only once and PY 395 only once.

In their senior year, psychology majors may be required to participate in a departmental assessment, such as an exit questionnaire, interview, focus group, or Major Field Test in Psychology.

 

BS with a Major in Psychology (applies to all students in the classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020)

The psychology courses that constitute the curriculum for a B.S. degree in psychology are identical to those required for the B.A. degree. Additionally, the B.S. requires a year of math with at least one calculus course at or above the level of MA 119 and the following natural science courses.

Required Courses Suggested Time
CH 111-112: General Inorganic Chemistry I and II Year 1
BI 170-171: General Biology Year 2
CH 211-212: Organic Chemistry I and II Year 2
PS 15-16: General Physics I and II Year 3

Course Offerings

See Psychology course descriptions from our catalog for more information 

  • PY 101: General Psychology
  • PY 111: Developmental Psychology for Non-Majors
  • PY 121: Fundamentals of Social Psychology
  • PY 122: Psychology and the Law
  • PY 131: Abnormal Psychology for Non-Majors
  • PY 187: Applications of Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • PY 201: Statistics for the Life Sciences
  • PY 202: Research Methods in Psychology
  • PY 211: Developmental Psychology for Majors
  • PY 212: Developmental Psychology for Majors with Lab
  • PY 221: Social Psychology
  • PY 222: Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination
  • PY 231: Abnormal Psychology for Majors
  • PY 232: Theories of Personality
  • PY 233: Gender and Mental Health
  • PY 234: Theories in Psychotherapy
  • PY 236: Human Neuropsychology
  • PY 237: Community Behavior and Mental Health
  • PY 238: Psychological Testing
  • PY 239: Psychology of Diversity
  • PY 251: Cognitive Psychology
  • PY 252: Learning and Applied Behavior Analysis (L&ABA)
  • PY 261: Behavioral Neuroscience
  • PY 262: Sensation and Perception
  • PY 272: Hormones and Behavior
  • PY 274: Drugs and Behavior
  • PY 281: Special Topics in Psychology
  • PY 295: Supervised Research
  • PY 321: Social Psychology 
  • PY 322: Health Psychology 
  • PY 331: Abnormal Child Psychology 
  • PY 332: Current Issues in Clinical Psychology
  • PY 351: False Memories 
  • PY 361: Current Issues in Behavioral Neuroscience 
  • PY 365: Neuroanatomy and Behavior
  • PY 381: Special Topics in Psychology: Senior Seminar
  • PY 391-392: Internship in Applied Psychology
  • PY 395: Independent Research
  • PY 420: Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Faculty

The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff and budding scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the innovative members of our Psychology Department.

Student-Faculty Research

A particular strength of the psychology department is the faculty, whose members are not only excellent teachers, but also productive researchers. Many students (freshmen through seniors) work with faculty members as research assistants and collaborators. Students may volunteer their time in a research lab, or they may work on faculty members’ research projects in the Supervised Research course (PY 295, 3 credits). As a result of these collaborations, students often co-author papers that are presented at professional research conferences, and many students give presentations at the annual the annual Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society research symposium on campus.

Check out some of our research psychology research projects below, then visit the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate research page to learn more.

Caregiver Burnout

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Caregiver Burnout

Those who work in “helping professions,” such as first responders, teachers, nurses, and mental health professionals, have an increased level and risk of burnout in comparison to other occupations. As such, it is critical to understand how to reduce the risk of burnout among these professionals. In this research study, faculty mentor Michael Andreychik, PhD, and psychology students Courtney Hankins '19 and Katherine Mackenzie '21 tested the idea that one way of reducing the risk of burnout is to encourage helpers to empathize with the positive emotions (e.g., joy, pride, hopefulness) of those with whom they work.

To examine the potential burnout-reducing effects of empathizing with others’ positive emotions, they presented college students with a video of a fellow student describing both the good and the bad parts of their adjustment to college. Before watching the video, participants were randomly assigned to adopt one of four perspectives as they watched: remain objective, focus on the student’s negative emotions, focus on the student’s positive emotions, or focus on all of the student’s emotions. Participants then indicated how much distress they experienced while watching the video and whether or not they would be willing to help the struggling student by giving or providing her with advice. The researchers’ key prediction was that while all participants who connected with the struggling student's emotions would report a greater willingness to help her, participants who connected with the student’s negative emotions would report greater burnout-related emotions than those who connected with the student’s positive emotions.

Environmental Effects on Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Environmental Effects on Autism Spectrum Disorder

Under the mentorship of psychology professor Shannon Harding, PhD, undergraduate students Christina D'Agata '19, Lea Lecaj '19, and Katie Trykowski ’20 conducted an in-depth research study investigating the effects of environmental enrichment on behavior in rodents that expressed symptoms of autism. The students set out determine whether or not environmental enrichment would improve the rats’ autism spectrum disorder symptoms, as well as their development, anxiety, and/or social behaviors.

Throughout the study, pregnant Long Evans rats were administered valproic acid (VPA) or a saline control on pregnancy day 12.5. After the rodents developed further, male rats were assigned to the following groups: saline-standard, VPA-standard, saline-enriched, and VPA-enriched. Enriched housing included toys, social partners, and new bedding. Standard housing consisted of a Plexiglas cage with cob bedding. Enrichment continued for two weeks before behavioral tests were conducted. It was hypothesized that enrichment would reduce the autism symptoms seen in the male rats, specifically reducing anxiety and improving social behaviors – a finding that could have important implications for the therapeutic treatment of ASD in humans.

Ethnic Identity as a Moderator of Suicide Ideation

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Ethnic Identity as a Moderator of Suicide Ideation

Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among African American young adults, but studies have suggested, that ethnic identity, which is made up of aspects such as language, religious affiliation, and cultural traditions, may serve as a protective factor against feelings of defeat and suicide ideation in African Americans.

In this research study supported by the Vincent Rosivach Collaborative Research Fund, psychology major Chelsea Salvatore '19 and faculty mentor David Hollingsworth, PhD, setout to examine ethnic identity as a moderator of the relationship between defeat and suicide ideation in African Americans. Participants included 106 African American college students, who were asked to complete self-report measures that assessed variables of interest. Results indicated that in participants with low levels of ethnic identity, defeat had a significant effect on suicide ideation. Conversely, in participants with high levels of ethnic identity, the relationship between defeat and suicide ideation was no longer significant.

Internships

You can serve an internship for one or two semesters of credit in Applied Psychology. The wide range of opportunities includes:

  • Work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Assisting probation officers and guidance counselors
  • Work in advertising and human resources
  • Assisting in mental health treatment settings

 

Integrating both cognitive and experiential learning, the Psychology Department offers its senior psychology majors the opportunity to work as interns in varied settings. Student interns are offered a wide selection of placements from which to choose, including working with autistic children, assisting probation officers, working with guidance counselors, learning about advertising or human resources, working in psychiatric facilities, etc. Each student spends at least ten hours per week on-site under qualified supervision enabling her or him to use the skills and knowledge acquired as students of psychology.  All internship sites allow students to spend ten hours a week using knowledge acquired in their classes.

Juniors who are spending a semester aboard on London can also participate in a specially designed clinical psychology internship program with departmental permission.

 

Internship sites (a sampling):

  • CRN International (radio marketing)
  • People's Bank (human resources)
  • YWCA (domestic violence unit)
  • Superior Court (adult probation, family court, juvenile center)
  • Legal Services of Connecticut
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (children's unit)
  • Family and Children's Agency, Norwalk
  • New England Center for Children
  • Giant Steps
  • National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Fairfield Preparatory School (counseling)
  • The United Way (organizational)

  

Internship in Teaching Psychology

This practicum experience, open to advanced psychology majors, affords the student an opportunity to explore the profession of the teaching of psychology. Under the direct supervision of the professional staff of the Department, students are introduced to the issues of curriculum development, methods of classroom instruction, selection and use of media resources, test construction, and strategies for the academic and practical motivation of students. Interns have the opportunity to observe participating faculty engaged in the profession of teaching, to share in some of the instructional activities, and to meet with other interns in a seminar format to process the learning experiences.

Life After Fairfield

A survey of Fairfield alumni who majored in psychology indicates that most seek an advanced degree at institutions including Yale, New York University, UCLA, and Columbia. The largest number have sought that degree in psychology and allied fields but many have gone to medical, law, education and business schools. About half of those in business are employed in public relations, human resources, investments, advertising, and marketing.

As a student, you will have many choices but you can find help in making these, not only from faculty, but from a network of alumni mentors who can offer counsel based on their own experience. The Psychology Department has recently developed the Alumni Mentor Database to allow undergraduates to correspond with psychology alumni with similar professional interests. Each participating alumnus or alumna has submitted information concerning his or her advanced educational and employment experiences. Students may browse through all the records or search the database to locate the names and addresses of alumni with specific interests or experiences.

Here are some other useful resources to explore as you think about careers and graduate school in psychology:

General Information

Graduate School Advice

Learn more about how Fairfield's Career Planning Center can support your post-graduate goals, and how Fairfield's tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

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