Graduate Degrees: Ph.D.

Apply for Admission: November 19, 2016

Required Tests: GRE (general test)


Psychology as a scientific discipline aims to describe, understand, and predict the behavior of living organisms. In doing so, psychology embraces the many factors that influence behavior—from sensory experience to complex cognition, from the role of genetics to that of social and cultural environments, from the processes that explain behavior in early childhood to those that operate in older ages, and from typical development to pathological conditions. The Department of Psychology at Berkeley reflects the diversity of our discipline's mission covering six key areas of research: Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience; Clinical Science; Cognition; Cognitive Neuroscience; Developmental, and Social-Personality Psychology. Our program learning goals focus on honing methodological, statistical and critical thinking skills relevant to all areas of Psychology research, enabling students with sufficient breadth to retain perspective in the field of psychology and sufficient depth to permit successful independent and significant research.

The major academic objectives of the PhD program are for students to:

  • Develop an understanding of the different theoretical and empirical frameworks that have defined and shaped the field.

  • Develop an understanding of the central questions and issues in contemporary psychology.

  • Develop expertise in one or more relevant research methodologies.

  • Build expertise in formulating testable hypotheses and designing appropriate studies.

  • Hone ability to critically evaluate scientific research.

  • Develop expertise in statistics and advanced data analytic approaches.

  • Develop an awareness of the importance of science to humanity while recognizing its limits (i.e., some scientific knowledge is culture specific and may not be applicable to the human condition universally).

  • Develop competence as a teacher of undergraduates and mentor to graduate students.

Students select one of the following concentrations:

Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience: The Behavioral & Systems Neuroscience area encompasses faculty and students united by a common interest in the neurobiological/physiological bases of behavior, including but not limited to circadian and seasonal rhythms, decision making, sex differentiation and behavior, energy balance, bird song and animal communication, animal spatial orientation and navigation, gene-environment interactions, selective attention and visual perception, social behavior, attachment, developmental processes, physiological substrates of emotion and stress, and motivation,. The methodologies currently employed by faculty and students cover the entire spectrum from behavioral study of animals and humans to computational, cellular, molecular and neuroimaging analyses.

Clinical Science: The Clinical Science Faculty at UC Berkeley conduct translational research in which we study foundational mechanistic processes (e.g., emotion, sleep, intimate relationships, social competence, temperament, reward systems, family dynamics, and culture) with the goal of better understanding and ameliorating human problems. Our faculty study these processes in at-risk or in patient populations (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar and other mood disorders, sleep disorders, dementia and other neurological diseases, ADHD and comorbid conditions) and/or in treatments. The treatment research we conduct is used to develop hypotheses about and/or confirm contributions of the foundational mechanistic processes, and it also contributes to improving treatments for important human problems and in diverse populations.

CognitionThe Cognition Program brings together faculty and students engaged in behavioral and computational investigations of fundamental cognitive processes, including learning, memory, categorization, reasoning, language, and perception. Our interdisciplinary approach borrows methods and insights from the cognitive sciences and other areas within the department.

Cognitive NeurosciencePrograms in Cognitive Neuroscience focus on neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches to human behavior. Functional neuroimaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), are used to study the neural bases of human behavior. Neuropsychological methods assess varieties of psychological dysfunction associated with brain damage or disease. Areas of specialty within this track include: Sensory and Perceptual Processes, Attention and Working Memory, Learning and Memory, Emotion, and Motor Control.

Developmental: Our research goal is to understand how the organism and its capabilities develop throughout the lifespan. Our interdisciplinary approach is multi-species, multi-system, and multidisciplinary in nature. We study change over time in cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and neural processes. Our explanations include both neural accounts of the plasticity that is observed in the developing brain and other systems, and computational and psychological accounts of development. The bi-directionality of these processes is emphasized, with the organism's genetically program development being influenced by its physical and social environments and in turn influencing those environments. Thus, our research is situated at the interface between the fields of developmental psychology, computational modeling, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, developmental cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, cultural psychology, and clinical psychology. Our research examines numerous areas of development, plasticity, and change including sensory processes, cognitive capacities, language, reasoning, everyday knowledge of the world, emotions, and social relationships. We examine both typical and atypical development, each providing rich insights for better understanding the other and suggesting new approaches for effective treatments and preventive interventions.

Social-Personality Psychology: Social psychology concerns itself with the effects of other people on the individual as well as with interaction between persons. Personality psychology is concerned with the ways individuals perceive, act upon, and understand their respective worlds as they seek to establish adaptive life modes.  As our area name implies, the research conducted in the joint Social-Personality area represents an integration of personality and social psychology, not only in terms of the types of questions S-P faculty ask (e.g., What are the specific situations that elicit negative emotions? What kinds of individuals tend to react particularly strongly to these elicitors?) but also in the methods we use.  Most research conducted in our labs brings together tightly controlled laboratory experiments that isolate causal mechanisms with cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that look at psychological processes as they unfold naturally in people’s everyday lives and across time.

Source: Berkeley Academic Guide

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