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 and 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, birdsong 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 the behavioral study of animals and humans to computational, cellular, molecular and neuroimaging analyses.

Clinical Science: Graduate students in Clinical Science combine rigorous research with hands-on clinical experience. In addition, students take courses that cover general areas of psychological science as well as more specialized areas based on a students interests. Most students will spend four to six years in residence at Berkeley plus one year at a Clinical Internship site, at or near the completion of the dissertation. Degrees are awarded after completion of the internship, even if the dissertation is completed earlier. The faculty advisor/mentor plays an important role in a students training. At the beginning of Year 1, each student is matched with a faculty advisor, usually one of the core Clinical Science Program Faculty, who supervises the student's research. In subsequent years, the student is free to continue working with that person or to seek a new research advisor. In addition to research supervision, the advisor works with the student in planning a program that fits that student's interests, while at the same time meeting program requirements. If a student is conducting research under the supervision of someone other than a core Clinical Science Program Faculty member (e.g., a faculty member in another area of the Psychology Department), then a core Clinical Science Program Faculty member is assigned to advise that student in matters related program requirements.

Cognition: The 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 Neuroscience: Programs in Cognitive Neuroscience focus on neuroimaging and neuropsychological approaches to human behavior. Functional neuroimaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and intracranial EEG (iEEG) 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: The social-personality program is devoted to training graduate students for careers in research and teaching. The program faculty and several affiliates conduct research and provide intensive training in six core areas of the field: (1) Self and identity; (2) Social cognition; (3) Emotion, emotion regulation, and affective neuroscience; (4) Personality processes and adult development; (5) Interpersonal, intergroup, and intercultural processes; and (6) Power, hierarchy, and social class. In addition to training in these core areas, the program encourages graduate students to develop their own research interests and build an independent research program. The program is characterized by considerable breadth and diversity. It provides students with special research opportunities, such as access to unique longitudinal databases, multi-method approaches (self-report, observational, archival, life-data, physiological), and biological perspectives on social behavior (e.g., evolutionary, neuroimaging).