Psychology Courses and Related Information

Psychology Courses and Related Information

When taking courses towards the Psychology degree, each student has many options in relation to the areas of study to pursue. However, within the degree requirements there are some elements that are consistent regardless of the degree program chosen. Below is some key information related to psychology courses that students should be aware of as they develop their long term plan schedule.

Psych 490 SPRING 2024- Descriptions by Section

Section 001
Alicia Drais-Parrillo
Using psychology to dissect social issues

Our current social (and physical) world can feel overwhelming and chaotic, yet as humans we seek predictability and reason. In this seminar, we will use psychological science to examine topics, such as racism and other forms of discrimination, reactions to conservation and sustainability, and so forth. We will consider how these social issues affect us at multiple levels of human life (e.g., sociopolitical sphere, communities, daily lives, internal thoughts/feelings). You will be expected to read, discuss, and reflect on research. Our goal is to learn together and use psychology to understand how we have gotten to where we are in modern society and perhaps use that science to help find a way forward.

Section 002
Chardée Galan
Culture and Developmental Psychopathology

This course provides an introduction to the subfield of cultural development and psychopathology, which seeks to understand the cultural risk, protective, and promotive factors that contribute to typical and atypical patterns of development. We will review the theoretical foundations of developmental psychopathology, contemporary models of culture, and current research on how cultural experiences and processes influence the emergence of adaptation and maladaptation at different levels of the human experience. Finally, we will consider the real-world implications and applications of this perspective on research in development and the broader discipline of psychology.

Section 003
Karen Gasper
Emotions in Everyday Life

This seminar will examine how people’s feelings shape everyday life. The course is designed for students who are interested in how emotions influence topics relevant to social psychology, such as attitudes, motivation, the self, culture, creativity, decision-making, interpersonal relationships, and stereotyping and prejudice. We will discuss a range of emotions, including, but not limited to, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, awe, love, gratitude, and boredom. The course is discussion-based and will involve reading primary source materials, critically evaluating those materials, and using those ideas to develop your own research questions and hypotheses. Key course objectives are (a) to understand some of the mechanisms by which emotions shape thoughts, motivations, and action (b) to learn how to read and critically evaluate primary source materials and (c) to become more comfortable reading, discussing, and critiquing articles. 

Section 004
Brian Crosby
The Science of Sleep

The critical nature of sleep is evidenced by the fact that we spend approximately one-third of our life asleep. Our brains cannot function properly with inadequate sleep, impacting things like our ability to concentrate, process memories, and regulate emotion. This course will focus on the science of sleep with the ultimate goal of understanding the varied reasons for why humans sleep. This exploration will include the review and discussion of research on topics such as the study and measurement of sleep, changes in sleep across development, the importance ofsleep for individual and family functioning, the function of dreaming, and abnormalities in sleep that occur in sleep and other mental health disorders. The course will be comprised of lectures, class discussions, and experiential activities related to sleep and dreaming. It is anticipated that students will leave the course with an understanding of the value of sleep and the important role it plays in our everyday life.

Section 005
Aaron Pincus
Emerging Alternatives to the DSM-5

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is currently the dominant system for classification and diagnosis of psychopathology in the United States, with the 5th edition published in 2013. The DSM outlines a categorical model of mental disorders and a polythetic diagnostic system following the medical model of descriptive psychiatry. This capstone seminar will briefly review the empirical and practical limitations of the DSM system for classification and diagnosis of psychopathology and then focus on 3 emerging alternatives. First, the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is a contemporary quantitative hierarchical dimensional model based on the empirical covariation of signs and symptoms of mental illness. Second, the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) investigates the nature of mental health and illness in terms of varying degrees of dysfunction in general psychological, biological, and neurobiological systems. Third, the DSM-5 Alternative Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD) integrates impairments in regulatory and relational personality processes with an empirically derived personality trait structure to classify and diagnose personality pathology and individual differences in its expression. This seminar will be informative for students in psychology whose research and/or applied interests include psychopathology.

Section 006
Janet Swim
Psychology and Climate Change.

Climate change is caused by human behavior, ranging from individual actions to company decision-making that influence business practices. The role of behaviors and decision-making means that psychology is central to understanding why we have created this threat and how we can work as individuals and members of communities to alter the direction of the shared path we are traveling. Yet, as members of the planet, psychological dimensions of climate change represent much more than this. These dimensions also encompass the psychological impacts of the changes we are creating. The impacts include the immediate mental health consequences of natural disasters and the anxieties we face living in an ecological environment that is changing around us and expected to continue to do so. These impacts mean that psychology is also relevant for helping us cope with various impacts, recognize and address climate change injustices, and be responsive to climate injustices created by existing disparities within and between countries.

We will cover these topics through in-class activities and reading and discussing summaries of research literature paired with exemplary research studies. We will also explore how Penn State, local communities, and psychologists across the globe are responding to the challenges before us.


Section 007
Rustin Meyer
Modern Personnel Psychology

 Personnel selection systems have historically been designed to maximize task performance by basing hiring decisions on proxies of individual merit (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics identified through traditional job analyses). The changing nature of work, increased emphasis on workforce diversity, technological advances, shifting priorities beyond short-term profits, and recent legal decisions, however, have inspired some to question many of the field’s traditional assumptions. In this capstone course, we will explore the ways in which a new generation of personnel psychologists is challenging the status quo by pushing the field in new and exciting directions.


Section 009
Beth Gerace 
Mindfulness and Meaning

The first half of this capstone seminar will explore applications of mindfulness in psychology. This course will explore the metacognitive process of mindfulness and how applications of mindfulness can be used to process negative thoughts and emotions, treat psychological disorders, and enhance social relationships. Topics will include mindfulness-based therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, non-attachment, and cognitive reframing.. The second half of this course will explore theories of meaning such as Terror Management Theory and Mindfulness to Meaning Theory and how meaning in life changes across the lifespan. Topics will include developmental theories of adulthood and aging. Students will be asked to read and reflect on scholarly work in these topic areas, work individually and in groups to present ideas/summaries to the class, and hone writing skills.


Section 010
Roger Beaty
The Creative Brain

This course explores the psychology and neuroscience of creativity. It covers topics such as the measurement of creative thinking, the difference between creativity and intelligence, genius and giftedness, and methods to enhance creative thinking. Using examples from the arts, sciences, and everyday life, the course seeks to demystify the concept of creativity through the lens of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Section 011
Maria Vincia
The art and science of psychotherapy.

An introduction to the person of the therapist including the qualities and skills required for effective therapeutic change. This course will cover empirically validated common factors and skills that contribute to positive client outcomes. Beyond merely reading material, students will implement what they are learning through practicing elements of psychotherapy skills on one another through mini mock therapy sessions.
Section 012
Suzanne Scherf
Transforming the Science of Autism
This course is designed to teach you about the current state of knowledge (i.e., research findings) about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). We will discuss the historical perspective and epidemiology, core features and developmental trajectories, underlying neurobiology, theoretical perspectives, and treatment/intervention approaches of ASDs. Throughout the course, we will address the stigma and discrimination experienced by people on the autism spectrum, investigate the social model of disability, understand the “neurodiversity movement” and the priorities that the autism community has for research. In so doing, we will debunk common myths about the nature and causes of autism, but also understand how the science of autism is undergoing a critical transformation.

Table of Contents

Subject Pool Information (for PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105 Students)

The Subject Pool is an Experiment Management System. As part of the requirements for PSYCH 100 and PSYCH 105, you will be required to participate in research being conducted within the Psychology Department. For those who object or are minors, you will have assignments to complete to meet the required number of experiment hours. Below you will find links to the Subject Pool and relevant information as you get started.

Psych 105 - Psychology as a Science and Profession

PSYCH 105 explores the development of modern psychology, the role of science in that development, and career paths related to scientific psychology. The course will help you explore career options and help you decided if Psychology is right for you. You can find a brief description of PSYCH 105 in the University Bulletin or review the course syllabus. Remember PSYCH 100 is a prerequisite to PSYCH 105, and this prerequisite is strictly enforced..

PSYCH 105 is NOT available at very many other campus locations. It is strictly a University Park Degree requirement. This course should be completed by the end of the 4th semester if you are a University Park student, and by the end of the 5th semester if you are a Change of Location student or a Transfer student. This course is controlled to 3rd and 4th semester standing students. If you are a Change of Location or Transfer student and are looking to enroll into PSYCH 105 for your first semester at UP, please make an appointment with an academic adviser.

Reminder: Currently there are NO substitutions for PSYCH 490 or PSYCH 105

Psych 490 - Senior Seminar in Psychology

PSYCH 490 can be viewed as your final destination within the Psychology degree program. It is an all encompassing course that integrates your years of gained knowledge from your coursework and allows you to apply your knowledge in a small more intimate classroom setting. You can find a brief course description for PSYCH 490 in the University Bulletin. In this class you will review research literature around a specific topic of study. Each semester the topics available will change. Although it may be tempting to choose a section based on time, be sure to choose a topic most interesting to you.

Some example titles of previously held sections of PSYCH 490 include but are not limited to:

  • “Creativity and Innovation”
  • “Neuroethology: How Animal Brains Make Animal Behavior”
  • “Psychological Science in the Media”
  • ” Developmental Psychopathology”
  • “Assessment Centers: Research and Practice”
  • “Art, Language, and Creativity in Children”
  • “RJP in Managing Work-life Interfaces”

To view current topic descriptions of PSYCH 490 see above or look in the section notes on LionPath.

When the time has come for scheduling PSYCH 490 keep in mind you must have successfully completed PSYCH 301W and it is recommended that you have had 6.0 credits of PSYCH at the 400 level. Psych 301W is a strict prerequisite to which no exceptions will be made (ie. You CANNOT take the prerequisites concurrently, they must be completed prior to 490).

Course Sequencing

Many students are not aware that there is a course sequence within the major degree requirements. This can tend to cause students problems when they had not planned for it when studying abroad or taking a semester off for an internship. It is vital for students to understand prerequisites to courses and to plan for them in their long term plan schedule. Lack of planning can delay graduation especially since such courses as PSYCH 105 and PSYCH 490 are only offered during the fall and spring semesters.


PSYCH 200-level courses

Enrollment Controls

Most of our 400 level PSYCH courses are initially controlled for majors only, controls are lifted for select classes once lowerclassmen start scheduling. See the notes section in the course offering for details. Once controls are lifted minors and other non-majors can schedule these classes.

NOTE: Controls are never released for PSYCH 301 or PSYCH 490.

To inquire about course controls email ugpsychupwc@psu.edu.

Psychology Course Scheduling and Descriptions