The psychology program contributes to the liberal education of Reed students by emphasizing the application of empirical methods to the study of cognitive, affective, social, and behavioral processes. Students conduct research with faculty mentors in the laboratory and in the field. Reed psychology students routinely present collaborative research at national and international scientific meetings, publish in scientific journals, and have demonstrated success in research grants, fellowships, and awards.
Courses in psychology focus on problems in the understanding of both human and animal behavior. The department adopts an empirical point of view, believing it is through research that we best gain the information necessary to address a broad range of psychological questions. Psychological, biological, and social factors are considered in the context of research findings and current theories of motivation, learning, thinking, language, perception, and human development. Students are encouraged to develop objective and analytic attitudes toward psychological phenomena.
The focus on empirical research begins in the Foundations in Psychological Science introductory course (Psychology 101), which includes opportunities for students to discuss psychological research in applied and concept labs. These introductory experiences represent several disciplinary areas within psychology. The 200-level Psychological Science labs provide further exposure to selected research areas within psychology. Students may also participate in structured researched projects. Students majoring in psychology gain breadth in the field by completing four of eight “core” courses and by writing a research proposal based on selected readings required to pass the junior qualifying exam. It is not uncommon for psychology students to publish the results of their research in professional journals jointly with faculty members.
In addition to the laboratory and computer facilities in the department, there are opportunities for students to conduct research or to work as participant observers in a number of community settings, including day care centers, local schools, crisis centers, and juvenile detention centers. Students also have access to research programs at the Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.
A major in psychology frequently leads to professional or graduate study in psychology. Those who intend to do graduate work in psychology should broaden their preparation in mathematics, the other natural sciences, philosophy, linguistics, or the social sciences, rather than concentrating solely on psychology. Some students combine a major in psychology with preparation for medical school, law school, or other advanced professional training. Recent psychology majors have also entered careers in such diverse areas as computer science, finance, and politics.