Programs of Study

The Psychology Department organizes itself into five programs representing the major substantive domains of psychology at Yale. Weekly seminars for faculty and students are offered in each of these programs.

Clinical Psychology

Our program is committed to a model of clinical psychology education designed for the clinical scientist. For more detailed information regarding the program, please see:

Cognitive Psychology

The program in Cognitive Psychology is concerned with basic research in perception, human learning and memory, consciousness, thinking and problem solving, language, and intelligence, as well as with applications of this basic research to everyday settings. Much of the research in the cognitive group bridges across these various fields of specialization. In addition to the core faculty in Cognitive Psychology, many faculty members with other primary specializations are also interested in cognitive research. Students are encouraged to read widely both in the cognitive area and in related disciplines, such as computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and statistics. Programs of study overlapping with other areas of psychological research such as developmental, social, clinical or neuroscience, are encouraged. The cognitive group meets together as a whole every Tuesday for a presentation (with discussion) by one of its members or an invited speaker, and numerous smaller groups with special interests also meet on a regular basis for exchange of ideas. Students are encouraged to study and do research with multiple faculty members, and to develop their own program of research in an area of their choosing. The Cognitive Psychology group is highly interactive and encourages research and discussion representing diverse viewpoints within the field.

Developmental Psychology

In keeping with the distinguished history of the Developmental program at Yale University, faculty and students within this program study a wide range of populations (non-human primates, infants, children of all ages, adults) to investigate the ontogenetic and phylogenetic origins and development of cognitive and social processes. The areas of study are diverse, including conceptual development, social cognition, judgment and decision-making, moral cognition, causal understanding, categorization, and prosocial behavior. 

The heart of the program is direct involvement in research: First term developmental graduate students begin to work with student and faculty colleagues in the exploration and systematic study of problems involved with the rich variety of child behavior. In their first year, students complete a first year research project, led by the student, that includes the collection and analysis of new data, and culminates in a formal paper and presentation of their findings. Throughout their program of study, students are encouraged to attend multiple lab meetings in order to better understand the types of research going on in the department and to help nurture their own interests. In addition to considerable and diverse research experience, the developmental area offers a range of courses and seminars taught by our faculty, as well as a weekly speaker series in which our own faculty and students, as well as visitors from other parts of the university and other universities, present their recent work.

In addition to the primary developmental faculty, many faculty in other areas of the Department also have interests relating to development (students are encouraged to consult the web pages of individual faculty). Students are encouraged to attend the courses of and/or to work with faculty members in other areas of our department: clinical, cognitive, neuroscience, and social psychology. There is also considerable developmental research at Yale beyond the Psychology Department, including, for example, the Yale Child Study Center, the Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy, and Haskins Laboratories.  In addition, students in the developmental area, routinely attend weekly talk series in clinical, cognitive, neuroscience, and social psychology as well as talk series in cognitive science. The presence of a vibrant and active community of researchers, interested in all aspects of development, enables students to construct a highly individualized program of study tailored to their specific interests.


The Neuroscience program area within the Psychology department encompasses a diversity of approaches to the study of the biological basis of mental phenomena and clinical disorders. Faculty within the program use modern neurobiological techniques to study rapid learning and memory formation in rodent models, single unit electrophysiological recording and oxytocin infusion to study social decision-making in non-human primates, structural brain changes and genetic analysis to study the biological basis of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and mood disorders, functional neuroimaging including PET and fMRI studies of decision-making, attention, and memory, and EEG studies from subdural electrodes in epilepsy patients to study visual perception. The methods used by the faculty of the Neuroscience area represent the full range of modern neuroscience, from the molecular to the molar, and the research questions to which these methods are addressed represent the full range of modern psychology and intersect all of the areas in our graduate program. Thus, the Neuroscience area is closely integrated within our graduate training program, and most of the Neuroscience area faculty also advise students in the Cognitive, Development, Social, and Clinical areas.

The Neuroscience program area organizes a Friday lunch speaker series entitled “Current Works in Behavior, Genetics, and Neuroscience” where program faculty, students, and invited speakers present their latest research. In addition, there are several other regular speaker series and journal clubs on campus that are particularly relevant to the Neuroscience students. One series organized by the Magnetic Resonance Research Center brings outstanding scientists from around the world to discuss research findings and new methods in functional neuroimaging research. Other relevant series are organized by the Neuroeconomic Forum, the Biological Science Training Program, and the Swartz Neurobiology Center. Special talks organized by the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program are also of great interest. Neuroscience area students can also take advantage of the rich offerings of the nearby Yale University School of Medicine and VA Medical Center.

Applicants to the Neuroscience graduate program area should identify one or more faculty from the area list with whom they are interested in working. Applicants to the other program areas (i.e., Development, Social, Clinical, and Cognitive) may also receive training in neuroscience and can indicate their interest in this by selecting Neuroscience as a second area of focus in their applications.

Social/Personality Psychology

The Social/Personality Psychology program at Yale University has trained research scholars for more than sixty years. Under the influence of Carl Hovland in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Yale program was concerned primarily with persuasion and attitude change. This group of psychologists, some of whom continue to be active in the Department even today, set the course for the Yale program through their investigation of problems such as the links between frustration and aggression, public opinion formation, and the cognitive basis of social behavior. During these years and the decades that followed, the program remained committed to training students interested in both laboratory-based methods as well as field research. The Social/Personality program has focused on advancing both basic knowledge about intrapersonal and interpersonal processes, while at the same time encouraging applications of these theoretically driven investigations.

Since its inception, the character of the Social/Personality program has been unique in combining four training goals. First, we believe that training students in scientific fundamentals is the most effective way to influence progress in the field of psychology. Second, in addition to a strong emphasis on traditional laboratory experiments as the primary tool of the Social/Personality psychologist, the training focus has also encompassed diverse methodologies such as field experimentation, survey techniques, computer simulation, and case studies (where the “case” might be an individual, group, or organization). Third, the program attempts to foster an awareness among students of the use of applied contexts to test theoretically based ideas. Finally, the faculty in Social/Personality Psychology is committed to an integration of personality processes and interpersonal influences in the study of human behavior. We believe that meaningful analyses of human behavior can best be accomplished when researchers investigate interactions between intrapersonal processes (e.g., emotion, social cognition, motivation, attitudes, and belief systems) and social behavior (e.g., persuasion, communication, decision making, stereotyping, political behavior, health behavior, and intergroup cooperation or conflict).

We believe that research skills are best developed by a program emphasizing supervised independent research with one or more members of the faculty. Although students receive classroom training in the essentials of general psychology theory, research methods, history, and the current literature, they are encouraged from their first days at Yale to develop a program of collaborative research with members of the faculty. There are only a few course requirements, and students are expected to construct a program consistent with their own research interests that includes elective courses in other areas of psychology and in other social science fields. The Social/Personality area meets as a group every Monday for research presentations and discussion. Individuals interested in specific areas of specialization such as political psychology, health psychology, emotion, or social cognition can attend additional weekly meetings of like-minded faculty and students.