Rat in lab

Research

New psychology majors entering the Wofford College Psychology Program are often puzzled by the emphasis that we place on student research. Many of our majors are planning careers in areas of applied psychology, such as clinical or counseling or working in hospital or industrial settings. When students are not planning careers involving research in psychology, they often wonder why they need to learn so much about the way research is done in psychology. A walk through the local bookstore may help you understand the importance of research in psychology.

Take a Walk Through the Bookstore
Imagine you have just entered a large bookstore and walked over to the section labeled "Psychology." You see books about improving your social life, your love life, improving your marriage, increasing your motivation, and dozens of other books designed to help you solve your problems and improve your life. The books were authored by Freud, Jung, Maslow, and dozens of authors that you do not recognize. They span over a hundred years of thought in psychology. The authors have titles such as "Ph.D.", "M.D.", "Ed.D.", "MSW", "Psy. D.", and other abbreviations that you may not recognize. Even the popular magazines near the cashier are full of psychological theories. All of these books and magazines express opinions and give advice. How do you know which opinions have merit? How can you separate fact from unsubstantiated opinion that has no empirical basis? How can you determine if the theories published by current and historical authors have a solid scientific foundation?

Understanding How Ideas Are Tested
Would you go to a psychologist who did not have the education required to evaluate these opposing theories of human behavior? Our research emphasis teaches you how to evaluate theories and opinions of behavior. As you take the courses in the psychology core, you learn the fundamental processes responsible for behavior and cognition. At the same time, you are introduced to the scientific techniques that were used to demonstrate the existence of these processes. As your knowledge grows, so does your ability to apply these techniques to new situations. By the time you begin your senior thesis, you will already be quite familiar with the ways ideas are tested in each area of psychology. You will have completed many smaller experiments in our various labs. Your senior thesis will be your opportunity to create new knowledge in psychology that will stand up to peer review. The high frequency of conference presentations and publications stemming from these student theses demonstrates the success of this approach.

To see what sorts of research our students have been doing, click on the following links:
Student Publications and Presentations
Recent Senior Theses
What is the Senior Thesis Like?