Graduate Program

The psychology program offers three areas of specialization leading to the doctoral degree: cognitive, developmental, and social psychology. The program prepares students for research, teaching, and administrative positions in colleges and universities as well as for positions in schools, government, and other public and private institutions. Each student is primarily associated with one of the three research areas and participates in the courses and research forums sponsored by the faculty in that area. The program requires full-time enrollment as a graduate student. Although applicants for a master’s degree are not accepted, students in the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) program may obtain a Master of Science (M.S.) degree by fulfilling specific requirements. Note that the program does not offer courses, training, or supervision in clinical psychology.

The cognitive psychology graduate program focuses on research of "Minds, Brains, and Beyond," offering a blend of traditional topics and new directions in cognitive science. With core strengths in language, memory, perception, and human-computer interaction, we are exploring topics such as: faces, speech, body movements, and embodied cognition; mechanisms of remembering and forgetting; metaphors and analogies; cognitive aesthetics and creativity; natural language use in conversation; cognition and technology; human-robot interaction; human performance and information processing. Our graduates find careers in academia, tech industries, and more.

The developmental psychology graduate program focuses on research that integrates cultural, interpersonal, and individual aspects of human development. The program focuses especially on issues of diversity in relation to culture, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and social economic opportunity, as people engage across contexts of family, peers, school, community, technology, and media. Among the topics studied are: moral and emotional development; neurodiversity; language and cognitive development; learning through observation and social interaction; children and playable media; personal and social identities; family and peer relationships; communication technologies; prejudice and discrimination; gender development; adolescent development; the transition to adulthood; school climate and motivation; and diversity issues in university outreach programs. Our interdisciplinary collaborations with other programs (such as computer engineering, computational media, education, Latin American/Latino studies, linguistics, and philosophy) help nurture students’ research and prepare them for a wide variety of careers. Graduates of our program have accepted positions in academia, research institutions, and community organizations.

The social psychology graduate program at UC Santa Cruz has a unique mission and focus. We use Kurt Lewin’s model of “full-cycle” social psychology (theory-application-action) to study a broad range of topics related to social justice. In this way, knowledge gained in action-oriented research leads, in turn, to the development of new theory. Accordingly, our students learn to apply psychological theories and data to the analysis and solution of a wide range of social problems. We use a variety of research methods to examine justice-related issues in different cultural, political, and policy contexts. Our students are trained in laboratory, field, and survey methods; they are encouraged to attend to issues of race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, gender, and physical ableness; and, in addition to traditional social psychological approaches, are steeped in critical theoretical perspectives such as feminist theory. Our graduates go on to successful careers in academia as well as in community, government, and non-profit settings. Our approach to research and training, combined with the quality and competencies of our faculty, make our program among the nation’s best for the psychological study of social justice issues. Current faculty research interests include aggression and trauma; culture and the self; educational access; achievement and disparities; feminisms; health and health disparities; institutional analysis; intersectionality; narrative and identity; political conflict, violence, and peace-building; political psychology; poverty and economic justice; power and oppression; psychology and law; sexual identity and society; sexuality; social identity; social policy analysis; and structural inequality.

Graduate students in psychology may obtain a designated emphasis on the psychology Ph.D. diploma indicating that they have obtained additional training in another discipline such as feminist studies, Latin American and Latino studies, or sociology. For the full list of programs that offer a designated emphasis, see the Fields of Study section of the catalog. For specific requirements for a designated emphasis in a program, please refer to the program statement for that department.

Details on the policies for admission to graduate standing and requirements for the Ph.D. degree, as well as the online application can be found on the Division of Graduate Studies website. The department’s graduate program brochure, and faculty research are available on the department web site.