Psychology, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Program Description

Research facilities include: special rooms for research in problems of perception and cognition; a social-psychology laboratory equipped for experimental and observational studies; electrophysiological, histological, and chemical laboratories; surgery facilities; facilities for the maintenance and behavioral study of vertebrate and invertebrate laboratory animals; darkrooms and shops; an audiovisual studio equipped for the study of teaching; laboratory computers and interacting terminals with the capacity to control equipment in experiments and to do online processing and complex data analyses; and other specialized facilities, both on campus and at various off-campus locations.

Students develop an independent program of study in consultation with their Special Committee. The three primary members of the Special Committee must be chosen by the end of the first year; students are encouraged to select at least one member (not the chairperson) from a field other than psychology. The Director of Graduate Studies appoints a fourth member, whose function is to ensure that the student obtains adequate breadth of training.

The Special Committee oversees requirements that are established by the field. Current requirements include a first-year review and annual meetings of the Special Committee to review the student's progress; a research paper completed by the end of the first year and an oral report of the research presented to a meeting of students and faculty members; a one-year course in statistics and experimental design; at least ten hours a week of supervised teaching experience for at least two semesters; the Admission to Candidacy examination, which should be taken by the end of the third year (a Graduate School requirement); a written dissertation proposal, which must be accepted at a meeting of the Special Committee called for that purpose; and the doctoral dissertation itself with a final examination on the dissertation (Graduate School requirements).

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-3834

211 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • behavorial and evolutionary neuroscience
  • perception, cognition and development
  • social and personality psychology


2017-2018: $29,500

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec 15

Requirements Summary:

Only applicants seeking the Ph.D. degree are accepted. Applicants must submit GRE general test scores in addition to transcripts of the undergraduate record, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement of interests. Applicants are not required to submit scores on the GRE subject test in psychology, or to have had an undergraduate major in psychology. Prior research experience is highly desirable; applicants may submit research reports or work. The closing date for applications is December 15. Persons whose primary interests lie in clinical, counseling, industrial, or school psychology should not apply.


In the course of studying for and completing a PhD in the field of Psychology, students will work toward mastering a broad understanding of causes of behavior, with a particular emphasis within at least one of our three areas of study: Social and Personality (S&P), Perception, Cognition and Development (PCD), and Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience (BEN). Our faculty members have interests that go from influences on behavior in a social context, to neural mechanisms of learning, to evolution of brain capacities for particular behaviors. The major goals of our graduate program are for our students to appreciate the questions and approaches of those in the department outside their specific interests, and for them to become experts in their own chosen domain. We provide a variety of means for students to achieve these goals, from area and department research discussion and speakers, to repeated required presentations on their own research.

Each student’s course of study is determined in consultation with his or her committee, to remedy gaps in academic background, to determine a study focus and to gain needed knowledge for pursuing that focus. This is typical of many graduate programs at Cornell. Within this tailored and flexible format, though, all our students are expected to attain excellence in qualities related to excellence in research inquiry. These include 1) self-directed learning and mastery of the appropriate literature in the student’s subfield; 2) integration of the current state of knowledge to formulate contemporary and important research questions; 3) learning relevant data collection skills; 4) acquisition of appropriate statistical skills to design rigorous experiments and derive strong conclusions using careful analysis; and 5) mastering effective communication skills in written, spoken and presentation contexts.

Learn more about assessment in the graduate field of psychology.