Honors in Psychology

The honors designation in psychology offers a challenging and interesting research experience through which students work with a faculty member, write a thesis, and earn the recognition that comes with superior performance. Completion of the honors designation can offer valuable skills that will be helpful in applications to graduate school and for potential employers. Students typically pursue this experience in their final two terms of their undergraduate career.

Honors in Psychology is a 2-term commitment:

  1. Students will enroll in 3 credits of PSY 1973 Honors Directed Research. This is the first term of research in preparation for the honors major in psychology and includes development of the research problem and approval of the thesis prospectus. A weekly, one-hour seminar is required. 
  2. Students will next enroll in 3 credits of PSY 1975 Honors Thesis. Undergraduate honors majors in psychology will register for this course for their second term when their thesis proposal has been approved and they are ready to conduct and write up the research. A weekly, one-hour seminar is required. 

These courses are designed to give students academic credits for working on their research project, writing a thesis based on this research in an APA-style manuscript, and presenting and defending this thesis before a faculty committee.

Steps to completing an honors thesis in psychology:

  • Participate in directed research for at least 1-credit with a psychology faculty member;
  • Discuss this opportunity with the psychology faculty member you wish to chair your project no later than the second term of your junior year;
  • Submit your completed application by the first Friday of the term;
    • The online application can be found below. Feel free to use this PDF version of the online form to prepare your entries.
    • Applications are due: August 1 for fall term, December 1 for spring term, April 1 for summer term.. 
  • A faculty committee will review applications and send permission numbers to those with accepted applications before the end of the add/drop period;
  • Students will use that permission number to immediately self-enroll in PSY 1973 Honors Directed Research;
  • Toward the end of the first term, students will formally propose their project to their committee;
  • Once the proposal is accepted students will be given a permission number by the seminar instructor to enroll in PSY 1975 Honors Thesis for their final term;
  • Students will self-enroll for PSY 1975 Honors Thesis before the end of the add/drop period;
  • Students will defend their thesis before their committee by the end of the term. 
  • Submit full committee signed thesis approval form to the seminar instructor. 

Documents and additional details:

  1. Submit the completed online application in its entirety. Students will not have an opportunity to revise their application once reviewed.  Students may use this PDF version of the online form to prepare your entries.  
  2. Sample timeline and personal worksheet for honors project.  
  3. Find thesis proposal form here.
  4. Find thesis defense form here.
  5. Students must also fill all of the remaining requirements for the psychology major as well as their Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences degree requirements;
  6. Students must have a 3.25 overall GPA and a 3.5 psychology GPA at the time of graduation to receive the honors designation in psychology.

Some students also pursue the BPhil degree through Pitt's David C. Frederick Honors College. There are a number of funding opportunities available to students pursuing research.

Bachelor of Philosophy Degree (BPhil)

Frequently, students ask us if they can complete a BPhil Degree in conjunction with an Honors Thesis. The BPhil requires an application and is the highest undergraduate distinction at the University of Pittsburgh. It is jointly awarded by the Frederick Honors College and your undergraduate school/college and, once completed, replaces the standard B.S./B.A. degree. It will also replace the BS with Honors in Psychology.

Concurrent completion of an Honors Thesis with a BPhil depends on a multitude of factors, those of which are briefly outlined below. Students should be aware that the Honors Thesis can fulfill only one component of the BPhil degree and therefore is not sufficient to complete the requirements of a BPhil degree. Additional requirements must be met to obtain a BPhil.

The BPhil degree expects from students a combination the following (3) components –

  • Completed General Degree requirements
  • An approved Program of Study by the Frederick Honors College*
  • Special Degree Requirements**

*An approved Program of Study will demonstrate that a student has exceeded the requirements for a standard undergraduate departmental degree. In general, it is expected that a student’s curriculum will reflect breadth and/or depth. Existing curricular options may fulfill the Program of Study requirements, such as multiple majors or double-degree programs, or approved Program of Study may be highly individualized, especially for students in highly structured programs. Review samples of previously approved Programs of Study

** The Special Degree Requirement is met through the preparation and defense of a thesis. This is where the Honors Thesis in psychology can come in.  To determine whether your Honors Thesis can be rolled into the BPhil Thesis, please review the guidelines for choosing a thesis advisor and the thesis requirements for each BPhil candidate.  You should also discuss with your PSY Honors faculty advisor and refer to David Hornyak in the Frederick Honors College for additional questions.

To learn more about the BPhil, admission requirements, and how to apply, please visit the BPhil webpage on the Frederick Honors College website.


Some previous honors project titles:

Borderline Personality Pathology and its Association with Risk for Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

The Persisting Screentime Gap: Parents' Role in Preschoolers' Screentime

Science Identity: Predicting Career Aspirations Across Gender and Race in Middle School Students

The Relationship Between Premorbid Adjustment and Emotional Intelligence in First-Episode Schizophrenia

The Dynamic Relationship between Feedback and Self-Efficacy in the Classroom Setting

How Mothers’ Speech is Influenced by Infant Gender, Age, Risk Status, and Motor Milestone Attainment

Gaze Avoidance in Mother-daughter Dyads: The Effects of Depressive Symptoms and Parent-child Relationship Quality

Social and Non-social Stressors in the Neural Response to Reward and the Prediction of Future Depression in Adolescent Girls

Contingent Maternal Responses to Infant Pre-speech Vocalizations in Infants at High and Low Risk For Autism Spectrum Disorder

Unpacking the Interrelationships Between Attachment, Emotion Regulation and Social Cognition and Their Impact on Borderline Personality Disorder

A Visual Attention Based Measure of Receptive Language and Categorization in Typically Developing Toddlers and Toddlers at a Heightened Familial Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

From Feelings to Actions: The Effect of Emotion Understanding on Prosocial Behavior in Toddlers

The Effects of Mindfulness on Emotion Regulation and Learning

Endorsement of "Safe is Sexy": Regulatory Focus and Expectancy that Safer Sex is More Pleasurable

Differential Teaching Styles as an Indicator of Implicit Racial Bias

Nonverbal Indications of Acute Distress in Women with PTSD

Changes in Child Social Responsiveness and Response to PCIT in Families of Children with Autism

The Relationship Between Cortical Thinning and Neurocognitive Function in Adults with Parkinson’s Disease

Origins of Prosocial Behavior: The Roles of Affiliation and Compliance

A Longitudinal Examination of Chronic Distress as it Relates to Physical Health Symptoms in Mothers of Children Diagnosed with Cancer

Emotion Processing in Toddlers:  Relations Among Attention, Understanding, and Parent Talk About Emotions

Interpersonal Problems as a Mediator in the Relationship between Attachment and Borderline Personality Disorder

An Investigation of Problem Behaviors and Social Skills in Non-Symptomatic Children with Familial Risk for Schizophrenia

The Effects of the Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Acute Stress Responses on Ambulatory Measures of Blood Pressure Reactivity in Daily Life

Translation Ambiguity and Individual Differences in L2 Learning Between Mono - and Bilinguals

Substance Use, Depression, and Illness:  Perception Among Advanced Cancer Patients

Putting the Life in Lifestyle:  Lifestyle Choices After a Diagnosis of Cancer Predicts Mortality

Visual Attention to Dynamic Visual Scenes Among Infants at High and Low Genetic Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

An Assurance of Insurance:  Should Living Kidney Donors be Required to Have Health Insurance?

Relations Between Competence and The Dimensions of Engagement

Effects of Family Chaos and Routine on Children of Lower Socioeconomic Status with Asthma

Investigating the Effects of Transparency and Ambiguity on Idiom Learning

Assessing Motor Planning in Toddlers at Heightened Risk for ASD

When People Serve Many Goals:  Implications for Close Relationships

The Moderating Effects of Lifestyle on The Relationship Between Obesity and Executive Function in Younger and Older Adults

The Effects of Social Anxiety on Science Achievement with the Mediating Pathways of Social Engagement and Peer Social Support

Actigraphic Measures of Sleep Architecture in SAD

Re-Examining the Kuleshov Effect

Helping or Hovering, The Over-parenting Effect: Bad Neighborhoods and Impulsive Kids

Socioeconomic Disparities in Depression and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients

Circadian Rhythms and Age: An Indicator of Cognitive Functions

Distribution of Visual Attention to Paired Faces Across Late Infancy: A Study of Infants at Risk of Developing Autism

How Typically-Developing Infants and Infants At-Risk For Autism Process Faces

Longitudinal Examination of Play in Infants at Heightened Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders 

The Effect of Walking Status on Maternal Responses to Communication in Infants at High vs. Low Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Parenting and Positive Affect in Adolescence

Parent Emotional/Mental State Talk and Child Empathy in Toddlers at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Development of Joint Attention and Vocalization in Infants at Heightened Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Childhood Adversity and Physical Health Outcomes: Mediation or Moderation via Environmental Stress

Attribution of Affective Disengagement by Achievement Level

Investigating Second Language Learning and Musical Ability: An ERP Study

Predictors and Consequences of Trauma in African Refugees Resettled in Sweden

Childhood Anxiety and Eating Disorder Symptoms Among Patients with Anorexia Nervosa:  Does Childhood Trauma Have a Moderating Effect?

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Rumination: A Predictable Model for Depression

Mental Health and Activities of Daily Living in Patients with Traumatic Injury