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Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Experimental

Major: EPSY
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GA
Program Webpage:

Program Information

General Information
The Ph.D. program in Experimental Psychology at the University of Louisville's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences trains students to be experts in the conduct of research in modern psychology.  Training is based on coursework, active and continuous involvement in research, and close cooperation between students and faculty mentors.

The program currently has significant strength in several topic areas of psychology, including basic and applied areas of cognitive science, child development, developmental disabilities, hearing, learning, memory, neuroscience, perception, and vision.  More detailed information can be found on the websites of individual members of the Faculty.

Two specializations are offered:  Cognitive and Developmental Sciences, and Vision and Hearing Science.  As defined below, these two specializations have different required courses, first-year requirements and preliminary exam.  The specialization area is chosen at the time of application.

The Experimental Psychology Ph.D. program requires four years of full-time training. All students must satisfy course requirements (listed below), turn in a portfolio of written work for the Master of Science degree, pass a Preliminary Examination prior to conduct of the dissertation, and complete the dissertation. In addition, VHS area students must successfully complete a first-year project and exam.  Active and continuous involvement in research is essential. To remain in good standing, students must maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 and demonstrate appropriate progress in research.  Equivalence of graduate work in psychology completed at another institution will be evaluated on an individual basis.

Financial support for graduate students in the Experimental Psychology Ph.D. program is available in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and University Fellowships.   All forms of support are for 12 months with a standard start date of July 1.  Support includes stipend, full tuition, and health insurance.  Most stipends currently are set at $22,000 per year.

Program Admission Procedure

  1. Experimental Psychology Ph.D. Program Application Deadline (for both areas) is December 1. 
  2. Submit completed graduate application to Graduate Admissions, School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies. There is a $60 application fee (on-line at  Call the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies at 502-852-3101 for more information.  The Ph.D. program admits students once per year, with a typical matriculation date of July 1.
  3. The Graduate Record Examination is required for an application to the Ph.D. program to be reviewed. The Experimental Psychology Program requires only the general section of the GRE (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing).  Those for whom English is not their native language must also submit TOEFL scores.
  4. Transcripts of your college records from all of the schools you have attended must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Students must have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university and have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for all undergraduate and prior graduate work.
  5. Three letters of recommendation from academic sources are required and must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions.
  6. Fill out the departmental admissions packet and return directly to Ms. Carolyn Mask. This packet may be obtained by downloading found on the webpage at, or requesting by calling (502)852-8272 or sending email to Carolyn Mask.
  7. Although no other material is strictly required, you are strongly encouraged to submit a personal statement outlining interests, background, unique experiences, vita, and other information which might be helpful to persons making an admission decision.
  8. Only when the application is complete will the Department Review Committee review the application and inform prospective students of its decision. Since your application will not be sent to the Department Review Committee until completed, it is imperative that you be sure that all materials are received well in advance of the closing date (December 1).
  9. Additional information about department programs and admissions can be obtained from Ms. Carolyn Mask, Graduate Admissions in PBS, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville KY 40292; (502)852-8272; Carolyn Mask.


Minimum Coursework
Cognitive and Developmental Sciences (CDS) Specialization

     Two graduate courses in statistics
             PSYC 610, Advanced Statistics I
             PSYC 611, Advanced Statistics II
     Two graduate core courses
             PSYC 621, Cognitive Psychology  
             PSYC 661, Advanced Developmental Psychology
     Six additional graduate courses (18 credits)
To be determined jointly by the student and his/her faculty mentor.  The six electives are selected from lecture courses, seminars, or internships (2 semester limit) from within or outside of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Vision and Hearing Science (VHS) Specialization
             PSYC 610 Advanced Statistics I
             PSYC 611 Advanced Statistics II

     VHS Core
             PSYC 613 Methods in Vision and Hearing Science
             PSYC 633 Visual Processes
             PSYC 635 Sensory Neuroscience
             PSYC 646 Hearing Science I
             One of:    PSYC 642 Behavioral Neuroscience
                             PSYC 643 Principles of Neuroscience
                             PSYC 645 Cognitive Neuroscience

             Two seminars in VHS (609)
             Two additional graduate-level courses (may be seminars)

Elective courses are to be determined jointly by the student and their respective faculty advisor.  Multiple related undergraduate courses may satisfy one elective with permission of mentor and area director.

Research Hours
A minimum of 3 credit hours of research (CDS: PSYC 605; VHS: PSYC 602) is required to be taken each semester (including the summer), until the Preliminary examination is passed.

First-year Research Project and Exam -- VHS Specialization Only
(The CDS specialization does not include this requirement.)

After completing their first year of study, students will make a presentation of their research to-date and be given a brief oral exam by the area faculty over the student’s research and research area.

MS Portfolio
Students are required to earn a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology. To earn the MS degree, the student will prepare a portfolio of written work reporting the research in which the student has been involved.  The portfolio should demonstrate scope and quality of research commensurate with the degree.  The portfolio typically is due at or shortly after the completion of two years of training and is evaluated by a faculty committee.  After approval of the MS portfolio and 30 credit hours of graduate study, the student is awarded the Master of Science degree.

Preliminary Examination
Cognitive and Developmental Sciences Specialization
The Preliminary Examination will consist of an original written review and critique of a research area in cognitive and/or developmental sciences. The Preliminary Examination will be evaluated based on breadth of knowledge, integration of literature, critical thinking, and quality of scientific writing. Students will plan the preliminary examination in collaboration with their Preliminary Examination Committee. The Preliminary Examination must be completed by the end of the third year of training.

Vision and Hearing Science Specialization
The preliminary exam will be an oral exam administered by the VHS faculty.  The domain of the exam will be formed by a list of readings provided to the student.  The list will be compiled by the area faculty and will cover:  (1) basic foundational knowledge and research methods in the general field of vision and hearing science, and (2) advanced knowledge within the student’s area of research focus. 

An original research project conducted and described in a report (the doctoral dissertation) by the student.  The dissertation is conducted in consultation with a faculty committee and must be approved by the committee.

Departmental Faculty

Cara Cashon
Associate Professor

Director, Ph.D. Program in Experimental Psychology

Paul J. DeMarco


Edward A. Essock


Zijiang He


Maria Kondarova

Assistant Professor

Richard Lewine


Keith Lyle

Associate Professor

Benjamin Mast

Associate Professor

Suzanne Meeks

Department Chair

Carolyn B. Mervis


Tamara Newton

Associate Professor

John R. Pani


Heywood M. Petry


Edna Ross

Associate Professor Term

Paul G. Salmon

Associate Professor

Sandra Sephton

Associate Professor

Barbara Stetson

Associate Professor

Janet Woodruff-Borden

Director, Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology

Pavel Zahorik

Associate Professor

Professor Emeriti

John C. Birkimer


James M. Driscoll


Stephen E. Edgell


Samuel Z. Himmelfarb


Robert G. Meyer


Stanley A. Murrell


Irwin D. Nahinsky


John A. Robinson


Richard P. Smith

Contact Information

Psychology - Experimental - Ph.D.

Dr. Cara Cashon
Director, Experimental Psychology PhD Program

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