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Department History

dashiellThe Psychology Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in 1921 by John Frederick Dashiell. In that year, he brought together courses in psychology previously offered by the Department of Philosophy and the School of Education to form an autonomous Psychology Department, training both graduate and undergraduate students. The program initially emphasized study in experimental-physiological psychology, but under Dr. Dashiell’s able and vigorous chairmanship faculty the program expanded to provide instruction in the areas of clinical-personality (Professors Bagby and Crane), quantitative-statistical (Professors Bayroff and Wherry), and social psychology (Professor F. Allport).

This expansion of the program necessitated the department’s move to the New West building in 1930. Further evolution included the formation of a clinical training program in the late 1940’s. The Psychometric Laboratory, affiliated with the quantitative program, was initiated by L.L. Thurstone in 1952 and was ably expanded and directed for many years by Lyle Jones. Continued growth of the department made necessary a move to the department’s current home, Davie Hall, in 1967.

In the 1960’s a concentration in developmental psychology was added, and in 1989 an additional concentration in the rapidly growing area of cognitive psychology was formed. These additions to the graduate program strengthened the department’s tradition of facilitating interdisciplinary study, as well as emphasizing both research and applied work in psychology. The quality and reputation of the faculty, the excellent placement record of recent UNC-CH Psychology Ph.D.’s in a very competitive market, as well as the large number of applications the department receives for graduate study (986 in the 1992-1993 academic year alone), all attest to the high reputation of the department. During Professor Dashiell’s long tenure as chairman (1921-1949), thirty-six M.A. candidates and twenty-five doctoral candidates completed their graduate studies in the department. In 1991, twenty-one students earned doctoral degrees in psychology, which is nearly as many as during the first thirty years of the department.

Currently, the department offers the B.A. and B.S. in psychology at the undergraduate level, and the M.A. and Ph.D. at the graduate level. Admission to the graduate program is limited to students seeking the doctorate; in some areas the candidates are also required to complete a Master’s thesis. Among the department’s distinguished faculty members who have made significant contributions to psychology are Dorothy Adkins (measurement), W. Grant Dahlstrom (clinical and personality), Lyle Jones (quantitative), Harold McCurdy (social and personality), Harriet Rheingold (developmental) and John Thibaut (social).