Our History


The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was founded as the Department of Psychology in 1921 by John Frederick Dashiell.

Dr. Dashiell (1888-1975) taught at Waynesburg University, Princeton University, University of Minnesota, and Oberlin College, before his hire at UNC. He was the President of the American Psychological Association in 1938 and the President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology from 1953-1954. He served as Chair of the Department of Psychology from 1921-1949.

Dr. Henry Horace Williams, the Chair of Mental and Moral Science, offered a two-term psychology course in 1906 as a upper-level elective. In 1911, Dr. Harry Chase, our first Professor of Psychology, took over the course and added experimental and scientific methodology to the syllabi of the course. Dr. Chase was appointed University President in 1919 and Dr. Dashiell took over the course and continued to develop the curriculum and expand enrollment.

In 1921, Dr. Dashiell assembled courses in psychology, previously offered by the Department of Philosophy and the School of Education to form an autonomous Psychology Department to train both undergraduate and graduate students. The Department initially emphasized study in experimental-physiological psychology, but under Dr. Dashiell’s chairmanship, the program expanded to provide instruction in Clinical-Personality with Drs. English Bagby and Harry Crane, Quantitative-Statistical with Drs. A.G. Bayroff and Robert Wherry, and Social Psychology with Dr. Floyd Allport. With Dr. Dashiell’s leadership and his desire to connect psychology with methodology and logic, our Department became one of the first in the nation with a behavior-oriented focus.

The expansion of the program necessitated a move to the New West Building in 1930. Further evolution included the formation of the Clinical Psychology program in the 1940s. The Psychometric Laboratory, affiliated with the Quantitative Psychology program, was created by Dr. L.L. Thurstone in 1952 and expanded and directed by Dr. Lyle Jones. A concentration in Developmental Psychology was added in the 1960s, and in 1967, due to continued growth, the Department moved to our current home, Davie Hall.

In 1989, an additional concentration in Cognitive Psychology was formed. The expansion and additions to the graduate program strengthened the graduate program’s tradition of facilitating interdisciplinary study and emphasized research and applied work in psychology.

The quality and reputation of the faculty, the excellent placement record of Ph.D.s in a competitive market, and the large number of applications to graduate study all attest to the high reputation of the Department. Many distinguished faculty members have made significant contributions to the field of Psychology, including Drs. Dorothy Adkins (measurement), W. Grant Dahlstrom (clinical and personality), Lyle Jones (quantitative), Harold McCurdy (social and personality), Harriet Rheingold (developmental), and John Thibault (social).

In 2015, the Department was renamed the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. This name change for the Department was approved via faculty vote to more effectively encompass the diversity of our faculty’s teaching and research initiatives. The department renaming coincides with our introduction of the Neuroscience Minor in Fall 2015. Due to the continued growth of the Department, the University began a $12 million renovation of Howell Hall in 2014. Repairs were completed in 2016 and Howell Hall is now a state-of-the-art research facility for the Department, containing core laboratories for human neurostimulation, physiological monitoring, brain imaging, and behavioral observation.

Currently, the Department offers a B.A. and B.S. degree for undergraduates, a Cognitive Science minor, a Neuroscience Minor, and the M.A. and Ph.D. at the graduate-level. Admission to the graduate program is limited to individuals seeking a Ph.D., but in some areas, students are also required to complete a M.A. thesis. Our Graduate Programs include Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Quantitative Psychology, and Social Psychology.