Psychology 3500 is an applied statistics class suitable for beginners with modest mathematics backgrounds as well as more mathematically inclined psychology majors.  We cover a broad range of topics including measures of central tendency and variability, basic probability, the normal and binomial distributions, hypothesis testing and statistical power, brief introductions to Bayes’ theorem and signal detection theory, means testing such as t-tests and ANOVA (one-way, repeated measures, two-way factorial), post hoc tests for deconstructing ANOVA results, Pearson and Spearman correlations, linear regression, and nonparametric methods including chi-square, Mann-Whitney, Wilcoxon, Kruskal-Wallace, and Friedman tests.

Example syllabus:  Fall 2017.

The course can be taken for either 3 or 4 credits.  The 4-credit option includes additional work and training in the use of the statistical software package R and its integrated development environment RStudio, both of which are free,  open-source, and cross-platform (Windows, MacOS, Linux).  There are many resources available on the internet for learning R and RStudio efficiently and effectively, including DataCamp training videos, resources and links from RStudio, support sites like R-Tutorial and R-bloggers, and numerous Q/A sites and individual postings.

PSYCH 3500 does not use or require calculus.  The gist of what statistical analysis is for will be learned on the first day; the rest of the course consists of practical details of implementation.  Students seeking a more thorough treatment of the theoretical underpinnings of statistical analysis should look elsewhere for a course that includes calculus.  Students seeking a more advanced applied course in statistics for the social/behavioral sciences (including the advanced use of R) should consider PSYCH 4750/4760, Quantitative Methods 1, 2.  Students seeking an introductory course in statistics that includes calculus and linear algebra may wish to consider the Engineering College course ENGRD 2700, Basic Engineering Probability and Statistics.


Statistics Requirement for the Psychology Major

As noted on the departmental page for the undergraduate major, proficiency in statistics can be demonstrated in any one of the following ways:

  • Passing PSYCH 3500.
  • Passing an approved course or course sequence in statistics in some other department at Cornell (see below).
  • Passing an approved course or course sequence in statistics at some other college, university, or college-level summer school.  The description of the course from the college catalog, a PDF copy of the syllabus, and the title and author of the textbook(s) used must be submitted to Prof. Thomas Cleland for approval.
  • Passing an exemption examination. This examination can be given at virtually any time during the academic year by mutual arrangement.  This does not mean that it will take place immediately upon demand.  Students who have completed a theoretical statistics course in a department of mathematics or engineering and who wish to demonstrate competence in applied statistics usually find this option the easiest.  Students considering this option should discuss it in advance with Prof. Cleland.

Basis for approval of other statistics courses to satisfy Psychology major requirements

Courses that satisfy the Psychology major requirement should cover most of the topics covered by PSYCH 3500, as listed below.  Courses from other departments are optimized for the analysis needs of different fields, and so may be excellent courses for those fields but not ideal for the Psychology major.  Some statistics and probability courses in the Economics department, for example (e.g., ECON 3210), are excellent but tend to focus on complex regression models, while providing less treatment of hypothesis testing or of means-testing methods such as ANOVA. These courses generally will satisfy the Psychology major requirements only for Psych-Econ double majors.  Other courses, like PAM 2101 and HADM 2010, are closely tied to major-specific themes and may be limited to students in that major.

NOTE:  If a statistics course is accepted by your major adviser to meet the statistics requirement for the Psychology major, then it will automatically also count towards the 40 credits of the Psychology major and the 100 credits of Arts college coursework necessary to fulfill the Psychology major and graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences, even if the course itself is from a different college.

Approved statistics courses

NOTE to Psychology majors:  Your major adviser is the person who officially determines whether a given course will meet the statistics requirement for the major.  Please confirm with that professor whether a course that you are considering is acceptable.  Also, course contents can vary substantially from year to year.  That said, the following are likely to meet the requirements for the Psychology major:

The following courses are not recommended for the Psychology major:

The following statistics courses are not introductory, but may be of considerable interest once a semester of introductory statistics has been completed:

The following research methods courses also may be of considerable interest once a semester of introductory statistics has been completed.  These courses include statistical analysis but are intended to emphasize the other elements of research design that we discuss in PSYCH 3500 — i.e., how to design a study that avoids all the basic logical pitfalls from which no amount of statistical number crunching will save you.