Personality + Behavioral Psychology

How is our personality formed by social norms? And how is it impacted by our innate characteristics?

A desire to understand human behavior, motivation, and social interaction is what drives the exploration of personality and behavioral psychology. Not only does a strong personal grounding in these theories help you in your own social and emotional learning, but it also provides an important framework to help you navigate your future life, career, and relationships. If you want to be a great leader, supervisor, or manager, then understanding these fundamental behavioral and socio-emotional truisms is an essential way to comprehend how the people around you navigate their social and emotional worlds. These theories are the basis of the contemporary understanding of the human psyche, so future psychologists and therapists must also have a strong working knowledge of them in order to provide the most informed care. In this course, you will investigate prevailing theories on personality from researchers such as Freud, Skinner, or Maslow in order to debate the influence of both nature and nurture on personality and behavior. Research the efficacy of personality tests by analyzing the results of multiple inventories such as the MBTI and Big 5 surveys. Investigate the biological, genetic, and cultural influences on personality through visits to research labs and presentations from working psychologists. Finally, conduct an experiment in order to create your own theory of how personality and behavior develop.

All students will be required to bring a laptop.

Who Should Take This Course?

You’re the type who knows your Myers-Briggs results off the top of your head, but who has also considered the scientific limitations of such a discrete tool. In this course, you will conduct scientifically-sound research, interpret your findings, and draw meaningful conclusions about human behavior as you engage with the principles of psychology and learn about some of the most important (and infamous) research to date.

Advisors + Past Speakers

  • Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine
  • Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo, Professor + Director for Medical Virtual Reality, University of Southern California
  • Dr. Saul Kassin, Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University
  • Dr. Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University
  • Dan Lerner, Author + Clinical Instructor, New York University
  • Dr. Jerri Lynn Hogg, Media Psychologist
  • Emilie Wapnick, Career + Life Coach
  • Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter, Psychologist

Plan your summer


Course Highlights

  • Behaviorism Experiments

    Recreate the experiments underlying Bandura’s social learning theory and Watson’s black box theory and explore the role personality plays in human thought and behavior.

  • Research + Methodology

    Analyze empirical studies and practice collecting and interpreting data to form research theories on human interaction.

  • Personality Paradigms

    Explore paradigms that serve as “umbrellas” for personality theories and consult with professionals in diverse areas such hiring committees and jury consultants who apply personality research as part of the art of reading human behavior.

  • Apply Behavioral Theory

    Group composition can be a make-or-break factor, whether you’re casting for a reality competition show, assembling an influencer collective, or recruiting a team of astronauts. Test out behavioral theories in a simulation based on NASA’s mission to Mars and develop an assessment protocol to predict how well astronaut teams might function in the isolated and extreme conditions in space.

  • Social Media Influencers

    Explore the world of behavior influenced by the number of likes and followers. How is social media changing our perception of personality, and in what ways does social media use impact our personalities?

I understand now how differing personalities and behaviors build the society around us, and how to use my personality and alter my behaviors to make the greatest possible impact I can on the world. It even helped me with my AP Psych class at school because I had so much previous knowledge.

Advisors + Past Speakers

Dr. Marvin Chun

Dean of Yale College and Professor of Psychology, Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Marvin Chun, Dean of Yale College, and the Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Chun leads a cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the Yale University School of Medicine. Also, an award-winning professor, Chun’s undergraduate course Introduction to Psychology is one of the largest at Yale College and has been recognized many times. Chun has authored psychology textbooks, serves on several Boards, and acts as an advisor on the Nike Performance Council.

Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo

Professor + Director for Medical Virtual Reality, University of Southern California

Dr. Skip Rizzo is a clinical psychologist and Director of Medical Virtual Reality at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies. He is also a Research Professor with USC’s Department of Psychiatry and the USC Davis School of Gerontology. In 2010, Dr. Rizzo’s work using virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat PTSD was awarded the American Psychological Association’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma.

Dr. Saul Kassin

Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Dr. Saul Kassin is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and Massachusetts, and Professor Emeritus at Williams College. He is a premier (and award-winning) expert on the study of false confessions, particularly the impact those confessions have on judges, juries, witnesses, and the plea bargaining process. Kassin has appeared on virtually all major United States television networks, and his research has been cited by the Supreme Courts of the United States, Canada, and Israel.

Dr. Laurie Santos

Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University

Dr. Laurie Santos is a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University and the Head of Silliman College, as well as the Director of Yale’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory. An award-winning professor at Yale for the last 15 years, Santos teaches the most popular class in the university’s history: Psychology and the Good Life.

Dr. Paul Bloom

Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University

Dr. Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with a special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. Bloom has won numerous awards for his research and teaching, and has written for the science journals Nature and Science, as well as for The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.

Dan Lerner

Author + Clinical Instructor, New York University

Dan Lerner is a widely recognized and popular speaker, author, and coach. His most recent book U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) is based on his popular course, The Science of Happiness, at New York University. There, he uses science and real-life experiences to teach his students how to build healthy lifelong habits through positive psychology. Lerner is called upon to give keynote addresses to NCAA coaches, financial corporations, and startups companies, and is a frequent guest on television and radio programs across the country.

Dr. Jerri Lynn Hogg

Media Psychologist

Dr. Jerri Lynn Hogg is a media psychologist and Director of the Media Psychology program at Fielding Graduate University. Hogg presents internationally on the cultural influence of human behavior and digital media, and she recently worked for the United States Department of Defense Global Operations on an anti-terrorism simulation where she used narrative psychology to counter terrorist messaging in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa.

Emilie Wapnick

Career + Life Coach

Emilie Wapnick’s goal is to help people find out what they want to be when they grow up. As a person with varied interests ranging from the law to songwriting, Wapnik has written books and given TED talks about what it means to be a “multipotentialite” – a person who has a variety of interests and careers over their lifetime.

Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter


Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter is a clinically trained psychologist with over 30 years of experience working with children, adolescents, families, and adults. She is the former Chair of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee and the Massachusetts Board of Licensure for Psychologists. Currently, Moorehead-Slaughter is the Psychologist at The Park School, an independent school in Brookline, Massachusetts serving pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students.