Ecological Psychology

Ph.D. Concentration

Ecological psychology approaches the study of biological perception, action, and cognition from the fundamental assumption of organism-environment mutuality. Over the past 50 years, the implications of this mutuality have played out in psychology, physics, philosophy, kinesiology, and beyond, tackling fundamental questions about individual and social dynamics.

Graduate students in the ecological psychology concentration receive interdisciplinary training to confront conceptual and methodological topics that are at the cutting edge of ecological science and have deep implications for how we approach cognitive science.

Program Overview

UConn graduate students earning a Ph.D. in psychological sciences can choose a concentration in ecological psychology, With a strong team of faculty, collaborating research scientists, and post-doctoral associates, the ecological psychology concentration provides students with a unique depth and breadth of training. Our research community has wide-ranging interests in areas, such as: optics, acoustics, music perception, haptics, movement, self-organization, nonlinear dynamics, complexity, collective behavior, development, social psychology, and kinesiology. Students are encouraged to develop their own research programs in collaboration with faculty and other mentors.

Students who concentrate in ecological psychology take courses in topics such as ecological and computational theories of perception, control, coordination of movement, complex systems, nonlinear dynamics, and developmental systems theory. Each student’s plan of study includes core required courses designed to provide a solid foundation in ecological theories and methods and electives tailored to the student’s interests.

Learn more about courses and curriculum

Research and Collaboration

UConn’s ecological psychology program has a rich community for collaboration and discourse. Faculty and students in the Department of Psychological Sciences collaborate with scholars in several disciplines, including physics, anthropology, kinesiology, and all areas of the psychological and brain sciences.

Ecological psychology students benefit from their affiliations with UConn’s Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action (CESPA). The Center provides an organizational structure for research across specialties and departments, with extensive collaboration among faculty and students. It also provides research support and funding opportunities to graduate students.

Ecological sciences faculty have links with various interdisciplinary centers, such as the Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences (IBACS), the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), and the UConn Humanities Institute (UCHI). These structures offer various opportunities for funding and collaboration to our students and faculty.

The Perceiving-Acting Workshop is a weekly research seminar in which faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars present and discuss current projects. Special thematic workshops are held periodically, bringing together scholars from a variety of universities and disciplines; recent examples of such workshops include philosophical issues in self-organization, human and robot juggling, physics of complexity, and organism-environment systems.

Learn more about research specialties.


For more than 30 years, students in the ecological psychology program received training from leading researchers in the field, launching their own high-impact careers in academic and industry settings. Our Ph.D. alumni are at the vanguard of ecological science at major universities such as Arizona State University; Brown University; University of California, Riverside; University of Cincinnati; Clemson University; Illinois State University; Indiana University Bloomington; the Ohio State University; University of Connecticut; and Northeastern University.

Alumni of ecological psychology concentration also pursue careers at independent research facilities, including Haskins Laboratories, Hughes Research Laboratories, the National Defense Institute, and the Wyss Institute. Others have gone into industry with companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Amazon, Kognia Sports Intelligence, McChrystal Group, and Galvion.

Learn more about graduate careers and outcomes.

Financial Aid

Most students admitted into the Ph.D. program receive a graduate assistantship for research or teaching. The assistantship includes a tuition waiver, stipend, and a range of other benefits. Students can also apply for other scholarships, fellowships, and awards based on financial need and academic merit, as well as interdisciplinary graduate training programs.

Our concentration makes a special effort to support student travel to conferences to present research and make professional contacts; for example, all CESPA graduate students travel to at least one international meeting. We also encourage applicants with relevant research experience to coordinate with a potential faculty advisor in order to apply for fellowships from agencies such as the National Science Foundation.

Learn more about graduate funding and financial support.


All application materials must be received by January 1 in order to be considered for financial support.


Full Ph.D. Admissions Requirements

Please designate "ecological psychology” as your concentration in the online application.

We strongly encourage applicants to review our list of faculty members and reach out to inquire whether they are accepting new students.

Contact Us

For questions about the ecological psychology concentration or to arrange to visit CESPA, please contact the director:

James Dixon

Professor of Psychological Sciences and Director of the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action