Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance Psychology

Offered By: College of Doctoral Studies


Study the Psychology of Human Performance

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance Psychology focuses on the psychology of human performance in professions that demand excellence in psychomotor performance. The College of Doctoral Studies’ performance psychology graduate program applies theories of emotion, cognition and motivation to understand peak performance. Study the foundations of performance psychology, psychomotor performance, performance enhancement and more.

This broad performance psychology graduate program typically appeals to those looking to advance their career in industries including sports, medical, business, sales, marketing, government or higher institutions of education. Grand Canyon University’s (GCU) online PhD in psychology programs feature an integrated dissertation that allows you to begin your dissertation process on the first day of class.

Our Phoenix psychology program also includes two hands-on Doctoral Residencies where you have the opportunity to interact with faculty and peers face-to-face.

Please note: Learners are advised to inquire directly with their state if they intend to pursue licensure, as this degree does not lead directly to licensure. Entry into this doctorate of philosophy program requires a graduate degree and related coursework.

Degree Outcomes

Explore the Motivations Behind Performance

The application of performance psychology is broader than that of industrial and organizational psychology, though both share a common goal of improving employee performance through similar means, such as goal setting. Examine the principles of behavior modification and psychology of leadership, along with the foundations of performance.

What You Will Learn

Examine the Effects of Individual Behavior

If you are looking for a PhD in sports psychology degree or interested in learning how to develop high performance teams in a workplace setting, then consider our online PhD in performance psychology. This doctoral degree can prepare you to examine empirical, research-based approaches to understanding mental and thought processes. In addition, you examine:

  • Social, group and multicultural factors affecting individual behavior
  • Influence of mass communication on social awareness and control
  • The construction, analysis and interpretation of psychological tests to measure learning outcomes
  • How to improve learning and performance conditions
  • The dimensions that impact information-processing, decision-making and regulating emotions

Career Outcomes

Take Your Career to the Next Level

This performance psychology graduate program is designed for learners who want to consult or lead change management in an organization. You may also want to consider the Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

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Total Program Credits: 60
Online: 8 weeks [More Info]
Up to 9 doctoral credits

Online: $650 per credit [More Info]

Course List

The programs offered at Grand Canyon University may vary by content and course length. You are currently viewing the program version available in Arizona. For information about specific course content, credit length and VA approval in your state, please contact a counselor at 1-855-GCU-LOPE or click here to request more information.
60 credits
Total Degree Requirements:
60 credits

Program Core Courses

Course Description

This course introduces students to the principal elements of research and scholarly writing. Learners explore approaches to synthesizing literature and the application of the major components of APA form and style, and learn to coordinate literature searches. Furthermore, they learn how to discern principal arguments, analyze research questions, and clearly identify the key scholarly attributes to journal articles and other sources of scholarly data. This course also introduces learners to the University’s overarching values and beliefs regarding research and the responsibility scholars have in continuing a tradition of contributing to an ever-growing body of knowledge.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the nature, origins, and history of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Although not a clinically based course, the course does address the psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic strategies used to assist individuals with managing personal and inter-personal issues leading to improved mental health.

Course Description

This course examines the historical and theoretical background of the behavioristic movement and its major works. The course also examines methods and techniques to help teach and learn new behaviors as well as the concepts and strategies to diminish or eliminate unwanted behaviors.

Course Description

The course provides an overview of the approaches to inquiry and the methods applied to gain knowledge of the human condition including epistemology and hermeneutic interpretation. These approaches and methods are contrasted with those applied to inquiry in the natural sciences. Consideration is given to the broader social and cultural components that contribute to the refinement of existing knowledge and the creation of new knowledge in the social and human sciences.

Course Description

This course is designed to apply theories of emotion, cognition, and motivation to performance and explore the variables related to performance excellence. Application of performance psychology principles to applied settings is also addressed.

Course Description

This course explores the historical roots, theoretical foundations, major works, and guiding philosophy of Humanistic, Transpersonal and Existential (HTE) psychology. This course also examines the different approaches to studying HTE as it relates to human motivation, needs, will, love, and existence in a contemporary world.

Course Description

This residency allows students to begin developing their skills as academic researchers. Residency sessions address topics such as research question development, design, item generation, subscale development and analysis, and basic hypothesis testing. Students have hands-on experience with quantitative and qualitative analysis software.

Course Description

This course provides a study of theories of probability, descriptive and inferential analyses of data, and testing of statistical hypotheses. Practical experience is provided in the application of statistical methods.

Course Description

This course introduces motor learning and control principles, constructs, laws, and theories, and their application to individual skill learning.

Course Description

This course examines theoretical and empirical approaches to learning theory and behavior modification. The course focuses on the fundamental approaches and applications of learning theory and applied behavioral analysis to modify behavior.

Course Description

This course provides students with an overview of qualitative methods and offers students the opportunity to apply and interpret qualitative research. Topics include data collection, data analysis, appropriate qualitative inquiry, and theories of qualitative methods.

Course Description

This course provides an overview of leadership theories and models from a psychological perspective. It introduces leadership development within the individual, group, and organization, focusing on the skills and abilities of effective leaders.

Course Description

This residency prepares students to present their scholarly work and to thoughtfully critique the work of others. Students orally present papers developed in their own classes and respond to questions from colleagues. Students are further prepared to become active members in academic communities by learning how to review papers and provide comments.

Course Description

This course serves as the foundation for ethical study in the field of psychology. Ethical issues in research, writing, psychotherapy, forensic psychology, and animal research are covered. The origins of ethical practices—including the philosophical theories of ethics, the Christian worldview, and the APA code of ethics—are also addressed.

Course Description

Learners complete a cogent research prospectus as the foundation for their dissertation research proposal. Emphasis is placed on fully articulating a study design and methodology that is aligned with the research questions and developing the first iteration (draft) of Chapter 3 of the dissertation. Prerequisite: RES-855 or RES-866.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to apply psychological theories and principles. The learner completes an applied project utilizing a case study.

Course Description

In this course, learners formalize their research proposal specific to their topic. Emphasis is placed on fully developing Chapter 1 and incorporating Chapters 2 and 3 (drafts) from previous research courses. This proposal becomes the first three chapters of the dissertation upon approval of the final draft by the College of Doctoral Studies. Prerequisite: RES-880.

Course Description

This course introduces students to the final phase of the doctoral study in psychology: the doctoral dissertation. Students plan, conduct, analyze, and interpret original research, and submit their final product for approval during an oral defense. This course offers students the opportunity to select an appropriate topic, and draft the first three sections of their dissertation (introduction, literature review, and methods).

Course Description

Following successful completion of PSY-955, students continue their work toward the completion of their dissertation by gaining both committee and IRB approval for their proposal, conducting their data collection in accordance with the methods selected in their proposal, and analyzing the results. By the end of this course, students should have the fourth chapter of their dissertation completed. Prerequisite: PSY-955.

Course Description

Following successful completion of the two preceding dissertation courses, students finish their work on their doctoral dissertation and submit it for final approval during the oral defense. This course affords students the opportunity to draft a discussion section that interprets their findings, as well as an abstract that summarizes their findings. Students also draft their front and back matter, including appendices, tables, and a reference section. The final step in this course is to defend the doctoral dissertation, obtain final committee approval, and submit the document for publication. Prerequisite: PSY-960.

Program Locations


Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere. GCU offers the most experienced leadership in delivering online degree programs. Full-time faculty members and fully trained adjunct instructors, equipped with strong academic backgrounds and practical experience in their fields, support you every step of the way. Designed with the career-oriented professional in mind, our online classes provide an intimate environment that stimulates engaging and challenging discussions. Choose from programs across our distinct colleges, in high-demand employment areas. Classes begin frequently.


Grand Canyon University’s evening programs cater to the demands of working professionals who prefer an in-person learning environment. Our night classes meet just once per week and offer the interaction and discussion of a typical college classroom. Night classes are designed for a specific number of students, providing a warm and nurturing environment that supports an engaging experience. In an evening cohort, you will progress through your degree program with the same career-minded classmates, providing an opportunity to network and forge relationships that go beyond the classroom. Classes begin frequently at various locations, including our main campus.

* Please note that this list may contain programs that are not presently offered as program availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability of the program.

Program Domains

* The Department of Education defines how an institution must calculate a program's On-Time Completion rate for federal disclosure purposes. The On-Time Completion rate is based on a program's published required number of months to complete all degree requirements as provided in the institution's catalog. Completion statistics are updated every January and are based on the cohort of students who started the program in the same year and then graduated within the published program length.

Online and Evening program disclosures (39 months) Additional Disclosures

* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Program subject to change.