Course outline

Psychology is “the study of the mind and behaviour” and the aim of the course is to
familiarise students with a wide range of theories and research investigating human
behaviour. The course has been developed to be as interesting and challenging as possible.
The objective is to explore how psychology has contributed to an understanding of
individual, social and cultural diversity. The course normally covers all the areas below, but
students wishing to concentrate especially on particular topic areas may do so by agreement
with the tutor.

Course Contents:

Theories and Systems in Psychology – The section looks briefly at the history and
epistemology of psychological theories with a view to making critical comparisons of
the main schools of thought: Behaviourism, Humanism and Psychoanalysis. Topics
and discussion include the mind-body debate, the free will vs. determinism debate
and reductionism.

Social Psychology – Here we focus on the experiences and behaviours of the
individual in the social world of relationships, media influences, group pressures and
prejudices, and cultural and gender stereotypes. Students will be introduced to major
research findings in each area and are encouraged to discuss a range of
explanations for social issues.

Psychology of Child Development – This topic explores the child’s experience of the
world. Major theories and issues in development are examined with a particular
emphasis on the nature-nurture issue and cross-cultural studies. Topics covered
include cognitive development and social development.

The Biological Basis of Human Behaviour – The aim here is to expose students to the
relationship between biology and behaviour. Students will be expected to assess
critically the extent to which biological explanations can be used to understand or
explain human behaviour. Topics covered include sleep, dreams and hypnosis.

Abnormal Psychology – This part covers an examination of the symptoms and
treatment options for a range of mental and emotional disorders, including anxiety,
depression, mania and schizophrenia, raising a number of important issues for
discussion. These include cultural variations in the definition and diagnosis of
disordered states and criticisms of the medical model of abnormality.

Cognitive Psychology – In this section students become acquainted with cognitive
processes by focusing on two main areas: memory and forgetting. Students will be
presented with theories, models and empirical studies for critical evaluation in all of
these areas.

Ethical Issues – We will examine the use of human participants in psychological
investigations, where the emphasis will be on the importance of following ethical
guidelines, such as those provided by the APA or the BPS. Students will be expected
to discuss examples of research with human participants that have received more
attention than most for ethical reasons.

Research methods – This topic looks at the nature of psychological enquiry and the
uses and disadvantages of different research methods. The design and
implementation of experimental and non-experimental investigations will also be
investigated, by thinking about the selection, formulation and implementation of
appropriate investigation designs.

Overview of Course and Examinations



  • To develop understanding of the breadth of different approaches to psychology.
  • To gain awareness of the principles and perspectives of psychology through the
    study of psychological theories, concepts and research.
  • To develop the ability to identify ethical concerns, and apply psychology to cultural,
    social and contemporary issues.
  • To understand how to critically appraise concepts, theories and empirical evidence.
  • To be familiar with a range of research methods.

Assessment process

Students study eight main areas of psychology by class work and regularprivate study
assignments. During the term they are required to make two presentations on areas of their
choice. The presentations are expected to be written-up in the form of short essays and
handed to their tutor. A further two extended essays are chosen together with the tutor. An
end of term examination must also be completed.

Percentage breakdown of grade
35% Presentations
35% Essays
20% Examination
10% Participation

Essay examples
1. Discuss the free will and determinism debate with reference to psychological theories
and studies.

2. Discuss the contribution of psychological research to our understanding of the
phenomenon of hypnosis.

3. Describe any one system of classification used in the diagnosis of abnormal
behaviour. From a psychological viewpoint, assess some of the problems involved in
classifying abnormal behaviour.

4. Critically consider some of the ethical issues raised by socially sensitive research.

Assessment Criteria

Grade A
Appropriate, accurate and well-detailed knowledge of psychology. Excellent organisation and structure of arguments, displaying substantial evidence and appropriate balance. Excellent communication skills.
Grade B
Appropriate and detailed but slightly limited psychological knowledge.
Arguments presented coherently, but balance not always achieved. Oral and written skills good.
Grade C
Limited psychological knowledge, but generally accurate. Reasonable
arguments constructed and some evidence of breadth or depth is displayed. Oral and communication skills satisfactory.
Grade D
Description of issues is weak and understanding is muddled and incomplete. Basic knowledge displayed orally and in written form. Weak communication skills.
Fail None of the criteria listed above followed

Recommended reading

The list below is for guidance and to supply some ideas for preliminary reading. We
recommend that you do not purchase the books on this list before arrival and certainly not all
of them; most should be available from a good library. Your tutor will recommend the most
appropriate books for purchase at the first class of term.

Atkinson, R. et al. (1999) Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology. Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
Malim, T. & Birch, A. (1998) Introductory Psychology. Palgrave
Zimbardo, P., McDermott, M., Jansz, J. & Metaal, N. (1995). Psychology: A European
Text. London: Harper Collins
Eysenck, M (Ed) (2008) Fundamentals of Psychology:
Eysenck, M (2005) Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Hodder and
Banyard, P. & Grayson, A. (2000) Introducing Psychological Research. Palgrave
Coolican, H (1996) Introduction to Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology (2nd
edition) Hodder & Stoughton
Gross, R (2001) Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Hodder and

As well as the general text books identified, it is recommended that students keep abreast of
developments in the areas in the subject via the broadsheet newspapers (The Times, The
Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph). Journals such as the ‘New Scientist
often have articles on psychological topics that are very readable and provide a useful digest
of the recent research on the topic covered.

Additional notes

This subject can be taken as a core or an elective module.