Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behaviour in humans. Biological, behavioural, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives inform the way psychologists approach their research into the human condition.
Psychology provides students with a sophisticated framework for understanding the complex interactions between biological, and psychological factors that influence thought, emotions and behaviour. The study assists students to further develop effective language skills for communication, and numeracy skills for research, data analysis and other applications. In addition, students develop a range of broader skills including those of problem solving, critical evaluation and the application of processes of scientific inquiry.
Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?
In this unit, students investigate the structure and functioning of the human brain and the role it plays in the overall functioning of the human nervous system. Students explore brain plasticity and the influence that brain damage may have on a person’s psychological functioning. They consider the complex nature of psychological development, including situations where psychological development may not occur as expected. Students examine the contribution that scientific research has made to an understanding of the human brain and its functions, and to the development of different psychological models and theories used to predict and explain the development of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Area of study 1: How does the brain function?
Advances in brain research methods have led to new ways of understanding the relationship between the mind, brain and behaviour. In this area of study students examine how our understanding of brain structure and function has changed over time and how the brain enables us to interact with the external world around us. They analyse the roles of specific areas of the brain and the interactions between different areas of the brain that enable complex cognitive tasks to be performed. Students explore how brain plasticity and brain damage can affect a person’s functioning.
Area of study 2 - What influences psychological development?
The psychological development of an individual involves complex interactions between biological, psychological and social factors. In this area of study, students explore how these factors influence different aspects of a person’s psychological development. They consider the interactive nature of hereditary and environmental factors and investigate specific factors that may lead to the development of typical or atypical psychological development in individuals, including a person’s emotional, cognitive and social development and the development of psychological disorders.
Area of study 3 - Student-directed research investigation
In this area of study, students apply and extend their knowledge and skills developed in Areas of Study 1 and/or 2 to investigate a question related to brain function and/or psychological development. Students analyse the scientific evidence that underpins the research in response to a question of interest. They then communicate the findings of their research investigation and explain the psychological concepts, outline contemporary research and present conclusions based on the evidence.
Unit 2: How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?
A person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. In this unit, students investigate how perception of stimuli enables a person to interact with the world around them and how their perception of stimuli can be distorted. They evaluate the role social cognition plays in a person’s attitudes, perception of themselves and relationships with others. Students explore a variety of factors and contexts that can influence the behaviour of an individual and groups. They examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of human perception and why individuals and groups behave in specific ways.
Area of study 1: What influences a person’s perception of the world?
Human perception of internal and external stimuli is influenced by a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. In this area of study students explore two aspects of human perception – vision and taste – and analyse the relationship between sensation and perception of stimuli. They consider how biological, psychological and social factors can influence a person’s perception of visual and taste stimuli, and explore circumstances where perceptual distortions of vision and taste may occur.
Area of study 2 - How are people influenced to behave in particular ways?
A person’s social cognition and behaviour influence the way they view themselves and the way they relate to others. In this area of study, students explore the interplay of biological, psychological and social factors that shape the behaviour of individuals and groups. They consider how these factors can be used to explain the cause and dynamics of particular individual and group behaviours, including attitude formation, prejudice, discrimination, helping behaviour and bullying. Students examine the findings of classical and contemporary research as a way of theorising and explaining individual and group behaviour.
Area of study 3 - Student-directed practical investigation
In this area of study, students design and conduct a practical investigation related to external influences on behaviour.
The investigation requires the student to develop a question, plan a course of action to answer the question, undertake an investigation to collect the appropriate primary qualitative and/or quantitative data, organise and interpret the data and reach a conclusion in response to the question.
1. Coursework (60%)
2. Examination (40%)
Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?
In this unit students examine both macro-level and micro-level functioning of the nervous system to explain how the human nervous system enables a person to interact with the world around them. They explore how stress may affect a person’s psychological functioning and consider the causes and management of stress. Students investigate how mechanisms of memory and learning lead to the acquisition of knowledge, the development of new capacities and changed behaviours.
They consider the limitations and fallibility of memory and how memory can be improved. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system, and to the understanding of biological, psychological and social factors that influence learning and memory.
Area of study 1: How does the nervous system enable psychological functioning?
In this area of study, students explore the role of different branches of the nervous system in enabling a person to integrate, coordinate and respond to internal and external sensory stimuli. They explore the specialised structures and functioning of neurons that allow the nervous system to transmit neural information. Students evaluate how biological, psychological and social factors can influence a person’s nervous system functioning. In particular, they consider the ways in which stress can affect the mind and body, the role that the nervous system plays in these processes and how stress can be managed.
Area of study 2 - How do people learn and remember?
Memory and learning are core components of human identity: they connect past experiences to the present and shape futures by enabling adaption to daily changes in the environment. In this area of study students study the neural basis of memory and learning and examine factors that influence the learning of new behaviours and the storage and retention of information in memory. They consider the influence of biological, psychological and social factors on the fallibility of memory.
Unit 4: How is wellbeing developed and maintained?
In this unit students examine the nature of consciousness and how changes in levels of consciousness can affect mental processes and behaviour. They consider the role of sleep and the impact that sleep disturbances may have on a person’s functioning. Students explore the concept of a mental health continuum and apply a biopsychosocial approach, as a scientific model, to analyse mental health and disorder. They use specific phobia to illustrate how the development and management of a mental disorder can be considered as an interaction between biological, psychological and social factors. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of consciousness, including sleep, and the development of an individual’s mental functioning and wellbeing.
Area of study 1 - How do levels of consciousness affect mental processes and behaviour?
Differences in levels of awareness of sensations, thoughts and surroundings influence individuals’ interactions with their environment and with other people. In this area of study students focus on states of consciousness and the relationship between consciousness and thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They explore the different ways in which consciousness can be studied from physiological and psychological perspectives and how states of consciousness can be altered. Students consider the nature and importance of sleep and apply biological, psychological and social factors to analyse the effects of sleep disturbances on psychological functioning, including mood, cognition and behaviour.
Area of study 2 - What influences mental wellbeing?
In this area of study, students examine what it means to be mentally healthy. They explore the concept of a mental health continuum and factors that explain how location on the continuum for an individual may vary over time. Students apply a biopsychosocial approach to analyse mental health and mental disorder, and evaluate the roles of predisposing, precipitating, perpetuating and protective factors in contributing to a person’s mental state. Specific phobia is used to illustrate how a biopsychosocial approach can be used to explain how biological, psychological and social factors are involved in the development and management of a mental disorder. Students explore the concepts of resilience and coping and investigate the psychological basis of strategies that contribute to mental wellbeing.
1. Coursework – Unit 3 (20%)
2. Coursework – Unit 4 (20%)
3. Examination (60%)