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 criminal psychology to answer the critical question; are criminals born or made? Across the semester students investigate this intriguing question from multiple psychological perspectives. Students consider the interactive nature of hereditary and environmental factors and examine specific factors that may lead to the development of typical or atypical psychological development in individuals. Students will examine multiple social influence aspects to interpret their own behaviour and those around them, including the influence of conformity, power and obedience. Students undertake their own research investigation into this topic, with the aim of drawing a conclusion based on the synthesis of knowledge discovered.

Unit 2: How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?
In this unit students are given the opportunity to explore how the brain enables individuals to make meaning and respond to the world around them. Through a range of practical experiments and activities students learn about their senses and how easily they can be misled. Students 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. Semester 2 also focuses on building skills in preparation for Units 3 & 4 by undertaking scientific investigations into the functioning of the brain.

Area of study 3 - Student-directed research investigation
Across the year students engage in a research investigation of their own choosing. 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.

1. Coursework (50%)
2. Examination (50%)

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%)