Introduction to Psychology
Introduction to psychology covering classic research and recent developments in the field
Offered to 1st years
8 weeks (autumn or spring term)
Psychology aims to produce a scientific understanding of the relationships between the brain and human behaviour, and how these are influenced by experience and biological factors. This module provides an introduction to psychology for students who have an interest in current research in the field, and in how scientific enquiry is contributing to an understanding of notions of well-being, personality, selfhood, motivations and mental health.
The module is likely to have wide appeal amongst students who are encountering aspects of psychology in their core curriculum, e.g. evolutionary psychology, brain imaging, behavioural modelling, cognitive neuroscience, health monitoring technologies and concepts of artificial intelligence. The discipline of psychology raises a number of ethical concerns, especially in the empirical studies. An important aspect of the module will be to consider methodologies of enquiry, standards of evidence, and notions of ‘informed consent’.
Discuss variability and context in psychology in class andsmall group discussions
- Acquire knowledge of the historical development of psychology as a discipline, including awareness of its scientific claims
- Develop an understanding of research paradigms in psychology through in class discussion and private study
- Select sources appropriate to written and verbal communication about at least one key area in psychology
- Apply study of cutting-edge psychology research and research methods to write an analytical essay
Indicative core content
- What is psychology? Myths and misconceptions about psychology will be dispelled during a quiz; positive psychology and the science of happiness.
- Behaviourism, schools of thought, and the emergence of experimental psychology: the typology of the major strands of psychology. Behaviourism, psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology. Landmark experiments in psychology, e.g. Pavlov and Watson’s work, Milgram’s experiment on obedience, and Skinner’s box.
- Social psychology: the influence of social context on the behaviour of individuals, with a particular emphasis on the role of social media.
- Developmental psychology: this session will look at the pioneering work of Piaget, and social and cultural contexts of development in children, teenagers and adults.
- Cognitive psychology: the study of how humans process information, including perception, learning, memory, consciousness and cognitive neuropsychology. The role of cognitive psychology in advances in artificial intelligence.
- Biological psychology: a look at the claims for a biological basis for behaviour, including the effect of hormones, brain structure and the importance of understanding these.
- Mental health: a look at how mental health is studied and some of the models of mental illness. This session will look at mental illness and how it is treated, as well as discussing the problems with ‘labelling’ those with mental illnesses.
- Personality and individual differences: the importance of understanding individual differences and determining norms, including psychological testing for intelligence, cognitive style, and emotion (including social, biological and cognitive processes).
- Analytical essay: 1500–2000 words (80%)
- Participation: awarded according to engagement in class and homework activities: (20%)
- ECTS value: 0
- Requirements: You must be prepared to attend all classes and to spend about an hour a week preparing for each session
- This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 4 module. See Imperial Horizons level descriptors [pdf]
"Content and presentations are interesting and thought-provoking."
"Intellectually stimulating and enjoyable course, lecturer was engaging and knowledgeable."
"An interesting and insightful module that covers a variety of topics that sparks our interest."
"The lecture material is intellectually stimulating and is presented in an interesting, engaging way. The use of diagrams and videos and the suggested reading also provided a lot of useful resources to expand our knowledge outside class."