What is Psychology all about?

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.

This study enables students to:

    • Apply psychological models, theories and concepts to describe, explain and analyse observations and ideas related to human thoughts, emotions and behaviour
    • Examine the ways that a biopsychosocial approach can be applied to organise, analyse and extend knowledge in psychology
    • Understand the cooperative, cumulative, evolutionary and interdisciplinary nature of science as a human endeavour, including its possibilities, limitations and political and sociocultural influences
    • Develop a range of individual and collaborative science-investigation skills through experimental and inquiry tasks in the field and in the laboratory
    • Develop an informed perspective on contemporary science-based issues of local and global significance
    • Apply their scientific understanding to familiar and unfamiliar situations, including personal, social, environmental and technological contexts
    • Develop attitudes that include curiosity, open-mindedness, creativity, flexibility, integrity, attention to detail and respect for evidence-based conclusions
    • Understand and apply the research, ethical and safety principles that govern the study and practice of the discipline in the collection, analysis, critical evaluation and reporting of data
    • Communicate clearly and accurately an understanding of the discipline using appropriate terminology, conventions and formats


The study is made up of four units.

Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?

Human development involves changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviours. 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.   

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.

Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?

The nervous system influences behaviour and the way people experience the world. 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.

Unit 4: How is wellbeing developed and maintained?

Consciousness and mental health are two of many psychological constructs that can be explored by studying the relationship between the mind, brain and behaviour. 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.


There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3.  Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4.  Units 1 to 4 are designed to a standard equivalent to the final two years of secondary education. It is strongly recommended that students wishing to undertake Units 3 and 4 should have satisfactorily completed Unit 2.


Satisfactory Completion

Demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

School based assessment consisting of coursework, assessment tasks and an exam

Units 3 and 4

School- assessed coursework and two end-of-year examinations.

  • Unit 3 school-assessed coursework: 16%
  • Unit 4 school-assessed coursework: 24%
  • Unit 3 and 4 end-of-year examination: 60%