The Science of Mind and Behaviour

A human brain contains around one hundred billion inter-connected neurons. New connections form over time with new experiences, making every brain unique, which is why the study of human behaviour and thinking is so fascinating. With the study of mind and behaviour at its core, Psychology is a diverse subject that is enjoyable and captivating to study. The course content has links to the spectrum of traditional subjects giving wide appeal to pupils whose strengths lie in Humanities, Creatives or Science.

What is studied in Psychology?

  • Contemporary issues such as the causes of football violence and the explanations for autism, marketing techniques used by retailers, the reliability of witness statements and anorexia.
  • Studies of human and animal behaviour ranging from case studies of children with phobias to experiments investigating the factors affecting memory.
  • Research questions, eg. If one twin has schizophrenia will the other twin develop the condition?
  • Theories of behaviour and cognition, such as social learning theory as an explanation for criminal behaviour.

The course also provides the opportunity for pupils to conduct their own research, engaging participants in a variety of activities to investigate psychological issues.

Should You Choose Psychology?

If you have an interest in people and the ways they behave and think, Psychology may be for you, combining elements from humanities, arts and science. Prior knowledge of the subject is not a prerequisite but it is recommended that pupils have good grades in Maths, English and Science at GCSE or equivalent. Universities and employers value the knowledge and skills that Psychology students can offer which include critical analysis, using evidence to formulate discussions, interpersonal awareness, practical research skills and problem-solving. Students can go on to become professionals in the field, such as Clinical Psychologists and Forensic Psychologists. Others apply what they have learned to a wide variety of careers such as Law, Medicine, Education, Politics, Sport and Business.

Opportunities in Psychology

The Psychology Department endeavours to lift the course material off the page through techniques that encourage experiential learning and opportunities beyond the classroom. The course combines a wide range of activities to encapsulate the diversity of the content from discussions, debate, and role-plays such as jury members of a court case to practical investigations, conferences and external visits.

Visits and Speakers

Visits are wide-ranging, in accordance with the topics studied and pupils’ interests.  They have included the Oxford University Autism Research Centre, Milestone School to learn about children with development disorders, Bristol Zoo to consider learned versus innate behaviours, Erlestoke prison and the Science Festival. The department has also hosted a Criminal Psychology Conference involving professional and lay speakers providing information on Criminology and the prison system.

Practical Investigations

One aspect of Psychology that pupils enjoy is designing their own research using methods such as experiments and surveys; then collecting data using peers, staff and families as participants. Through scientific and non-scientific research they develop skills of analysis and evaluation, applying qualitative and quantitative techniques and considering their research findings

Extension Programme

The department has developed a varied programme providing extension opportunities for pupils who wish to take their studies of Psychology beyond the A level specification. Participation in the Extension Programme can provide valuable additions to a pupil’s university application. In addition to visits and visiting speakers, the programme includes:

  • A mentoring scheme where A2 pupils assist AS pupils in their learning
  • Entrance to national competitions
  • Opportunities to attend lectures and summer courses
  • Academic references from journals, Internet and texts
  • An Advanced Psychology activity option where pupils can elect to explore topics of particular interest, engage in department initiatives and develop their own research projects.

A Quote from Dean Close

Brain myth: we only use 10% of our brains. Not true, new brain imaging techniques show that we use all of our brain most of the time.
Prof Kurt Fischer, Harvard University


The Science Festival – Extension Lecture

A number of pupils opted to attend an extension lecture titled ‘The Vegetative State’ where scientists detailed research showing a new way of communicating with people with severe brain damage, who are conscious but not showing signs of awareness, by using brain-scanning techniques. This lecture evoked much thought and discussion, with questions being asked about neuroscience and the ethical implications related to these new insights.

To read about the research discussed at the Science Festival follow the link: