Psychology is the study of behaviour, and of how the mind works. In a few years it has risen to become nationally one of the most popular of all A level subjects. It is the most popular Sixth form subject at Mosslands School.
The OCR syllabus, which we follow, is particularly attractive to newcomers to the subject. The “core” consists of the study of fifteen famous Psychological investigations, including:
- Milgram’s study of obedience, which seeks to understand why even the most inhumane and extreme instructions are often obeyed without question.
- What are the factors that make some people help a stranger and why most of us just “walk on by”?
- The teaching of language to chimpanzees and other animals. This is followed up by a study of primate behaviour at Chester Zoo.
- Bandura’s classic study of the importance of role models. How important a part have your parents, your peers and your heroes played in the development of your personality?
The second year (A2) consists of two specialist choices consisting of Forensic Psychology, the psychology of crime, looking at how and why young people turn to crime, asking if criminals “think differently” from non-criminals, offender profiling and what part psychology plays in the courtroom. The Psychology of Health looks at areas including stress, the treatment of common disorders such as phobias and how psychologists approach mental health issues. The department is fortunate in having experienced and qualified teachers of the subject and great expertise has now been acquired in assisting students in preparation for their exams.
Both the AS and the A2 courses allow time for the student to carry out psychological investigations. Amongst
the investigations conducted by students in recent years have been:
- Are first impressions really so important and why?
- Why do some people perform better with an audience than others?
- What makes witness testimony so unreliable?
To give a further idea of the scope and diversity of the subject, in your first term you would expect to study the following topics amongst others:
Are differences between male and female behaviour biological or social?
How does membership of a group affect the individual?
How accurate is memory and how can it be improved?
Psychology is a subject likely to be of interest to any student who appreciates that people behave as they do for subtle reasons worthy of rigorous and detailed examination. It is not however suitable for students who believe that there is nothing complex about behaviour patterns or who think that actions can always be explained at face value.
Studying psychology will subtly but permanently change the way you think about yourself, others, your relationships and human behaviour in general.