Psychology is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour. The subject is taught by a specialist teacher at Key Stage 5 and follows the AQA specification.
Psychology is a very popular subject which develops a range of skills valuable in further education and the work place. These skills include critical analysis, independent thinking, presenting an argument fluently, analysing and interpreting data, and planning and conducting research.
The Psychology Department also promotes extended development of skills and knowledge through promoting wider reading and extra-curricular activities such as visits to London Zoo for sessions about phobias and “Brain Day” which involves a visiting professor sharing latest research in the field of neuroscience.
Psychology is a broad subject with significant biological content and should appeal to students who are interested in science and specifically in understanding people’s behaviour and thinking, including the underlying drivers behind behaviour, such as the influence of genes, hormones, neurotransmitters as well as the influence of people’s early experiences.
The A-Level course is a linear course with three two-hour exam papers at the end of Year 13:
- Memory: Theories describing how our memory works. Explanations of forgetting. Factors affecting eye witness testimony and how police interviews work.
- Attachment: Caregiver-infant interactions in humans. Stages of attachment. Multiple attachments and the role of the father. Animal studies of attachment. Explanations of attachment. Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’. Cultural variations in attachment. Bowlby’s theory of maternal deprivation. Romanian orphan studies: effects of institutionalisation. The influence of early attachment on childhood and adult relationships.
- Social Influence: Types and explanations of conformity. Conformity to social roles as investigated by Zimbardo. Explanations for obedience. Explanations of resistance to social influence, including social support and locus of control. Minority influence. The role of social influence processes in social change.
- Psychopathology: Definitions of abnormality. The behavioural, emotional and cognitive characteristics of phobias, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The behavioural approach to explaining and treating phobias. The cognitive approach to explaining and treating depression. The biological approach to explaining and treating OCD.
- Approaches in Psychology: Origins of psychology: Wundt, introspection and the emergence of psychology as a science. The basic assumptions of the following approaches: Learning approaches: the behaviourist approach, classical & operant conditioning; Social Learning Theory. The cognitive approach and the emergence of cognitive neuroscience. The biological approach. The psychodynamic approach. Humanistic psychology and the influence on counselling psychology. Comparison of approaches.
- Biopsychology: The divisions of the nervous system: central and peripheral. The structure and function of sensory, relay and motor neurons. The process of synaptic transmission. The function of the endocrine system: glands and hormones. The fight or flight response. Localisation of function in the brain and hemispheric lateralisation. Plasticity and functional recovery of the brain after trauma. Ways of studying the brain: scanning techniques. Biological rhythms: circadian, infradian and ultradian and the difference between these rhythms. The effect of endogenous pacemakers and exogenous zeitgebers on the sleep/wake cycle.
- Research Methods: how psychologists investigate thinking and behaviour. The scientific process. Data handling and analysis. Inferential Statistics.
- Issues and Debates in Psychology: Gender and culture in psychology – universality and bias. Free will and determinism. The scientific emphasis on causal explanations. The nature-nurture debate. Holism and reductionism: levels of explanation in psychology. Idiographic and nomothetic approaches to psychological investigation. Ethical implications of research studies and theory, including reference to social sensitivity.
- Relationships: The evolutionary explanations for partner preferences. Factors affecting attraction in romantic relationships. Theories of romantic relationships: social exchange theory, equity theory and Rusbult’s investment model; Duck’s phase model of relationship breakdown. Virtual relationships in social media. Parasocial relationships.
- Aggression: Neural and hormonal mechanisms in aggression. Genetic factors in aggression, including the MAOA gene. The ethological explanation of aggression. Evolutionary explanations of human aggression. Social psychological explanations of human aggression. Institutional aggression in the context of prisons: dispositional and situational explanations. Media influences on aggression, including the effects of computer games. The role of desensitisation, disinhibition and cognitive priming.
- Schizophrenia: Classification of schizophrenia. Positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Reliability and validity in diagnosis and classification of schizophrenia. Biological explanations for schizophrenia. Psychological explanations for schizophrenia. Drug therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy, family therapy and token economies as used in the management of schizophrenia. The importance of an interactionist approach in explaining and treating schizophrenia.
The scheme of work follows the specification closely, although Research Methods are taught alongside the other topics, so that students can see how Research Methods are utilised in the studies we cover.
Web-link to specification: http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/psychology/as-and-a-level/psychology-7181-7182/specification-at-a-glance
Course Code: 7182 QAN: 601/4838/X