Psychology is the science of the mind. Studying psychology gives you the opportunity to develop and expand your understanding of the mind with the purpose of using this enhanced understanding to seek to explain everyday social interactions. Psychology lies at the intersection of many other different disciplines, including biology, medicine, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and artificial intelligence (AI).
What is Psychology?
How do psychologists study the mind?
We cannot see someone thinking. Neither can we observe their emotions, memories, perceptions nor dreams. So, psychologists adopt a similar approach to scientists in other fields. Nuclear physicists interested in the structure of atoms cannot observe protons, electrons, and neutrons directly. Instead, they predict how these elements should behave and devise experiments to confirm or refute their expectations. We use human behaviour as a clue to the workings of the mind. Although we cannot observe the mind directly, everything we do, think, feel and say is determined by the functioning of the mind.
Is psychology a science?
Yes, as with biology, chemistry, and physics, it is a systematic study through observation and experiment.
Is psychology important in other subjects?
Yes, psychological research is used in biology, medicine, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, artificial intelligence (AI), business, politics, media, art and design, sports and religion.
For example, neuropsychology is allied with biology, since the aim is to map different areas of the brain and explain how each underpins different brain functions like memory or language. Other branches of psychology are more closely connected with medicine. Health psychologists help people manage disease and pain. Similarly, clinical psychologists help alleviate the suffering caused by mental disorders.
Are there different types of psychology then?
Yes, there are many branches of psychology which specialise in different fields of human behaviour and interaction. Here are just some:
Clinical psychology, Cognitive psychology, Business psychology, Child psychology, Forensic psychology, Health psychology, Neuropsychology, Sport psychology, Parapsychology, Evolutionary psychology and Social psychology.
What do all these branches of psychology have in common?
They have a common desire to explain the behaviour of individuals based on the workings of the mind. In every area, psychologists must apply scientific methodology. They formulate theories, test hypotheses through observation and experiment, and analyse the findings with statistical techniques that help them identify important findings.
At Cardinal Vaughan we follow the Edexcel specification; course code (9PS0).
Textbooks: Edexcel Psychology for A Level Year 1 & AS - Student Book - Illuminate Publishing
Edexcel Psychology for A Level Year 2 - Student Book - Illuminate Publishing
A-Level Psychology - Lower Sixth: Foundations of Psychology
In Lower Sixth you will learn about four topic areas in psychology; social psychology, cognitive psychology, biological psychology and learning theories.
In each of these four topic areas you will study a key question for society and the psychology that helps to explain it. You will also cover selected content in that topic area, selected studies that connect to the content including one classical study, and selected methodologies looking at how psychology works. You will also carry out a practical investigation in each Topic Area, in which you will use some of the methodologies which you have covered and in which you can find out for yourself how psychology can help to understand people. You will also learn how to use statistical tests.
Each topic area uses the same structure:
- Content – Theories and research
- Methodology link
- Studies – Classic and contemporary
- Key question
- Practical investigation
Paper 1- Foundations of Psychology (2 hours): Total 90 Marks
Social psychology is about how people live in groups and interact with one another. You will cover obedience to those in authority, and why someone might not obey, as well as whether our personality makes us obey or whether it is the situation, we are in that make us obey. You will cover prejudice too, looking at factors that lead us to become prejudiced and to discriminate against those in other groups.
Cognitive psychology is about how we process information, such as using language, using memory and problem-solving. The focus in your course is on memory, including, for example, how we use short-term memory and how we form long-term memories. Memory is an important part of processing information, and it can relate to successful learning by studying as well as other applications.
Biological psychology is about the brain as well as aspects of our physical make-up such as genes, the concept of survival of the fittest, and hormones. Your course will focus on aggression, looking at what parts of the brain relate to aggression and how hormones link to aggression. More general biological issues are also considered including the theory of evolution.
Learning theories require us to look at our behaviour and question how we learnt it; including how we develop phobias, learn to associate things with people and how we respond to praise and punishment. Learning theories are interested in how we learn through the actions of others, for example learning through imitation of our role models. Learning theorists then apply this knowledge to treating phobias and shaping behaviour.
A-Level Psychology - Upper Sixth: Applications of Psychology and Psychological Skills
In the first part of your second year, you will study clinical psychology, which looks at mental health and mental disorders; and health psychology, which looks at psychological and behavioural processes in health, illness, and healthcare.
Each application uses the same structure as in Lower Sixth:
- Content-Theories and research
- Methodology link
- Key question
- Practical investigation
When studying clinical and health psychology you will draw upon the foundations of psychology which you covered in your first year. For example, in clinical psychology you will look at biological explanations for schizophrenia, drawing upon your study of social psychology for the impact of social learning theory for addictions.
Paper 2 - Applications of Psychology (2 hours): Total 90 Marks
Clinical psychology covers mental health issues and in your course you will look at schizophrenia (features, causes and treatments), and OCD (features, causes and treatments). You will look at how the media portray mental health issues and how developing an understanding of types of mental illnesses helps professionals give the appropriate treatments.
Health psychology considers drug misuse. This continues from biological psychology in Year One, where the way drugs work in the brain is covered. Alcohol, heroin and nicotine are the three drugs focused on in health psychology, including how they work and treatments offered. A health campaign is also considered to show how health psychology incorporates prevention.
Paper 3 - Psychological Skill (2 hours): 90 Marks
Psychological skills cover all the research methods material you have covered over the two years and review the classic studies you will have covered. There are also issues and debates that will be introduced in each Topic Area and will be drawn together in the second section of your Year Two studies.
The structure for the Psychological Skills section is:
- Review of studies
- Issues and debates
Beyond the Classroom
The Psychology Department organises various extra-curricular activities. For example, we were the first Department in the country to offer brain dissections for our Advanced Level students. We offer trips to the Freud Museum and have manged to organise a virtual tour and lectures.