VCE Psychology

Psychology enables the exploration of how people think, feel and behaviour. As a science psychology aims to describe explain and predict behaviour using empirical procedures rather than intuition. The use of a biopsychosocial model considers biological, psychological and social factors and their complex interactions in the understanding of psychological phenomena. In the VCE study of Psychology, students explore the complex connection between human behaviours and thought processes by focusing on several key interrelated aspects of the discipline: the interplay between genetics and the environment, individual differences and group dynamics, sensory perception and awareness, memory and learning and mental health. Students use research methods to develop useful skills in analytical and critical thinking to assist in making inferences.

In Unit 1, students learn about how people’s brains develop and how different cultures, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have contributed to our understanding of this. They also study the human brain and how it affects our thoughts and behaviour. They look at how the brain can change and what happens when it’s damaged. Students learn how science is used to explore and validate psychological research questions. They also learn to analyse and evaluate research studies, and ask important questions to determine whether the research is reliable and trustworthy. By doing this, they can better understand psychological concepts and make informed decisions about what research to believe.

In Unit 2, students learn about social cognition, which is how people think and feel about themselves and others. They explore how different factors, such as culture, can influence people’s behaviour and relationships. They also learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences in Australian society and how it can affect their mental health. Students study classical and modern research to understand how humans perceive the world and why they behave in certain ways. They also learn about how perception can be distorted. Students conduct a scientific investigation to explore how internal or external influences impact perception and behaviour. They collect and analyse data and draw conclusions based on their research.

In Unit 3, students learn about classical and modern research on the nervous system, learning, and memory. They explore how the nervous system helps people interact with their surroundings and how stress can affect psychological functioning. Students also learn about the relationship between the gut and the brain in psychological functioning. They investigate the mechanisms of learning and memory and how they lead to the acquisition of knowledge and development of new behaviours. Students consider different models of learning and memory, including the interconnectedness of brain regions involved in memory. They also explore mnemonics and the use of place as a memory aid in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

In Unit 4, students learn about the importance of sleep and how it affects mental wellbeing. They study the biological mechanisms that regulate sleep and the different stages of sleep. They also learn about the impact of changes to sleep patterns and hygiene on psychological functioning. The concept of mental wellbeing is explored, including the social and emotional wellbeing framework and the biopsychosocial approach. The importance of cultural determinants and protective factors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ wellbeing is also studied. Additionally, students conduct a scientific investigation related to mental processes and mental wellbeing, and present their findings in a scientific poster format.

Selection advice

What kind of learner is best suited to study this subject?
Someone who is motivated and enthusiastic about psychology. It is important to be excited about learning about psychology because that will be the main factor in doing well.

What key skills are required for success?
Discipline, critical thinking, organisation and time management (it is a very content heavy subject)

What are three most engaging topics studied?
Stress – sources of stress and how we deal with it
Memory – how memories are formed and retrieved
Mental Health Disorders & Phobias – how they precipitated, perpetuated and treated

What are the learning activities in this subject like?
Lots of discussion and lectures about the topic/information
Small group activities making posters or presentations on whatever you’ve learnt
Practice Questions

What advice would you give to a student about to embark on this subject? ,
Make sure you understand the work and key knowledge and ask for help if you need it
Psychology is a very content heavy subject and requires a lot of understanding but also an ability to apply your understanding.

Click here for a link to further information and pathways related to the study of Psychology.