Course Syllabus


Psychology is a study of human behavior. Its aim is to accurately define and describe the causes of behavior so people can practically understand, predict and change it. To do this, psychologists have taken many different approaches to looking at the relationship between the human mind and human behavior. Over the past century specifically, psychological research has been responsible for an incredible amount of knowledge that has changed our understanding of the mind phenomenally.

Psychology can be looked at and studied through many perspectives, such as the biological, psychodynamic, social and cognitive to name but a few, but it is now recognized as much by the complexity of interrelationships between these perspectives as it is by the differences between them. Generally, the Diploma Program Psychology will present the individual histories, contributors, theories, terminologies etc. of these perspectives, as well as how they have stood at the forefront of major scientific controversies such as free will versus determinism and nature versus nurture. But perhaps just as importantly, the course will show how the scientific and practical fields of psychology have evolved to interweave these perspectives in order to provide humans with a more complete and deeper understanding of human behavior. Students in DP Psychology will explore the course from this overriding angle. Additionally, students will be encouraged to explore the course from the themes of self-awareness and personal achievement in order to make their study more meaningful to them as individuals.

Additionally, students will be looking at classic and modern research done in the field of psychology. They will explore experimental design, methodology and ethics. Students will be asked to understand, evaluate, and even design and carry out their own research studies. In doing this, students will learn what constitutes effective and ethical psychological research.

General Course Objectives

Students in the Diploma Program Psychology will be expected to:

  • Describe, evaluate and compare different theoretical perspectives
  • Explain current topics and empirical research
  • Explain and evaluate basic psychological processes and the effects contextual factors like culture and gender have on them.
  • Be aware of ethical codes and be able to evaluate ethical implications of research
  • Describe and apply research and statistical methods.
  • Interpret and use graphs, charts, and statistics related.
  • Access current psychological research using on-line periodical indexes
  • Apply research and writing skills in papers and examinations

Program Components

DP Psychology at Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) is divided into four components: Core Perspectives, Optional Perspectives, Research Methodology, An Experimental Study.

Core Perspectives



Examples of Study


The focus of the biological perspective is the relationship between physiological and psychological factors as they relate to behavior. Due to new brain scanning techniques there is increasing awareness of how physiological mechanisms play a role in behavior

  • Physiological foundations of behavior: genes, neurotransmitters, hormones
  • Localization of function
  • Sensation and perception
  • Drugs and behavior


The cognitive perspective deals with mental processes such as memory and problem solving. It is concerned with how people acquire, store, transform,, use, and communicate information.

  • Theories of cognition
  • Memory
  • Language
  • Attention
  • Intelligence


The learning perspective has been dominated by behaviorism with its focus on environmental factors and situational aspects of behavior. Behaviorists contend that behavior is determined by environmental rather than physiological contingencies

  • The rise of behaviorism
  • Classical Conditioning
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Social Learning Theory

Humanistic (HL only )

Humanism places an emphasis on subjective meaning, the rejection of determinism, and a concern for positive growth rather than pathology.

  • Carl Rogers
  • Abraham Maslov
  • Self-Actualization
  • Existential Psychology
  • Free will in humans

Core Options

Among the optional Diploma Program Perspectives, the Social and Psychodynamic perspectives will be taught at HL and the Psychodynamic perspective will be taught at SL.



Examples of Study


“Psychodynamic” refers to a group of theories that emphasize instinctual drives and forces, such as the subconscious, and the importance of childhood experiences on the formation of personality

  • Influences of Victorian Society
  • Case study methods
  • Id, ego, superego
  • Psychosexual development
  • Collective unconscious


Social psychology is the study of behavior related to the effects of social stimuli; in particular, the changes in individual behavior when other people are present

  • Conformity
  • Obedience
  • Independent behavior
  • Theories of prejudice and discrimination
  • Mob behavior
  • Identity

Research methodology

Research Methodology




Psychological researchers have a responsibility to the participants in their studies. The also have a responsibility to use their research responsibly

  • Review different ethical codes
  • Informed consent
  • Participant right to withdraw
  • Deception
  • Use of Animals

Quantitative methods

Quantitative methods employ a systematic approach the investigation. Researchers use quantitative methods when it is possible to test hypotheses under rigorous conditions

  • Experimental designs
  • Sampling procedures
  • Validity and reliability
  • Levels of Measurement
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics
  • Graphs

Qualitative methods

Qualitative research designs generally involve methods that are non-quantitative in nature. Rather, Qualitative research seeks to understand data within naturally occurring contexts

  • Interviews
  • Observational studies
  • Focus groups
  • Content analysis
  • Artifact analysis
  • Case studies
  • Ethnography
  • Triangulation

Experimental Study

The experimental study (HL) or the Simple experimental study (SL) enables students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a practical application. The DP Psychology course defines the experimental study as the manipulation of one independent variable while the others are held constant. SL students are required to undertake a partial replication of a simple experiment.

Assessment Outline (HL)

Internal Assessment: 20%

  • Experimental Study

External Assessment: 80%

  • Paper 1 (short answer and extended response): 30 %
  • Paper 2 (short answer questions): 30%
  • Paper 3 (three compulsory questions) 20 %

Assessment Outline (SL)

Internal Assessment: 20 %

  • Simple Experimental Study

External Assessment: 80%

  • Paper 1 (short answer and extended response): 50 %
  • Paper 2 (short answer questions): 30%