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Experimental Psychology

Subject Summary: Part IB Experimental Psychology

The course provides an introduction to the study of mind, brain, and behaviour, with an emphasis on experimental and observational methods of investigation. Topics covered in the first term include: sensory processes and perception with special emphasis on vision and hearing; attention and the control of action; language and cognitive processes. The remainder of the course covers learning and memory; cognitive and social development; intelligence (and its measurement); reasoning and problem-solving; cognitive neuropsychology; and psychopathology. 

The course aims to instil a broad understanding of the various approaches to the study of the mind and behaviour, of the interplay among experimental, behavioural and neurological evidence, and of the different levels of explanation used in modern experimental psychology. 

Lectures are supplemented by practical classes whose topics are related as closely as possible to those of the concurrent lectures. Sometimes students will run experiments and sometimes they will witness demonstrations or videos of phenomena. Students are required to write reports on a certain number of these classes. Other practical classes provide an introduction to basic neurobiology and elementary statistics for psychology. 

There are no prerequisites for the course, which is equally accessible to those who have specialised in biological or in physical sciences in Part IA. 

Students taking Part IIA in the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences may take the NST Part IB Experimental Psychology course as Paper PBS 5. It can also be taken by students taking Part IB in the Philosophy Tripos. A subset of the course is also offered to Psychological and Behavioural Sciences as paper PBS 4.

Programme Specification: Part IB Experimental Psychology

This course is taught by the Department of Psychology.


  1. to introduce students to a broad range of the key topics in experimental psychology and to provide the opportunity to learn about experimental procedures in experimental psychology through practical classes
  2. to prepare students for the NST Part II course in Psychology

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students should possess:

  1. skills of arguing towards theoretical conclusions about mental processes from empirical evidence and a knowledge base from which to argue
  2. an appreciation of the principles of behavioural experimentation, acquired through participation in practical classes (and from videos and films)
  3. skills of scientific reporting, developed through writing practical reports
  4. an thorough understanding of experimental methodology, design and statistical analysis

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, practical classes and supervisions.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen three-hour written examinations, and a written practical examination of 90 minutes (for aims 1 and 2 and learning outcomes 1, 2 and 4)
  • submission of five practical reports of work conducted in practical classes (for aims 1 and 2 and learning outcome 3). For each practical report either not received or judged to be unsatisfactory, one-and-a-half percentage marks will be subtracted from the total marks gained in the written papers.

Courses of Preparation

Essential: None

Recommended: None

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.