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Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

The PBS Tripos

The Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Tripos allows students to explore a range of areas within psychology across all three years of study. Students are able to cover social and developmental psychology, as well as a range of biological and cognitive perspectives, in addition to those from neuroscience. Students are taught by internationally recognised researchers in lectures, practical classes and supervisions, and so will benefit from learning about cutting edge research taking place within a department currently ranked first in the UK and third in the world for psychology. In the first year, students take two compulsory papers, the first of which provides a broad overview of some of the main psychological perspectives and relevant research studies. The other paper concerns research methods, and gives students a flavour of experimental, quantitative and qualitative research designs. This paper also includes practical demonstrations and exercises. First-years choose two further papers from those offered in the HSPS Tripos, such as political thought, sociology, and biological & social anthropology. Alternatively, students can opt to take papers from other Triposes, including Biological Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Education, Economics and Computer Science.

Students in the second year take two compulsory papers, the first in cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology and the second in social and developmental psychology. They can then follow one of two streams, depending on their growing research interests in either cognitive and biological psychology or experimental psychology. During the first and second year, students also complete practical assessments that provide them with the opportunity to develop skills necessary for their third year independent research project. The dissertation requires students to undertake their own empirical research, the focus of which is decided by students themselves, in consultation with an expert in their area of interest. Alongside the dissertation, students in their third year are encouraged to pursue the areas of psychology they most enjoy, choosing three advanced papers from a vast array on offer. More information on the course structure can be found on the course webpage, and on the University's HE+ website .

The PBS degree is accredited by the British Psychological Society, which enables students to enroll on vocational courses such as clinical or educational psychology, should they be interested in pursuing a career in either of these fields. However, careers are certainly not confined to these areas, and former Psychology students at Cambridge have progressed to work in a wide range of jobs and locations.

Why study PBS at Corpus?

Ordinarily we admit three PBS students to Corpus each year, although there is some overlap with students in the HSPS Tripos, many of whom also choose to take papers in Psychology during their first year. Corpus has a thriving community of students interested in human, social, political and psychological themes.

Unique to Corpus is the Gerard Duveen Social Sciences Society (GDSSS), founded in 2008 to commemorate the life and work of Corpus Fellow and leading expert in social psychology, Dr Gerard Duveen. The Society meets often to discuss a range of topics that are broadly related to the social and political sciences. Meetings are focused on a specific topic presented by an expert speaker and then opened to informal discussion by all. Past talks have been given by Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, who spoke on prison reform; Dr Chris Brooke, who discussed Tony Blair’s autobiography; and Helen Lockett from the Centre for Mental Health, who discussed employment and mental health problems. More recently, speakers have included Dr Seth Alexander Thevoz (Warwick University), who discussed the historical and current expenses scandals amongst British MPs; Dr Robin Samuel (University of Basel), who spoke on the relationship between gender, educational attainment and employment; and Dr Humera Iqbal (Institute of Education), who talked about multicultural parenting and the ways in which parents may prepare their children for social bias. The Society also provides a platform for undergraduate and postgraduate students to discuss their work, and many of our students have found this to be a helpful way of working through some of their ideas and receiving feedback, as well as a good experience of talking in an academic (though informal) setting. All of the College’s undergraduates, postgraduates and fellows are welcome to attend GDSSS meetings, and they are a great opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion.

Another unique aspect of Psychology at Corpus is the link to the  Junior Researcher Programme, (JRP), which Dr Ruggeri has directed since its foundation in 2011. The JRP is an international research initiative for students and early career psychologists who wish to work in multicultural teams either during or immediately after completing a degree in Psychology. It begins with a training programme in a different European country each summer and lasts for a full year, culminating in a research internship and conference at Corpus every August. Though it is very much a scientific programme, previous participants have progressed to careers in corporate, clinical, (non-)governmental and international organisations.

What are we looking for in applicants?

It is not necessary to have studied Psychology at school to be admitted to the PBS course although we do require candidates to be studying either Biology or Mathematics at A-level or the equivalent. More important is a real enthusiasm for the academic study of psychology.Our typical minimum offer level is set at A*AA, or 41-42 in the IB with 776 in HL subjects. We welcome applicants from other educational backgrounds, with offers set at similar levels. If you’re not sure whether PBS is right for you, please visit the College by attending one of our open days.



PBS Masterclass

Dr Susie Bower-Brown gives a Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Masterclass on the topic of 'What is family? Studying families in the 21st century'.