Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

The Psychological and Behavioural Sciences 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.

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 a compulsory paper in social and developmental psychology. They can then follow one of two streams, depending on their growing research interests in either cognitive & biological psychology or experimental psychology. During the second year, students also have the opportunity to undertake an independent research project. This research often forms the basis of their third-year dissertation, which is an obligation for all PBS finalists. 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 papers from a vast array on offer. For 2015-2016, these include papers in development and psychopathology, gender development, the family, behavioural & cognitive neuroscience, cognitive & experimental psychology, legal psychology, and psychology & social issues. Beyond those papers coordinated within the PBS Tripos, students in their final year can also take papers from other Triposes, including HSPS, Criminology, Philosophy, History & Philosophy of Science, and Education.

More information on the course structure can be found here, and on the University’s HE+ website here.

The PBS degree is accredited by the British Psychological Society, which enables students to enrol 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.

PBS at Corpus

Dr Kai Ruggeri, is the Director of Studies in Psychology at Corpus and an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Psychology as well as a Research Associate at the Engineering Design Centre.  He teaches PBS students about statistics, health policy, and other quantitative research methods.  Dr Sophie Zadeh is Corpus’ Research Fellow in Social Psychology and a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Family Research.  She teaches PBS students about social psychology, non-traditional families, and qualitative research methods.

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.

Dr Kai Ruggeri
Preceptor – Health Policy
Dr Sophie Zadeh
Fellow – Social Psychology

The Gerard Duveen Social Sciences Society

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 thrice termly 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.

Junior Researcher Programme

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.  More important is a real enthusiasm for the academic study of psychology. For students applying for entry in 2018 onwards, we require either A-level Biology or Mathematics, or the equivalent. If you’re not sure whether PBS is right for you, please visit the College by attending one of our open days.

Student profile

PBS Profile Image-cropCharlotte – 2nd year

Choosing a college is a personal decision and Corpus was most definitely the right choice for me! I initially chose Corpus because of its central location but also because of its size. The bigger colleges seemed quite daunting and this was something I wanted to avoid. Although Corpus is the second smallest college, don’t discount that as a negative. Being such a small college means that everyone really does know everyone and friends are made across years. Only after having chosen Corpus did I realise the other benefits – the 24-hour library, the close proximity to lectures (less than a two-minute walk), access to three Faculty libraries all within a five-minute walk – and the shopping centre is very close too!

There’s great teaching at Corpus for supervisions as there are a mix of supervisors who are current researchers, PhD students as well as teaching Fellows. There’s only three PBS students in my year, but students from HSPS can also borrow PBS modules so the group doesn’t feel too small and means we can all share resources and support each other when we are struggling.

Studying PBS at Cambridge has opened up so many opportunities for me. In my first year I have been able to assist on a research project currently being undertaken regarding victims of Child Sexual Exploitation, and I have been able to participate in many psychological studies across the university (my favourite being an fMRI and getting a cool picture of my brain). There are so many more opportunities to participate in societies, both in college and for the University, and this social aspect is also important.

Corpus has its own Social Sciences Society, which meets three times a term with speakers in a variety of contemporary areas, but it’s not as scary as it sounds! It’s a really good opportunity for learning more about other topics outside of Psychology but within the social sciences. I am really pleased with my choice of Corpus and would highly recommend it to any prospective PBS-ers out there.”

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