Introduction to Psychology - BPS101

Psychology - An Introductory Course

  • Understand human behaviour by learning more about psychological theories and research.
  • Develop your ability to analyse and assess aspects of a person's psychological state and and apply derived knowledge to motivate that person.
  • This course is suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about human behaviour.
  • Study for professional development or personal interest.
  • Course Duration: 100 hours of self paced study.
  • You can start the course at any time.

This course provides a solid introduction/foundation for further studies of psychology covering such things as the nature and scope of psychology, neurological and environmental effects on behaviour, personality, consciousness, perception, needs, drives and motivation.

A contentious issue in psychology is whether our behaviour is largely a consequence of our past (childhood) experience, or whether it is influenced primarily by our present circumstances. Freud and others of the psychoanalytical school emphasise childhood experiences as critical factors in determining our behaviour. These include influences from the past, such as how we were parented or past psychological traumas. They also include the experiences that a child normally passes through during its development, such as learning that a mother’s absence is not permanent each time she leaves the room, or the hormonal changes experienced by a teenager. All of these are called developmental influences on behaviour, and the main question is -

  • What experiences in the person’s past or at the present stage of development are causing this behaviour?

Other theorists emphasise the influence of a person’s current experience on their behaviour. These theorists focus on interactive explanations of behaviour which consider present trends in the individual’s life, present fears and goals, present environmental conditions, and current relationships. The person finds ways to respond to his or her environment, and the behaviour is a strategy adopted to help the person cope. The main question here is -

  • What strategies are working for this person and which need to be changed?

Both developmental and interactive explanations of behaviour are valid and necessary. Depending upon the individual’s predicament, one approach may be more appropriate than another. For example, if we are counselling a newly divorced woman, we may explain her behaviour in terms of present influences such as social isolation and a blow to her self esteem. On the other hand, imagine if a friend suffers from a nervous breakdown "out of the blue", so to speak. During the last five years that we have known her, her life has been running smoothly, without apparent crises or significant change. It may be appropriate then to investigate her past history, to determine any causes of anxiety or tension. Both situations can lend themselves to either kind of explanation, so again, the psychologist cannot just assume, but must investigate further.

Psychoanalysis favours developmental explanations because of its emphasis on childhood history. Behaviourism favours developmental explanations because of its emphasis on past learning experiences. On the other hand, cognitive and phenomenological psychologists favour interactive explanations, because their theories focus on the individual’s present perception and interpretation of events. Clearly, we might often need to look for explanations in the person’s past, or their biology and in the person’s current responses to the existing situation, for the past and the present are inextricably connected. Often our present interpretations of recent experiences are closely related to past experiences. 

If you want to learn more, this could be the ideal course for you.

Course Structure and Lesson Content

There are seven lessons in this course, as follows:

Lesson 1. The Nature and Scope of Psychology
  • Different approaches to psychology.
  • It's all common sense isn't it?
  • Key issues in psychology.
  • Free will and determinism.
  • Applying psychology.
  • Developing questionnaires.
Lesson 2. Neurological Basis of Behaviour
  • Structures of the nervous system.
  • Central nervous system.
  • Peripheral nervous system.
  • How nerves transmit messages.
  • The brain and method.
  • Methods of investigating the brain.
  • Brain damage.
  • The strange case of Phineas Gage.
  • Split brain operations.
  • Localisation of function.
Lesson 3. Environmental Effects on Behaviour
  • Learning and behaviour.
  • Modelling.
  • Conditioning.
  • Extinction.
  • Punishment.
  • Learning and memory.
  • Memory improvement strategies.
Lesson 4. Consciousness and Perception
  • Status of consciousness in psychology.
  • Nature of consciousness.
  • Relationship between consciousness and perception.
  • Unconscious and subconscious.
  • Altered state of consciousness.
  • Day dreams.
  • Sleeping and dreaming.
  • Chemically altered perception.
  • Perception.
  • Selective attention.
  • Factors affecting perception.
  • Perceptual biases.
Lesson 5. Personality
  • Theories of personality.
  • Personality traits.
  • Theoretical approaches to human personality.
  • Id, ego and superego.
  • Oedipus Complex.
  • Electra Complex.
  • Psychological defence mechanisms.
  • Genes and personality.
  • Personality disorders.
  • Multi-trait theories.
Lesson 6. Psychological Development
  • Nature versus nurture.
  • Environment and development.
  • Stages of development.
  • Moral development.
  • Psychosexual development.
  • Psychosocial development.
  • Adolescence.
  • Adult psychological development.
  • Criticisms of stage theories.
Lesson 7. Needs, Drives and Motivation
  • Motivation.
  • Behaviourist theories of human motivation.
  • Drives.
  • Maslow's theory of human motivation.
  • Complementary and conflicting motives.

Course Aims

  • Explain the nature and scope of psychology.
  • Explain characteristics of the neurological basis of behaviour.
  • Explain environmental effects on behaviour.
  • Explain the differences between consciousness and perception.
  • Explain the effect of personality on behaviour.
  • Explain psychological development.
  • Apply different techniques to motivate people.

What Will You Do In This Course?

Students may carry out the following tasks in this course:

  • Define different psychological terms such as ambivalence, apathy, behaviour, catalyst, cognition, empirical, fixation, homoeostasis, obsession, perception, performance, psychosomatic, socialisation, stereotype, temperament, trait.
  • Explain how a knowledge of psychology can be applied in different types of jobs.
  • Explain risks involved in applying psychology in two different specified situations.
  • Differentiate between developmental and interactive explanations of behaviour, in a case study.
  • Describe how the nervous system functions to transmit messages throughout the body.
  • Explain how the dis-functioning of different parts of the nervous system, can influence behaviour.
  • Compare the function of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
  • Explain two examples of conditioning, which you observe.
  • Explain an example of behaviour affected by modelling, observed by yourself.
  • Compare the likely effects of positive and negative reinforcement in a case study.
  • Distinguish between consciousness and perception, in the attitude of an observed individual.
  • Explain selective attention, in a case study.
  • Explain in summaries, different states of consciousness including daydreams, sleeping and dreaming, meditation.
  • Explain the relationship between consciousness and behaviour in a case study.
  • Explain three different theories of personality.
  • Distinguish between the "id" and "superego" in a person you are familiar with.
  • Compare the application of humanistic approaches with the social learning approach with the psychoanalytic approach, in educating children.
  • Explain through examples, different defence mechanisms, including repression, displacement, rationalisation, projection, denial, evaluation, sublimation, reaction/formation, intellectualisation.
  • Explain the factors which may have influenced the psychological development of a teenager who you know.
  • Compare cognitive development with physical development, in a case study.
  • Explain through a summary, the four main stages of development including sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, formal operational.
  • Explain moral development in two different case studies.
  • Explain psychosexual stages of development in a case study.
  • Explain psychosocial stages of development in a case study.
  • Distinguish between needs, drives and instincts in a specific workplace.
  • Explain the cyclical nature of primary drives, in a case study.
  • List examples of secondary drives.
  • Explain how to motivate a worker in a specified situation using the psychoanalytical approach.
  • Summarise Maslow's theory of human motivation.
  • Demonstrate the application of three different motivation techniques, in three different specified situations, through role playing.

How the Course Works

Introduction To Psychology is studied by Distance Learning. You will study course notes, undertake exercises and research, and submit assignments to your tutor for marking. Your tutor will provide feedback on your assignments, including any suggestions for further reading. If you have any questions during your studies, you can email your tutor with these.

You can start this course at any time.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us by -

Phone (International) +61 7 5562 1088, or (in Australia) 07 5562 1088, or

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