A psychology dissertation needs to contribute original knowledge to the discipline. Normally, this should be based on previous, well-documented research and demonstrate a good understanding of the issues concerned. The dissertation usually has to follow a particular standardised format, and involves attempting to support or confirm a hypothesis based on the investigator’s individual insights and prior research in the field. Research aims and procedures need to be clearly stated and follow a standard format. The title should be succinct and accurately reflect the substance of the dissertation. It is also essential that research cited is linked together logically, in a way that is consistent with the research aim. The conclusion needs to summarise the main arguments in relation to the claims and presented in a way that indicates whether the initial hypothesis is supported or rejected. For further ideas as to what to base your psychology dissertation on, this article suggests topics within the areas of cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, abnormal psychology and the psychology of personality.
2.0 Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology investigates the way the human brain represents information. It seeks to explore the underlying processes involved through experiment, computer modelling and neuropsychology. Theories attempt to understand how information is encoded in the brain at macro and micro levels. This is a vast subject and there are many topics to choose from. If you are looking to base your psychology dissertation on the area of cognitive psychology, below are just some titles that could be researched further.
- The contribution of expectations, attention and emotional states to the perception of pain.
- The extent to which objective methods of measurement can support theoretical approaches to consciousness.
- Limitations of the modular view of the brain: The importance of feedback and cross-modulation in information processing.
- Are indirect and direct theories of perception incompatible or can recent enactive accounts potentially lead to a compromise?
- Assessing the development of implicit intergroup cognition in relation to in-groups and out-groups: social learning or pre-specified?
- How studies of bilingualism and trilingualism in infants can indicate the degree of interaction between representational systems encoding for different languages in the brain.
- The usefulness of the concept of “ grandmother cells ” for understanding how information processing occurs in the visual cortex.
- The relationship between impaired social cognition, emotion and anxiety disorders.
- The role of implicit visual processing in the identification of objects: neural mechanisms and pathways.
- Changes in neural processing in response to event segmentation: separating cause and effect in boundary recognition.
- Consciousness is best explained as an output of implicit processes: implications for understanding intentionality.
- Of all the areas of the cortex, the prefrontal area is paramount in demarcating what makes humans human.
- The function of the prefrontal cortex can only be understood properly by considering how it relates to other areas of the brain.
- Rather than being related to specific areas of the brain, language is best explained as a function of multiple overlapping neural circuits existing throughout the cortex.
- Neural network theories might be able to account for some lower order functions of the brain but are unable to explain the representations that occur at higher areas.
- As information flows from earlier sensory-specific areas to higher regions of the brain, representations become more integrated: consequences and implications.
- Contribution of the cerebellum in relation to the higher functions of the cortex.
- Limits to the plasticity of the adult human brain.
- Are MRI studies a reliable indicator of brain function?
- The claim that the right and left brain hemispheres have different processing styles is fundamental to understanding how the brain functions.
- Parallel distributed processing is unable to provide an explanation for the higher functioning aspects of the human brain.
- Baddeley’s model of working memory compared to alternative theories.
- Working memory can best be explained as a function of long-term memory.
- Evidence for the role of the hippocampus in memory formation and consolidation.
- The relationship between working memory and attention.
- The role of the prefrontal cortex in short-term memory.
- How emotional memory relates to episodic memory.
- Attention depends on the progressive activation of forward areas of the brain.
- Attention is better interpreted as a multivariate rather than a uni-modal concept.
- View-dependent theories of vision are more successful in accounting for natural perception than view-independent theories.
- Computer models of how perception occurs can lead to a misunderstanding of how the mechanisms of perception actually operate.
- How visual illusions help understand perceptual processes.
- Assessing the validity of Gibson’s theory of direct perception compared to constructivist accounts.
- Why the sense of time varies according to circumstances?
- Is memory for past events partially influenced by the situation in which recall takes place?
- Effective cognition is about selecting appropriate information at the right time in the correct order.
- Does subliminal perception exist or is it part of a more complex phenomenon?
- Hierarchical explanations of information flow and parallel distributed processing.
3.0 Developmental psychology
Developmental psychology investigates how children’s behaviour changes over time, by studying experience and behaviour. Change is, for example, studied in a variety of areas including language, intelligence and motor skills. Theories of development propose a number of models to account for how change occurs, and gives pre-eminence either to experience or more enduring criteria. Some approaches take a mid-way position, however, by proposing an interaction between the two. Developmental psychology is an interesting area and relevant to many people, including doctors, teachers and parents. A psychology dissertation on developmental psychology may indeed be useful and well read.
- Are abilities unconnected with numeracy of children with dyscalculia affected by the condition or are they relatively independent?
- The role of face stimuli in assessing the development of the human ventral pathway from infancy to adulthood.
- The extent and role of plasticity in shaping visual cognitive development.
- Explaining change during cognitive development: one type of learning mechanism or diverse learning paradigms for different problems?
- Assessing whether intrinsic factors or the quality of interaction between human caregivers and children lead to successful learning outcomes.
- The extent to which understanding the mechanisms of neural development can be informative as to how early cognition occurs.
- Explaining how evidence for increasing integration of systems during the course of development can be assimilated with the increasing dissociation of structures.
- The development of conversational understanding as a domain-general improvement in processing speed and working-memory capacity in cognitive effort.
- The influence of culture on conversational understanding, where children do not normally communicate with adults.
- Scale errors and action planning in children: Assessing the implications of DeLoache’s findings for understanding the “ what/where ” pathways in the human brain.
- Developmental cognitive neuroscience’s significance for the early detection and treatment of developmental disorders.
- Is Piaget’s theory of cognitive development still a valid theory in the light of modern findings in cognitive neuroscience?
4.0 Social Psychology
Social psychology involves studying how individuals in groups interact. This is achieved through investigating how individual behaviour is influenced by others. Immediate social interactions comprise the main focus of concern in which such behaviours as social influence, attitudes and non-verbal communication etc., may be studied in controlled situations. Below are just some suggestions for psychology dissertations based on social psychology.
- Factors modulating automatic priming effects in relation to social behaviour: assessing magnitude and duration.
- The influence of automatic effects of priming on complex behaviour in real-life situations.
- An overlapping neural network representing the concept of self and other: Implications for sustaining self-integrity and understanding interpersonal relations.
- Behavioural game theory: How players learn from and influence others in relation to strategic thinking.
- Assessing the contribution of reason and emotion in moral judgment through the social intuitionist model.
- Early stable development of implicit social cognition and preference for in-groups: assessing how evaluation is assigned.
- Charting how cognitive neuroscience can inform social psychology.
- Agent-based computational models of collective behaviour: understanding group behaviour from the bottom-up.
- The early onset of non-verbal communication in infants.
- The Behavioural Stimulus Interaction theory and cognitive conflict in approach/avoidance situations: The duration of the devaluation effect.
- The enduring legacy of cognitive dissonance.
5.0 Evolutionary Psychology
Evolutionary psychology seeks to explain psychological attributes through applying evolutionary theory to behaviour that is held to derive from natural selection and adaptation. In this regard, humans have inherited psychological mechanisms from their ancestors that helped solve enduring problems throughout evolutionary time. Such mechanisms are assumed to constrain the behaviour of modern-day individuals. The study of evolutionary psychology enables you to research into history of man, as well and modern day society. Writing a psychology dissertation in this area may prove enjoyable for the author, as well as the reader.
- Is evolutionary psychology merely a field of enquiry or a robust paradigm for investigating human behaviour?
- Investigating whether reciprocal altruism is adequate in explaining altruism in different social situations.
- Why individual traits and cognitive modules fail to explain the complexities of human social behaviour.
- Assessing the relative importance of facial symmetry, averageness and secondary sex characteristics as reliable indicators of mate choice.
- Investigating whether artificially-induced examples of evolutionary game theory can be a valid means of assessing human behaviour in the real world.
- Comparing sex differences in emotional outlook as a function of parental investment theory between principal biological carers and principal non-biological carers.
- Discriminating between phobias and anxiety states that are adaptive compared to those that are learned.
- Further evidence for a dedicated folk psychology module in humans.
- Are human mental abilities better described by a general learning mechanism based on language or a more dedicated mechanism?
- Human cognitive development as a proxy for understanding the evolution of the human brain.
- The executive functions of the frontal cortex are what make humans unique.
- An appraisal of Fodor’s modular account of the brain in the light of recent neuroscientific research.
- A cheater detection module: fact or fantasy?
- Ethnographic examples as a valid measure of universal human abilities.
- Sex differences in attitudes to self as a function of evolutionary constraints.
6.0 Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal psychology is about the scientific study of abnormal behaviour that serves to describe and explain such behaviour in order to affect positive change. Abnormal, in this context, is defined as any person that has psychological traits that deviate from the norm. Abnormal psychology is for those students who want to explore more uncommon conditions. The topics below will make it easier to research for a specific topic on which to write your psychology dissertation.
- Questioning the validity of DSM-IV as a tool for categorising abnormal psychological symptoms.
- Relating subtypes with substance dependence to dissociable networks of disruption in the limbic system.
- The significance of the anterior cingulated cortex for understanding cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.
- The role of a dysfunctional amygdale and ventromedial prefrontal cortex in psychopathology.
- Schizophrenia as a multi-dimensional syndrome.
- The extent to which the use of cannabis leads to deficits in working memory.
- The role of MRI studies for assessing neurobiological theories that schizophrenia is caused by abnormal fronto-temporal lobe connections.
- Can a malfunctioning mirror neuron system sufficiently account for autism or are additional explanations based on cognitive models of social behaviour required to understand the syndrome more fully?
- The probable causes of face processing deficits in Autism Spectrum Disorder: social or visual?
- Is category deficits evidence of category-specific knowledge or a more distributed system of processing?
- Why do schizophrenics tend to experience auditory rather than visual hallucinations?
- Can phobias be treated more effectively by medication, cognitive retraining therapies, behavioural techniques or psychotherapeutic approaches?
- Can the fact that some autistics display isolated talents help explain the syndrome’s cause?
7.0 The Psychology of Personality
Personality is a set of unique features possessed by an individual that, according to a given situation, governs behaviour. The psychology of personality is therefore the study of the similarity and differences that exists among individuals. There have been two main approaches to the study of this subject; those that seek to formulate general characteristic that apply to many individuals and those that are more specific focused. For topics to base your psychology dissertation on, see below:
- Evaluating whether the Health Personality Inventory can predict risk of substance misuse in adolescents.
- The extent to which extroverts differ from introverts involving disagreements in group situations in relation to cognitive dissonance.
- How different forms of perfectionism predict attitudes to success and failure.
- The validity of the “ Big Five ” personality inventories in assessing personality.
- Identification of personality traits at a young age predicts personality profile in adults.
- Creativity as a multi-faceted propensity: identifying the crucial traits and cognitive factors.
- Drugs of choice and personality: differences between sensation seekers and the internally conflicted.
- Personality and decision making: the role of impulsivity and rational thinking.
- The decisiveness of first meeting in assessing the personality traits of others.
- Predicting individuals at risk of suicide through traits associated with extroversion and introversion.
- Which personality inventories are the most effective in assessing personality?
Additional Dissertation Topics
- How does colour influence sporting performance?
- The influence of colour on emotion.
- How does colour and design influence time perception?
- Can language influence perception?
- Does language influence thought? The linguistic-relativity debate.
- Cross-cultural differences in number processing.
- The psychology of religion. A systematic review.
- How does religion impact mental well being?
- The effect of cannabis use in healthy adults.
- The effect of cannabis on creativity.
- Models of memory – a systematic review.
- Can learning memory techniques effectivley improve academic performance?
- Can mindfulness improve mental well being?
- The history of 20th century psychology movements.
- Individual differences and their impact on creativity.
- Creative thought. A systematic review.
- How is creativity influenced by the environment?
- The psychology of happiness. A systematic review.
- Does the use of social media decrease happiness?
- Does exposure to nature increase happiness?
- Can exercise improve happiness?
- The influence of exercise on happiness.
- The influence of exercise on cognitive functioning.
- Can indoor plants increase employee well being and productivity?
- To what extent do video games affect personal well being?
- How does sleep influence personal well being?
- Financial Markets and the Psychology of the Masses
- The Role of Psychology in Modern Day Sport
- Internet Pornography: The Effects on a Generation of Users
- The Problem of Death: How We All Deal With Knowing the End of Our Story
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