Psychology Dissertation Topics

A psychology dissertation needs to contribute original knowledge to the discipline. Normally, this is based on previous, well-documented research and should demonstrate a good understanding of the issues concerned. In particular, a good psychology dissertation requires a sound rationale, such as that of addressing a gap in the research literature. The dissertation usually has to follow a specific standardised format, and involves attempting to support or confirm a hypothesis based on the investigator’s individual insights and prior research in the field. However, qualitative psychology dissertations attempt to explore and answer a specific research question rather than confirming a hypothesis. 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. Perhaps most importantly, there needs to be critical analysis of past research to highlight the need for the dissertation, but also critical evaluation of the study conducted for the dissertation itself. 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. Alternatively, for qualitative research, the discussion and conclusion need to discuss whether the research question has been fully explored. If you are looking to complete a psychology dissertation, here are some ideas of topics that you could research:

Cognitive Psychology Dissertation Topics

Cognitive psychology investigates the way the human brain represents information. It seeks to explore the underlying processes involved through experimentation, 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 dissertation on the area of cognitive psychology, below are just some psychology dissertation topics 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 the selectivity of neurons to high-level information processing, such as during facial recognition.
• 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.
• The sum of its parts? 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: does the evidence reflect this?
• 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 contemporary 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: application of evidence to neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
• The relationship between working memory and attention: bias in visual 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 and more recent cognitive theories.
• Why does the sense of time vary according to circumstances?
• Is memory for past events partially influenced by the situation or context 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.
• Can fMRI measures be used to accurately identify and distinguish deceptive information from guilty knowledge?
• The reliability, validity, and usefulness of research findings from cognitive psychology applied to real-life behaviour and cognition.
• The Network Neuroscience Theory: is general intelligence in humans a consequence of individual differences in neural network structure and architecture?

Developmental Psychology Dissertation Topics

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?
• How young children learn and thrive when their childhood is shaped by positive, secure relationships with knowledgeable adults, who are able to support their child’s learning and development.
• How the notion of plasticity in child development can account for the child’s ability to change in response to negative or positive life experiences.
• The acquirement of culture and biological growth is essential for child development.

Social Psychology Dissertation Topics

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, particularly that of traditional laboratory experiments, but also field experiments. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend in social psychology towards the use of qualitative research methods, such as that of interviews or focus groups, which provide more in-depth explanations of social psychology. Below are just some suggestions for psychology dissertation topics 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, and the implications for real-life social interaction.
• 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 in terms of integrating social dimensions of cognition and knowledge of neural networks and mechanisms.
• Agent-based computational models of collective behaviour: understanding group behaviour from the bottom-up.
• The early onset of non-verbal communication in infants: nature or nature?
• The Behaviour Stimulus Interaction (BSI) theory and cognitive conflict in approach/avoidance situations: The duration of the devaluation effect.
• The enduring legacy of cognitive dissonance.

Evolutionary Psychology Dissertation Topics

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 as the application of evolutionary psychology to many areas of modern day society, such as organisations. 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.
• Humans engage in social exchange behaviour using the same cognitive reasoning that enables them to engage in everything else they do.
• 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.
• How can evolutionary psychology explain anomalies in human decision-making?
• Evolutionary psychology on group behaviour can explain the way in which humans behave in organisations whether that behaviour is rational or irrational.
• Is Darwin’s theory of sexual selection still applicable for explaining cross-cultural activities and the human expression of emotions?

Abnormal Psychology dissertation topics

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-V 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.
• A study of 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?
• Assessing the symptoms of ADHD in adults and in children: Is there a different ADHD disorder for adults?
• How do cognitive processes in individuals with schizophrenia differ to those of an individual with typical cognitive processes?
• How, and in what ways is Intellectual development disorders (IDD) different to Autism Spectrum Disorders?

The Psychology of Personality Dissertation Topics

Personality is a set of unique features possessed by an individual that, according to a given situation, will govern their behaviour. The psychology of personality is therefore the study of the similarity and differences that exist amongst various individuals. There have been two main approaches to the study of this subject area; those that seek to formulate general characteristics that apply to many individuals and those that are more focused upon the nuances of personality traits. For psychology dissertation topics to base your dissertation on, see below:

• Evaluating whether the Health Personality Inventory can predict risk of substance misuse in adolescents.
• In relation to cognitive dissonance, to what extent do extroverts and introverts differ when involved in group discussion.
• To what extent can different forms of perfectionism predict attitudes to success and failure?
• Can the use of personality inventories accurately assess different personality traits?
• Can the identification of personality traits at a young age predict personality profiles 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.
• First impressions and the impact they have on assessing personality traits.
• Predicting individuals at risk of suicide through identification of personality traits associated with extroversion and introversion.
• Which personality inventories are the most effective in assessing personality?
• To what extent can personality change over a period of time?
• The effectiveness of using personality inventories for identifying personality disorders
• The effectiveness of the current approach used to diagnosis personality disorders

Additional Psychology Dissertation Topics

• To what extent can 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.
• The cross-cultural differences in number processing.
• The psychology of religion: a systematic review.
• How does religion impact mental wellbeing?
• The physical and mental impact of cannabis use in healthy adults.
• The effect of cannabis on creativity.
• Models of memory: a systematic review.
• Can learning memory techniques effectively improve academic performance?
• Can mindfulness improve mental wellbeing?
• The history of 20th century psychology movements.
• Individual personality differences and their impact on creativity.
• Creative thought: a systematic review.
• How is creativity influenced by environment?
• The psychology of happiness: a systematic review.
• Does the use of social media decrease happiness?
• To what extent does exposure to nature increase happiness?
• Can exercise improve happiness?
• The influence of exercise on wellbeing.
• The influence of exercise on cognitive functioning.
• To what extent do indoor plants increase employee productivity?
• To what extent do video games affect personal wellbeing?
• How does sleep influence personal wellbeing?
• Financial markets and the impact on 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.
• The link between socio-economic status and being able to access therapy.
• To what extent can executive function become impaired by emotion?
• The use of effective therapies for psychological conditions.

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