The study is made up of four units, structured as a series of curriculum-framing questions that reflect the inquiry nature of the discipline:
- Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?
- Unit 2: How do internal and external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?
- Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?
- Unit 4: How is mental wellbeing supported and maintained?
Each unit deals with specific content contained in areas of study and is designed to enable students to achieve a set of outcomes for that unit. Each outcome is described in terms of key knowledge and is complemented by a set of key science skills.
Unit 1: How are behaviour and mental processes shaped?
In this unit students examine the complex nature of psychological development, including situations where psychological development may not occur as expected. Students examine the contribution that classical and contemporary knowledge from Western and non-Western societies, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, has made to an understanding of psychological development and to the development of psychological models and theories used to predict and explain the development of thoughts, emotions and behaviours. They investigate the structure and functioning of the human brain and the role it plays in mental processes and behaviour and explore brain plasticity and the influence that brain damage may have on a person’s psychological functioning.
A student-directed research investigation into contemporary psychological research is undertaken in Area of Study 3.
Unit 2: How do internal and external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?
In this unit students evaluate the role social cognition plays in a person’s attitudes, perception of themselves and relationships with others. Students explore a variety of factors and contexts that can influence the behaviour of individuals and groups, recognising that different cultural groups have different experiences and values. Students are encouraged to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences within Australian society and how these experiences may affect psychological functioning.
Unit 3: How does experience affect behaviour and mental processes?
In this unit students investigate the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of the functioning of the nervous system and to the understanding of biological, psychological and social factors that influence learning and memory.
Unit 4: How is mental wellbeing supported and maintained?
In this unit students explore the demand for sleep and the influences of sleep on mental wellbeing. They consider the biological mechanisms that regulate sleep and the relationship between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep across the life span. They also study the impact that changes to a person’s sleep-wake cycle and sleep hygiene have on a person’s psychological functioning and consider the contribution that classical and contemporary research has made to the understanding of sleep.
Students consider ways in which mental wellbeing may be defined and conceptualised, including social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) as a multidimensional and holistic framework to wellbeing. They explore the concept of mental wellbeing as a continuum and apply a biopsychosocial approach, as a scientific model, to understand specific phobia. They explore how mental wellbeing can be supported by considering the importance of biopsychosocial protective factors and cultural determinants as integral to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.