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VCE Science

Psychology Unit 1: How are Behaviour and Mental Processes Shaped?


There are no prerequisites for this unit.

Course Description

Students investigate the structure and functioning of the human brain and the role it plays, how our brain might change over time, how we develop as individuals and what factors might influence our psychological functioning. Students are also introduced to a range of classical and contemporary theories and research.

Areas of Study

How Does the Brain Function?

In this area of study, students examine how our understanding of brain structure and function has changed over time and how the brain enables us to interact with the external world around us. Students learn about the structure, location and function of specific brain areas and how the brain interacts. Students will learn about brain damage and brain plasticity.

What Influences Psychological Development?

This area of study explores how our biology, social environment and personal psychological factors interact in a complex way. Theories of how we develop as individuals and factors that influence our social, emotional and cognitive development are investigated. The key idea of heredity (genetics) VS the environment (everything that surrounds us as we grow and develop) is explored as an interactive influence. The development of psychological disorders is also investigated.

Student-Directed Research Investigation

Students will complete an in-depth individual research investigation into one of the following topics related to brain functions and/or psychological development: biopsychology, the brain and use of technology, cognition (thinking, memory processes and learning), psychological development, mental health, and the connection between thoughts, feelings and behaviour. As part of this investigation, students must read and refer to two contemporary psychological studies or research techniques in their written report.


Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)
Describe changing understandings of brain structure and function, explain how the brain co-ordinates different functions and explain how plasticity and damage can change psychological functioning.

Tasks are selected by the teacher from the following:

  • A report of a practical activity.
  • A research investigation.
  • A brain structure modelling activity.
  • A logbook of practical activities.
  • Analysis of data/results including generalisations/conclusions.
  • Media analysis/response.
  • Problem solving involving psychological concepts, skills and/or issues.
  • A test comprising multiple choice and/or short answer and/or extended response.
  • A reflective learning journal/blog related to selected activities or in response to an issue.
Identify the varying influences of nature and nurture on a person’s psychological development, and explain different factors that may lead to typical or atypical psychological development.
Investigate and communicate a substantiated response to a question related to brain functions and/or development, including reference to at least two contemporary psychological studies and/or research techniques.
A report of an investigation into brain functioning and/or development that can be presented in a range of formats: digital, oral or written.

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: