Psychological and Behavioural Sciences

Psychological and Behavioural Sciences is a three-year course covering social, developmental, biological and behavioural psychology within the broader context of the Behavioural Sciences.

At St John’s College, we take an experimental approach to this broad-ranging discipline. You have the opportunity to study various topics including cognitive psychology, psychopathology, language, brain mechanisms, family relationships and influences, personality, and group social behaviour. You will also study advanced research methods, statistics, and programming to equip you to engage critically with the scientific literature and prepare you to conduct your research dissertation in the final year.

Subject Video

Subject Video: Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
A short introduction to the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos at St John's College, filmed for St John's September Open Days 2020. Featuring our Director of Studies Dr Elizabeth Michael.

Entry Details

Typical Minimum Entry Requirements

A Level: A*AA

International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level

Essential Subjects: None

Desirable Subjects: Mathematics and science subjects such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics will be useful preparation for this course. Psychology is not a requirement. 

Applicants who are not studying science or mathematics A Levels (or equivalent qualifications) will be expected to demonstrate strong performance in science and mathematics GCSE subjects.

Submitted Work: None

Interview Assessment: None

Admissions Interviews

An example of the type of questions that you might be asked is provided below.

Imagine you are tasked with designing a campaign that encourage healthy eating in young people. How could you frame the key message and how might different message frames impact the outcome?

Here we would like to hear discussion of how individuals might be motivated by different forms of message presentation. It’s quite an open question, so there are lots of interesting potential answers. Remember we are asking in the context of a PBS interview, so try to think about how psychological factors interact with the aims of the campaign. For example, you could think about how individuals might be more motivated to change their behaviour if there are clear potential benefits – this type of factor can be called “message framing”.

Now imagine you have arrived at two alternatives for your campaign: one emphasizes the benefits of healthy eating (gain frame) and one emphasizes the bad outcomes of an unhealthy diet (negative or loss frame). How would you design an experiment to test which of these options is most effective in persuading people to make healthy food choices?

As a follow-up question, we are now asking for something more specific – an experimental design! Although the context of this question might be unfamiliar, we hope that a PBS candidate would be able to think about the features of well-designed experiments and apply them to this new situation. For example, you will need to think about how you are going to measure “healthy food choice” – are you going to ask for a food diary, or look at shopping receipts? Once you have decided on a measure, you can then think about how you will organise your participants – will all participants see all messages, or will each participant only see one type of message? We may also ask you to reflect on your design, so it’s helpful for us if you can also explain why you have made each decision.

Information regarding interview dates and arrangements