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Psychology research into cognitive overload when rock climbing 

Psychology lecturer Professor Deak Helton and honours student Kathryn Darling researched how people communicate and what they remember when rock climbing. They found that cognitive overload could affect search and rescue efforts in this environment.

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and associated biological, cognitive and social processes in humans and other animals. It is a rapidly developing field touching on all aspects of human life. Advances in neuro-imaging and molecular biology are rapidly enhancing our understanding of how the brain works, while increasingly complex theories are being developed to understand both normal and abnormal development and the behaviour of individuals and groups. Major advances are being made in understanding and treating psycho-pathologies such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addictions.

Psychology students are trained to:

  • think independently and critically about psychological issues
  • become knowledgeable about the key methods, important findings and major theories of psychology
  • learn how to distinguish genuine findings from implausible and suspect claims
  • understand modern scientific research in psychology.

Psychology may be taken as a major subject for a Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science degree. It may also be taken as a subject in Bachelor of CommerceBachelor of LawsBachelor of Music, and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees.

Why study Psychology at UC?

UC is ranked in the top 150 universities in the world for Psychology (out of 3,500 universities evaluated — QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015).

The Department of Psychology offers a balanced and comprehensive set of courses, excellent opportunities to undertake work in experimental psychology, and has a nationally and internationally recognised postgraduate applied programme in Clinical Psychology, leading to professional registration.

UC has more than 25 specialist academic staff offering a diverse range of research and teaching options. With a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate students we seek to foster close working relationships between staff and students. Undergraduate students from 100-level courses onwards can become involved in research projects and may make significant contributions to the discipline.

The department provides students with modern computer-based laboratories, excellent digital recording and editing equipment, an extensive library of psychological tests, laboratories for human performance, human robot interaction, animal behaviour and neuroscience, perception and cognition and social, developmental, and applied psychology.

UC has a Psychology Clinic where clinical students receive training, and has working relationships with the Canterbury District Health Board and the Department of Corrections, offering opportunities for research and clinical internships.

Recommended preparation

Psychology is presented and taught as a science, but students from both arts and science backgrounds find the study of Psychology an interesting and worthwhile challenge.

Being able to write clearly and lucidly is a key skill for psychologists. Increasingly, Psychology has come to incorporate findings from neuroscience, making some background knowledge in biology very useful. Students use statistical methods in analysing and treating research data, meaning a background in statistics is helpful. Competence in mathematics at Year 11 and computer skills using Microsoft Windows are assumed.


See all Psychology courses

100-level courses

There are two first-year courses:

PSYC105 is taught in the first semester and PSYC106 is taught in the second semester. Both PSYC105 and PSYC106 include weekly two-hour laboratory classes. These labs offer the opportunity for students to experience first-hand some of the phenomena discussed in lectures and the text, and also incorporate an introduction to the research methods and statistics employed in Psychology.

Taken together, the two courses provide a broad general introduction to Psychology. As the department regards them as essential joint prerequisites for 200-level Psychology courses, first-year students are strongly advised to enrol in both courses.

200-level and beyond

At 200-level courses are offered in cognition, developmental psychology, personality, sensation and perception, and behavioural neuroscience as well as a core course in research design and statistics (PSYC206 Research Design and Statistics). 300-level courses cover abnormal psychology, adult development, biological psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, family psychology, health psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, learning, judgement and decision making, and environmental psychology plus an advanced course in research methods.

For a major in Psychology four courses (including PSYC206) are required at 200-level. A Psychology major requires 165 points total, including at least 75 points at 300-level and 60 at 200-level. In addition, to be eligible to enter postgraduate courses in Psychology, students must have passed PSYC344 Research Methods. To be eligible to apply for the Clinical Psychology programme, students must have passed PSYC335 Abnormal Psychology.

Bachelor of Arts students may wish to complete a minor in Psychology. This requires passing PSYC105 and PSYC106 and any further 45 points in advanced PSYC courses (200 and 300-level courses).

Further study

At postgraduate level, UC offers a number of popular and highly regarded programmes enabling students to conduct advanced investigation and research in the area of Psychology (from honours right through to doctoral level - see the programme list at the top of this page), as well as specialist programmes in:

Please note that some of these are limited entry programmes and may require a special application by deadline. For further assistance, please contact the appropriate student advisor (College of Science or College of Education, Health and Human Development).

Career opportunities

Psychologists have a unique mix of skills. As well as a basic knowledge about people, as individuals and in groups, they are required to have excellent writing and communication skills, the ability to analyse and understand quantitative data, and a critical and objective way of approaching problems.

Psychology graduates hold research and policy analyst positions in government departments and other large public sector organisations, as well as positions of responsibility in a variety of settings, including many private sector businesses. Many graduates are employed in public relations, teaching and training, District Health Boards, the New Zealand Defence Forces, the Department of Corrections and in social service agencies such as employment services, social welfare, counselling services and health promotion.

Further specialist opportunities open up for those who have completed postgraduate training in Clinical Psychology or other specialisms, leading to professional registration as a psychologist. Clinical psychologists work with individuals and their families where there are difficulties in adjustment and coping.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Psychology.

More information

Department of Psychology
Phone +64 3 364 2902

Psychology/Sociology Building - see campus maps

Postal address
Department of Psychology
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand
Logan heyes

Logan Heyes

'The thing I enjoy the most is seeing that snapshot of life, on a sub-nanometre scale...'

Jennine bailey

Jennine Bailey

"I never imagined that as an undergraduate in a practical, performance-based course I would be able to study a completely research-based master’s."