Psychology Getting Started

For many students starting Psychology, it is a brand new subject and so there is a lot to learn from scratch. At the start of the course in September, you will receive lots of information including a textbook, but in order to prepare yourself better (particularly if you are not sure what it is all about), this page will give you some useful links for getting started.

Reading around the subject is highly recommended and these books will give you a head start.

Recommended reading

There are a number of very interesting and useful books out there, which would help to get you started in Psychology. Some of them are quire academic texts, but others will give you a feel for the subject without giving you a headache!

GrossGross, R. (2010) Psychology: The Science of the Mind and Behaviour

Although quite intimidating, this is a very useful reference text for any student of Psychology. It is currently in its sixth edition but the fifth is quite similarly up to date. It would be a useful book for any student interested in Psychology and considering it for further study at university as it covers some key areas of interest in psychological research and would be something you’d come back to frequently throughout your A Level studies.

Jarrett, Rough GuideJarrett, 30-sec PsychologyJarrett, C. (2011) The Rough Guide to Psychology, and
Jarrett, C. (2011) 30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute

Both these texts by Dr Christian Jarrett come highly recommended as a way of dipping into Psychology quickly. The Rough Guide, is as it suggests an overview of the history of Psychology, while “30-Second Psychology” helps with some of the key ideas which come up in the course.

SacksSacks, O. (2007) The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat

This well known book is an investigation into some of the most interesting psychological case studies of the last century. It is focused on psychological problems such as amnesia, phantom limbs, autism, agnosia, aphasia and Korsakoff’s syndrome. It is sensitively written and raises questions about the intricate sophistication of the human brain and matters of self-identity. This would be a recommended read for anyone interested in the question of what makes us human.

DamasioDamasio, A. (2006) Descartes’ Error

Starting with the fascinating case study of Phineas Gage, Descartes’ Error is an exploration of human emotion and its critical relationship with the body. Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician, who famously declared “I think, therefore I am” was a proponent of dualism, the belief that body and mind were separate. Damasio, a neuroscientist, uses his book to persuade his reader how wrong that notion is and uses neuropsychological case studies to show how fundamental emotion is to being human. To find out more about Phineas Gage, see here:

MilgramMilgram, S. (1997) Obedience to Authority

Although it has been over 40 years since Milgram’s obedience experiments, his results continue to fascinate people. His simple and deceptive design meant that he could show 65% of his sample were prepared to give a potentially fatal electric shock to a harmless stranger if they were being ordered to do it. Milgram showed that obedience to authority was a strong overwhelming pull in human beings and that all of us were capable of doing terrible things if we were in the “right” situation. His results had huge implications for explaining some of the most terrible crimes, including the Mai Lin massacre in Vietnam and the Holocaust during the Second World War.

ZimbardoZimbardo, P. (2007) The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil

Despite having just turned 78, Philip Zimbardo is still writing books and giving views on the controversial area of evil and tyranny. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, which showed that when put in a mock prison, randomly allocated guards turned nasty, is still one of the most controversial pieces of psychological research ever carried out. The Lucifer Effect draws upon this research but also looks at the events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where American soldiers (men and women) were found to have treated their prisoners in terrible and degrading ways. Zimbardo, who acted as an expert witness at their trial, makes the claim that anyone is capable of evil.

WisemanWiseman, R. (2011) Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there

For the sceptics among us, this recently published book is a review of some of Richard Wiseman’s research into paranormal phenomena, including how we are deceived by magic tricks and why people believe in ghosts. Wiseman sets out to claim that there is no such thing as paranormal phenomena, so this is a pretty good book for those of you who are scared of things that go bump in the night...

Things to Do

Some of you will have heard of TED. It stands for Technology Entertainment Design and what started as a small conference has become a global phenomenon, with many lectures from a number of schools of thought being made freely available.  If you have an interest in Psychology, you may want to find out more by heading to the theme “How the Mind Works” and hear lectures from big names in Psychology such as Philip Zimbardo, Daniel Tammett, Oliver Sacks, VS Ramachandran, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh or Dan Dennett.

Useful Websites

The first most useful site for any of our students is Moodle (, where extra reading and information can be found. You will be given an enrolment key to use this when you arrive on the course.

The second useful place to go is the AQA website. Although it is not a fascinating read, it would be useful for you to explore the syllabus that we will be following so that you are clear about what you need to know in each unit for the exams. The specification from 2015 can be found here. (