University Of Otago Psychology

Psychology is the science of behaviour and the brain, exploring the complex way humans and other animals interact with the world and each other.

Psychology examines the behavioural, perceptual, mental and emotional processes taking place in our brains. Psychologists also address applied topics as diverse as aircraft safety, eye-witness testimony, industrial relations, intellectual disabilities, hyperactivity in children, and other clinical issues.

You must choose a qualification to enrol, but you can easily change it later.

Why study Psychology?

The Department of Psychology at Otago has a highly-regarded teaching programme and is internationally renowned for the strength of its research.

The research conducted in the Department of Psychology addresses problems in areas as diverse as sleep disorders, industrial relations, phobias, drug rehabilitation, aircraft safety, hyperactivity in children, how nonhuman animals think, as well as how the brain works.

  • Learn about human behaviour
  • Start a challenging career
  • Develop research skills in the social and behavioural sciences
  • Improve career flexibility with Psychology in your degree

Psychology is a very popular course. In it, you will learn:

  • how the brain stores memories and processes information
  • why drugs, head injuries and hormones influence behaviour
  • how parents’ behaviour influences their children’s development
  • how our abilities change from childhoodto old age
  • how emotions affect our reasoning
  • how prejudice and stereotypes arise
  • what underlies disorders such as schizophrenia and dementia

Background required

Any University of Otago student can take first year papers in Psychology. Secondary school English, Biology and Statistics are useful butnot essential.

Careers opportunities

In addition to specialising in Psychology, a degree in Psychology is useful for a wide range of other disciplines as well. Students take Psychology as part of degrees in Law, Marketing, Neuroscience, English, Physical Education, Management, Applied Science, Philosophy, Education, or Health Sciences.

There are many careers in Psychology in New Zealand and overseas, including positions as scientists in universities, government agencies, organisations, and industry. Otago graduates are studying pilot error in aviation, learning deficits in children, the causes of rugby injuries, the biological basis of memory, and the effectiveness of alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

Otago also offers training in Clinical Psychology for those wanting to work in health-related services. Clinical Psychologists work in hospitals, private practice, and in the Department of Corrections. Many of our Clinical Psychology graduates work for a time overseas – particularly in the UK or Australia.

What does first-year Psychology involve?

There are two first-year papers, PSYC 111 (First Semester) and PSYC 112 (Second Semester). These papers have lecture and laboratory components and cover a wide range of topics such as:

Biopsychology – How do sleep, hormone levels, and drugs affect our behaviour?

Development – Why do our abilities and behaviours change with age?

Perception – What do our senses tell our brains?

Social psychology – How do people affect one another?

Abnormal psychology – When do we decide that behaviour is ‘abnormal’, and what causes such problems?

Neuropsychology – How do our brains work?

Learning – How do our experiences influence our behaviour?

Cognition – How do we remember things, solve problems, and use language?

Applied psychology – Can we improve pilot selection or enhance workplace safety?

If I major in Psychology what other subjects might I consider?

That depends on your interests and strengths. Here are a few examples, but there are many other possibilities.

Student A takes Biology and Chemistry because she enjoys science.

Student B takes Management and Marketing because he plans to work in industry or an organisation.

Student C takes Mathematics and Computer Science because he is fascinated by artificial intelligence.

Student D is interested in issues of social change. She adds Politics and Philosophy to her degree.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Contact us

Department of Psychology
William James Building
275 Leith Walk
Dunedin 9016
Tel +64 3 479 7644
Email [email protected]