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MSc Advanced Psychology

Why we're great

  • Explore fascinating real-world applications of psychological issues
  • Gain full use of our virtual reality suites, babylab and observation suites
  • We are ranked top 20 in the UK for research quality (REF 2014)

Course options2017-18

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Psychology
Fee (Home/EU): £6,125
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719

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About the course

Explore the real-world applications of psychological research, from memory and children’s use of video games to using websites for the public communication of scientific knowledge. On this course, you gain a deeper understanding of the contemporary issues that researchers are addressing today.

Our MSc Advanced Psychology provides specialist training across a broad range of core areas in the field, such as developmental psychology, neuroscience and neuropsychology, perception and cognition, and social psychology.

Since you study the topics our researchers are currently working on, exact themes are determined by staff interests. Examples of topics studied include:

  • Mirror neurons and the representation of touch
  • Augmenting human memory with technology
  • Aggression and solitary behaviour in children
  • Communicating emotions in speech
  • Trypophobia and the fear of holes
  • Facial recognition

Our research is challenging and ground-breaking, with 90% rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), placing us in the top 15 in the UK. We are supported by some of the most prestigious funding bodies, including the European Commission and the Leverhulme Trust.

We are a warm and friendly Department, and we wish to welcome both psychology graduates who have recently completed their studies, and mature students who may wish to upgrade their qualifications, refresh their CV, or return to academic study after a period of time away from education.

Our expert staff

Our academic staff include award-winning teachers and prize-winning researchers who are international experts in their own research areas.

The Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Group are researching attention, language, decision-making, and memory. Recent projects have investigated the psychology of energy reduction, the enhancement of human memory through technology, and improvements in the usability and design of transport maps.

The Social and Health Psychology Group work on motivations, needs, intercultural contact, and sexual attraction. Recent projects include the impacts of living and studying abroad, and how personal relative deprivation is linked to problem gambling.

The Cognitive and Sensory Neuroscience Group research brain function and human behaviour. Recently they have been working on projects on the neural processes underlying language production, how motivations are communicated through tone of voice, and how the brain performs 3D vision. They previously developed the BioAid mobile phone app that turns an iPhone into a biologically inspired hearing aid.

Our department is expanding, and has recently appointed a number of excellent researchers whose expertise increases the diversity and depth of our skills base.

Specialist facilities

We are committed to giving you the best access to state-of-the-art facilities in higher education, housed entirely within our purpose-built psychology building on our Colchester Campus:

  • Dedicated laboratories including a virtual reality suite and an observation suite
  • Specialist areas for experimental psychology, visual and auditory perception, developmental psychology and social psychology
  • Study the development of perceptual and cognitive abilities in infants in our Babylab
  • Our multimillion pound Centre for Brain Science (CBS) contains specialist laboratories, office space for research students, and research rooms and social spaces which foster opportunities for innovation, training, and collaboration

Your future

With the skills and knowledge you acquire from studying within our Department of Psychology, you will find yourself in demand from a wide range of employers. Our graduates have been employed in clinical psychology, educational psychology, criminal and forensic psychology.

We also have excellent links with the research community; we are recognised by the ESRC as providing excellent postgraduate training and are an accredited Doctoral Training Centre, offering several studentships.

Our recent PhD students have taken up post-doctoral positions in other top UK universities and international universities (in the US, Italy and Australia), as well as being appointed to lectureships.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

An advanced survey of major topics in contemporary experimental social psychology. Provide critical analysis of the relevant theory and research including: motivation, emotion, self and identity, intergroup bias, automaticity, existential psychology, social justice, evolutionary psychology and health.

In this module you complete a research dissertation with a maximum of 10,000 words, written up as a report. You have a lot of flexibility as there are a wide variety of topics that you can choose to research. You report on the results of an original psychological research study carried out under the supervision of a staff member. A good research report will look like a psychology study reported in a peer-reviewed journal (such as Cognitive Neuropsychology, or Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology).

Be inspired by the current research of the academics in your department, and examine major contemporary topics in individual differences and developmental psychology. In doing so, you’ll gain an insight into the major unresolved questions and controversies in the field, as well as the opportunity to engage critically and scientifically with relevant theory and research, in preparation for the research project module.

Let us reiterate it: this module is special! Members of staff who significantly contributed to cutting-edge research in specific areas of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology will guide you through their findings and will attack the main questions faced by researchers in the field. Therefore, the topics covered during the module will be reflecting the research activity and expertise of staff in the cognitive and sensory neuroscience group. They will provide you with insights into debates and controversies in their area of research, as well as pinpointing the most recent achievements. You will elaborate both theoretical and empirical aspects discussed during the lectures and prove your compelling understanding in both written and oral work.

Be inspired by the current research of the academics in your department, and examine major contemporary topics in individual differences and developmental psychology. In doing so, you’ll gain an insight into the major unresolved questions and controversies in the field, as well as the opportunity to engage critically and scientifically with relevant theory and research, in preparation for the research project module.

This module is your chance to investigate the main research areas and methods used in investigating how the brain works. It asks difficult questions such as how mental processes like perception, memory, language and emotion are implemented within the brain and will provide a solid background in brain structure at a molecular and cellular level.

Knowing how to manage your research effectively will be invaluable when producing quality work throughout your course. This module will teach you how to critically review existing literature, communicate effectively to a scientific audience and take into account ethical issues. You’ll then have the opportunity to put this into practice, preparing your own presentations and research proposal

Examine how neurologically acquired disturbances of the processing of words can be interpreted within (and also inform) theories of ‘normal’ cognitive processing, and be introduced to the approaches, methods, and assumptions of cognitive neuropsychology. You will focus on spelling and writing, spoken word production, aspects of auditory word processing, and aspects of word and object comprehension. On completing the module, you’ll have acquired a critical understanding of the assumptions and methodology of cognitive neuropsychology, the contrasts between different types of disorders, and will be able to interpret acquired impairments in terms of cognitive models of normal lexical processing.

Examine at an advanced level, the in-depth understanding of theoretically influential papers within a chosen specialised area of psychology. You will develop a critical awareness of advanced theoretical ideas in relation to a background of empirical knowledge, as well as refining your written articulation and critiquing skills.

Become familiar with most of the present-day methods used in Cognitive Neuroscience. Through hands on experience you will gain a practical knowledge of the methods used at Essex (such as eye tracking) and be exposed to career opportunities available within the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.

If you want to kick your work-related skills up a notch, and gain some valuable practical experience, this module is for you. You’ll work in teams on three different mini-projects, applying graduate psychology research skills to real-world and work-related challenges. Each project will involve collecting data, pitching ideas in group presentations, analysing your findings, and individual report writing.

Build on your existing knowledge of cognitive psychology, attention, and perception, in this final year module, which will introduce you to contemporary issues, debates, and the empirical studies that help decide these debates. By taking a critical look at primary accounts, quality journals, and attending advanced seminars and practical classes, you will explore the fundamental issues relating to visual attention and active vision, and how these mechanisms contribute to everyday behaviour.

What are the major developments since Freud? How did the British object-relations school pioneer research and treatment of primitive states of mind? Explore key developments of psychoanalytic thought following Freud, with emphasis on the British object-relations tradition. Understand the problems when comparing different analytic and psychoanalytic schools.

What is the unconscious? And how does it influence the behaviour of groups? Explore how a psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the dynamics of groups and organisations. Understand the classic theories of Freud and Bion, then develop perspectives on how psychoanalytic ideas explain individual and group behaviour.

What psychological complexities are involved when working with people whose human rights were violated? How do you, as a worker, interact with them? In what way do wider contexts impact on these interactions? Explore the psychosocial parameters of human rights violations. Engage with issues, debates and literature on psychosocial perspectives of human rights.

How do you critically assess psychoanalytic theories? Or extend psychoanalytic knowledge outside the psychoanalytic setting? Expand your knowledge of key psychoanalytic concepts by exploring their use in various situations, clinical and non-clinical. Test the limits of these theories on a contemporary topic, building skills that you use in your dissertation.

How has advertising tried to understand the consumer? What challenges are posed by international advertising? Or by the arrival of new media and alternative delivery systems? Explore the history of advertising in Britain and North America, then learn how to analyse and theorise about advertising and the wider creative industries.

What are the different approaches to qualitative data analysis? And when should qualitative interviews be used? Learn about the qualitative research process, including design, selection of interview subjects and analysis, so that you are equipped to tackle your own qualitative research in the future.

How do we challenge our conventional understanding of crime? And what can we do about this? Examine the history of criminology and learn about the contemporary debates. Study topics like criminalisation, social deviance, and surveillance and punishment. Look ahead with analysis of new work by leading authors in the field.


  • Your modules are taught through lectures, laboratory practicals, tutorials, seminars, fieldwork, independent reading and research projects
  • We host a very active programme of research seminars


  • Full-year modules are most often examined using a three-hour examination, and half-year modules by a two-hour examination


  • An original psychological study carried out under the supervision of a staff member
  • Maximum of 10,000 words, written up as a research report

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UK entry requirements

You need a first, upper second or high lower second class honour degree, or equivalent, in psychology or a related subject.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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