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Psychology is the scientific study of all aspects of human behaviour. Psychologists are interested in understanding sensation, perception, cognition, emotion, personality, human development and abnormal behaviour. The programme balances theory and application to provide students with the basic knowledge and research methods required in the study of psychology, and a strong foundation for public service and further studies in psychology and related disciplines. The cross-cultural orientation of the Department’s teaching and research provides students with an international perspective on their future career development in a global setting.

Psychology is closely related to other subject areas that involve the study of human behaviour, and students who are familiar with psychology will find it easy to pick up these other subjects.

Our undergraduate curriculum is comprehensive, offering 40+ courses in various research areas. In addition to basic courses, such as General Psychology, Introduction to Statistics and Research Methods, the following five areas of concentration are available: (1) Cognitive Science: The study of memory, cognition, language, and human intelligence, and their neural underpinnings; (2) Education and Human Development: The psychology of personal growth, educational psychology, and the psychology of children, adolescents and adults from a developmental perspective; (3) Social and Industrial-Organisational Psychology: Social, cross-cultural, and industrial and organizational psychology; (4) Clinical and Health Psychology: Abnormal and health psychology, neuropsychology and related areas; (5) Training in Guided Self-Help for Low Intensity Psychological Interventions: Application of evidence-based psychological principles in the treatment of common mental disorders and the promotion of mental health using the guided self-help approach.

The Study of the Soul

Psychology is the science of mental life, both of its phenomena and of their conditions. The phenomena are such things as we call feelings, desires, cognitions, reasonings, decisions, and the like.

—William James

From an early age, Zoe Wong has been intrigued by the human mind and how it works. So she naturally looked for a programme that would transform her interest into a promising career when she applied for university several years ago. The Psychology programme at CUHK caught her eye, as psychology has been a signature discipline at CUHK since 1982 and ranked in the top 50th among peer programmes internationally.

The programme gradually changed the way Zoe looked at the subject discipline. ‘I used to consider psychology nothing but a humanistic, soft subject. But after four years of studies, I learnt to think more rationally and look for scientific evidence behind every phenomenon.’

This is in agreement with the thinking behind the programme, as Prof. Helene Fung, Chairman of the Department of Psychology, said, ‘Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and the mental processes of individuals. Thus, the Psychology programme was designed to transmit knowledge in psychology and train young people to think critically using such knowledge. We promote psychological research and the values behind it, and it is our aim to prepare young people for professions such as clinical, educational, and industrial-organizational psychology.’

When asked what she found most valuable about the programme, Zoe said, ‘The curriculum design impresses me the most. The Psychology programme emphasizes project learning, examination, as well as research. This approach made me realize that the career path of a psychologist requires as much background knowledge as a robust scientific mindset.’

Professor Fung pointed out that promoting a distinctive Chinese voice is a major theme of the Department’s long-term strategy. ‘We have been instrumental in the development of several Asian journals. We have also edited and authored internationally respected texts on Chinese psychology and cultural influences in psychological processes. We are drawing on our experiences and resources to help develop psychological sciences in China. In short, our Department is a key player in the expansion of psychology beyond its Western origins,’ she said.

The good bonding between students and teachers is another aspect of the programme that appeals to Zoe. ‘Because they are all experts in psychology, faculty members of the Department know how to show genuine care to their students. They listen to our feelings and thoughts, as well as our opinions on and suggestions to the Department.’

She went on to describe her fellow classmates as ‘smart, fun and reliable’. ‘They are great companions for group projects and extra-curricular activities. Together, we design and conduct experiments, enjoy afternoon tea, play sports and join various activities. Most memorable of all, we share successes and failures together. Through all these, we have built close friendships, which are as invaluable as and even more unforgettable than the knowledge we learnt. These have all become important and precious memories of my life.’

Like Zoe, students of Psychology typically came with an intense curiosity in humanity, high motivation to learn, and the exceptional ability of independent, critical thinking and effective use of language. Various scholarships are available to students with outstanding academic performance.

Practicums are available in cognitive neuroscience, educational and developmental psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, clinical/health psychology, and low intensity psychological interventions. According to Professor Fung, many graduates of the programme hold notable jobs in human resources, management, the educational sector and the government.

For those who have already been setting their sights on this programme, Zoe has this cautionary yet sincere note to offer: ‘Think twice before signing up, and then brace yourself for an arduous but nonetheless fulfilling journey. The programme might be different from what you expected and imagined—it has nothing to do with intuition or mind-reading; it is biology, science and statistics all in one.’

Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2020