• Course Introduction

        • Time: 46 hours
        • Free Certificate
        This course introduces you to the fundamental principles of psychology and the major subjects of psychological inquiry. It will provide you with the tools necessary to study psychology and presents a sampling of the major areas of psychology research. We begin with a short overview of psychology's development as an academic discipline and then review the principal methodologies most commonly deployed in its study. The units are arranged around broad areas of research, including emotion, development, memory, and psychopathology. We will focus on well-substantiated research and current trends within these categories.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: Scientific Foundations of Psychology

          "Psychology has a long past, but a short history." This statement by Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850–1909), a pioneer of psychological research, captures the history of psychology as a discipline. Although it is a relatively new, formal academic subject, psychology seeks to answer questions that have been around since the beginning of humanity.

          In this unit, we review the history of psychology as a discipline. We explore its ancient philosophical, prescientific roots and recent reincarnation as a scientific field of study.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

        • Unit 2: Biological Bases of Behavior

          What makes you "you"? This question gets to the heart of one of the longest-running debates in psychology: the nurture versus nature dispute, which asks whether humans are a product of their environment or of their biological makeup. While it is unlikely that we will ever conclusively answer this question, research has provided us with some important insights that will help you understand the arguments on both sides of the debate.

          Early psychologists considered the brain a black box that controlled certain processes, although they did not know how to identify these processes or how the brain controlled them. This is no longer the case; now, scientists insist that the psychological mind and physiological body are fully integrated with one another. Today, knowledge of the biological origins of our psychological states is integral to the study of psychology.

          In this unit, we explore biopsychology, which includes the role of genes, the structure and functions of neurons, the parts of the nervous system, and the endocrine system. Finally, we examine the role and function of sleep and the use of substances that may alter our states of consciousness.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

        • Unit 3: Sensation and Perception

          Our five senses – smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch – provide us with information about the world. We must convert this information into a form that is usable by the brain, so it can interpret what those sensations mean. The process of collecting information through the sense organs is known as sensation, and the process of making sense of that information is known as perception.

          We usually think of sensation as a physiological process, whereas perception is psychological. Since sensation relies on the elements of information that are out in the world, we consider it a bottom-up process. Since perception relies on past experience and knowledge to aid in understanding, we call it a top-down process.

          In this unit, we highlight vision and hearing because humans tend to rely most heavily on these senses. Most of the research on sensation and perception has focused on these two senses, so these are the senses we understand the most fully. We will wrap up with the remaining senses, plus a sense that may not seem like a sense – the sense of balance.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

        • Unit 4: Learning

          Psychologists are concerned with how people learn from experience and create memories. During the first half of the 20th century, behaviorists focused on how animals and humans made associations between stimuli and between their own behavior and its consequences. In this unit, we draw from behaviorism to learn the basic principles of learning.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 10 hours.

        • Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology

          Psychologists are concerned with how people create memories. During the second half of the 20th century, psychologists established the field of cognitive psychology, which explored topics such as decision-making and problem-solving; language acquisition and use; intelligence and creative thinking; memory formation, storage, and retrieval; In this unit, we draw from cognitive psychology and neuropsychology to learn the basic principles of cognitive psychology.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

        • Unit 6: Developmental Psychology

          The physical, mental, and emotional changes an individual undergoes throughout the course of their lifetime raise a number of questions about who we are and how we develop as human beings. One question is whether our traits are stable or changeable throughout our lifetime; another is whether development is a continuous, gradual process or a set of discrete stages.

          Although these questions remain unresolved, we impart some ways you can think critically about these issues in this unit. We also provide an overview of human development, from infancy to old age.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

        • Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality

          In this unit, we focus on personality psychology, which studies how our personalities develop and how our experiences and circumstances shape who we are. We will examine some theories that explain why we behave and think in consistent ways and discover how psychologists assess personality traits.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 8: Clinical Psychology

          Today, we commonly think of psychology as a way to treat mental disorders. However, psychopathology, the field of study Sigmund Freud made famous, is the branch of psychology that addresses these disorders. Clinical psychologists have since refined the field, developing more sophisticated methods for diagnosis and treatment so clients can maintain a normal lifestyle.

          Millions of people live with various types of mental illness and mental health problems, such as social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, drug addiction, and personality disorders. Treatment options include medication and psychotherapy.

          In this unit, we explore different perspectives on psychological disorders and learn to identify characteristic symptoms for each. Think about all the factors that may contribute to and alleviate the major mental disorders discussed. What is the interplay between biology, social support systems, and other environmental factors in how human beings cope?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 9: Social Psychology

          Human beings are social animals. As psychologists, we acknowledge this fact by studying how our social environment impacts our emotional and mental functioning. This discipline is called social psychology – the focus of this unit. We will discuss the social behavior of individuals, groups, and entire societies, as well as how our relationships with these entities influence us as individuals.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

        • Unit 10: Industrial and Organizational Psychology

          In this unit, we investigate industrial and organizational psychology, also known as I/O psychology. This subfield is concerned with studying behavior in an organizational setting (such as in the workplace) and using principles of psychology to understand work behaviors. This is a rather new subfield within psychology, but it is growing quickly due to its interesting line of inquiry.

          Psychologists divide the subfield of I/O psychology into industrial and organizational psychology – the terms are not interchangeable. Industrial psychology focuses on job analysis, such as describing and measuring a task or a job. As such, people specializing in industrial psychology are often tasked with writing job requirements, interviewing and hiring employees, training new employees, evaluating performance, and assuring that an organization abides by equality laws.

          Organizational psychologists, on the other hand, are mostly concerned with the social aspects of work life. This includes determining how we ensure job satisfaction, examining the effectiveness of different leadership or management styles, exploring work-family balance options, and conducting diversity training.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

        • Unit 11: Health and Stress Psychology

          In this unit, we focus on health and stress in the workplace and in our everyday lives more broadly. First, we define stressors, and then we connect stress and illness. As you work through this unit, think about the stressors in your life and the coping mechanisms you use to handle them. How does the information presented here shed insight into how you handle stress? Is stress always negative?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

        • Study Guide

          This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walk through the learning outcomes, and list important vocabulary terms. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

          If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

        • Certificate Final Exam

          Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

          To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

          Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

        • Saylor Direct Credit

          Take this exam if you want to earn college credit for this course. This course is eligible for college credit through Saylor Academy's Saylor Direct Credit Program.

          The three Saylor Direct Credit quizzes are optional, but recommended to help you prepare for the final exam. You can take them at any time and they do not require a proctor. Quiz grades will not affect your grade on the final exam.

          The Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam requires a proctoring fee of $5. To pass this course and earn a Proctor-Verified Course Certificate and official transcript, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on the Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam. Your grade for this exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again a maximum of 3 times, with a 14-day waiting period between each attempt.

          We are partnering with SmarterProctoring to help make the proctoring fee more affordable. We will be recording you, your screen, and the audio in your room during the exam. This is an automated proctoring service, but no decisions are automated; recordings are only viewed by our staff with the purpose of making sure it is you taking the exam and verifying any questions about exam integrity. We understand that there are challenges with learning at home - we won't invalidate your exam just because your child ran into the room!


          1. Desktop Computer
          2. Chrome (v74+)
          3. Webcam + Microphone
          4. 1mbps+ Internet Connection

          Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a Credit-Recommended Course Completion Certificate and can request an official transcript.