1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Cognitive Neuroscience

Gain the knowledge and skills required for studying the biology of the mind.

This course prepares you for a career in research by offering:

  • lectures taught by leading cognitive neuroscientists
  • one-to-one expert supervision on your personal research project
  • hands-on experience with neuroimaging (fMRI)
  • introductions to a vast array of cognitive neuroscience techniques.

You have the opportunity to explore a range of cognitive neuroscience fields – from philosophy of science and research methods to consciousness, addiction and social neuroscience.

This Masters is recognised by the ESRC-funded South East Network for Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership as a pathway to doctoral study.

Key facts

  • Psychology at Sussex was placed in the top 10 for research in the UK in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  • We are one of the largest psychology units in the UK. You’ll study in an intellectually stimulating and supportive environment for postgraduate research and study.
  • We offer supervision across a range of topics, encompassed by our research groups in Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental and Clinical Psychology, and Social and Applied Psychology.

How will I study?

You take a series of taught modules. You’ll gain hands-on experience with modern methods of cognitive neuroscience through a dedicated fMRI module and a wide range of optional methods workshops that include training on TMS, EEG, psychophysics, programming for cognitive testing, MATLAB and many others.

You’re actively encouraged to network and collaborate, and to discuss findings in self-directed journal clubs to develop the additional skills necessary for a successful career in research.

Taught modules are assessed by a variety of methods including:

  • term papers
  • presentations
  • coursework portfolios
  • open examination.

The project is assessed by a dissertation and a research project mentored by a member of faculty.

Full-time and part-time study

You can choose to study this course full time or part time. Find the modules for the full-time course below. 

For details about the part-time course structure, contact us at

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Advanced Research Methods in Psychology

      15 credits
      All Year Teaching, Year 1

      In this module you will learn about various advanced research methods and statistical techniques in psychology, by exploring their theoretical basis and their practical application. The module is typically taught as a set of 2-day workshops in which particular methods are considered in detail. You are expected to study three methods (ie attend three workshops) from the selection that is offered. The options available to you are likely to include the following:

      • Discourse Analysis for Psychology
      • Experiment Generators: Use of Eprime
      • Eye Tracking
      • Item Response Theory
      • Longitudinal Data Analysis
      • Measurement of Affective Processing Styles (MATLAB)
      • Meta-analysis; Multilevel Modelling
      • Service User Involvement in Clinical Research
      • Structural Equation Modelling
      • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
      • Voice Analysis and Re-Synthesis
      • Latent Variable Analysis
      • Introduction to R
      • Randomised Control Trials.
    • Ethics, Philosophy and Methods of Research

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module will consider the conceptual foundations of psychological research and is divided into three key elements.

      Ethics and research governance – during this part of the module you will learn about the ethical principles and guidelines relating to research in psychology, in particular the BPS code of conduct and how it applies to research studies, and the UK frameworks for research governance. The ethical issues involved in using animals to study psychology will also be addressed.

      Philosophy of Science – you explore different approaches to what it means for psychology to be scientific and why it matters. Half of the material considers classic philosophy of science as represented in the views of Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos and how they apply to psychology. The remaining material considers the foundations of statistical inference, comparing the conceptual basis of orthodox (Neyman Pearson) statistics with that of Bayesian statistics. The aim is to clear up popular misconceptions in interpreting statistics, not to teach any particular statistical technique.

      Qualitative methods – are becoming increasingly important in psychology and related disciplines (eg, biology, medicine, sociology). Nevertheless, heated debates continue to rage about their essential qualities (if any) and 'quality' (if any). In this part of the module we will examine all aspects of qualitative research, from (claimed) philosophical underpinnings, through method selection, project planning, ethical considerations, data collection, data analysis, and the production, assessment, and presentation of results, though to the scientific, practical, ethical, and theoretical benefits of the end product(s). Particular attention will be given to the prospects of developing qualitative methods that are truly complementary to quantitative ones.

    • Linear Models in Statistics

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      Linear Models consist of a series of lectures and computer classes, mainly aimed at introducing or re-introducing postgraduate students to ANOVA, regression and related linear modelling techniques, and training them to use SPSS, a popular statistical analysis package, to carry out the corresponding analyses. A single topic will be covered in a lecture and SPSS class each week. Details of the topics are:

      • Introduction to SPSS
      • Data Entry and Charting Simple Linear Regression
      • Multiple Regression
      • t-tests
      • One-way Independent Groups ANOVA and subsidiary tests
      • Two-way ANOVA, Related Groups ANOVA, Mixed ANOVA, ANCOVA
      • MANOVA
      • Logistic Regression
      • 2 and Log-Linear Modelling
      • Mixed Modelling.
    • Social Neuroscience

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      Social Neuroscience is concerned with how people recognise, understand and interact with each other in social settings. It aims to understand these processes in terms of fundamental cognitive and neural mechanisms that reside in the brain that have been shaped by both individual experience and evolutionary history. Topics covered include: the evolution of social intelligence and culture; neuroscience of emotion; recognising faces and bodies; empathy and simulation theories; 'mentalising' and autism; cooperation and altruism; self and identity; prejudice; anti-social behavior; neuroscience of morality; and the development of social behaviour. Although many of these concepts have been explored in detail by social psychology, the methods of cognitive neuroscience brings a fresh insight into these issues.

    • Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      In this module, you are introduced to a wide variety of topics in cognitive neuroscience that are not covered by dedicated modules.

      You are taught by active researchers and experts in cognitive neuroscience.

      You explore the field through lectures and journal clubs, as well as gaining opportunities to focus your research interests through self-directed presentations and study topics.

      You develop the ability to discuss and critique current cognitive neuroscience research through a general well-rounded knowledge of topics, methods and good practice.

      In your lectures, you cover topics including:

      • an introduction to methods
      • neurophysiology
      • memory
      • vision
      • emotion
      • embodied cognition
      • reward and decision-making
      • animal and genetic models of cognition
      • dementia
      • event-related potentials
      • individual-difference approaches to cognitive neuroscience.

      The aim of this module is to introduce you to various research topics in cognitive neuroscience and explain how neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation techniques have been used to uncover neural basis of cognitive functions in humans. You learn a variety of methods used in cognitive neuroscience and how they are applied in practice. Following a discussion of the main methods, the remaining lectures are organised around a series of different cognitive functions such as visual processing, subliminal perception, attention and memory.

    • Drug Addiction and its Treatment

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module will cover the following topics:

      • Recreational drugs throughout history
      • Mechanisms of action of recreational drugs (psychostimulants, opiates/opioids, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, hallucinogens, "club drugs", etc)
      • Definition of drug reward, drug abuse and drug addiction
      • Neuropsychobiological underpinnings of drug reward and drug addiction (drug induced neuroplasticity and basic neuroanatomy of motivation, reward, affect, and impulsivity/compulsivity)
      • Critical understanding of the major theories of drug reward and drug addiction
      • Therapeutic options for the treatment of drug abuse and addiction.

      Thus, the scope of the module will range from basic pharmacology to clinical intervention. The module will be taught by an expert in both pre-clinical and clinical research.

    • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module provides you with an advanced level of theoretical and practical knowledge in the technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Topics covered include the physiological basis of MRI and fMRI; different study designs in functional imaging research; stages of pre-processing and analysis of data; and interpretation of results. You will have the chance to make a contribution to a real, ongoing fMRI study in terms of observing and/or participating in its execution and contributing to the analysis of the study. You will also gain hands-on experience of Statistical Parametric Mapping (SPM) software for analysing fMRI data that is invaluable for future research in this area.

    • Neuroscience of Consciousness

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      Consciousness is one of the last remaining frontiers of scientific exploration, and theories and methods in neuroscience are at the front line of this endeavour. Topics covered in this module include: measuring and studying consciousness; states of consciousness (including wake, dreaming, hypnosis and vegetative state); visual consciousness (including the different roles of visual cortex and fronto-parietal network; blindsight and neglect as disorders of visual awareness); implicit learning and meta-knowledge; psychiatric disturbances of consciousness (eg hallucinations, depersonalisation); interoceptive awareness; consciousness and cortical plasticity (examples of synaesthesia, phantom limb and sensory substitution); computational models of consciousness; biological models of consciousness; and evolutionary approaches to consciousness.

    • Research Dissertation

      60 credits
      Spring & Summer Teaching, Year 1

      This module enables you to undertake a piece of psychological research under the supervision of a member of faculty who is expert in the relevant area. For clinical psychology students this may involve collaboration with a field supervisor in the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust. You will be involved in the design and execution of a substantial piece of empirical research on a topic that is relevant to your course. The dissertation will consist of a research report detailing the project you have carried out or been involved with.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honors degree or above in psychology, neuroscience, or an aligned field such as economics, biostatistics, computer science, medicine, pharmacology, engineering, or philosophy.

Applicants from outside the field of psychology are welcome but should demonstrate (in their personal statement): their interest in cognitive neuroscience, their ability to new skill sets and complex topics, and a demonstration of how they can apply their existing skill set on the course.

English language requirements

Higher level (IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa

Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?


Home: £9,250 per year

EU: £9,250 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £9,250 per year

Overseas: £18,750 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans


Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

Sussex India Scholarships (2017)

Sussex India Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from India commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex India Scholarships

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Malaysia commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Malaysia Scholarships

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships are worth £3,500 or £5,000 and are for overseas fee paying students from Nigeria commencing a Masters in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Nigeria Scholarships

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Pakistan commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Pakistan Scholarships

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Meet the people teaching and supervising on your course.

  • Faculty profiles

    Prof Aldo Badiani
    Professor of Psychology & Addiction Medicine

    Research interests: Drug addiction, Electrophysiology, Emotion, Environment, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Human psychopharmacology, Immunohistochemistry, Motivation, Reward

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    Prof Robin Banerjee
    Professor of Developmental Psychology

    Research interests: Developmental psychology, Emotion, Motivation, Psychology, Social behaviour, Social cognition, Youth

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    Dr Chris Bird
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Hippocampus, Memory, Neuropsychology

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    Dr Jenny Bosten
    Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: colour, GWAS, Individual differences, Matlab, Psychophysics, Virtual Reality

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    Prof Rupert Brown
    Professor of Social Psychology

    Research interests: Acculturation, hate crime, Identity, Immigration, Intergroup relations, post-conflict reconciliation, Prejudice, Prejudice reduction, refugees, Social psychology, team-building in organisations

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    Dr Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Decision making, Neuromaging, Psychopharmacology, Reinforcement Learning Models, Social cognition, Social Influence, Social Neuroscience

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    Dr Kate Cavanagh
    Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Dr Hans Crombag
    Senior Lecturer

    Research interests: Addiction and law, Associative learning, Motivation, Neurobiology of behaviour, Reward

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    Prof Graham Davey
    Emeritus Professor

    Research interests: Anxiety, Clinical Psychology, Psychology

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    Dr Richard De Visser
    Reader in Psychology

    Research interests: Alcohol, Gender and Sexuality, Health - behaviours, Psychology, Public health

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    Prof Zoltan Dienes
    Professor in Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Bayesian Methods, Consciousness, Experimental psychology, Psychology

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    Dr Helga Dittmar
    Reader in Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Dr John Drury
    Reader in Social Psychology

    Research interests: Collective action, Crowding and personal space, Crowds, Disasters, Empowerment, Mass emergencies, Protest, Social identities, Social movements, Social psychology

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    Prof Dora Duka
    Professor of Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Addictions, Alcohol, Cognition, Emotion, Human psychopharmacology, Motivation, Smoking

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    Dr Benjamin Dyson
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Art and design, Cognitive Psychology, Electrophysiology, Multi-sensory processing, Perception, Serious games

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    Dr Matthew Easterbrook
    Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Educational inequalities, Group processes, Poverty and inequality, Social class and educational disadvantage, Social disadvantage, Social identities, well-being

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    Dr Tom Farsides
    Lecturer in Social Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Prof Andy Field
    Professor of Child Psychopathology

    Research interests: Statistical Methodology

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    Dr Sophie Forster
    Lecturer In Psychology

    Research interests: Attention, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Cognitive Neuroscience, Distraction, Individual differences, Mind wandering, Psychology

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    Prof David Fowler
    Professor In Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Prof Anna Franklin
    Professor of Visual Perception and Cognition

    Research interests: Cognition, Perception, Vision

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    Prof Alan Garnham
    Professor of Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Experimental psychology, Psycholinguistics, Psychology

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    Dr Darya Gaysina
    Lecturer In Psychology

    Research interests: Behavioural genetics, Depression in humans, Developmental psychology, Epidemiology, Health and ageing, psychopathology

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    Dr Catherine Hall
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

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    Prof Gordon Harold
    Andrew and Virginia Rudd Chair in Psychology

    Research interests: Biosocial Research, child development, Family Relationships, Longitudinal Methods, Mental Health, Prevention Science

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    Prof Pete Harris
    Professor of Psychology

    Research interests: Motivation, Obesity, Public health, Vaccination

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    Dr Graham Hole
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Age perception, Configural processing of faces, Face Identity After Effects, Face recognition, Looked but failed to see errors in driving, Mobile phones and driving, Motorcycle conspicuity, Perceptual and attention in relation to driving

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    Dr Jessica Horst
    Senior Lecturer In Psychology

    Research interests: Categorisation, child development, Cognitive Development, Infancy, Language Acquisition, Picturebooks, Psychology, Reading to Children, Storybooks, Toddlers, Word Learning

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    Dr Donna Jessop
    Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Dr Sarah King
    Reader in Behavioural Neuroscience

    Research interests: Addictions, Alzheimer's Disease, Behavioural Neuroscience, Gene manipulation, Mouse genetics, Neurodegeneration, Neuroscience (Human disease), Neurotransmitter receptors

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    Dr Eisuke Koya
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Associative learning, drugs of abuse, Motivation, neuronal ensembles, nucleus accumbens, palatable foods, Prefrontal Cortex, slice electrophysiology

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    Dr David Leavens
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Animal Cognition, Cognitive Development, Communication, Comparative psychology, Developmental psychology, Evolution of language, Experimental psychology, Gestures, Observational methods, Pointing

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    Dr Kathryn Lester
    Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Anxiety, Cognition, Developmental psychology, Emotional Processing, Fear

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    Dr Karen Long
    Lecturer in Social Psychology

    Research interests: intragroup processes, online identity, Social networking, Social psychology

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    Prof Karen Mccomb
    Professor Of Animal Behaviour & Cognition

    Research interests: Animal behaviour, Psychology

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    Dr Eleanor Miles
    Lecturer In Psychology

    Research interests: Embodiment, Emotion, Meta Analysis, Psychology, Social cognition, Social psychology

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    Dr Michael Morgan
    Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Motivation, Psychology

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    Prof Jane Oakhill
    Professor of Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Experimental psychology, Psychology

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    Dr Bonamy Oliver
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Behavioural genetics, child behaviour, child well-being, conduct problems, externalising, family, Family Relationships, parent-child relationships, parenting, Psychology, psychopathology

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    Prof Thomas Ormerod
    Professor of Psychology

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    Prof Alison Pike
    Professor of Child and Family Psychology

    Research interests: child well-being, family psychology, parenting, Psychology, siblings

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    Prof David Reby
    Professor of Ethology

    Research interests: Animal behaviour, Animal Cognition, Babies' cries, Evolution of communication, Experimental psychology, Human Vocalisations, Psychology, Sexual communication, Vocal anatomy, Vocal communication, Voice & Gender

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    Prof Jennifer Rusted
    Professor of Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Behavioural Neuroscience, Cognitive decline with age, Dementia, Experimental psychology, neuropsychopharmacology

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    Dr Ryan Scott
    Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Psychology

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    Prof Julia Simner
    Professor of Psychology

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    Dr Paul Sparks
    Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology & Health

    Research interests: Environmental Psychology, Health, Identity, Social Influence processes, Social psychology

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    Dr Peggy St Jacques
    Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Autobiographical Memory, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Memory

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    Dr Vivian Vignoles
    Reader In Social Psychology

    Research interests: Cross-cultural psychology, Culture, Identity, Identity motives, Mental Health and Well-Being, Motivation, Psychology, Social identities, Social psychology

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    Prof Jamie Ward
    Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

    Research interests: Experimental psychology, Psychology

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    Prof Martin Yeomans
    Professor of Experimental Psychology

    Research interests: Appetite, Cognitive Performance, Experimental psychology, Flavour, Food Choice, Food Preference, Nutrition, Satiety

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    Dr Nicola Yuill
    Senior Lecturer in Psychology

    Research interests: Autism Spectrum Disorders, child development, children and technology, Experimental psychology, human-centred technology, Psychology, reading comprehension, social development, technology for autism

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Graduate destinations

96% of students from the School of Psychology were in work or further study six months after graduating. Recent graduates have gone on to jobs including:

  • assistant psychologist, Imperial College London
  • dementia advisor, Alzheimer's Society
  • research fellow, City University London.

(HESA EPI, Destinations of Post Graduate Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015)

Your future career

This MSc prepares you for a potential career in research and enhances your work-related skills such as critical insight and data analysis. 

This course is also relevant if you are interested in clinical psychology or in work in the biomedical sector by providing, for example, an understanding of how brain damage affects cognition.

Our graduates have gone on to pursue PhDs and to careers in industry and medicine.

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

Contact us