Skip to main content
Unit of study_

PSYC2015: Brain and Behavioural Psychology

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This course is designed for students who would like to learn about the core concepts of clinical and biobehavioural psychology, and their applications to therapies, organisations, and an individual's behaviour. The emphasis is on behaviour, emotions, and motivational processes. You will learn how to analyse the environmental cause of behaviours, and how to use reinforcements, punishments and incentives to modify and motivate behaviour. Clinical Psychology will focus on emotional and motivational disorders, such as anxiety and depression, addiction, sexual disorders, and eating disorders. The way in which these processes arise and are shaped in people will be presented in the section on Developmental Psychology. Neuroscience will focus on the evolutionary, genetic, neurobiological, and pharmacological mechanisms underlying the phenomena taught in the other sections. The practical classes are designed for students with an interest in clinical and therapeutic Psychology, and will train students to design and implement a behaviour modification programme.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PSYC2015
Academic unit Psychology Academic Operations
Credit points 6
PSYC2010 or PSYC2910 or PSYC2011 or PSYC2911 or PSYC2915
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ian Johnston,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam End of semester exam
30 multiple choice questions covering lectures from weeks 7-13
25% Formal exam period 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO5 LO6
Tutorial quiz MCQ Quizzes
8-min MCQ quizzes completed in Canvas
15% Multiple weeks 8 minutes each
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3
In-semester test (Record+) Type B in-semester exam Mid semester exam
30 multiple choice questions covering lectures from weeks 1-6
25% Week 08
Due date: 29 Apr 2021 at 13:00
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO5 LO6
Assignment hurdle task Research report
A written scientific report
30% Week 10
Due date: 10 May 2021 at 11:59

Closing date: 07 Jun 2021
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Presentation Debate
Oral in-class debate
5% Week 13 50 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?
Type B in-semester exam = Type B in-semester exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Submitted work: This is a written report on the tutorial project from weeks 2-7.  The report is the introduction, results, and discussion sections of a scientific report of the project.
  • Tutorial quizzes: These are four short multiple choice quizzes covering the tutorials in weeks 8-11. Each quiz will cover one tutorial and you get the marks from the best three quizzes.
  • Debate: This is an in-class debate on a contemporary issue with biological psychology. You must submit a page of preparatory notes on the topic to get the marks.
  • Mid semester exam: This is an online exam with 30 multiple choice questions covering the lecture material in weeks 1-6.
  • Final exam: This is an online exam with 30 multiple choice questions covering the lecture material in weeks 7-13.



Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Fundamental concepts in the behaviour sciences; 2. Positive reinforcement and extinction; 3. The role of the discriminative stimulus in behaviour Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 1. The motivating role of the reinforcer in behaviour; 2. Fear and punishment; 3. Avoidance learning Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Behaviour modification 1: beginning the behavior modification exercise Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6
Week 03 1. Intrinsic motivation; 2. Choice and self-control; 3. Applications of behavioural analysis Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6
Behaviour modification 2: designing your own modification plan Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Week 04 1. Assessment and diagnosis; 2. Depression and bipolar; 3. Anxiety Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO6
Behaviour modification 3: collection of baseline data, begin the exercise Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Week 05 1. Addiction; 2. Psychosis; 3. Psychotherapy evaluation Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO6
Behaviour modification 4: collection of post-modification data Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Week 06 1. Cognitive-behavioural therapies; 2. Neuropsychology; 3. Psychopharmacotherapies Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO6
Behaviour modification 5: learning and motivation Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 07 1. Normal development: what can we do and when can we do it?; 2. Socio-emotional development 1: the first 18 months; 3. Socio-emotional development 2: toddlerhood and early childhood Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO3
Behaviour modification 6: discuss results, discuss report writing Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 08 1. The development of theory of mind; 2. Current directions in developmental psychology: where might this take you?; 3. Abnormal development: implications for experimental research Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO6
Developmental 1: demonstration and discussion Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 09 1. Instincts; 2. Evolutionary psychology 1; 3. Evolutionary psychology 2 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Developmental 2: nature and nurture Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 10 1. Behavioural genetics; 2. Gene-environmental interactions in behaviour; 3. Cells of the CNS Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Neuroscience 1: psychopharmacology Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Week 11 1. Neuroplasticity; 2. Stress and endocrine responses; 3. Neurobiology of fear and anxiety Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Neuroscience 2: methods in functional neuroscience Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Week 12 1. Dopamine and behaviour ; 2. Addiction 1; 3. Addiction 2 Lecture (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Final in-class Quiz Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Week 13 1. Appetite and eating; 2. Neurobiology of sexual behaviour Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5
Debate: conceptual analysis of biological psychology Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

All lectures are video and audio recorded.

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance requirements for this unit of study have been amended. Where online tutorials/workshops/virtual laboratories have been scheduled, students should make every effort to attend and participate at the scheduled time. Penalties will not be applied if technical issues, etc. prevent attendance at a specific online class. In that case, students should discuss the problem with the coordinator, and attend another session, if available.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings


No single textbook covers all the topics taught in this course so we must recommend more than one text. Because we realize that students may not be able to afford two books for a single course, multiple copies of these texts will be made available in the Library Reserve so you may copy the relevant sections as an alternative to buying the complete text. However, please note that in previous years that demand for the texts in Reserve is extremely high, and students have reported they have not been able to access the texts in Reserve when they have wanted them. These texts are also used in Senior level Psychology courses (PSYC3011 & PSYC3018, see below). If you plan on taking these senior level courses, you may want to buy these texts now. The two recommended texts are: 


Bouton, M.E. (2016). Learning and Behavior: A Contemporary Synthesis. 2nd Ed. Sinauer. (This text will be particularly useful in Weeks 1- 3 and is also used in the Senior Psychology course PSYC3011 Learning and Behaviour. Please note, the old version of Bouton is fine as well.)

Rieger, E. (Ed.) (2017) Abnormal Psychology: Leading researcher perspectives. Sydney: McGraw-Hill Education (4th Edition). (This text will be particularly useful in weeks 4 – 6, and is also used in the Senior Psychology course PSYC3018 Abnormal Psychology.)


Each lecturer will provide references to sources for you to study in their lecture notes or on their eLearning site. These sources will be made available to you from the Library’s reserve section. 

To find all your readings for this unit of study, look for “eReserve” on the left menu of the CANVAS site.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand and describe the core concepts that underpin clinical and biobehavioural psychology, and their applications to therapies, organisations, and an individual's behaviour
  • LO2. analyse the environmental determinants of behaviour, and create and implement a behaviour modification therapy
  • LO3. understand and describe the core research design principles and statistical approaches used throughout psychology, to apply them in a critical manner, and to understand the main ethical principles guiding research in this discipline
  • LO4. apply the APA style of scientific writing to the generation of a research report
  • LO5. evaluate and debate the interactions between the individual, their environment, developmental, and neurobiological processes in complex contemporary issues around mental illness or socio-legal controversies
  • LO6. understand and describe how psychology is applied in clinical settings, and the roles of clinical psychologists within the broader health system and within our communities.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

We have modified the minor written assessment for this course based on feedback from students last year so that students write the introduction section of the report rather than a behaviour modification plan.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.