For a UPSC CSE aspirant, the optional subject is also an important subject. In the UPSC mains exam, optional marks have two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2. Each paper is of 250 marks which makes a total of 500 marks. The UPSC optional subject list contains 48 subjects in total, one of which is Psychology.





Foundations of Psychology

1. Introduction:

  • Definition of Psychology
  • Psychology and scientific methods
  • Historical antecedents of Psychology and trends in the 21st century
  • Application of Psychology to societal problems
  • Psychology in relation to other social sciences and natural sciences

2. Methods of Psychology:

  • Types of research: Descriptive, diagnostic, evaluative, and prognostic
  • Methods of Research: Survey, case-study, observation, and experiments
  • Focussed group discussions, brain storming, grounded theory approach
  • Characteristics of Quasi-experimental designs, experimental design, and non-experimental design

3. Research Methods:

  • Major steps in Psychological research (problem statement, hypothesis formulation, sampling, research designs, analysis and interpretation, tools of data collection, and report writing)
  • Methods of data collection ( interview, observation, questionnaire)
  • Research designs (ex-post facto and experimental)
  • Fundamental versus applied research
  • Item response theory
  • Application of statistical technique (t-test, two-way ANOVAcorrelation, regression, and factor analysis)

4. Development of Human Behavior:

  • Principles of development
  • Growth and development
  • Influence of cultural factors in socialization
  • Role of genetic and environmental factors in determining human behaviour
  • Life span development- development tasks, characteristics, promoting psychological well-being across major stages of the lifespan

5. Sensation, Attention and Perception:

  • Sensation: concepts of the threshold, absolute and difference thresholds, signal-detection and vigilance
  • Definition and concept of perception, biological factors in perception
  • Factors influencing attention including the set and characteristics of the stimulus
  • Perceptual organization-influence of past experiences, perceptual defense-factors influencing space and depth perception, size estimation, and perceptual readiness
  • Extrasensory perception
  • The plasticity of perception
  • Subliminal perception
  • Culture and perception

6. Learning:

  • Concept and theories of learning (Behaviourists, Gestaltalist and Information processing models)
  • Programmed learning, self-instructional learning, probability learning, concepts
  • The processes of discrimination, extinction, and generalization
  • Types and the schedules of escape avoidance, reinforcement, and punishment, modeling, and social learning.

7. Memory:

  • Encoding and remembering
  • Organization and Mnemonic techniques to improve memory
  • Long term memory, Short term memory, Sensory memory, Iconic memory, Echoic memory: The Multistore model, levels of processing
  • Amnesia: Anterograde and retrograde
  • Theories of forgetting: decay, interference and retrieval failure: Metamemory

8. Thinking and Problem Solving:

  • Piaget’s theory of cognitive development
  • Concept formation processes
  • Recent trends
  • Information processing, Reasoning, and problem-solving, Facilitating and hindering factors in problem-solving
  • Factors influencing decision making and judgment
  • Methods of problem-solving: Creative thinking and fostering creativity

9. Motivation and Emotion:

  • Psychological and physiological basis of motivation and emotion
  • Effects of motivation and emotion on behaviour
  • Measurement of motivation and emotion
  • Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
  • Emotional competence and related issues
  • Factors influencing intrinsic motivation

10. Intelligence and Aptitude:

  • Concept of intelligence and aptitude, Nature and theories of intelligence – Spearman, Guilford Vernon, Thurstone, Sternberg, and J.P
  • Social intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, measurement of intelligence and aptitudes, the concept of IQ, deviation IQ, the constancy of IQ
  • Measurement of multiple intelligence
  • Das
  • Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence

11. Personality:

  • Definition and concept of personality
  • Theories of personality (psychoanalytical, interpersonal, sociocultural, developmental, behaviouristic, humanistic, trait and type approaches)
  • Measurement of personality (projective tests, pencil-paper test)
  • Training for personality development
  • The Indian approach to personality
  • The notion of self in different traditions
  • Latest approaches like big 5-factor theory

12. Attitudes, Values and Interests:

  • Definition of attitudes, values and interests
  • Formation and maintenance of attitudes
  • Components of attitudes
  • Theories of attitude change
  • Measurement of attitudes, values and interests
  • Strategies for fostering values
  • Changing other behaviour
  • Formation of stereotypes and prejudices
  • Recent trends
  • Theories of attribution

13. Language and Communication:

  • Human language – Properties, structure and linguistic hierarchy, Language acquisition-predisposition, critical period hypothesis
  • Process and types of communication- effective communication training
  • Theories of language development- Chomsky and Skinner

14. Issues and Perspectives in Modern Contemporary Psychology:

  • Computer application in the psychological laboratory and psychological testing
  • Psychocybernetics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Study of consciousness- sleep-wake schedules, dreams, stimulus deprivation, meditation, hypnotic/drug-induced states
  • Intersensory perception Simulation studies
  • Extrasensory perception


Psychology: Issues and Applications

1. Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences:

  • The nature of individual differences
  • Types of psychological tests
  • Characteristics and construction of standardized psychological tests
  • Ethical issues in the use of psychological tests
  • Use, misuse, and limitation of psychological tests

2. Psychological well being and Mental Disorders:

  • Positive health, well being
  • Concept of health-ill health
  • Causal factors in mental disorders (mood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and delusional disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse disorders)
  • Happiness disposition
  • Factors influencing positive health, lifestyle, well being, and quality of life

3. Therapeutic Approaches:

  • Psychodynamic therapies
  • Client-centered therapy
  • Behaviour therapies
  • Cognitive therapies
  • Bio-feedback therapy
  • Indigenous therapies (Yoga, Meditation)
  • Fostering mental health
  • Prevention and rehabilitation of the mentally ill

4. Work Psychology and Organizational Behavior:

  • Personnel selection and training
  • Training and human resource development
  • Use of psychological tests in the industry
  • Theories of work motivation – Herzberg, Adam Equity theory, Maslow, Porter, and Lawler, Vroom
  • Leadership and participatory management
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Ergonomics
  • Stress and its management
  • consumer psychology
  • Transformational leadership
  • Managerial effectiveness
  • Power and politics in organizations
  • Sensitivity training

5. Application of Psychology to Educational Field:

  • Psychological principles underlying effective teaching-learning process
  • Gifted, learning disabled, regarded, and their training
  • Learning styles
  • Training for improving memory and better academic achievement
  • Use of psychological tests in educational institutions
  • Personality development and value education, Educational, vocational guidance, and career counseling
  • Effective strategies n guidance programs

6. Community Psychology:

  • Definition and concept of community psychology
  • Arousing community consciousness and action for handling social problems
  • Use of small groups in social action
  • Effective strategies for social change
  • Group decision making and leadership for social change

7. Rehabilitation Psychology:

  • Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention programmes- the role of psychologists
  • Organising of services for the rehabilitation of physically, mentally and socially challenged persons including old persons
  • Rehabilitation of victims of violence
  • Rehabilitation of persons suffering from substance abuse, criminal behaviour, juvenile delinquency
  • Rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS victims, the role of social agencies

8. Application of Psychology to disadvantaged groups:

  • The concepts of deprivation, and disadvantaged
  • Educating and motivating the disadvantaged towards development
  • Social, cultural, physical, and economic consequences of disadvantaged and deprived groups
  • Relative and prolonged deprivation.

9. Psychological problems of social integration:

  • The concept of social integration
  • The problem of caste, religion, class, and language conflicts and prejudice
  • Causal factors of social conflicts and prejudices
  • Nature and manifestation of prejudice between the in-group and out-group
  • Measures to achieve social integration
  • Psychological strategies for handling the conflicts and prejudices

10. Application of Psychology in Information Technology and Mass Media:

  • The present scenario of information technology and the mass media boom and the role of psychologists
  • Distance learning through IT and mass media
  • Selection and training of psychology professionals to work in the field of IT and mass media
  • Entrepreneurship through e-commerce
  • Psychological consequences of recent developments in Information Technology
  • Multilevel marketing; Impact of TV and fostering value through IT and mass media

11. Psychology and Economic development:

  • Achievement motivation and economic development
  • Motivating and training people for entrepreneurship and economic development
  • Government policies for the promotion of entrepreneurship among youth including women entrepreneurs
  • Consumer rights and consumer awareness
  • Characteristics of entrepreneurial behaviour

12. Application of psychology to environment and related fields:

  • Environmental psychology-effects of noise, pollution, and crowding
  • Motivating for small family norm
  • Population psychology: psychological consequences of population explosion and high population density
  • Impact of rapid scientific and technological growth on degradation of the environment.

13. Application of psychology in other fields:

  • Military Psychology Devising psychological tests for defence personnel for use in selection, counselling, training
  • Training psychologists to work with defence personnel in promoting positive health
  • Persons participating in Individual and Team Games
  • Sports Psychology Psychological interventions in improving the performance of athletes and sports
  • Human engineering in defence
  • Media influences on pro and antisocial behaviour
  • Psychology of terrorism

14. Psychology of Gender:

  • Issues of discrimination
  • Glass ceiling effect, Self-fulfilling prophesy, Women, and Indian society
  • Management of diversity

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