The study of psychology has been organised in various forms in Cambridge for over a century. In 1897 William H.R. Rivers was appointed University Lecturer in Physiological and Experimental Psychology. A proposal for the establishment of a psychophysics laboratory had been put forward as early as the 1870s by James Ward, but it was not until 1912 that a purpose-built Psychological Laboratory was opened on the Downing Site in the centre of Cambridge. Research and teaching in experimental psychology has continued in the Psychological Laboratory to the present day. On the 1 August 2012, the Department of Experimental Psychology merged with the Division of Social and Developmental Psychology and the Centre for Family Research, to create a unified Department of Psychology within the School of the Biological Sciences. This merger provided an exciting new interface for some areas of social and developmental psychology with experimental psychology, neuroscience and biology.
The Department's primary objectives are to provide world-class research and teaching in psychology and cognate disciplines. The Department carries out world-class research, which is characterised by its multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. In the Research Assessment Exercise (Unit of Assessment 44, Psychology), conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Department was ranked as the top psychology department in the UK. In the current QS World University Rankings for Psychology, the Department is placed second in the world for academic reputation. The Department's research has a major impact on the science of psychology and has been translated into many practical applications.
The current academic year saw the introduction of a brand new course for undergraduates wishing to read psychology, the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Tripos. Psychology may now be studied either in the Natural Sciences Tripos, or in the PBS Tripos. Both courses are accredited by the British Psychological Society.
The Department of Psychology is located on two sites in central Cambridge. The administrative hub of the Department is housed in the Psychological Laboratory on the Downing Site.
The Head of Department is Professor Trevor Robbins CBE FRS FMedSci FBPsS.