The study of psychology has been organised in various forms in Cambridge for over a century. During the late 1870s James Ward proposed a laboratory should be established in Cambridge to study psychophysics, the relation between the physical properties of stimuli and experienced sensations. This proposal is said to have been rejected by the governing body of the University on the grounds that it would 'insult religion by putting the soul in a pair of scales'. However, in 1897, William H.R. Rivers was appointed University Lecturer in Physiological and Experimental Psychology. The purpose-built Psychological Laboratory was opened in 1912 and research and teaching in experimental psychology has continued on this site 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 carries out world-class research, which is characterised by its multidisciplinary and collaborative approach.
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 CBE FRS FMedSci FBPsS.