Psychological literacy: A multifaceted perspective

Julie Hulme, Rebecca Skinner, Francesca Worsnop, Elizabeth Collins, Philip Banyard, Helen Kitching, Roger Watt, Simon Goodson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of psychological literacy has grown in importance within psychology education at all levels, in the UK and globally, in recent years. Increasingly, psychology educators and policy makers are seeking to emphasise the relevance and usefulness of psychology within everyday life, within the workplace, and as an element of global citizenship.

The Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology (DART–P), recognising this recent development, hosted a symposium at the British Psychological Society (BPS) Annual Conference 2015, at which the concept of psychological literacy was explored within the context of higher and pre–tertiary psychology education. The aim of the symposium, reflected in this article, was to explore current thinking, developments and practice within contemporary psychology education, with a view to stimulating critical discussion and reflection on psychological literacy and its delivery within both pre–tertiary and higher education contexts. Ultimately, the symposium, and this article, are intended to facilitate exploration of the opportunities provided by psychology education, at all levels, to develop students as psychologically literate citizens

This article summarises the talks and discussions which occurred during the symposium. Firstly, we introduce the concept and literature surrounding psychological literacy and its importance to modern psychology education. This is followed by a case study illustrating one way in which psychological literacy has been embedded into the curriculum within a university undergraduate programme. We move to consider the development of thinking about psychological literacy in a historical context, linking it to societal benefits and Miller’s (1969) concept of ‘giving psychology away’. This raises the question of the extent to which pre-tertiary psychology education can equip students with psychological literacy, and the impact of the growing numbers of people who have studied psychology upon society. In England and Wales, the most popular pre–tertiary psychology qualification is the A level, which has undergone recent revisions, and so we consider the contribution of the new A level psychology specifications to psychological literacy. In conclusion, this paper offers some thoughts about the implications of the growth in emphasis on education for psychological literacy, reflecting the discussions held during the plenary session at the end of the symposium.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)13-24
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology Teaching Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2015

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