Division of Psychology and Forensic Sciences

Understand and analyse human behaviour.

About Us

The Division of Psychology and Forensic Science is a welcoming place to study, and we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community.

Our aim is to give you a friendly, supportive, and stimulating learning environment. Academic staff are informed and accessible, engaging you in vigorous debate and discussion.


Psychology is about understanding brains and behaviour. At Abertay, we take a very applied focus to our teaching. This means we train you to understand human behaviour in real-world situations, readying you for the world of work.

All of our psychology degrees are accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), making you eligible to become a graduate member. This will be essential if you want to become a practising psychologist. You will also gain many transferable skills in learning, research and data analyses making you more employable after your studies.

Our psychology programmes recently received six commendations from the BPS. This includes how our students feel connected and part of a vibrant academic community, the multitude of practical opportunities available to them, the range of transferable skills they develope through teaching and assessment and how approachable and accessible the psychology staff are.

All the staff who will teach you are active researchers. You will have lots of opportunities to get involved in real research designed to change the way we think about brains and behaviour. We want you to become involved in your curriculum, but also in the many extracurricular opportunities we offer.

Psychology is a fascinating area of study and Abertay is a welcoming and stimulating place to study it. 

Forensic Science

We give you cutting edge, first-hand teaching in forensic investigation and scientific analysis.

Our teaching happens in an authentic criminal/civil investigation environment. This is helped by our realistic crime scene scenarios, designed and delivered by former senior police officers with extensive real-world experience of crime scene investigation from disaster victim identification to firearms crime. Our forensic science degrees are accredited by the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

A major feature is how much you will engage with the professional world: through laboratory projects, field visits and input from industry professionals.

Our forensic science students make full use of specialised crime scene simulations, a microscopy suite and a range of analytical laboratories.  All this makes Abertay one of the best places to study Forensics in the UK.

Head of Division

Dr Clare Cunningham

Study with us

Postgraduate Taught Degrees

We currently do not offer any postgraduate taught degrees in this area.

If you are interested in postgraduate study in Psychology or Forensic Science, why not review our areas of Postgraduate Research?


We have access to twelve dedicated staff research labs, a research presentation area, a suite of 11 experimental cubicles, specialized crime scene simulation areas (Rankin House suite, and a Bank of Scotland branch); a microscopy suite and a range of analytical laboratories.

The labs are equipped with High-end PCs and appropriate software (Genemapper, E-prime, Superlab, N-Vivo, Paradigm, SPSS, Observer XT, PsychoPy etc.). Hardware of note includes an anechoic chamber, wall mounted remote controlled CCTV cameras, SMI 3.0 Eye View Eye-movement recorder, SMI Eye View X HED Eye-Tracker, GSR Equipment and software, BioHarness Telemetry System with LabChart, Atomic Force Microscope, and Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD) machine. Staff have access to the HIVE (Human Intelligent Virtual Environment - a multipurpose and intelligent immersion studio environment).

This University-wide resource contains state-of-the-art high resolution video projection equipment and sound system, so behavioural and physiological responses can be recorded in real-time.

Additionally, our biomechanics/human movement facility allows high-quality video-capture and full kinematic analysis and offers an excellent opportunity for psychologists to work across disciplines with bio-mechanists in the Division of Sports and Exercise Science.

Group of people in a science laboratory

Our Research

The Psychology and Forensic Sciences research profile is integrated within the overarching themes of SocietySecurityEnvironment and Creative Industries

We have research groupings in toxicology; finger printing and trace evidence/provenance; the psychology of policing and the criminal justice system; vision science in biology and technology; evolutionary and biological approaches to behaviour (EBAB); socio-cognitive development, learning and language

In Psychology we are actively involved in many community projects and have strong research links with local, national and international organisations, and are part of established research networks and collaborations with researchers worldwide. As part of a highly collaborative and diverse group of scholars at Abertay, we are particularly invested in inter-disciplinary research and are innovative in the use of creative technology in understanding and developing human behaviour.

In Forensic Science, recent work includes tracing illicit drugs, detecting fingerprints on polymer banknotes and fabrics, and detecting fingerprints on feathers to identify wildlife crime. We work with police forces and the Home Office to contribute to government, policing and research best practice guides.  

Members in the forensic science team include a mix of academics, researchers, former police officers, crime scene examiners, and forensic scientists. Research is conducted in collaboration with the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST).

Visual Perception

Work on visual perception examines how different types of colouration in nature to help to optimise camouflage and warning colouration in real-world contexts, while simultaneously improving understanding of visual systems. Other work tackles the problems that occur in computer interfaces by using animation techniques to effectively guide user attention in complex visual arrays. This research has developed novel interactive experiences to support special user groups such as older or disabled users, e.g. the Tapology project.

Self Processing

Research on self processing by Dr Sheila Cunningham and Dr Janet McLean considers that humans are biased not to miss important information about the self because it captures attention, evokes certain physiological responses and is linked to rich memories. It examines how these biases develop in children, how they are affected by developmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and how they can be harnessed to improve learning in academic settings.

Forensic Psychology and Missing Persons

Dr Penny Woolnough's interdisciplinary research on missing people is aimed at understanding the varied circumstances and outcomes of when people go missing. 

Penny Woolnough Missing Persons

This is to enable different agencies e.g. law-enforcement practitioners, voluntary sector organisations and other academics throughout the UK and internationally, to prevent, protect and support those affected by missing and to strengthen global academic understanding of missing.

Language Learning and Processing

Research on language learning and processing investigates how children and adults represent linguistic structure, how they learn and use different linguistic variants, such as dialects or speech registers, and how this may impact lexical representation and literacy acquisition. Some of our research on this work was recently featured on the BBC Timeline series.

Evolution of Social and Cognitive Abilities

Research on the evolution of social and cognitive abilities compares specific abilities like object use, problem solving, social learning strategies, and prosocial, cooperative behaviours in non-human primates such as gibbons, chimpanzees and bonobos with human children and adults. Research on evolutionary origins of individual differences examines influences on romantic and social attraction and the origins and consequences of laterality differences by exploring factors such as masculinity, femininity, dominance, competition and rivalry as well as the relationship between laterality, emotion, behavioural inhibition and task performance.

Neuroscience Research

Neuroscience research examines the neural basis of a variety of abilities such as aesthetic experience of dance, body structure representation, mathematical cognition and visuospatial attention. Other research evaluates cognitive change in dementia and Parkinsons.

Evolutionary Origins of Individual Differences

Research on evolutionary origins of individual differences examines influences on romantic and social attraction and the origins and consequences of laterality differences by exploring factors such as masculinity, femininity, dominance, competition and rivalry as well as the relationship between handedness, behavioural inhibition and task performance.

Forensic Science Research

Our forensic science staff are a strong force in fingerprint and fingermark research. We work with police forces and the Home Office and contribute to government, policing and research best practice. Our recent projects include detecting fingerprints on polymer banknotes and fabrics.

Together with Scottish and English police forces, we have developed the use of a holistic approach to study overlap of DNA and fingerprint testing techniques. 

Our recent research to improve the detection of fingerprints on feathers will help to identify wildlife crime. We also work on detecting and tracing illicit products and drugs, and understanding their behaviour in the body.


Job Opportunities

For Job Openings, including Research Fellowships, in our School view the job search section on our website.

For PhD Studentships in any of our Subject areas, check out the Funded research projects and Postgraduate Research Funding sections.

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