Interesting Topics For Psychology Term Paper

Research: Topic Selection & Rubric: 

 Mr. Haberman - AP Psychology(Revised 2/14)


You must select one topic from the list below on the first come, first serve bases, and complete an APA-style research paper once each semester. Only one student per topic and register the selection with the teacher. To insure that you get a topic of interest, highlight your top 5 research topics, in order.That way, if your top choice has already been selected by someone else in the class, you can move down the list.


1. Addictions:which substance(s) most addicting?Which easiest/hardest to treat?

2.Role of the environment in the development of personality.

3. What do modern psychologists feel are the major weaknesses of Freud's psychoanalytic theories.

4. Addiction: influences of genetics vs. peers/environment

5. Anxiety:Causes, Symptoms and Therapy

6. Attachment Theory:relationship to parenting style & psychological health as an adult

7. Research the literature on the psychological and physical benefits of laughter.

8. The effects of the circadian rhythms on human beings.

9. The effects of cognitive dissonance on behavior/values

10. The Nightly Dream Cycle and Sleep Deprivation:impact on mental health

11. The Validity of Psychological Tests:how established?Which tests more valid?Less valid?

12. Collectivist vs. Individualistic Cultures:impact on positive self-esteem/sense of self.

13. Interpersonal Attraction:causes, gender differences; is there an "ideal"?

14. Gender differences and the Brain - separating actual differences from stereotypes

15. Endorphins and Happiness:production, role, implications for mental health

16. Learned Optimism/helplessness:how each come about; implications for mental health

17. Genius: Criteria, Characteristics and Types.

18. The Internet:positive/negative effects on our psychological health

19. How has Abraham Maslow's concept of self-actualization affected Psychology?

20. Trace the Development of Humanism from 1950 till now. Review of the Literature

21. Childhood Trauma:impact on personality/role in personality disorders.

22. Race and Intelligence: The Scientific View

23. Possible Causes of Childhood Autism

24. How is Intelligence Measured?Reasons for controversy/debate

25. The Dual Roles of Genetics and Environment on Intelligence

26. Inherited Behavior - The Latest Research

27.Compare and Contrast the Learning Theories of B. F. Skinner and Jean Piaget

28. Alzheimer's Disease:causes, treatment & role lifestyle plays

29. Contact sports & degenerative brain disease

30. Workplace stress:environmental factors?Role of culture, of job type?

31. Rational Emotive Theory:development & modern uses

32. Aging:changes to brain; implications, opportunities & challenges

33. Theories of Forgetting - explanation & implications for better memory

34. Does money buy happiness?Psychological health & socioeconomic status

35. Theories of Intelligence (Spearman vs. Gardner):implications for schools

36. The Theory of Persuasion - why works/doesn't work (psychology behind it)

37. Bullying:causes, who gets bullied; what can parents/teachers do to stop it?

38. The Effects of Over Crowding on Human Beings

39. Subliminal Messages and How They can be Used to Influence Thought and Behavior

40. Current Experiments in Thought Control

41. The Psychological Effects of Torture

42. The Psychological Effects of War

43. How are Children Affected by War.

44. The Theory of Memory Storage in the Human Brain:is there a physical basis?What happens to it?

45. How to Motivate Children to Achieve

46. The Function of Play in psychological health/well-being

47. Reality Therapy:origins, modern uses

48. The Psychological Benefits of Pets & Pet Therapy

49. Psychological Problems of Paraplegics

50. The Emotional Effects of Solitary Confinement

51. Behavior Patterns of Hyperactive Children - biological vs. environmental roots

52. The Stages of Grief According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:implications for coping with loss

53. Attractiveness & bias:are the attractive treated differently? (convictions, hiring, perceptions)

54. Habits: How are they Formed and How They Can Be Changed?

55. The Effects of Color on Mental States

56. The Idiot Savant:origins; contrast with normal intellectual functioning

57. The Theory of Boredom:mental/emotional determinants

58. Managing Interpersonal Conflict:psychology of mediation

59. Divorce:causes, psychological impact

60. Shyness in Adults:causes, consequences

61. The Principles of Primal Therapy:origins, modern uses


62. How Children Develop Gender Identification

63. Typical Mother-Daughter Conflicts in Modern America:causes, solutions

64. The Psychological Aspects of Obesity

65. The Psychological Profile of a Terrorist

66. The Clinical Uses of Hypnosis - risks vs. benefits

67. Significant Findings From Recent Research on Identical Twins

68. The Psychological Profile of a Mercenary Soldier

69. Abusers: A Profile - early psychological history of a future abuser

70. Eating Disorders:why are they so resistant to treatment?Role of gender?Brain changes?

71. Hate Crimes:impact on vicims & on communities

72. Brain Damage and Behavior

73. Dreams & dream interpretation:why they occur?are interpretations valid?

74. The Limits of Artificial Intelligence

75. Compare and Contrast the Training, Scope, and Functions of Psychiatrists and Psychologists.

76. The Rorschach Test: How is it Administered and Evaluated?

77. The Psychological Problems of the Homeless.

78.How does social anxiety disorder effect the routine life of a person?

79.Cyber bullying:psychological impact and recommended responses

80 .ADHD:Latest research and recommended treatment

81.The link between exercise and emotional health

82.Anger management:what makes psychological treatment effective?

83.Psychology of Flow:implications for workplace satisfaction

84.Psychological characteristics of long-lasting marriages

85.Creativity and Intelligence:what makes kids creative, and is it measured by intelligence tests?

86.US Cultural and Marketing Trends:do they threaten children's physical and mental health?

87.Violence in the Media:psychological effects on children

88.Tools of Sports Psychologists:how they can also promote mental health in the workplace

89.  Birth Order:  does it effect personality?  First-born vs. middle child vs. youngest?

90.   Psychological profile of the serial killer:  what do they have in common - neurologically?  Personalities?  Family history?

91.   Depersonalization/derealization Disorder:  causes, symptoms and treatment.

92.  Antisocial Personality Disorder:  influences of nature vs. nurture; prominence in the criminal justice system

93.  Brand New Mental Disorders:  describing the disorders first appearing in the DSM 5 - implications for psychology?

94.  Brain Mapping:  dispelling myths & updating accuracy based on the newest maps.  What really happens where? 

95.  Psychology Behind Attraction:  how marketing professionals influence consumer choices. 

96. Key parenting strategies for raising children with healthy self-esteem.

97. What is emotional intelligence and how does it relate to success and life satisfaction?

98. The psychological benefits of forgiveness.

99. Optimism versus pessimism: impact on physical and psychological health.

100. The psychopath's brain: is it structurally different from the normal brain?

101. The most widely believed MYTHS in psychology.

102. Do we inherit or create our personalities? A review of the evidence.

103. The frequent selfie-taker: the social psychology behind social media use.


Semester Research PaperAP Psychology – Mr. Haberman


1st Semester:100 point project grade; 2nd Semester:scored as 25% of Final Exam




General Instructions

Independent research allows each AP Psychology student the opportunity to explore a topic of personal interest, and delve into greater detail on the chosen topic than we would have time to cover as an entire class.Each paper (one per semester), to be submitted electronically, should be 3-4 pages typed, double-spaced with a font size of 12, not counting the cover page, abstract, and references page.Your research should include a minimum of 5 references, with at least 2 references coming from either books or professional journal articles.Your research papers are to be prepared in APA format, and as such should include:


1.1” margins all around

2.Title page centered horizontally and vertically

3.Abstract – second page – a brief summary of your findings

4.References within the document in APA format (NOT footnotes, but author and year in parenthesis).

5.References page after the body of the report (not numbered, but alphabetical by author’s last name – see examples below)


.APA Format for References (fictitious samples, to show you the format):


For a professional journal article (as it would appear in the bibliography - alphabetically by author last name):


Freud, S. (1933). The interpretation of dreams. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 5(2), 144-148.


For a book: Erikson, E. (1958). Psychological and social development through the lifespan. (pp. 104-155). New York, NY: Hardcourt Brace.


In-paper citations (using these two examples). 

Paraphrase the information, ending with the citation: "For many adults, unresolved issues from childhood may show up in the latent content of their dreams, when interpreted from a psychoanalytic point of view (Freud, 1933).  In other cases, the difficulties may have more to do with their age and stage of development.  In later adulthood, conflicts may arise from career difficulties, and the feeling that it has become too late to make major life changes (Erikson, 1958)."


Topic Selection

Topics will be selected in class – only one student may select each topic. Your paper should address the following:


1.Give a brief background of the subject or problem.

2.Include a personal discussion of your thoughts, bias, feelings towards the subject or problem prior to the research you conducted.

3.What types of research methods have been used to study this topic/problem?

4.What is the significance of this topic/problem?Why is it important for people to understand?What areas of mental or physical health may it have an impact on?

5.What is already known about this topic/problem?

6.What were the limitations that effected your efforts to research this topic/problem?Are there things that currently limit what we know about this topic/problem?

7.APPLICATION:how can your research be applied?  Address the various possible audiences:by psychologists?  By other mental health and/or medical professionals?  By individuals and/or families?  By institutions, governments or societies?

8.Relevance:is your research important to work going on currently in the field of psychology?How?Be specific.

9.Conclusions:what answers did your research provide for you?  What are the unanswered questions, and/or the areas where further research is needed?


Grading (100 point project grade 1st semester; 25% of Final Exam 2nd semester)

: APA Style & Format:4 points

Grammar & Spelling:4 points

Content (each element above):11 points

References:6points/ 25 Total (25% of Final Exam)

I have never regretted choosing to spend my career as a psychologist. There’s the very obvious fact that psychology underlies all of behavior and thus, in my opinion, is the most important scientific discipline of all. However, there’s more to it than the love of science. When you come right down to it, psychology is just very cool.

Psychologists, like many other scientists, enjoy inventing new terms to describe what they study. Sure, we get accused now and then of being too “jargon-y” (itself a jargon-y term). Once you understand what the jargon means, though, most of it not only makes sense, but expands your understanding of behavior.  Narrowing down the thousands of great ideas in psychology to a mere 13 is a bit of a challenge. Therefore, I’ve decided to limit myself to those that are coolest according to these criteria: (a) relatively new (which technically makes them “hot”); (b) not overly commonsensical; (c) based on research; and (d) having applicability to everyday life. See if you agree with this top 13 list (the references for each are listed by number, below).

1.  Mood freezing

We’ve come to believe that by expressing our emotions we’ll feel better. The idea of “catharsis” also implies that by releasing our anger, we’ll rid ourselves of all hostile feelings. In research on “mood freezing,” participants are made to believe that a pill can alter their moods when, in fact, the pill is a placebo. When these participants are artificially riled up in an experimental situation, and then given the fake pill, they both reduce their angry outbursts and – importantly- say that the feel better. You don’t have to give yourself an actual, fake, mood freezing pill to reduce your own angry outbursts the next time you get mad. If you tell yourself you don’t need to express that anger, though, you can derive the same positive benefit.

2.  Facial feedback

According to one theory of emotions, known as the facial feedback model, the expression on your face helps to control the way you feel inside. This theory was put to the test in a study of people who had received Botox treatments, a cosmetic injection that numbs the muscles of the face. The Botoxed participants were less able to empathize with the emotions of others because, presumably, they were unable to flex their facial muscles. The results weren’t accounted for, either, by a selection bias because people getting Botox don’t show unusual patterns of emotion detection prior to their injections.

3.  Self-affirmations

The value of self-affirmations was made famous by SNL character Stuart Smalley (now Senator Al Franken): “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh-darn it, people like me.” Often, a self-affirmation can boost your inner strength and make you more likely to succeed. However, this strategy may come with a risk. A recent study showed that people who utter self-affirmations may be less inclined to pursue a goal after they experience failure. To the extent that you internalize your failure, you may then feel that you actually have less, rather than more of a chance at succeeding in your future efforts.

4.   Hindsight bias

One of our most common human tendencies is to think that we were right about predicting an event’s outcome even in actuality we were wrong.  Hindsight bias takes the common form of “I knew it all along.” Psychologists have long known about hindsight bias, but a recent study shows that you can be prevented from the lure of hindsight (and the possible negative consequences it can create) by relatively simple reality-testing interventions before you commit this cognitive faux pas.

5.  Mind-wandering

The term mind-wandering isn’t particularly knew to 2013, but recent studies show that it can actually benefit your thinking. We tend to believe that it’s bad for our daily performance, but these studies are showing that you can make better plans for yourself and solve problems more creatively by occasionally letting your mind drift far and wide.

6.  Double foot-in-the-door

The foot-in-the-door is a well-known strategy to manipulate people into fulfilling a large request by first presenting them with a small one. However, we hear less about the double-foot-in-the-door.  In a recent study, researchers found that they could convince participants to engage in energy-saving activities more effectively using the double-foot-the-door. In this process, you make your request in three phases- small, medium, and large- rather than just going from small to large. That staging of your request makes it seem less intimidating, and even if you have to stretch it out over a week or two, in the long run, it will pay off more for you.

7.  Affect heuristic

A heuristic is a “rule of thumb” that allows people to make judgments and solve problems. The affect heuristic refers to our very illogical tendency to predict risk on the basis of how frightening something seems to be rather than on its probability.  For example, people will be more likely to take steps to avoid a rare, very frightening disease, than to avoid a more probable one that carries with it less obvious pain and suffering.

8.  Target template

When we’re searching through a complex set of stimuli, such as a busy street that we’re trying to cross, we need to pick out the sources of danger. The “target template” is a guide to searching these types of complex stimulus arrays. Despite what you hear about videogames being bad for your attention, researchers are finding that action games can actually improve your scanning abilities of these complex scenes. In fact, the more action-oriented the game, the bigger the attentional boost.

9. Thedark triad

The combination of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, or the “dark triad,” sounds bad, and in many cases, it is bad. People high on dark triad traits tend to be unpleasant to be with and can cause you much heartache should you have the bad fortune of falling in love with them.  However, in a longitudinal study of personality traits and career success, it was those high in the dark triad traits who tended to succeed in moving up the career and income ladders. They even out-performed their more conscientious, somewhat obsessive-compulsive, counterparts.

10.  Relationship churning

We can’t completely give psychology credit for this term, as the study in which I found it was conducted by sociologists.  However, it clearly applies to the psychology of relationships. Relationship churning occurs when you are in a series of on/off relationships.  Unfortunately, young adults most likely to experience relationship churning may also be the ones most likely to suffer relationship abuse, both physical and verbal. 

11.  Fear of happiness

Although we seem to idolize happiness as the be-all and end-all of life’s desired outcomes, some people, particularly from certain cultures, actually fear the state of happiness. In cultures that believe worldly happiness to be associated with sin, shallowness, and moral decline will actually feel less satisfied when their lives are (by other standards) going well. 

12.  Self-monitoring

In self-monitoring, as the term implies, you pay careful attention to your steps toward progress in achieving improvement or a desired goal. This term may seem to violate my commonsense principle, above. However, I nevertheless found it interesting that in a study using a behavioral approach to online weight control for people objectively considered obese, it was the participants who stuck to the program by taking advantage both of chatting and online logging-in who achieved the greatest weight gain. The biggest losers, in this study were the ones who got started early on the self-monitoring aspect of the program, which seemed to give them that all-important initial boost.

13.  Vocational callings

I’ll leave you today on this inspirational note that when you think of your job as a “calling,” you’ll be more satisfied with it. People who feel they have a calling believe that their work (be it as a homemaker or in employment outside the home), are more likely to feel the most satisfied and the most motivated. The key to this particular kind of job satisfaction is not only that you feel you have a calling, but that you are able to live out that calling.  Once you have that congruence of your desire and your experiences, you’ll feel more in control of your career’s direction which, in turn, can further help you feel connected to a larger purpose in life.

With this sampling of a mere 13 cool psychology ideas, you can see why psychology has so much to offer and how it can help all of us lead more fulfilling lives.

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2013


  1. Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., & Phillips, C. M. (2001). Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 81(1), 17-32. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.17
  2. Neal, D. T., & Chartrand, T. L. (2011). Embodied emotion perception: Amplifying and dampening facial feedback modulates emotion perception accuracy. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(6), 673-678. doi:10.1177/1948550611406138
  3. Vohs, K. D., Park, J., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2013). Self-affirmation can enable goal disengagement. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 104(1), 14-27. doi:10.1037/a0030478
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  10. Halpern‐Meekin, S., Manning, W. D., Giordano, P. C., & Longmore, M. A. (2013). Relationship churning, physical violence, and verbal abuse in young adult relationships. Journal Of Marriage And Family, 75(1), 2-12.
  11. Joshanloo, M. (2013). The influence of fear of happiness beliefs on responses to the satisfaction with life scale. Personality And Individual Differences, 54(5), 647-651. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.011
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  13. Duffy, R. D., & Autin, K. L. (2013). Disentangling the Link Between Perceiving a Calling and Living a Calling. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0031934

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