UPSC Psychology Syllabus for IAS Mains: PDF Download

UPSC Psychology Syllabus: Download the UPSC CSE Psychology Syllabus PDF, check the topic-wise Psychology Optional Syllabus for Papers 1 & 2 along with the best strategy and books.

UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF Download
UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF Download

UPSC Psychology Syllabus: Psychology is one of the most scoring optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam. It mainly assesses the aspirant’s ability to understand Psychology as a science and implement that knowledge in the challenges faced by the aspirants on a daily basis. Those who choose Psychology as an optional subject in UPSC will find that the UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF mainly focuses on applied psychology. 


Moreover, aspirants who have experience working as a psychologist or have studied Psychology in their graduation/post-graduation can excel in this subject. Going by the previous 5 years' statistics, approximately 150-180 candidates opt for Psychology as their optional subject for UPSC Mains, and the success rate ranges between 7-9%. 


Thus, candidates should follow the Psychology Syllabus for UPSC optional subjects to differentiate between important and unimportant topics. As per the past year’s UPSC exam analysis, it is found that the questions asked in the UPSC Psychology optional subject are medium level.

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In this article, we have compiled the UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF for Mains, along with question weightage, preparation tips, and best books.

UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF

The UPSC Psychology optional syllabus comprises two papers, i.e., Paper 1 and Paper 2, each carrying 250 marks and a total of 500 marks. Candidates must access the UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF for Papers 1 and 2 to know the questions usually asked in the exam. Download the topic-wise UPSC Psychology Syllabus PDF for papers 1 and 2 shared below.

UPSC IAS Psychology Syllabus 2023

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UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus For IAS Mains

The UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus is divided into two papers, i.e., Paper 1 and Paper 2. Candidates can refer to the topic-wise UPSC Psychology syllabus for main optional papers 1 and 2 and then plan the strategy accordingly.

UPSC Psychology Syllabus for Paper 1

The UPSC Psychology Paper I syllabus covers topics like Methods of Psychology, Research methods, Development of Human Behaviour, Sensation, Attention and Perception, Learning, Memory, Thinking and Problem Solving, etc. Check the topic-wise UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus for Paper I below.


Foundations of Psychology

  1. Introduction: Definition of Psychology; Historical antecedents of Psychology and trends in the 21st century; Psychology and scientific methods; Psychology in relation to other social sciences and natural sciences; Application of Psychology to societal problems.
  2. Methods of Psychology: Types of research: Descriptive, evaluative, diagnostic and prognostic; Methods of Research: Survey, observation, case-study, and experiments; Characteristics of experimental design and non-experimental designs; quasi-experimental designs; Focussed group discussions, brainstorming, grounded theory approach.
  3. Research methods: Major steps in psychological research (problem statement, hypothesis formulation, research design, sampling, tools of data collection, analysis and interpretation and report writing); Fundamental versus applied research; Methods of data collection (interview, observation, questionnaire and case study). Research Designs (Ex-post facto and experimental). Application of statistical techniques (t-test, two-way ANOVA, correlation and regression, and factor analysis) item response theory.
  4. Development of Human Behaviour: Growth and development; Principles of development, Role of genetic and environmental factors in determining human behavior; Influence of cultural factors in socialization; Life span development—Characteristics, development tasks, promoting psychological wellbeing across major stages of the life span.
  5. Sensation, Attention and Perception : Sensation: concepts of threshold, absolute and difference thresholds, signal-detection and vigilance; Factors influencing attention including set and characteristics of stimulus; Definition and concept of perception, biological factors in perception; Perceptual organization influence of past experiences, perceptual defence-factor influencing space and depth perception, size estimation and perceptual readiness; The plasticity of perception; Extrasensory perception; Culture and perception, Subliminal perception.
  6. Learning : Concepts and theories of learning (Behaviourists, Gestaltalists and Information processing models). The processes of extinction, discrimination and generalisation. Programmed learning, probability learning, self instructional learning, concepts, types and the schedules of reinforcement, escape, avoidance

and punishment, modelling and social learning.

  1. Memory : Encoding and remembering; Shot-term memory, Long-term memory, Sensory memory, Iconic memory, Echoic memory: The Multistore model, levels of processing; Organization and Mnemonic techniques to improve memory; Theories of forgetting: decay, interference and retrieval failure: Metamemory; Amnesia: Anterograde and retrograde.
  2. Thinking and Problem Solving : Piaget’s theory of cognitive development; Concept formation processes; Information processing, Reasoning and problem solving, Facilitating and hindering factors in problem solving, Methods of problem solving: Creative thinking and fostering creativity; Factors influencing decision making and judgement; Recent trends.
  3. Motivation and Emotion : Psychological and physiological basis of motivation and emotion;Measurement of motivation and emotion; Effects of motivation and emotion on behaviour; Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation; Factors influencing intrinsic motivation; Emotional competence and the related issues.
  4. Intelligence and Aptitude : Concept of intelligence and aptitude, Nature and theories of intelligenceSpearman, Thurstone, Gulford Vernon, Sternberg and J.P. Das; Emotional Intelligence, Social intelligence, measurement of intelligence and aptitudes, concept of I Q deviation I Q, constancy of I Q; Measurement of multiple intelligence; Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.
  5. Personality: Definition and concept of personality; Theories of personality (psychoanalytical, sociocultural, interpersonal, developmental, humanistic, behaviouristic, trait and type approaches); Measurement of personality (projective tests, pencil-paper test); The Indian approach to personality; Training for personality development; Latest approaches like big 5-factor theory; The notion of self in different traditions.
  6. Attitudes, Values and Interests: Definitions of attitudes, values and interests; Components of attitudes; Formation and maintenance of attitudes. Measurement of attitudes, values and interests. Theories of attitude changes, strategies for fostering values. Formation of stereotypes and prejudices; Changing other’s behaviour, Theories of attribution; Recent trends.
  7. Language and Communication: Human language—Properties, structure and linguistic hierarchy, Language acquisition—predisposition, critical period hypothesis; Theories of Language development—Skinner and Chomsky; Process and types of communication—effective communication training.
  8. Issues and Perspectives in Modern Contemporary Psychology: Computer application in the psychological laboratory and psychological testing; Artificial intelligence; Psychocybernetics; Study of consciousness leep-wak schedules; dreams, stimulus deprivation, meditation, hypnotic/drug induced states; Extrasensory perception; Intersensory perception; Simulation studies.

UPSC Psychology Syllabus for Paper 2

The UPSC Psychology Paper II Syllabus focuses on topics like Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences, Psychological well-being and Mental Disorders, Therapeutic Approaches, Work Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, Community Psychology, Rehabilitation Psychology, etc. Check the topic-wise UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus PDF for Paper II below.

Psychology: Issues and applications

  1. Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences: The nature of individual differences. Characteristics and construction of standardized psychological tests. Types of psychological tests. Use, misuse and limitation of psychological tests. Ethical issues in the use of psychological tests.
  2. Psychological well being and Mental Disorders: Concept of health-ill health positive health, well being casual factors in Mental disorders (Anxiety disorders, mood disorders; schizophrenia and delusional disorders; personality disorders, substance abuse disorders). Factors influencing positive health, well being; lifestyle and quality of life; Happiness disposition.
  3. Therapeutic Approaches: Psychodynamic therapies. Behaviour therapies. Client centered therapy. Cognitive therapies. Indigenous therapies (Yoga, Meditation). Biofeedback therapy. Prevention and rehabilitation of the mentally ill; Fostering mental health.
  4. Work Psychology and Organisational Behaviour: Personnel selection and training. Use of Psychological tests in the industry. Training and human resource

development. Theories of work motivation. Herzberg, Maslow, Adam Equity theory, Porter and Lawler, Vroom; Leadership and participatory management; Advertising and marketing; Stress and its management; Ergonomics; consumer psychology; Managerial effectiveness; Transformational leadership; Senitivity training; Power and politics in organizations.

  1. Application of Psychology to Educational Field: Psychological principles underlying effective teaching-learning process. Learning styles. Gifted, retarded,

learning disabled and their training. Training for improving memory and better academic achievement. Personality development and value education. Educational, vocational guidance and Career counseling. Use of Psychological tests in educational institutions; Effective strategies in guidance programmes.

  1. Community Psychology : Definition and concept of Community Psychology. Use of small groups in social action. Arousing Community consciousness and action for handling social problems. Group decision making and leadership for social change. Effective strategies for social change.
  2. Rehabilitation Psychology: Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention programmes—role of psychologists. Organising of services for rehabilitation of physically, mentally and socially challenged persons including old persons. Rehabilitation of persons suffering from substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, criminal behaviours. Rehabilitation of victims of violence. Rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS victims, the role of social agencies.
  3. Application of Psychology to disadvantaged groups: The concepts of disadvantaged, deprivation social, physical, cultural, and economic consequences of disadvantaged and deprived groups. Educating and motivating the disadvantaged towards development; Relative and prolonged deprivation.
  4. Psychological problem of social integration: The concept of social integration. The problem of caste, class, religion and language conflicts and prejudice. Nature and manifestation of prejudice between the ingroup and outgroup. Casual factors of such conflicts and prejudices. Psychological strategies for handling conflicts and prejudices. Measures to achieve social integration.
  5. Application of Psychology in Information Technology and Mass Media: The present scenario of information technology and the mass media boom and the role of psychologists. Selection and training of Psychology professionals to work in the field of IT and mass media. Distance learning through IT and mass media. Entrepreneurship through e-commerce. Multilevel marketing. Impact of TV and fostering value through IT and mass media. Psychological consequences of recent developments in Information Technology.
  6. Psychology and Economic development: Achievement motivation and economic development. Characteristics of entrepreneurial behaviour. Motivating and Training people for entrepreneurship and economic development; Consumer rights and consumer awareness, Government policies for promotion of entrepreneurship among youth including women entreprenures.
  7. Application of Psychology to environment and related fields: Environmental Psychology effects of noise, pollution and crowding. Population Psychology: Psychological consequence of population explosion and high population density. Motivating for small family norms. Impact of rapid scientific and technological growth on degradation of environment.
  8. Application of psychology in other fields:

(a) Military Psychology: Devising psycological tests for defence personnel for use in selection, Training, counseling; training psychologists to work , with defence personnel in promoting positive health; Human engineering in defence.

(b) Sports Psychology: Psychological interventions in improving performance of athletes and sports. Persons participating in Individual and Team Games.

(c) Media influences on pro and anti-social behaviour.

(d) Psychology of Terrorism. 

  1. Psychology of Gender: Issues of discrimination, Management of diversity; Glass ceiling effect, Self-fulfilling prophesy, Women and Indian society.

How to Prepare the UPSC Psychology Syllabus 2023?

Candidates must check the UPSC Psychology syllabus before planning the preparation strategy. Familiarity with the topics will help them build a firm grip on the basic concepts and core topics, and they will be able to maximize their scores in the exam. As the UPSC Psychology optional syllabus is massive, aspirants should remember certain points to cover all the aspects of the exam.

  • Examine the UPSC Psychology optional subject carefully and clear the basic concepts of all the important topics.
  • Choose highly recommended books and study resources for adequate preparation for the exam.
  • Prepare flowcharts and attempt mock tests based on the updated pattern and format to learn the fundamentals in a better manner.
  • Download the UPSC Psychology previous year's question paper and solve it regularly to cover the syllabus in the best possible manner.
  • Prepare short notes on all the important UPSC Psychology topics for quick revision.

Booklist for UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus

Preparation for the UPSC Psychology optional subject is incomplete without proper books and study materials. However, candidates must choose limited and useful UPSC Psychology books and resources for the preparation. This will help them to cover all the important topics mentioned in the UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus. Some highly recommended UPSC Psychology Optional books are as follows.

  • Psychology by Robert A. Baron
  • Psychology-Classes XI & XII NCERT textbooks
  • Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Feldman
  • Psychology by Saundra Ciccarelli
  • Tests, Measurements and Research Methods in Behavioural Sciences by A K Singh
  • Applied Psychology by Smarak Swain.


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What is the UPSC Psychology Optional Syllabus?

The UPSC Psychology Paper I syllabus covers topics like Methods of Psychology, Research methods, Development of Human Behaviour, Sensation, Attention and Perception, Learning, Memory, Thinking and Problem Solving, etc. The UPSC Psychology Paper II Syllabus focuses on topics like Psychological Measurement of Individual Differences, Psychological well-being and Mental Disorders, Therapeutic Approaches, etc.

Is the Psychology Subject for UPSC IAS Mains easy?

Psychology is one scoring optional subject in the UPSC mains exam if prepared well. As per the previous trend and analysis, it is found that the questions asked in Psychology subjects are medium level.

What are the best books to cover the UPSC Psychology Syllabus for Mains?

Some of the best books to cover the UPSC Psychology Syllabus are Psychology by Robert A. Baron, Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Feldman, Psychology by Saundra Ciccarelli, etc.

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