Psychology Essay Topics: 7 Essay Examples and Writing Prompts

Need a psychology research paper idea? Check out these 20 psychology essay topics to get your writing started.

If you are studying psychology in college, the chances are high that you will need to complete an essay or research paper at some point in your education. You will likely have to do several reports. Figuring out interesting topics can be challenging.

To decide on your psychology essay topic, first think about the branch of psychology you plan to study. Then, consider pulling an essay idea from that branch. If you’re going to be a general practice psychologist, you might want to think about more general topics.

If you are still drawing a blank, here are some psychology essay topics to get you started.

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1. The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? by Marcia Angell

“It seems that Americans are in the midst of a raging epidemic of mental illness, at least as judged by the increase in the numbers treated for it. The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades.”

Angell describes the realities behind mental illness statistics. She then explores why problems like anxiety disorders, depression, and similar problems are rising. She proposes that it is possible they are being diagnosed more frequently than before, more so than becoming more prevalent.

2. Is the Internet Making Us Crazy? What the New Research Says by Tony Dukoupil

“The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.”

In this essay, Dukoupil points out the mental health concerns that come with constant exposure to social media and other technology. He explores new research into the abnormal psychology disorders this exposure is creating.

3. The Dark Psychology of Social Networks by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell

“The problem may not be connectivity itself but rather the way social media turns so much communication into a public performance. We often think of communication as a two-way street. Intimacy builds as partners take turns, laugh at each other’s jokes, and make reciprocal disclosures. What happens, though, when grandstands are erected along both sides of that street and then filled with friends, acquaintances, rivals, and strangers, all passing judgment and offering commentary?”

Social media has a dark side, and this is what Haidt and Rose-Stockwell explore in this essay. What started as a positive way to build social connections has turned into a public facade that pushes people toward mental health issues.

4. The Benjamin Franklin Effect by David McRaney

“The Misconception: You do nice things for the people you like and bad things to the people you hate.

The Truth: You grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm.

Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters.”

In this social psychology essay, McRaney explores how Benjamin Franklin’s people skills created a psychological phenomenon known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect. This theory says that you are more likely to perform a favor for someone if you already performed a favor for them rather than if you received a favor from them. McRaney delves into the psychology behind this theory.

5. Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch

“My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert. Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues.”

In this essay, Rauch, a self-proclaimed introvert, explores what it means to be one and how people can best care for one. After reading this article, you will be well-equipped for any social interaction involving an introvert.

6. The Stanford Prison Experiment by Dr. Saul McLeod

“The study may also lack population validity as the sample comprised US male students. The study’s findings cannot be applied to female prisons or those from other countries. For example, America is an individualist culture (were people are generally less conforming) and the results may be different in collectivist cultures (such as Asian countries).”

This informative essay talks about the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it impacted the field of psychology as a whole. McLeod also provides some critical evaluation of the study and its findings.

7. Why Your Brain is Not a Computer by Matthew Cobb

“There are indeed theoretical approaches to brain function, including to the most mysterious thing the human brain can do – produce consciousness. But none of these frameworks are widely accepted, for none has yet passed the decisive test of experimental investigation. It is possible that repeated calls for more theory may be a pious hope. It can be argued that there is no possible single theory of brain function, not even in a worm, because a brain is not a single thing. (Scientists even find it difficult to come up with a precise definition of what a brain is.).”

In this essay, Cobb takes on the ideology that the brain is nothing more than a complex computer. He looks at the current research and draws an opinion on how much more complex the human brain is than simply calling it a computer.

Essay Prompts about Psychology

If you are looking for psychology essay topics you can use, here are some to get your essay writing started.

1. What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder, and How Is It Treated?

Psychology essay topics: What is antisocial personality disorder
Your essay could explore what causes it and potential treatments for someone diagnosed with it

If you are looking for informative essay topic ideas, you could build an interesting essay around defining and exploring treatments for antisocial personality disorder. This disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, causes the individual to ignore the needs and feelings of others and show no remorse for doing wrong.

Many serial killers have this disorder, and it is one of the most damaging psychological disorders. Your essay could explore what causes it and potential treatments for someone diagnosed with it.

2. The Rise of Schizophrenia or Other Serious Mental Disorders

Are serious mental disorders, like schizophrenia, on the rise? Research this topic, and then build an essay around it. You will find that rates of this mental disorder are on the rise.

After doing the research, determine why this increase might be happening. Then, explore ideas for treatment that might help combat the increase.

3. The Role of Media and Video Games in Violent Behavior

Do violent video games and movies cause violent behavior? Do they hurt the development of a child’s psychological well-being enough that the child can commit atrocious crimes? The APA warns that it is a risk factor for aggressive behavior.

Answering these questions in your essay could address an important social issue while helping you craft an interesting essay because the type of media is part of modern society,

4. The Main Factors that Impact Problem-Solving Abilities in Child Development

What factors can teach children to be good problem solvers and improve critical thinking skills? You will find some research that indicates the school setting is largely the most impactful, but you will also find some research that says parents and familial upbringing have a big role.

After doing your research, decide what you feel is the most important factor. Then, build your term paper around that thesis statement as you prove your choice. You can also provide practical advice to help teachers and parents better teach problem-solving to the children they impact.

5. Can Serious Physical Illnesses Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Many people think of PTSD as something that affects people who have been to war or suffered in an accident or other serious instance, but some research has found that chronic illness can lead to PTSD symptoms. You could build an essay around this, discussing why this might be and how doctors could better serve patients by understanding this connection.

With an understanding of the link between PTSD and chronic illness, doctors may be able to help their patients not only recover from physical illnesses but also the psychological effects of those illnesses.

6. The Impact of Parenting Styles on Human Development

Parents come in all shapes and sizes, and many have distinct parenting styles. However, a child’s parent’s parenting style impacts their development, and you can explore how this occurs in your essay.

Are there certain parenting styles that are more damaging to their children than others? Do some personality traits in parents have better outcomes in overall child development? Research points to authoritarian parenting as damaging to child development, as an example, while authoritative parenting helps kids grow into balanced, healthy adults. Answering these questions will make for an interesting psychology essay.

7. What Stops Panic Attacks Effectively?

A panic attack can stop you in your tracks and make normal functioning impossible. Knowing how to stop a panic attack is vital to protecting the health and well-being of the individual.

Explore various ideas for controlling a panic attack and helping someone achieve a positive mental state, such as deep breathing, meditation, or even taking a walk. Discuss why these tactics work and how someone can remember to use them during an attack.

8. What Is Causing the Rise in Anorexia Among Children?

Psychology essay topics: What is causing the rise in anorexia among children?
Consider using your essay to explore the potential causes of this serious issue

Over half of all teenage girls and a third of teenage boys have an eating disorder, and the majority of those who suffer have anorexia. What are contributing factors making teens more likely to try to control their weight in this sort of unhealthy manner? Is it our growing dependence on social media and the perfect body image it portrays, or is it a change in our biological makeup?

The statistics surrounding eating disorders in teens are clear and established, but the cause is not. Consider using your essay to explore the potential causes of this serious issue.

9. Do Teenagers Face Anxiety in High School?

High school is a challenging time of life for teenagers growing into adults and facing growing academic pressure, and for some, anxiety may be the result. According to the National Institutes of Health, one out of three teenagers will suffer an anxiety disorder. This statistic shows that teenagers do, in fact, face anxiety in high school.

Your essay could explore why this is true, include strategies teachers could use to reduce anxiety, and the overall impact of this anxiety on developing adolescents.

10. How Does Low Self-Confidence Hurt an Athlete?

Sports psychology can be interesting to explore. In one study, researchers found that an athlete’s physical prowess helped their athletic ability between 45% and 48%, while psychological health increased ability by 79% to 85%. Based on statistics like this, you can create an essay that explores the impact of self-confidence on performance.  

Even though this essay topic seems to be highly skewed toward athletics, there is a lot of psychology involved. All it takes is one blow to an athlete’s self-confidence to have them fail on the playing field, even though they have good athletic capabilities.

If you’re stuck picking an essay topic, check out our guide on how to write essays about depression.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!

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