Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics (PPL) is a course which allows you to study thought, behaviour and language, and the connections between them.
Psychology at Oxford is essentially a scientific discipline, involving the rigorous formulation and testing of ideas. It includes subjects as diverse as social interaction, learning, child development, schizophrenia and information processing.
Philosophy is concerned with a wide range of questions concerning ethics, knowledge and the nature of mind. Philosophy at Oxford has active interests in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of science, and has very close links with neuroscience and psychology.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language, including structure, meaning, and sound. There are many areas which link two or more of the component subjects, e.g. generation and interpretation of language, language learning and psycholinguistics.
PPL at Oxford is a flexible course, offering a wide range of choices within all of the branches. Initially you apply to take TWO of the component subjects, i.e. the available combinations are:
- Psychology & Philosophy (CV85)
- Psychology & Linguistics (CQ81)
- Philosophy & Linguistics (VQ51)
In terms 1 and 2, students take three of the following courses leading up to the Preliminary Examination at the end of the second term:
From term 3, you may take up study of the third subject if you wish (with permission from your college), or continue with the bipartite degree in the two subjects already studied for Prelims.
The Philosophy for the Preliminary Examination consists in the study of Moral Philosophy (focused particularly on JS Mill’s Utilitarianism), General Philosophy (Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Mind), and Logic (the study of argumentative structure and valid inference). Work is divided between lectures (about six per week), and tutorials and classes (two to three per week). During terms 3-9 leading to the Final Honours School examination, your time will again be divided between attending lectures (about six per week), tutorials (average of one to two per week). Students choosing Philosophy take between three and five courses in Philosophy, and those taking a least three courses have the option to write a thesis in Philosophy in place of an additional paper. A full list is available here. The options include bridge papers such as Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Mind (mindbody relations, personal identity, imagination, and the nature of actions and motives).
In terms 1 and 2, students take courses in Psychology and Statistics. Students choosing Psychology take four of the eight courses in Experimental Psychology in terms 3-5, plus a course in Experimental Design and Statistics (examined by submission of a practical portfolio), followed by one, two or three advanced options in Psychology in terms 6-8.
The Introduction to Linguistics course in the first three terms provides a foundation in the basic components of phonetics and phonology (speech and sound patterns), morphology and syntax (word structure and grammar), and semantics and pragmatics (meaning), with an introduction to linguistic theory and the connections between linguistics and other subjects such as sociology and psychology. The course is taught through 3 lectures per week on Grammar, Phonetics and Phonology, and General Linguistics (the latter in three modules: Introduction to General Linguistics, Introduction to Psycholinguistics and Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics). These are supported by practical classes and small-group tutorials.
In the third term, the course is assessed by a 3-hour exam. After the Prelims exam, you may study from three to five special subjects in linguistics. See the options here. Options include the topics mentioned above (in greater depth and to a more advanced standard), other topics such as language change and historical linguistics, or an original research project.
Professor Fabian Grabenhorst is a Tutorial Fellow in Experimental Psychology at Jesus College. His research group investigates the brain mechanisms underlying reward, decision-making and social behaviour, using both electrophysiological recordings in single neurons and human neuroimaging methods. In his recent work, he identified a specific type of neuron in the primate amygdala that learns to predict the intentions of social partners during social interactions.
Professor Jean Baccelli is a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy. He teaches Introduction to Logic, General Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science and Social Science.
Professor Milo Phillips-Brown is a Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy. He teaches General Philosophy, Moral Philosophy, Ethics, AI Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Logic and Language, Philosophical Logic and Logic.
Professor Daniel Altshuler, Fellow and Tutor in Linguistics. He teaches general linguistics, as well as semantics and pragmatics at all levels. His research focuses on context dependence, with the aim of better understanding how compositional semantics interacts with discourse structure and discourse coherence. He has just finished a book on the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of coordination and is editing a volume entitled “Linguistics meets Philosophy”, with the aim of empowering new interdisciplinary discussion.
Dr Nir Shalev is a Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Jesus College. His research interests are in Attention and Time Perception. He uses behavioral experiments and electrophysiology in human participants. His research involves working with neurotypical (children and adults), neurodivergent (e.g., children with genetic syndromes), and individuals with neurological damage (e.g., stroke survivors and Parkinson’s).
The deadline to submit your application for undergraduate study via UCAS is 16 October (please note that this date is usually 15 October, except where this date falls on a weekend). Please refer to the University’s webpages for detailed information on how to apply.
Places available at Jesus College
In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 4 are offered places in a typical year to read either single honours Experimental Psychology or PPL.
Academic requirements for this subject can be found here.
The specific selection criteria are given on the department’s website.
All candidates must take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) as part of their application. Separate registration for the test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered by the deadline of 29 September 2023. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline. Everything you need to know, including how to register and guidance on how to prepare, can be found can be found here.
You do not need to submit any written work as part of an application for this course.
In the interview, Tutors are keen to see whether you can evaluate evidence; are able to consider issues from different perspectives; have a capacity for logical and creative thinking.
Please refer to the Departmental website for subject-specific advice.
The Tutors have no objection in principle to offering a place to a candidate who wishes to defer entry for a year, provided this intention is made known at the outset. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made.
You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the very strongest of the cohort for their subject, and the College limits its offers of deferred places in order not to disadvantage candidates applying in the following year. In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead.
Experimental Psychology can also be studied as a single discipline degree course.
Philosophy cannot be studied as a single discipline for a degree, but it is available as a joint course as follows:
- Computer Science and Philosophy
- Mathematics and Philosophy
- Philosophy and Modern Languages
- Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE)
- Philosophy and Theology
Linguistics can also be studied in combination with a Modern Language
The Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford has a longstanding tradition of excellence in research recognised internationally. The following degrees are offered at postgraduate level:
- DPhil or MSc by Research in Experimental Psychology
- MSc in Psychological Research
- MSc or DPhil in Neuroscience
Philosophy Graduate students will find themselves members of a large graduate community, together with others with shared interests who are at an equivalent stage in their intellectual development. The following degrees are offered at postgraduate level:
- BPhil in Philosophy
- DPhil in Philosophy
- MSt in Ancient Philosophy
- MSt in Philosophy of Physics
- MSt in Practical Ethics
The following degrees are offered by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at postgraduate level:
- MSt or MPhil Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
- DPhil Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
Given the nature of the degree, PPL students are able to consider a wide range of careers, including careers in professional psychology, education, research, medicine, the health services, finance, commerce, industry, the media and information technology. Some careers will require further study and/or training after your degree.
If you study Psychology as part of PPL, your degree is accredited as conferring eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership of the British Psychological Society (provided you study sufficient Psychology options and obtain a 2:1 or above). However, it is not generally possible to earn a living as a psychologist if your only qualification is an undergraduate degree in the subject. For nearly all professional jobs in the subject, further qualifications are necessary. At present, some 15-20% of our undergraduates go on to take second degrees (usually a DPhil, PhD or MSc). These are usually based on independent research done under supervision at some academic institution. They are usually preludes to careers in teaching and research in one or another branch of psychology at a university.
Please use the links below for further information:
- The University of Oxford undergraduate admissions
- Experimental Psychology Department
- Faculty of Philosophy
- Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
- Suggested subject resources
Suggested Reading: Psychology
- Psychology and life (Pearson Higher Education AU)
- Gerrig, R. J., Zimbardo, P. G., Campbell, A. J., Cunning, S. R., & Wilkes, F. J. (2015)
Suggested Reading: Philosophy
If you are contemplating a course involving Philosophy, or wondering whether such a course would suit you, you might wish to read some of the following:
- Thomas Nagel What Does It All Mean? (Oxford)
- Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford)
- M Hollis Invitation to Philosophy (Blackwell)
- Nigel Warburton Philosophy: The Basics (Routledge)
- Julia Driver Ethics: the Fundamentals (Blackwell)
- Simon Blackburn Think (Oxford)
- Roger Scruton An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy (Duckworth)
Suggested Reading: Linguistics
Here is an introductory textbook by Bronwyn Bjorkman at the level you would study in the first year Introduction to Linguistics course.
Here are two books about linguistics that are not particularly academic, but will help you learn what linguistics is:
- Baker, Mark (2001). The Atoms of Language.
- Atchison, Jean (2011). The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics
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