The MSc Psychology of Individual Differences is an exciting opportunity to gain skills in the two key subdivisions in the study of human individual differences: personality and mental abilities

This includes factors related to life-course attainment, health, and positive psychology. We focus on leading-edge research in these fields, as well as modern methods of study including multivariate statistics, psychometrics, and behaviour genetics.

Why are some people more productive than others? Or have closer relationships? Does mindset determine cognitive development? Are we at the mercy of situations or do we bring positive resources to them? What is motivation, or willpower, or grit? How do children learn best when confronting new or difficult material? Is personality affected by genes? Does personality influence psychopathology? How do genes and environments interact in our lives?

Many of the most important questions surrounding the human condition revolve around individual differences. In this course, you will learn how individuals differ, how these differences develop and whether and how they can be changed. You will also learn how these differences impact our daily lives and shape the societies in which we live.

We focus on replicable science. We teach and foster skills in formulating research questions, applying appropriate research methods. As you increase your understanding of individual differences in human personality and human mental abilities, you will also develop world-class analytic skills.

With exposure to advances in personality science, much of it based in teams collaborating with Edinburgh, you will learn about seminal findings and recent updates relating to the study of human individual differences and the ways in which individual differences are currently being studied or applied.

You will develop skills in research management, including managing data and disseminating research in ways consistent with professional practice in the field of individual differences and the normal principles of research ethics.

  • Our research environment is rated as 100% conducive to producing world-leading research, and 81.5% of our research is rated as outstanding in terms of its reach and significance (REF 2014).
  • Home to the largest team of specialist individual differences researchers in the world
  • Our staff are leaders in their fields and will share this expertise, helping you develop an in-depth understanding of current research issues and methodology in the psychology of individuals

This programme comprises two semesters of taught compulsory and optional courses, followed by a dissertation

The 120 credit course comprises core courses and optional courses. The core courses ensure you have specialist knowledge in personality and reasoning, as well as a solid grounding in methodology. There is more flexibility with optional courses - you will have an opportunity to discuss which options best serve your needs in the first few weeks of the programme.

The major project of the degree is a dissertation (60 credits). This involves conducting a research project on a specific topic in the Psychology of Individual Differences. It is developed over the year in collaboration with your supervisor and becomes the main focus in the latter part of the programme. Several of these have led to publications.

Sample structure

On average, full-time students will spend about six hours per week in lectures/seminars, about three hours in tutorials and about three hours in practical classes. The number of contact hours and teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

The remainder of your time will be spent on the independent study. After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework and on your dissertation.


This programme comprises of two semesters of taught compulsory and optional courses followed by a dissertation. Most courses are taught by a combination of lectures, seminars/tutorials and practical sessions.

The content of seminars and tutorials varies but often consists of presentations and discussions based on readings. Practical sessions typically involve learning research skills and are supported by homework tasks and other exercises.

The courses include individual and group work

When you carry out your supervised dissertation research, you will receive guidance from your supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

The assessments vary and are designed to support different aspects of your learning but will include research reports and proposals, essays, oral and poster presentations, methodological exercises, statistical and qualitative analyses, and an 8,000-10,000 word dissertation.

This programme provides you with a range of knowledge and skills to prepare you for a variety of career paths.

Within this flexible programme, you will develop in-depth knowledge, analytic and presentation skills. Our students have gone on to PhDs and professorships, but have also secured positions in overseas labs, as well as in teaching and consulting.

Many students have had their thesis published or made a difference in diverse theoretical and applied settings, from depression to childhood education, to the genetics of depression.

This programme will suit students who want to have a well-grounded knowledge of the psychology of individual differences that they can take with them into applied settings in business or industry, as well as those intending to pursue a research career.

Program taught in:
  • English (US)
University of Edinburgh - School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences

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Last updated November 6, 2019
This course is Campus based
Start Date
1 - 2 years
22,600 GBP
Overseas/International | Home/EU: £10,700
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