BSc Psychology

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Psychology of Politics, Identity and Society

Unit code PSYC32241
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit builds on previous studies in Psychology (principally, PSYC10711, PSYC21702 and PSYC21022)*. It offers students the opportunity to critically analyse contemporary societal issues in depth, with reference to current psychological and neuroscientific theory and evidence. The course brings together topics in the related fields of political psychology, media psychology, and social neuroscience/social cognition.


Building on the knowledge acquired in First and Second Year, this unit aims to:

- Extend students' social psychological understanding and to advance their ability to interpret contemporary social and political phenomena with reference to empirical research;

- Demonstrate the types of questions investigated in social neuroscience;

- Demonstrate how the methods of neuroscience can be utilised to best address the questions of social psychology;

- Equip graduates to contribute to future debates relating to politics and our social responsibilities, as citizens literate in psychological science

Teaching and learning methods

This course unit comprises 11 two-hour lectures, 11 one-hour seminars (based around activities intended to consolidate lecture content), and 10 one-hour reading groups (led by Teaching Assistants, offering the opportunity to critique empirical papers through group work). E-learning provision: Lecture content, reading and resources, and a monitored discussion board will be provided via Blackboard. Feedback on the coursework will be provided before the exam.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the interrelated fields of political psychology, media psychology, and social neuroscience
  • Understand how psychological and neuroscientific approaches can be applied to contemporary social issues, with a particular focus on politics, the media, and popular culture
  • Understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of neuroscientific methods under a given context
  • Understand how a multidisciplinary approach, using multiple complementary methods, can provide a greater understanding of brain function in a social context
  • Describe and evaluate prevailing theories and models in social neuroscience

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate the methods used to study social psychological questions, and the application of neuroscientific methods to social psychology
  • Develop a reasoned, evidence-based argument for a particular point of view
  • Synthesise, analyse and evaluate information using primary sources (e.g., journal articles)

Practical skills

  • Critically evaluate the design and methodology in research papers
  • Discuss empirical findings in a small group context
  • Use electronic resources such as library databases and online journals to search for appropriate literature

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Appreciate consequences of social and political behaviour for members of stereotyped, stigmatized, or minority groups
  • Demonstrate a willingness to engage in debates relating to our social and ethical responsibilities, as scientists and politically-informed citizens
  • Evidence the following skills: evaluating research papers; presenting a coherent and persuasive argument; concise summarising of theories and evidence; effective work in groups; independent study.

Assessment methods

2 Hour Examination woth 67% of the unit. 

1500 Coursework Essay worth 33% of the unit. 

Recommended reading

Cottam, M. L., Mastors, E., Preston, T., & Dietz, B. (Eds.) (2016). Introduction to political psychology (3rd ed.). Abingdon: Routledge

Duarte, J. L., Crawford, J. T., Stern, C., Haidt, J., Jussim, L., & Tetlock, P. E.  (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Dumontheil, I., Wolf, L. K., & Blakemore, S-J. (2016). Audience effects on the neural correlates of relational reasoning in adolescence. Neuropsychologia, 87: 85-95.

Gallagher, H. L., & Frith, C. D. (2003). Functional imaging of 'theory of mind'. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(2): 77-83.

Greene, J. D., Somerville, R. B., Nystrom, L., E., Darley, J. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293: 2105-2108.

Huddy, L. (2013). From group identity to political cohesion and commitment. In Huddy, L., Sears, D. O., & Levy, J. S. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Meshi, D., Tamir, D. I., & Heekeren, H. R. (2015). The emerging neuroscience of social media. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 771-782.

Sanfey, A., Rilling, J., Aaronson, J., Nystrom, L., & Cohen, J. (2003). Probing the neural basis of economic decision-making: A fMRI investigation of the ultimatum game. Science, 300, 1755-1758.

Wallace, P. (2015). The psychology of the internet (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Ward, J. (2013). The student's guide to social neuroscience. Psychology Press.

Willingham, D. T., & Dunn, E. W. (2003). What neuroimaging and brain localization can do, cannot do, and should not do for social psychology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(4): 662-671.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 10
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 157

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Matthew Farr Unit coordinator

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