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BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details
Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
Secrets, Lies & Mass Deception
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||School of Social Sciences|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This course is roughly divided into four sections that consider: 1) secrecy; 2) lying; 3) lie detection; and 4) mass deception. The course uses Georg Simmel’s sociological approach as a foundation for the module, but draws on other sociological analyses, as well as from other disciplines, including social history, philosophy and politics.
The course will consider such questions as:
What are family secrets and how do people understand them?
How are secrets used in social organisations?
What is a lie?
How do we use lies, fabrications and deception in everyday life?
How was lie detection developed and how is it used in Western society?
How is propaganda used in the media?
This unit introduces students to the study of secrecy, lying and deception, exploring how such phenomena form a part of everyday life and the organisation of society. It is an interdisciplinary course, drawing on sociology, philosophy, anthropology and politics. The primary focus of the course, however, will be on understanding secrets, lies and deception as fundamentally social phenomena. It will also engage critically with the development and use of lie detection technologies.
Student should be able to:
Compare and contrast different disciplinary perspectives on secrets, lies and mass deception.
Describe arguments for and against the use of lies and deception in social relationships.
Identify the assumptions concerning social life that are embedded in different definitions of secrecy, lying and deception.
Critically evaluate the role of mass deception in social order.
Teaching and learning methods
Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.
Weekly 1 x 2 hour lecture and a weekly 1 hour workshop (rolled into one 3 hour slot). The course will utilise Blackboard 9 in delivering the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, supplementary material including films, and course communications.
Multiple Choice Exam (50%)
Assessed Essay (50%)
Informal feedback will be given on the non-assessed essay plan due before the essay, and formal feedback will be given on the essay itself.
Barnes, J.A. (1994) A Pack of Lies: Towards a Sociology of Lying, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bok, S. (1999) Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, New York: Vintage Books.
Goffman, E. (1956) Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.
Simmel, G. (1906) ‘The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies’, The American Journal of Sociology 11(4): 441-498.
Smart, C. (2007) Personal Life: New Directions in Sociological Thinking, Cambridge: Polity Press. [In particular see Chapter 5 ‘Secrets and Lies’]
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Andrew Balmer||Unit coordinator|
Coursework essay: 3000 words
Multiple choice exam: traditional exam conditions or online equivalent
One formative assignment designed to offer formative feedback (5 point penalty for non-submission)