BSc Psychology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology

Course unit fact file
Unit code PSYC21151
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course unit focuses on the historical development of psychology as a science and the way in which earlier philosophical ideas were transformed within the context of psychology, leading to the different approaches to psychology that can be discerned throughout its history. It will also deal with the philosophy of science and consider how science develops over time, the extent to which one can define a scientific method, and the extent to which psychology exemplifies the characteristics of scientific method. Finally, it will deal with the development of philosophical ideas about the mind that later fed into psychology.


The unit aims to:

(1) provide a comprehensive introduction to the history of psychology

(2) illustrate the way in which different approaches to psychology rest on different philosophical presuppostions

(3) provide an introduction to the philosophy of science and show how it relates to psychology


Teaching and learning methods

This unit will be taught via lectures and seminars

Supplementary reading, resources and a monitored discussion board will be provided via Blackboard.


Knowledge and understanding

  • A thorough knowledge of the historical development of psychology
  • A clear understanding of the philosophical presuppositions that underlie different approaches to psychology
  • A clear understanding of different schools of thought in the philosophy of science and the different ways in which they think about scientific method

Intellectual skills

  • An ability to appraise different approaches in psychology in relation to fundamental ideas about the nature of mind and science

Practical skills

  • Use the library and electronic sources to support academic reading
  • Discuss empirical findings and historical, theoretical and philosophical underpinnings with others on a discussion board
  • Plan, research and write up an essay on a topic in the area of conceptual and historical issues in psychology

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Evaluate complex ideas and theories in relation to evidence and argument
  • Situate theories in their broad theoretical and historical frameworks
  • Relate different methods of investigation to general theories of scientific method
  • Additionally, students will have the opportunity to develop their skills in: Synthesising information; summarising theories and evidence; critical thinking; evaluating research; presenting concise and persuasive arguments

Assessment methods

Essay - 85% 

Discussion Board Contributions - 15%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided via grades on Blackboard and individual/cohort level feedback

Recommended reading

Brysbaert & Rastle: (2013) Historical and Conceptual Issues in Psychology (2nd edition)

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 84

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Johan Hulleman Unit coordinator

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