BSc Psychology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Psychology of Politics, Identity and Society

Course unit fact file
Unit code PSYC32242
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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 and PSYC21701)*. 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 cognition.

Politics. We will study how people make sense of the political world, and how they decide how to vote; how political parties seek to manipulate and persuade through the media; and how political leaders are able to mobilise collective action.

Identity. We will consider the impact of social media and social networking on how we see ourselves. Social relationships will be examined - both 'online' and 'offline'. We will also look closely at current portrayals of stereotyped groups on TV, newspapers, and the web.

Society. Students will engage with debates relating to the role of popular culture in our lives, and consider the benefits and problems associated with new media technologies.

*Familiarity with major theories, perspectives and methods in Psychology is assumed, along with competency in psychological statistics (e.g., Psychology as major or substantive subject for visiting exchange programme students).


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 how a range of methods and theoretical approaches within social psychology can inform current debates;
  • 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 unit will be taught via lectures and seminars

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate an understanding of the interrelated fields of political psychology, media psychology, and social cognition; 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 why theorised processes relating to groups and identity are key to social psychological interpretations of political behaviour

Intellectual skills

Critically evaluate the methods used to study social psychological questions, and the application of varied approaches to political topics; 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 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

Essay - 50%

Exam - 50%

Feedback methods

Students will receive a grade and written feedback for the essay and a grade for the exam

Recommended reading

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

Gries, P. H., (2014). The politics of American foreign policy: How ideology divides liberals and conservatives over foreign affairs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Haslam, S. A. Reicher, S. D.,  & Platow, M. J. (2011). The new psychology of leadership: Identity, influence and power. Hove, UK: Psychology Press

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

Ji, L. J., & Yap, S. (2016). Culture and cognition. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 105-111.

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

Mackie, D. M., Smith, E. R., & Ray, D. G. (2008). Intergroup emotions and intergroup relations. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1866-1880.

Palomares, N. A., Giles, H., Soliz, J., & Gallois, C. (2016). Intergroup accommodation, social categories, and identities. In H. Giles (Ed.), Communication accommodation theory: Negotiating personal relationsh

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 152

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Matthew Farr Unit coordinator

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