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Psychology Course Outline

Academic Course Timetable:
Sunday 2 August 2020 – Welcome Talk (Zoom) – 18.00 (BST)
Week 1
Monday 3 August 2020 to Friday 7 August 2020 – Tutorials (Zoom) - 14.00 - 15.30 (BST)
Week 2
Monday 10 August 2020 to Friday 14 August 2020 – Tutorials (Zoom) - 14.00 - 15.30 (BST)
*1-2-1 sessions to be arranged at suitable time for tutor and student (Zoom)




Areas of Discussion

Preparatory Reading



Introduction to Psychological Research Methods

How do researchers investigate psychological phenomena?

What are the key features of the scientific method?

How would you design a psychological experiment?

We will discuss the following essay question: 

‘BrainTrain Inc. is advertising a new computer game that they claim improves memory in older adults. The Advertising Standards Agency is concerned that these claims are not justified. Design an experiment to test the effectiveness of the new game.’

Levitin, D. J. (2002). Experimental design in psychological research. Foundations of cognitive psychology, 115-130. (access via:

Nouchi, R., Taki, Y., Takeuchi, H., Hashizume, H., Nozawa, T., Kambara, T., ... & Kawashima, R. (2013). Brain training game boosts executive functions, working memory and processing speed in the young adults: a randomized controlled trial. PloS one8(2).


Conventions of reporting on psychological investigations 

What is included in a scientific research poster?

How to design a scientific research poster?

Create a scientific poster based on the classic paper:

The human amygdala and the induction and experience of fear’ by Feinstein et al.

Bavdekar, S. B., Vyas, S., & Anand, V. (2017). Creating posters for effective scientific communication. J Assoc Physicians India65(8), 82-8.

Feinstein, J. S., Adolphs, R., Damasio, A., & Tranel, D. (2011). The human amygdala and the induction and experience of fear. Current biology21(1), 34-38.


Introduction to Social Psychology – Part 1

Forming first impressions: Cues, interpretations and inferences

Beyond first impressions: Systematic processing

We will watch the TED-Ed ‘Should you trust your first impression? – Peter Mende-Siedlecki’

We will discuss the following essay question:

‘Are we able to correct our first impressions of others in the light of later evidence?’

What psychological concepts and theories are relevant for answering the question?

What empirical evidence supports these concepts and theories? Is there contradicting evidence?

Briefly outline your line of argument

Okten, I. O. (2018). Studying First Impressions: What to Consider? APS Observer31(2).

Attribution theory and its applications – weblink (access via:

Miller, R. L., Brickman, P., & Bolen, D. (1975). Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology31(3), 430.

Discounting in Attribution – weblink (access via:

Gilbert, D. T., Pelham, B. W., & Krull, D. S. (1988). On cognitive busyness: When person perceivers meet persons perceived. Journal of personality and social psychology54(5), 733.

Kelly’s Covariation Theory – weblink (access via:

Mann, T. C., & Ferguson, M. J. (2015). Can we undo our first impressions? The role of reinterpretation in reversing implicit evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology108(6), 823.

Perceiving Others book chapter – weblink – Seek ‘First Impressions Matter: The Primacy Effect’ sub-heading (access via: socialpsychology/chapter/initial-impression-formation/)


Introduction to Social Psychology – Part 2

Attitudes and Behaviour

What is an attitude?

Can actions change attitudes?

From action to attitude via Superficial Processing

Cognitive Dissonance: Changing Attitudes to Justify Behaviour – Systematic Processing 

Bohner, G., & Dickel, N. (2011). Attitudes and attitude change. Annual review of psychology62, 391-417. (access via: 46109523_Attitudes_and_attitude_change/links/ 0046352a89682ad65f000000.pdf)

Chaiken, S., & Ledgerwood, A. (2011). A theory of heuristic and systematic information processing. Handbook of theories of social psychology: Volume one, 246-166.

Self-Perception Theory in Social Psychology – iResearchNet

(access via:

Gorassini, D. R., & Olson, J. M. (1995). Does self-perception change explain the foot-in-the-door effect? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology69(1), 91.

Foot in the door technique – weblink (access via:

Cognitive Dissonance – weblink (access via:

Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. The journal of abnormal and social psychology58(2), 203.


Summary and Review 

Oral presentation of scientific research poster



Introduction to Individual Differences - Part 1

Neuropeptides and Pro-social behaviour

Dissecting the assignment question:

‘To what extent is individual variation in oxytocin and vasopressin systems crucial to individual differnces in prosocial behaviour?’

Rodrigues, S. M., Saslow, L. R., Garcia, N., John, O. P., & Keltner, D. (2009). Oxytocin receptor genetic variation relates to empathy and stress reactivity in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences106(50), 21437-21441.

Ross, H. E., Cole, C. D., Smith, Y., Neumann, I. D., Landgraf, R., Murphy, A. Z., & Young, L. J. (2009). Characterization of the oxytocin system regulating affiliative behavior in female prairie voles. Neuroscience162(4), 892-903.

Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Michel, A., Berger, C., & Herpertz, S. C. (2007). Oxytocin improves “mind-reading” in humans. Biological psychiatry61(6), 731-733.

Bisceglia, R., Jenkins, J. M., Wigg, K. G., O’Connor, T. G., Moran, G., & Barr, C. L. (2012). Arginine vasopressin 1a receptor gene and maternal behavior: evidence of association and moderation. Genes, Brain and Behavior11(3), 262-268.

Luo, S., Ma, Y., Liu, Y., Li, B., Wang, C., Shi, Z., ... & Han, S. (2015). Interaction between oxytocin receptor polymorphism and interdependent culture values on human empathy. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience10(9), 1273-1281.


Introduction to Individual Differences - Part 2

Sex Differences and Pro-social behaviour

Dissecting the assignment question:  

‘How convincing is the evidence that females are more pro-social than males?’

Baron-Cohen, S., Knickmeyer, R. C., & Belmonte, M. K. (2005). Sex differences in the brain: implications for explaining autism. Science310(5749), 819-823.

Ouzouni, C., & Nakakis, K. (2012). An exploratory study of student nurses' empathy. Health Science Journal6(3), 534.

Rueckert, L., & Naybar, N. (2008). Gender differences in empathy: The role of the right hemisphere. Brain and cognition67(2), 162-167.

Eisenberg, N., & Lennon, R. (1983). Sex differences in empathy and related capacities. Psychological bulletin94(1), 100.

Lai, F. H., Siu, A. M., & Shek, D. T. (2015). Individual and social predictors of prosocial behavior among Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong. Frontiers in pediatrics3, 39.


Introduction to Individual Differences - Part 3

Intelligence & its heritability

We will discuss the following essay question: 

‘The heritability of general intelligence is very high indeed.’ 

Watch ‘What is heritability’: AG4ovamoo

Watch ‘The “9 Intelligences” and Fluid vs Crystallized – Can you Improve Intelligence’:

Sauce, B., & Matzel, L. D. (2018). The paradox of intelligence: Heritability and malleability coexist in hidden gene-environment interplay. Psychological bulletin144(1), 26. Key journal article*

Toga, A. W., & Thompson, P. M. (2005). Genetics of brain structure and intelligence. Annu. Rev. Neurosci.28, 1-23.

Gray, J. R., & Thompson, P. M. (2004). Neurobiology of intelligence: science and ethics. Nature Reviews Neuroscience5(6), 471-482.


Introduction to Individual Differences - Part 4

Personality and Basic Motivational systems:


We will discuss the following essay question:

‘Variation in the hippocampus and amygdala cause individual differences in Gray’s Behavioural Inhibition System’. Critically evaluate this view.

Carver, C. S., & White, T. L. (1994). Behavioral inhibition, behavioral activation, and affective responses to impending reward and punishment: the BIS/BAS scales. Journal of personality and social psychology67(2), 319.

Barrós-Loscertales, A., Meseguer, V., Sanjuán, A., Belloch, V., Parcet, M. A., Torrubia, R., & Ávila, C. (2006). Behavioral inhibition system activity is associated with increased amygdala and hippocampal gray matter volume: a voxel-based morphometry study. Neuroimage33(3), 1011-1015.

Rusch, B. D., Abercrombie, H. C., Oakes, T. R., Schaefer, S. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2001). Hippocampal morphometry in depressed patients and control subjects: relations to anxiety symptoms. Biological psychiatry50(12), 960-964.

Levita, L., Bois, C., Healey, A., Smyllie, E., Papakonstantinou, E., Hartley, T., & Lever, C. (2014). The Behavioural Inhibition System, anxiety and hippocampal volume in a non-clinical population. Biology of mood & anxiety disorders4(1), 4.


Summary and Review

Reflections of the overall course



  • Design an experiment to determine whether some flavours are more easily associated with allergic reactions than others. Discuss the ethical issues involved. (Use Session 1 as a guide – however please think about some ideas of how you would answer this essay title before the sessions start)  


  • Assignment DeadlineThursday 6th August




  • Construct and present a scientific poster based on ONE Classic Paper below. (Use Session 2 as a guide – The Classic Papers will be allocated in Session 1) Note* Each individual will be assigned a different Classic Paper


  • Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face. Psychological science17(7), 592-598. (access via:


  • Scoville, W. B., & Milner, B. (1957). Loss of recent memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry20(1), 11. (access via: jnnpsyc00285-0015.pdf)


  • Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology63(3), 575. (access via: um/7489953/PrekladAJ_9_3.pdf)


  • Loftus, E. F. (1975). Leading questions and the eyewitness report. Cognitive psychology7(4), 560-572. (access via:


  • Cheng, Y. L., & Mix, K. S. (2014). Spatial training improves children's mathematics ability. Journal of Cognition and Development15(1), 2-11. (access via:


  • Baillargeon, R., Spelke, E. S., & Wasserman, S. (1985). Object permanence in five-month-old infants. Cognition20(3), 191-208. (access via:
  • Assignment Deadline Friday 7th August


  • To what extent is individual variation in oxytocin and vasopressin systems crucial to individual differences in prosocial behaviour? (Use Session 1 as a guide – however please think about some ideas of how you would answer this essay title before the sessions start)  




  • How convincing is the evidence that females are more pro-social than males? (Use Session 2 as a guide – however please think about some ideas of how you would answer this essay title before the sessions start)  

  • Assignment DeadlineThursday 13th August