MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour
BA Psychology options

Final Year, Component 03

Option(s) from list
Culture and Psychology

Examine how culture shapes cognition, perception, motivation, and emotion in this advanced module on culture and psychology. You will learn about culture and health, cross-cultural difference in ideas of the self, personality, interpersonal behaviour, and group processes, and will discuss how culture impacts individuals, and interpersonal and intergroup processes.


This module is concerned with the study of emotional behaviour and experience from a scientific point of view. The emphasis throughout the module is on how emotions arise and are manifest as patterns of bodily response and mental activity. Theories of emotion from psychodynamic, introspective, and constructionist positions will not form a major component of the module, although some of the important insights which these approaches have offered will be considered. You will examine theories of both normal and abnormal emotion. The former will receive the lion's share of our attention, but the case studies on particular emotions (eg sadness) include discussion of their pathological extensions (depression).

Animal Behaviour

Be introduced to the key concepts of animal behaviour from an ethological and comparative cognition viewpoint. By taking a critical look at published work and research and identifying the frameworks that underlie animal behaviour, you will become familiar with aspects such as the evolution of behaviour and the cognitive capabilities of different species.

Evolutionary Psychology: How natural and sexual selection helped shape the human mind

You’ll be introduced to the key concepts of evolutionary theory as pertaining to human psychology, and will engage with current literature in this rapidly advancing area of science. You will develop your understanding of the relevance of evolution to the scientific study of human behaviour and cognition. You’ll also identify the basic concepts and frameworks that underlie evolutionary approaches to psychology, as well as the major findings and fields within evolutionary psychology.

Topics in Human Memory

How do we remember? Why do we forget? In this module, we will answer these questions through both lectures and experimental self-discovery. We will learn that we are surprisingly poor at recalling even very small numbers of words, objects, and events that we can nevertheless easily recognise. Through practical workshop classes that supplement lectures, you will see these limitations for yourselves, allowing you to better evaluate whether these limitations are best understood as evidence for limited-capacity short-term or working memory store(s), and /or as a result of the interaction between encoding and retrieval processes.

The Neuroscience of Human Nature

Discover the neuroscience behind key elements of human nature. These include, understanding the faces and bodies of others, how we copy body language to show empathy and the processes that drive motivation and emotion. You will also investigate autism and schizophrenia which occur when these processes aren’t working effectively.

Body, Senses and Existence

Develop knowledge gained in the second year module, Brain and Behaviour, and deepen your understanding of how the brain affects behaviour, and the link it has with the workings of the body. You will learn from a range of experts, covering aspects from basic bodily functions to high-order existential concerns, such as psychopharmacology, diet and wellbeing, epigenetics, physical and social pain, and existential neuroscience, to ultimately gain a deep understanding of the way the brain and body interact to control behaviour.

Ageing: Mind, Brain, and Behaviour

What happens to our psychology as we get older? Explore three major themes in the psychology of ageing: mind, brain, and behaviour in this module, which covers the cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of ageing. You will investigate decision-making in older age, how older adults interact with their social environment, and how emotional processing changes with age, as well as the physiology of ageing, the neurological changes that occur, and how these affect aspects of cognition and emotion.


You will examine the causes of psychopathology from the perspective of different disciplines (genetics, neuroscience, behavioural, and social sciences), with the aim of understanding the potential interplay between biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors. You will learn how to critically distinguish individual differences in behaviour and the different ways of classifying psychopathologies.

Making connections: How children develop

You will gain a greater understanding of the relation between brain development and the development of skills in infants and children, and of how neuroscience can inform educational practices. Topics may include: prenatal brain development, the development of the sense of self and self control, infant and children attachment and social skills, neuro-developmental disorders and applied neuroscience.

"Believing is Seeing". The power of belief and suggestion on the mind and brain

These are only some of the questions we will address: Why do people indulge in magical thinking? What happens in our brains during hypnosis and meditation? How easy is to implant a false memory? How powerful is the effect of an inert drug when we believe it does have a healing action? We will first set out the levels of interpretations, the lens through which we will discuss mind, brain, and behavioural correlates of suggestion- and belief-laden phenomena. You will be asked to reflect on the learning material by creating connections between the different themes, everyday life and other aspects of social life, including your own experience. This integrative approach will aim to spark comprehensive understanding of the general mechanisms governing the human mind. Your active role and reflective approach to learning will contribute to a transformative learning experience and personal growth, whether you believe it or not! This module has been designed to enable students to integrate their subject knowledge with an understanding of sustainable development, acquiring the skills and competencies essential for addressing the urgent sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

The science of uncertainty

The use of Bayesian statistics is increasingly common in psychology. This module aims to introduce you to these tools, and how to use R (a popular, open source statistical software package) to analyse and visualise data. It will also give you an overview of how the human brain deals with uncertainty and probabilities, and how the media often misrepresents statistical issues. Throughout the module, you will gain familiarity with working with large datasets, identifying patterns and presenting data. These skills are useful not only for further postgraduate study, but also are increasingly valuable in graduate jobs outside academia.

From Me to We: Understanding Gender, Sexuality and Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships are a fundamental part of the human experience. This module will take a scientific approach to understanding relationships. We will examine how relationships form, what binds them together, and what might lead to their dissolution. We will discuss how much of "me" we bring into our relationships compared to how much relationships change our sense of self. Finally, we will discuss what makes relationships such an important area of study: how they impact and influence our lives.

Decision making science in theory and practice

Can psychology help make better decisions? Yes! From curbing climate change to selecting the best candidate for the job, decision-making science has many important insights to offer, which is why it is becoming increasingly popular in education, politics, business, economics and health. Governments, businesses and charities all understand the value of identifying decision pitfalls (eg social and cognitive biases) and using strategies to overcome these. In this module, you will learn about decision-making theories and gain the skills to understand, predict and improve people's decisions for real-world issues (eg "how can we help doctors better diagnose patients?", "how do we motivate people to exercise more often?", "how can we encourage people to be more prosocial?").

The Psychology of (Self)-Improvement

So-called pop science, and in particular "self-help" sections in book stores are growing at fast pace. But is the information provided always grounded in psychological theory and supported by enough empirical evidence? This module combines all areas of psychology to explore research around psychological (self)-improvement. Utilising Essex Psychology staff expertise, we will unravel popular topics around improvement by exploring the theories and empirical evidence underlying popular beliefs. We will cover the breadth of the discipline to address questions such as: Why do we procrastinate and how do we stop? What causes insomnia and how do we sleep better? Why is it so difficult to break bad habits and how can we achieve it nevertheless? How can I improve my self-esteem? What causes anxiety and what are techniques to calm our mind? Why are stereotyping and prejudice so prevalent and how can we help to reduce them? Different personalities, different behaviours – how do you identify what your individual needs are? Questions such as these will be addressed by critically examining underlying research evidence and carefully looking at tools that have been proposed to be useful to answer these questions in the public and clinical domain. To help strengthen your ability to translate psychological research into real-world practices, you will also be provided with a work-based learning opportunity by critically appraising existing practices in organisations.

Psychology in the Real World

This module closely links to the Department's mission to foster an "Understanding of our place in the world". It will feature a range of state-of-the-art psychological research as conducted by Essex based researchers and demonstrate what and how their area of research has contributed to society. It will outline how principles of psychological science are relevant to everyday life and will address questions such as "How has cognitive psychology started today's AI revolution", "What are the therapeutic uses of virtual reality for the treatment phobias and anxiety", "Does training people where to look improve performance", "What role does sensory processing play in the understanding and treatment of migraines", "Who is taking drugs and what interventions can psychology provide", "What gestures can be useful for clinicians", "What can psychologists contribute to information design", or "Can psychology tell us anything about how we search for our keys, or find milk at the supermarket"? Questions such as these will be addressed by critically examining "what the problem is" and what research evidence we can use to answer these questions to have an impact beyond academia. As part of your assessment, you will work on a "real-life" problem, i.e. a problem that an existing company or organisation is facing and you will contribute to them addressing the issue basing your advice on content learned throughout the module. This focus on "real-life" problems will be beneficial for you in future employment where it may be relevant to translate your existing knowledge into company specific strategies.

The Psychology of Sustainability

This module will explore the intricate relationship between human behaviour and environmental sustainability, delving into the psychological factors that influence individuals, groups, and societies in their pursuit of sustainable practices. We will employ an interdisciplinary approach that will help us bridge the gap between traditional environmental studies and the understanding of human cognition, attitudes, experiences, and behaviour. The module will explore questions such as: “How are environmental attitudes and values shaped”; “How can we overcome misperceptions and avoid defensive responding to sustainability messages?” “What are the impact of social, cultural, and cognitive factors (e.g., social influence, perception of risk) on sustainable behaviour?”, and “How can we bridge the gap between pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours?”. Lectures will provide foundational knowledge and we will include case studies and real-world examples to illustrate the practical applications of psychological principles in sustainability initiatives. Interactive discussions and group activities will help you critically analyse and apply psychological concepts to real-world scenarios.

The Criminal Mind

In many crime dramas, both contemporary and classic, psychology is often depicted as providing the key to solving the case. From criminal profiling techniques that unlock the secrets of offenders to quick, on the fly assessments that allow investigators to connect behaviour and criminal activity. Psychology also provides novel insights into how guilt is determined both in the courtroom, and also in wider society. In this module we will explore questions such as: What can psychology really contribute to forensics and solving crimes? What factors influence the accuracy of eyewitness accounts? How do we determine responsibility? How does society treat offenders and victims? Is it really possible to tell whether someone is lying? How do psychopathic traits link to criminal behaviour? Are some people hard-wired to become criminals? Or does criminality develop as we grow, and how might we prevent this? What psychological processes are involved in cybercrime, and how do these differ from other crimes? From profiling to investigative strategies, to real-life case studies, this module offers a captivating journey into the psychology underlying criminal behaviour and legal responsibility.

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