PH228      Half Unit
Emotion, Cognition and Behaviour: Science and Policy

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Andrew Buskell.


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the (i) philosophical and (ii) scientific foundations of contemporary cognitive science with a particular focus on its (iii) ethical, social and political implications. No background in either philosophy or cognitive science is required.

Topics covered include:

Animals and associations: Do we share cognitive capacities with animals? What kind of value judgements are involved in determining whether animals have such capacities?

Thought as computation: What does it mean to say that thought is ‘computational’? What is getting computed, and how? Are there limits to the ‘computer’ analogy?

'Dual-process’ theories of cognition: Do cognitive processes come in ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ varieties? Is the mind partitioned into two systems? Or is the true picture more complicated than this?

The boundaries of thought: Are thoughts wholly 'in the head’? How might they extend beyond it? Where does cognition begin and end?

Implicit bias: Could we be unaware of our own racial and gender biases? Are we responsible for the decisions they influence? And is there anything we can do about them?

Happy societies: Should policymakers attempt to increase or improve the happiness of society? What would this mean, and how would we go about enacting such a policy?


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT.

Lectures: Weeks 1 - 10

Classes: Weeks 2 - 11

Formative coursework

One formative essay and comments on a draft of the assessed essay.

Indicative reading

Suggested introductory reading:

Kahneman, D. (2011), Thinking Fast and Slow. Allen Lane/Penguin.

Shapiro, L. (2011), Embodied Cognition. Routledge.

Steele, C.M. (2011), Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. W.W. Norton & Co.

Thaler, R. H. and C. R. Sunstein (2008), Nudge. Yale/Penguin.


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours) in the LT week 0.
Essay (33%, 1500 words).

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
First 16.7
2:1 70.8
2:2 10.4
Third 0
Fail 2.1

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2015/16: 22

Average class size 2015/16: 12

Capped 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 100%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)