PS445      Half Unit
Organisational and Social Decision Making

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Thomas Reader QUE.3.10


This course is available on the MSc in Human Resources and Organisations (Organisational Behaviour), MSc in Management Science (Decision Sciences), MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Public Management and Governance, MSc in Social Research Methods, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Students on degrees without a psychology component may only attend subject to numbers, their own degree regulations and at the discretion of the Teacher responsible.

Course content

This course teaches on theory and research from the field of organisational and social decision-making. It is primarily focused on high-risk organisational settings, and explores contexts where there is uncertainty, high-consequences for failure, and complex social systems.  PS445 provides a historical introduction to decision-making, and introduces the core concepts used by social psychologists to understand (and improve) decision-making processes in organisations. It draws upon the social, cognitive and organisational psychology literatures, and considers the core concepts and tools used to understand, research, and support decision-making in organisations. These theories and tools are contextualized through empirical and case study examples taken from domains such as finance, healthcare, the energy industry, government, and the military. Students will be encouraged to take a critical perspective, and to consider how the principles taught on the course can be applied to (and used to improve) a variety of social or organisational scenarios. The course will cover psychology (or 'Human Factors') concepts such as: intuitive and analytical forms of decision-making, individual traits and cognitive factors that influence decision-makers (e.g. biases and emotions), human error and decision-failures, rule breaking, and group decision-making processes (e.g. teamwork, leadership).  It will teach on methods for analysing decision errors, identifying decision-making competencies, observing decision-making, and supporting group decision processes.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study in the LT.

Indicative reading

Brown, R. V. (2005). Rational choice and judgment: Decision analysis for the decider: Wiley.; Furnham, A. (2005). The Psychology of behaviour at Work: Psychology Press.; Kerr, N., & Tindale, R. S. (2004). Group performance and decision-making. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 623-655. ;Klein, K., Ziegert, J. C., Knight, P., & Xiao, Y. (2006). Dynamic delegation: Shared, hierarchical, and deinidivudalized leadership in extreme action teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51, 590-621.; Koehler, D., & Harvey, H. (2007). Handbook of judgment and decision-making. Blackwell.; Lipshitz, R., Klein, G., Orasanu, G., & Salas, E. (2001). Taking stock of naturalistic decision making. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 14, 331-352.; Mellers, B., Schwartz, A., & Cooke, A. (1998). Judgement and decision-making. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 447-477.; Reason, J. (1990). Human error. New York: Cambridge University Press; Reason, J. (1997). Managing the risks of organizational accidents. Aldershot, Ashgate. 


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 15.2
Merit 67.3
Pass 14.6
Fail 2.9

Key facts

Department: Social Psychology

Total students 2014/15: 47

Average class size 2014/15: 15

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Specialist skills