PB416      Half Unit
Cognition and Culture

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Bradley Franks QUE.3.05


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social Anthropology (Learning and Cognition). This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World), MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines recent directions in research relating to the relationships between mind and culture.

Specific content will include a variety of theoretical issues, for example: relationships between social facts and psychological facts; naturalistic and non-naturalistic concepts of culture; symbolic culture; cultural relativity and universals; evolutionary and developmental constraints on the relations between mind and culture; communication, cultural transmission and change. These issues will be discussed with reference to specific domains of investigation, such as: emotions, representations of religion, race and natural kinds; pragmatics and communication; and social divisions of labour in meaning and representation, including deference and expertise.


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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 3 presentations, 1 quiz and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

Will consist of:

i. a plan for an answer to an  essay or case study question

ii. group presentations  of core readings over the term

iii. a self-administered multiple choice quiz

Indicative reading

Detailed references and a synopsis of lectures and class topics are distributed in the first lecture of the series, and are available in S315 and in Outlook/Public Folders/Departments/Social Psychology. The following are of general use: S Atran, Cognitive Foundations of Natural History, Cambridge University Press, 1990; P Boyer, The Naturalness of Religious Ideas, University of California Press, 1996; D E Brown, Human Universals, McGraw-Hill, 1991; D M Buss & D T Kenrick, Evolutionary Social Psychology, 1998, cited in D T Gilbert, S T Fiske & G Lindzey (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol 2, McGraw-Hill, pps. 982-1026; M Cole, Cultural Psychology, Harvard University Press, 1996; S T Fiske et al, The Cultural Matrix of Social Psychology, cited in D T Gilbert, S T Fiske & G Lindzey (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol 2, McGraw-Hill; B Franks, Culture and Cognition: Evolutionary Perspectives, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011; L Hirschfeld, Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture and the Child's Construction of Social Kinds, MIT Press, 1996; R Nisbett & D Cohen, The Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, Westview Press, 1995; P B Smith & M H Bond, Social Psychology Across Cultures (2nd edn), Prentice Hall, 1998; D Sperber, Explaining Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Other (100%) in the LT.

Students may choose to write EITHER a 3000 word essay OR a 3000 word case study

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 23.1
Merit 61.5
Pass 13.8
Fail 1.5

Teachers' comment

Issues in 2017-18

In 2017-18, the lecture room unfortunately did not have capacity for lecture capture; this capacity (or some other means of providing recordings) will be ensured in 2018-19. School-level introductory technological problems with administering the course survey on-line for the first time resulted in significantly limited response rates in 2017-18, which will not be repeated in 2018-19.

Recent changes to the course

The course was changed based on student feedback in recent years, and these changes have met with very positive responses:

In 2016-17, a greater emphasis on discussing applied and practical topics in the seminars was introduced, allowing the option to write either an essay or a case study for the summative assessment. 

In 2017-18, the lectures were increased to 1.5 hours per week to enable a more interactive, collaborative style of lecture.


Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2015/16 - 2016/17 combined)

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

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 89%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)