Not available in 2019/20
PB205      Half Unit
Individual Differences and Why They Matter

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible



This course is compulsory on the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.


Students should have taken (Foundations of Psychological Science (PB101) or  Foundations of Behavioural Science (PB100).

Course content

This course concerns core issues in the nature of differences in the psychological processes of individuals and the implications of such variation for social and political behaviour. While much social policy is designed to function according to assumptions regarding how ‘citizens in general’ behave, political communication, advertising and public relations is targeted to specific ‘segments’ of the population. This course digs deeper into these behavioural assumptions by equipping students with the fundamentals of the study of individual differences in psychology, with a view to how individuals behave in wider societal context. Sample topics are how ideological preferences and voting patterns can be traced to individual and group variation in values, personality and emotion, and how behavioural responses to public policies and institutions might depend on individual differences in motivation and cognitive style. We will consider sources of individual variation from the micro-level (e.g. behavioural genetics) to the macro-level (e.g. socioeconomic position and resource distribution). Ultimately, the goal is to understand why and how people differ in their enduring patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving across contexts, and what this means for contemporary societies.


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

Formative coursework

During the course, students will complete three kinds of formative assessment:

  • 1 mini essay (1000 words)
  • 1 individual oral presentation to the class
  • 1 quiz including multiple choice questions and short written answer questions

Indicative reading

  • Ashton, M. C. (2013). Individual differences and personality. London: Academic Press.
  • Bouchard, T. J. (2004). Genetic Influence on Human Psychological Traits. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(4), 148-151.
  • Bouchard, T. J., & McGue, M. (2003). Genetic and environmental influences on human psychological differences. Journal of neurobiology, 54(1), 4-45.
  • Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2011). Personality and Individual Differences. BPS.
  • Deary, I. J. (2012). Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 453-482.
  • Jost, J. T., Federico, C. M., & Napier, J. L. (2009). Political ideology: Its structure, functions, and elective affinities. Annual review of psychology, 60, 307-337.
  • Leary, M. R. & Hoyle, R. H. (2009). Handbook of individual differences in social behaviour. Guildford.
  • Perkins, A. (2016). The Welfare Trait: How State Benefits Affect Personality. Springer.
  • Pervin, L. A., & Cervone, D. (2010). Personality: Theory and research (11th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Plomin, R., DeFries, J. C., Knopik, V. S., & Neiderhiser, J. M. (2013). Behavioural Genetics. (6th ed.) Worth.
  • Schwartz, S. H., & Bilsky, W. (1987). Toward a psychological structure of human values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 550-562.

Students will be expected to read essential readings plus additional reading from the primary literature per class. These readings will be provided in the course outline.


Essay (80%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Quiz (20%) in the LT.

20% of the overall mark will be in the form of a multiple choice quiz taken during the course. 

Students following the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science will be expected to submit one ‘Integration Essay’ in their second year. The integration essay will be submitted as the assessed essay for ONE of PB200, PB201, PB202, PB204 and PB205.  The integration essay will discuss a topic investigated in one course and use its approach to integrate and debate approaches from two other courses taken in Year 2. For example, if you choose to submit your integration essay in Individual Differences and Why They Matter (this course) you will use a topic from this course as the basis for debating the treatment of that topic by theories from two of Biological Psychology (PB200), Cognitive Psychology (PB201), Developmental Psychology (PB202) and Social Psychology Groups and Inter-group relations (PB204).

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills