The Social Psychology of Communication

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer QUE.3.04


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course examines core theories towards a social psychology of communication. Issues raised will refer to verbal and non-verbal, face-to-face, rumours and mass mediated, as well as private and public, communal and strategic forms of communication. The second half of the course will provide an overview of applied communication research in various professional areas of public communication. Theories of communication covered in the course include evolutionary theory, classical rhetoric, diffusion research, pragmatics and relevance theory, semiotics and system theory and the theory of communicative action. Issues will be raised as to the critical analysis and the design of communicative action. Issues will be raised as to the critical analysis and the design of communication efforts in professional fields such as business corporations, NGOs, scientific professional bodies, health promotion, governments and political parties, police campaigns, and international organisations.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Students taking PB404 will also be required to attend PB400 lecture  and discussion groups. (PB400 lecture 10 x 120 mins (MT) and 9 x 60 mins discussion groups).

Formative coursework

Students' will complete two formative assignments, one essay and a 500 word annotated bibliography for any 2 readings from the first 3 lectures from PB400 submitted in the Michealmas term

Indicative reading

No one book covers the entire syllabus; students will be expected to read widely in appropriate journals, and a list of references will be provided at the start of the course.

J Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, Vol 1 + 2, Polity Press, 1997; R Heath & B Jennings, Human Communication Theory and Research: Concepts, Contexts, and Challenges (2nd edn), Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000; A Mattelart & Mattelart, Theories of Communication: a Short Introduction, Sage, 1998; D McQuail, McQuail's Mass Communication theory (4th edn), Sage, 2000; R Rice & C Atkin, Public Communication Campaign, Sage, 2000; E Rogers, Diffusion of Innovation, Free Press, 1995; D Sperber & D Wilson, Relevance: Communication and Cognition, Cambridge, 1995.

Hook, D, B Franks, MW Bauer (2011) (eds) The Social Psychology of Communication, London, Palgrave.


Essay (80%, 5000 words) and coursework (20%, 1500 words) in the MT.

A 1500 word annotated bibliography for any six readings from the fourth and subsequent lectures from PB400 submitted in the Michealmas term which makes up 20% of overall course mark

Teachers' comment

Students taking PB404 will also be expected to take part in a full day Training Day on practical issues in public communication (MT) and a full day Dissertation Presentation Conference (ST)

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2018/19: 32

Average class size 2018/19: 16

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills