Foundations of Psychological Science

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Muthukrishna CON.4.11


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Students following the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science will be automatically enrolled onto PB101. 

PB101 will offer students an understanding of how psychology relates to and informs other disciplines concerned with humans and human behaviour. The course is therefore suitable to students enrolled in other programmes who wish to enrich their understanding by drawing on the psychological sciences.

There are a very limited number of places available for students from outside the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. Places are therefore allocated on an application basis. This means that selections of PB101 on LSE for You remain provisional until you have received email confirmation from the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. To apply for a place, you should send a 200 word statement to pbs.bsc@lse.ac.uk. The statement should outline your expectations of the course, how it could feed into your wider studies and how it could be helpful for your future research or career plans. In light of the statement, requests may be accepted, declined or students may be invited to book an office hour to be sure that PB101 is aligned with their expectations. Applications are considered on a rolling basis, so you are advised to apply early. 

Course content

This course provides an introduction to human cognition and behaviour, addressing foundational topics in psychological science. These foundational topics include key concepts such as evolution, genetics, neuroscience, human evolutionary biology and anthropology, and specific topics, such as perception, memory, heuristics and biases, decision-making, child development, psychopathology, personality and individual differences, emotion, attraction and sexuality, cross-cultural differences, social relations, stereotypes and prejudice, norms and attitudes, social learning, social influence and persuasion, and group processes.

The course will offer an integrated perspective on these topics, investigating the evolution and variation in human psychology over time, across cultures, and over the lifespan. The course will introduce the history of the study of humans and human psychology, offering students the historical context to trends in research. By the end of the course, students will have a broad knowledge of key topics in psychology and related disciplines. Students will be prepared for more in-depth investigations of more advanced topics in later courses.

Students will also understand how psychology relates to and informs other disciplines concerned with humans and human behaviour. The course is therefore suitable to students enrolled in other programmes who wish to enrich their understanding by drawing on the psychological sciences.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. There is a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Week 6 of Lent Term. In response to the current situation, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of live online classes and pre-recorded short online videos. You will receive the same amount of teaching whether you are on campus or online.

Formative coursework

In order to assess student performance and practice for the summative assessments, students will:

  • Complete a number of 'pop-quizzes' over the course of the year to help both the course leader and students assess their progress
  • Write a practice blog-post

Indicative reading

  • Chudek, M., Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2015). Cultural Evolution. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 2). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Gray, P. O., & Bjorklund, D. F. (2018). Psychology (8th ed.): Worth Publishers.
  • Heine, S. J. (2015). Cultural Psychology: W. W. Norton.Henrich, J. (2016). The secret of our success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83.
  • Laland, K. N., & Brown, G. (2011). Sense and nonsense: Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour: Oxford University Press.
  • Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2016). Innovation in the collective brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 371(1690). doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0192
  • Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2019). A problem in theory. Nature Human Behaviour.

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.


Exam (16%, duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes) in the summer exam period.
Blog post (20%) in the MT.
Blog post (20%) and wikipedia article (20%) in the LT.
In-class assessment (24%) in the ST.

Blog Posts - Students will write two 1000 word blog posts that summarise a key finding in psychology. This will result in more engagement, communication and summarizing of research as well as encouraging them to seek out new findings in the psychological and behavioural science, finding ways to connect these to the real world.

Wikipedia Article - Students will create or edit a Wikipedia or Simple Wikipedia entry on a topic in psychology that is either incorrect, badly described, or missing. This will teach students critical thinking skills, not to take information at face value, and how to communicate research to a smart audience looking for both an overview and details.

In-Class Assessment - The in class assessment will take place in Summer Term and will consist of sixty multiple choice questions.

Exam - This will take place in the summer exam period and consist of short answer questions of around 500 words each.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2019/20: 35

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (40)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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