PB205      Half Unit
Individual Differences and Why They Matter

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jet Sanders CON.3.08


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 offers insight into the nature of differences in the psychological processes of individuals and the implications of such variation for behaviour and behaviour change. While most  policies are designed with the ‘average citizen’ in mind, we know there is large variety between people’s thoughts, choices and behaviour. More recently, these differences are leveraged to personalise behavioural intervention, advertising and political communication  to target specific ‘segments’ of the population with the aim to enhance results. This course digs deeper into the psychological and behavioural assumptions which underlie how individuals behave collectively and individually in the wider societal context. Sample topics include how individual traits affect performance, how ideological preferences and voting patterns can be traced to individual and group variation, personality, emotion, preference, values, motivation and cognitive style, and the ethical implications of applying these insights in behaviour change contexts. We will consider sources of individual variation from the micro-level (e.g. behavioural genetics) to the macro-level (e.g. political decision outcomes, health and climate change communications or 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term. There is a reading week in 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

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

  • 1 visual design on an A5 postcard
  • Weekly peer- and self- reviewed annotated bibliography
  • 1 outline (approx. 500 words) for a 2-page POSTnote (e.g https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0564/) with 2 samples of annotated bibliography in support (500 words)

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. (2015). Personality and Individual Differences. BPS.
  • Deary, I. J. (2012). Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 453-482.
  • Hardcastle, S. J., & Hagger, M. S. (2016). Psychographic profiling for effective health behavior change interventions. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1988.
  • Hine, D. W., Reser, J. P., Morrison, M., Phillips, W. J., Nunn, P., & Cooksey, R. (2014). Audience segmentation and climate change communication: conceptual and methodological considerations. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(4), 441-459.
  • 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.
  • Lipman, S. (2020) One size fits all? Designing financial incentives tailored to individual economic preferences Behavioural Public Policy 1-15
  • Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of research in personality, 36(6), 556-563.
  • 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.
  • Poropat, A. E. (2009). A meta-analysis of the five-factor model of personality and academic performance. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 322.
  • Schwartz, S. H., & Bilsky, W. (1987). Toward a psychological structure of human values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 550-562.
  • Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1178.

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 (10%) in the ST.
Report (70%) and visual media (20%) in the LT.

Visual Media (20%) in LT – You will produce a visual design on an A5 postcard.

Report (70%) in LT –  You will write a two-page POSTnote (approximately 1500 words) with a  thematically annotated bibliography in support (for example). For an example of a POSTnote visit https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0564/.

Integration Essay - Students following the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science will be expected to submit one 3000 word ‘Integration Essay’ in their second year. The integration essay will count towards 10% of the final mark in 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 base 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: Individuals, Groups and Culture (PB204).

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: 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