Foundations of Psychological Science

This information is for the 2021/22 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. 

There are a very limited number of places available for students from outside the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science.


You must have a genuine and demonstrable interest in Psychological Science and how it relates to and informs other disciplines concerned with humans and human behaviour. Students from outside the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science will be asked to demonstrate how they meet this pre-requisite by producing a 200 word statement. This statement will be reviewed by the course leader before places on the course are confirmed.

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.


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

Students will complete a number of pieces of formative work to cement learning and prepare for summative assessments:

  • Complete a number of 'pop-quizzes'
  • 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).
  • Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2019). A problem in theory. Nature Human Behaviour.



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 four questions requiring answers of around 500 words each.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 37

Average class size 2020/21: 12

Capped 2020/21: Yes (8)

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