PB304      Half Unit
Organisational and Social Decision-Making

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Ms Lea Ruesch and Prof Bradley Franks CON.3.07

This course is convened by Prof. Bradley Franks who has oversight of the classes and assessment. Lectures will be delivered by Ms Lea Ruesch. Classes with be led by a Graduate Teaching Assistant with expertise in this area.


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

Course content

This course teaches theory and engages with research from the field of organisational and social decision-making. It is primarily focused on high-risk organisational settings, and explores contexts where there is uncertainty, high-consequences for failure, and complex social systems. The course provides a historical introduction to decision-making and introduces the core concepts used by social psychologists to understand (and improve) decision-making processes in organisations. It draws upon the social, cognitive and organisational psychology literatures, and considers the core concepts and tools used to understand, research, and support decision-making in organisations. These theories and tools are contextualized through empirical and case study examples taken from domains such as finance, healthcare, the energy industry, government, and the military.

Students will be encouraged to take a critical perspective, and to consider how the principles taught on the course can be applied to (and used to improve) a variety of social or organisational scenarios. The course will cover psychology (or 'Human Factors') concepts such as: intuitive and analytical forms of decision-making; individual traits and cognitive factors that influence decision-makers (e.g. biases and emotions); human error and decision-failures; rule breaking; and group decision-making processes (e.g. teamwork and leadership).  It will teach methods for analysing decision errors, identifying decision-making competencies, observing decision-making, and supporting group decision processes.


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

Lectures will be delivered jointly with PB427, an MSc level course in the department. Classes will be specific for BSc students.

In response to the current situation, it likely that lectures will be delivered online, either live or via pre-recorded short videos. Classes are likely to take place in person on campus. You will receive the same amount of teaching whether you are on campus or online.

There is a reading week in Week 6 of Lent term.

Formative coursework

For each major and minor assessment option there is an equivalent piece of formative coursework. These are designed to help students to prepare for the summative assessments.

Formative coursework to support minor assessment

  • Draft script for 10 minute presentation
  • Draft script for 10 minute podcast
  • Proposal for poster
  • Proposal for visual media

Formative coursework to support major assessment

  • Draft proposal for policy case study (500 words)
  • Outline of essay (500 words)
  • Draft parliamentary POSTnote (250 words) and annotated bibliography (200 words)
  • Draft blog post (250 words) and Draft OpEd (250 words)

Indicative reading

• Brown, R.V. (2005) Rational Choice and judgement: Decision analysis for the decider. Hoboken NJ : Wiley

• Furnham, A. (2005). The Psychology of Behaviour at Work. Hove: Psychology Press

• Kerr, N. & Tindale, R. S. (2004). Group performance and decision-making. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 623-655

• Klein, K., Ziegert, J. C., Knight, P. & Xiao, Y. (2006). Dynamic delegation: Shared, hierarchical, and deinidivudalized leadership in extreme action teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51, 590-621

• Koehler, D. & Harvey, H. (2007). Handbook of judgment and decision-making. Oxford: Blackwell

• Lipshitz, R., Klein, G., Orasanu, G. & Salas, E. (2001). Taking stock of naturalistic decision making. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 14, 331-352

• Mellers, B., Schwartz, A. & Cooke, A. (1998). Judgement and decision-making. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 447-477

• Reason, J. (1990). Human error. New York: Cambridge University Press

• Reason, J. (1997). Managing the risks of organizational accidents. Aldershot: Ashgate


Assignment (30%) in the LT.
Assignment (70%) in the ST.

Students will choose ONE minor and ONE major assessment from the lists below:

Minor Assessment (30%, due at the end of Lent Term)

  • 10 minute recorded presentation
  • 10 minute podcast
  • A1 poster
  • A5 visual media

Major Assessment (70%, due at the start of Summer Term)

  • 3000 word Policy Case Study comprised of Executive Summary (250 words) and Proposal (2500 words)
  • 3000 word Essay
  • 1500 word parliamentary POSTnote with 1000 word annotated bibliography
  • 1500 word blog post AND 1500 word OpEd

Students will need to confirm their choice of assessment by the end of LT4.

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Capped 2020/21: 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