PB308      Half Unit
Social Psychology of Economic Life

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Bradley Franks CON.3.07 and Dr Frederic Basso CON.4.10

This course is convened by Prof. Bradley Franks who has oversight of the classes and assessment. Lectures will be delivered by Dr. Frederic Basso. 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 aims to:

  1. Present economic theories and key relevant phenomena in everyday life
  2. Consider the limitations of 1 from the perspective of social psychology and behavioural science
  3. Relate 1 and 2 to psychology and behavioural science
  4. Explore and present solutions to 2 inspired by social psychology and behavioural science

The idea of a social psychology of economic life is not obvious. From the point of view of mainstream economics, economic life – usually understood as the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services – is under the scope of economics. As a mathematical science, economics is, to some extent, a rejection of social and psychological dimensions in the analysis of economic life. As the “queen of social sciences”, mainstream economics was even considered by some authors as the framework (the so-called “economic imperialism”) for studying social and psychological processes out of the economic life. Yet, some of the most important advances over the last four decades in the understanding of human economic behaviour (and its link to some of the most pressing societal issues nowadays) are derived from concepts and methods of psychology and other social sciences.

This course presents how social psychology (broadly interpreted to include micro-sociology, cultural anthropology and social neuroscience) is the key to understanding real-world economic life by taking into account cognitive, affective and social processes, and also to contributing to better solutions to societal problems.

Main concepts include cognitive dissonance; analytic/experiential systems in decision-making; metaphors and decision-making; narratives and decision-making; self/extended self in consumption; dramaturgy/staging; social roles; face-to-face interactions; emotional labour/dissonance; gift economy; sharing economy; social group (inclusion/exclusion); stigma; social norms; nudging; disenchantment of the economic world; postmodern hyper-realities; experience economy; resistance to persuasion (inertia, scepticism, reactance) and; resistance to consumption (avoidance, minimisation, boycott/active rebellion).


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

Lectures will be delivered jointly with PB431, 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

Students will be expected to produce 1 other piece of coursework and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

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 biblography (200 words)
  • Draft blog post (250 words) and Draft OpEd (250 words)

Indicative reading

  • S E G Lea, R M Tarpy & P Webley, The Individual in the Economy, Cambridge University Press, 1987
  • A Lewis, P Webley & A Furnham, The New Economic Mind: The social psychology of economic behaviour, Harvester, 1995.


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

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills