PB314      Half Unit
Behavioural Science in an Age of New Technology

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Bradley Franks CON.3.07

Dr Stuart Mills CON.3.20

This course is convened by Prof. Bradley Franks who has oversight of the classes and assessment. Lectures will be delivered by Dr. Stuart Mills. 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. Introduce major technological advancements that are relevant for predicting, influencing, and understanding human psychology and behaviour.
  2. Outline how 1 can supplement and extend commonly used tools of behavioural change.
  3. Examine how a wide range of technological developments can be used to propel psychological and behavioural science into the future.
  4. Investigate whether new technologies merely allow behavioural scientists to scale up traditional tools of behavioural change, or they produce new insights that can result in novel tools of behavioural change previously unknown to behavioural scientists.

When Psychology and Economics got "married", the product was Behavioural Science. Although this discipline has elevated theoretical and practical understanding of human behaviour to previously unseen heights, recent technological developments have produced new insights in understanding and predicting people's actions that not only supplement traditional tools of behavioural science but also go beyond them. The future of the discipline will therefore likely depend on how effectively behavioural scientists can harness new developments in technology to understand and change the way people act. The course will tackle behavioural science in relation to motion tracking, virtual environments, social robotics, social networks, and other relevant developments in information technology.

Example topics explored on the course: Understanding minds by reading bodies: Implications of motion tracking for behavioural science; Changing behaviour through gamification; Social robots: Our new friends?; Behavioural science in virtual worlds; Behavioural informatics; Change thyself: Using technology to influence our own behaviour; Digital footprints and human behaviour; Psychological targeting in digital age; The ethics of emerging technologies in the context of behavioural science.


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

Lectures will be delivered jointly with PB434, 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 biblography (200 words)
  • Draft blog post (250 words) and Draft OpEd (250 words)

Indicative reading

  • Krpan, D., & Urbanik, M. (2020). From Libertarian Paternalism to Liberalism: Behavioural Science and Policy in an Age of New Technology.
  • Kersten-van Dijk, E. T., Westerink, J. H., Beute, F., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2017). Personal informatics, self-insight, and behavior change: A critical review of current literature. Human–Computer Interaction, 32(5-6), 268-296.
  • Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5802-5805.
  • Sailer , M., Hense , J. U., Mayr , S. K., & Mandl , H. (2017). How gamification motivates: An experimental study of the effects of specific game design elements on psychological need satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 371-380.
  • Broadbent, E. (2017). Interactions with robots: The truths we reveal about ourselves. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 627-652.


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
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills