Contemporary Social and Cultural Psychology

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alex Gillespie


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course presents and critiques selected topics in cultural and modern social psychology, and the interface between mind, society and culture, with a core focus on: 1) the relationship individual-society and 2) culture as a universal and as a particular context for human cognition, emotion and behaviour. In addition: cultural transmission; ontogenesis and sociogenesis; intersubjectivity, perspectivity; thought and language; action and joint intentionality; mediation and artefacts; culture and the cross-cultural; global identities; intergroup relations; self and community; theory and research relevant to different fields of application including communication, education, racism, and multiculturalism; health community development; social exclusion and disadvantage; mass media, amongst others. 

Topics are explored at different levels of analysis of social and cultural psychology: ontogenetic (individual self); sociogenetic (social interaction, inter-group relations); phylogenetic (evolutionary history of homo sapiens). Central to the syllabus is to sensitise and train students' to understand and manage cultural and societal variation in cognition, emotion and behaviour. Please note that fields of application and applied content may vary depending on faculty research.


20 hours of lectures, 10 hours of seminars and 10 hours of help sessions in the MT.

The help sessions will be formatted as an online interactive Q&A discussion.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce formative coursework to support each summative assessment (1 x essay plan (1000 words) and 1 x annotated bibliography (500 words)). Both to be submitted in MT.

Indicative reading

M Tomasello, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Harvard University Press, 1999.

M Cole, Cultural Psychology: A once and future discipline. Harvard University Press, 1996.

S Moscovici, Social Representations: Exploration in Social Psychology. Polity Press, 2000.

L Vygotsky, Mind in Society. Harvard University Press, 1978.

J Valsiner and A Rosa (Eds), Cambridge Handbook of Sociocultural Psychology, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

S Jovchelovitch, Knowledge in Context: Representations, Community and Culture. Routledge, 2007.

G Semin & G Echterhoff, Grounding Sociality: Neurons, Mind and Culture. Psychology Press, 2010.

B Franks, Cognition and Culture: Evolutionary Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

J Israel & H Tajfel, The Context of Social Psychology, Academic Press, 1972.

M Billig, Arguing and Thinking: A Rhetorical Approach to Social Psychology, CUP, 1987. K Deaux & G Philogene, Representations of the Social, Blackwell, 2001. 

R M Farr, The Roots of Modern Social Psychology, Blackwell, 1996.

U. Flick, The Psychology of the Social. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

H Tajfel, Human Groups and Social Categories; Studies in Social Psychology, CUP, 1981.

J. Wertsch (ed.) Culture, Communication and Cognition. Cambridge University Press, 1985. 

In addition, reading lists on specific topics will be distributed during the course.


Essay (80%, 4000 words) in the LT.
Annotated bibliography (20%) in the MT.

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: 43

Average class size 2020/21: 11

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills