PB205      Half Unit
Individual Differences and Why They Matter

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jet Sanders CON.3.08


This course is compulsory 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 offers insight into the nature of differences in the psychological processes of individuals and the implications of such variation for behaviour and behaviour change. While most policies are designed with the ‘average citizen’ in mind, we know there is large variety between people’s thoughts, choices and behaviour. More recently, these differences are leveraged to personalise behavioural intervention, advertising and political communication to target specific ‘segments’ of the population with the aim to enhance results. This course digs deeper into the psychological and behavioural assumptions which underlie how individuals behave collectively and individually in the wider societal context. Sample topics include how individual traits affect cognitive performance, how ideological preferences and voting patterns can be traced to individual and group variation, whether there is use in mapping personality, grit, perfectionism or motivation, and the ethical implications of applying these insights in behaviour change contexts. We will consider sources of individual variation from the micro-level (e.g. behavioural genetics) to the macro-level by aligning content to sustainability goals (e.g. political decision outcomes, global health and climate change communications or resource distribution). Ultimately, the goal is to understand why and how people differ in their enduring patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving across contexts, and what this means for contemporary societies.

By the end of the course you should:

  • Understand the emotional, biological and social underpinnings of systematic psychological variation between individuals.
  • Understand the theoretical and methodological approaches used to capture such variation in thinking, feeling and behaviour.
  • Understand the implications of such variation in thinking, feeling and behaviour in a wider societal context.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term. There is a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

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

  • Complete a weekly peer- and self- reviewed annotated bibliography.
  • Develop an outline for a 2-page POSTnote supported by 5 samples of annotated bibliography.

Indicative reading

  • Rose, T (2017) The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World That Values Sameness London: Penguin
  • Bryan, C.J., Tipton, E. & Yeager D.S. (2021) Behavioural Science is unlikely to change the world with a heterogeneity revolution Nature 5(8) 980-989


Essay (10%) in the ST.
Report (70%) and annotated bibliography (20%) in the LT.

Report (70%) in LT –  You will produce a POSTnote.

Annotated Biblography (20%) in LTYou will write a thematically annotated bibliography to support your POSTnote.

Essay (10%) in ST - Students following the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science will be expected to submit one 3000 word ‘Integration Essay’ in their second year. The integration essay will count towards 10% of the final mark in PB200, PB201, PB202, PB204 and PB205.  The integration essay will discuss a topic investigated in one course and use its approach to integrate and debate approaches from two other courses taken in Year 2. For example, if you choose to base your integration essay in Individual Differences and Why They Matter (this course) you will use a topic from this course as the basis for debating the treatment of that topic by theories from two of Biological Psychology (PB200), Cognitive Psychology (PB201), Developmental Psychology (PB202) or Social Psychology: Individuals, Groups and Culture (PB204).

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: 33

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills