PB308      Half Unit
Social Psychology of Economic Life

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

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


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

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.

By the end of the course you should:

  • Understand economic theories and key relevant phenomena in everyday life.
  • Have considered the limitations of economic theories from the perspective of social psychology.
  • Be able to relate the above to psychology and behavioural science.
  • Have explored solutions to the limitations inspired by social psychology and behavioural science.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 25 hours across Lent Term. There is a reading week in Week 6 of Lent term.

Lectures will be delivered jointly with PB431, an MSc level course in the department. Classes will be specific for undergraduate students.

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

Formative coursework to support major assessment

  • Draft proposal for policy case study
  • Outline of essay
  • Draft parliamentary POSTnote and annotated bibliography
  • Draft blog post and Draft OpEd

Indicative reading

  • Lea, S., Tarpy, R.M. & Webley, P. (1987) The Individual in the Economy: a textbook of economic psychology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Lewis, A., Webley, P. & Furnham, A. (1995) The New Economic Mind: The social psychology of economic behaviour. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester
  • Lewis, A. (ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Webley, P., Burgoyne, C., Lea, S. & Young, B. (2001) The Economic Psychology of Everyday Life. Hove: Psychology Press


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 Op-ed

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: 6

Average class size 2021/22: 6

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

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