Not available in 2022/23
PB416      Half Unit
Cognition and Culture

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Bradley Franks QUE.3.05


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social Anthropology (Religion in the Contemporary World), MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines recent directions in research relating to the relationships between mind and culture.

Specific content will include a variety of theoretical issues, for example: relationships between social facts and psychological facts; naturalistic and non-naturalistic concepts of culture; symbolic culture; cultural relativity and universals; evolutionary and developmental constraints on the relations between mind and culture; communication, cultural transmission and change. These issues will be discussed with reference to specific domains of investigation, such as: emotions, representations of religion, race and natural kinds; pragmatics and communication; and social divisions of labour in meaning and representation, including deference and expertise.


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

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 3 presentations, 1 quiz and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

Will consist of:

  • a plan for an answer to an  essay or case study question
  • group presentations  of core readings over the term
  • a self-administered multiple choice quiz

Indicative reading

Detailed references and a synopsis of lectures and class topics are distributed in the first lecture of the series, and are available in S315 and in Outlook/Public Folders/Departments/Social Psychology. The following are of general use:

  • S Atran, Cognitive Foundations of Natural History, Cambridge University Press, 1990;
  • P Boyer, The Naturalness of Religious Ideas, University of California Press, 1996;
  • D E Brown, Human Universals, McGraw-Hill, 1991;
  • D M Buss & D T Kenrick, Evolutionary Social Psychology, 1998, cited in D T Gilbert, S T Fiske & G Lindzey (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol 2, McGraw-Hill, pps. 982-1026;
  • M Cole, Cultural Psychology, Harvard University Press, 1996;
  • S T Fiske et al, The Cultural Matrix of Social Psychology, cited in D T Gilbert, S T Fiske & G Lindzey (Eds), The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol 2, McGraw-Hill;
  • B Franks, Culture and Cognition: Evolutionary Perspectives, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011;
  • L Hirschfeld, Race in the Making: Cognition, Culture and the Child's Construction of Social Kinds, MIT Press, 1996;
  • R Nisbett & D Cohen, The Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South, Westview Press, 1995;
  • P B Smith & M H Bond, Social Psychology Across Cultures (2nd edn), Prentice Hall, 1998;
  • D Sperber, Explaining Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Coursework (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Students may choose to write either

  • a 3000 word essay or
  • a 3000 word case study.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 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
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication