Foundations of Psychological Science

  • Summer schools
  • Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science
  • Application code SS-IR110
  • Starting 2022
  • Short course: Open
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

This course provides an introduction to human cognition and behaviour, addressing foundational topics in psychological science. These foundational topics include key concepts such as evolution, genetics, neuroscience, and culture, and specific topics, such as perception, memory, cognition, decision-making, child development, psychopathology, personality, intelligence, emotion, attraction, cross-cultural differences, prejudice, norms, attitudes, social learning, social influence, and group processes.

Uniquely, the course will offer an integrated perspective on these topics, investigating the evolution and variation in human psychology over time, across cultures, and over the lifespan. The course will introduce the history of the study of humans and human psychology, offering students the historical context to trends in research.

The course begins with some historical context, some philosophy of science, links to other fields, and events in history that help students contextualize their learning. With this context in place, students are introduced to a theoretical framework grounded in evolutionary biology for organizing their knowledge, so that what they learn is less a series of disconnected topics and more a natural expansion from the individual brain, to individuals in society, to societal level processes. The course then brings it back together, with links to real world issues throughout.

A key element of the course is a blog post assessment that focuses on how to communicate complex ideas in ways that are coherent and engaging to a general audience - an essential skill in today's world.

Take a look at some of our student blogs on the subject

Students on the Undergraduate version of this course (PB101: Foundations of Psychological Science) were asked to explore a key finding in Psychology and write about it.

Session: One - CLOSED
Dates:  20 June - 8 July 2022 
Lecturers: Dr Michael Muthukrishna and Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington


Programme details

Key facts

Level: 100 level. Read more information on levels in our FAQs

Fees:  Please see Fees and payments

Lectures: 36 hours

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: A blog post of 1,000 words (worth 40% of the total grade) due at the end of the second week, and a final exam (worth 60% of the total grade) on the final Friday of the third week.

Typical credit**: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

*Assessment is optional

**You will need to check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, read Teaching and assessment



Programme structure

  1. Laying the Foundation: Theory and History
  • Introduction to Psychological Science: The Human Animal
  • Major Approaches to Psychological Science: History of the Study of Humans and Human Evolution
  • Genetic and Cultural Evolution
  • Social Learning
  1. From the Self to Others
  • Perception and the Brain; Cognitive Processes
  • Language, Rationality, and Reasoning
  • Individual Differences: Intelligence and Psychopathology
  • Individual Differences: Personality and Attitudes
  • Emotions and Attraction
  • Norms and Preferences
  • Social Influence and Persuasion
  1. Societal Psychology
  • Cooperation and Social Organization
  • Ethnic Psychology, Conflict and Corruption
  • Group Dynamics and Intergroup Relations
  • Poverty, Wealth, and Socioeconomic Status
  • Ideology and Inequality
  • Institutions and Innovation
  • Across the World, Over the Lifespan, and Into the Future

Course outcomes

  • Develop a broad, introductory understanding of the psychological and behavioural sciences, including key concepts, theories, and evidence.
  • Understand how the psychological and behavioural sciences connect to other closely related social and biological sciences, disciplines concerned with humans, human behaviour, and human institutions.
  • Develop a “mental model” of human behaviour that students can apply to understanding interactions in their everyday lives and events occurring in the world around them.
  • Communicate new understanding in a manner accessible to a general audience, illustrating with broadly relatable cases and examples.
  • Understand the connections between different levels of understanding such that students can zoom into the individual brain, zoom out to the societal-level and contextualize both in the breadth of human history and depth of evolutionary history.
  • Prepare for more in-depth investigations of more advanced topics in later courses.


LSE’s Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science conducts research and teaching into human psychology and behaviour. What began over 50 years ago as a group of researchers studying psychology and society has expanded to become the focal point of psychological and behavioural science at the LSE. It is now home to a truly interdisciplinary faculty and research team, spanning research areas from social psychology to behavioural economics, political psychology to organisational culture, consumer behaviour to public engagement, and community development to global health, happiness and well-being.

A clear and determined focus on real world issues sets the department, and the LSE, apart. This focus enables the production of research that is not only theoretically well-informed, but also firmly rooted in questions from beyond the ivory tower, producing results that impact policy, business, and society at large. By maintaining a focus on real world questions and societal impact, the department has been leading the way on innovative research techniques in the field, the lab, and everywhere in between.

On this three-week intensive programme, you will engage with and learn from full-time lecturers from the LSE’s psychological and behavioural science faculty.

Reading materials

The two key texts for the course are:

Gray, P. O., & Bjorklund, D. F. (2018). Psychology (8th ed.): Worth Publishers.

Henrich, J. (2016). The secret of our success: how culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

We will draw on other material as it becomes relevant.

A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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