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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC3450 Mind, Brain & Society

20 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Dr Michael Finn

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

We live in an age of neuroscience, as scientists are able to map the human brain, use scans to explain our character traits and preferences, and even question our notions of free will. The technology is new and dazzling, but belief that the sciences of brain and mind can underpin completely new ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us, is not. In this module we will explore some key ideas in neurological and psychological thinking over the last 300 years, and examine how these have been linked importantly with different aspects of society. From the provision of welfare, justice and education, to the development of advertising, economics and identity politics, we will consider how the sciences of mind and brain have changed throughout history, and how they have influenced the way we understand and organise some of the most important institutions in our society.


The module aims to:
• examine key theories and technologies in the history of psychology and neurology, and to understand how these have driven policy and debates around broader social, political and economic issues;
• become familiar with a range of primary and secondary authors, and gain experience in reading, researching and writing about developments in the history of the mind and brain sciences;
• develop a critical awareness of the claims of the mind and brain sciences, and the uses to which these have been put by different social institutions.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should be able to:
• understand and describe the changing nature of neurological and psychological thinking in the past three centuries, and its influence on wider society;
• recognise differing critical views of the role and value of neurology and psychology in both history and contemporary society, and analyse the context and purpose of different historical writers;
• appreciate the role of history in understanding the legacies of various neuro-psychological ideas;
• conduct research and writing on the materials, institutions and people in the history of science.

Skills outcomes
This module teaches students core skills of the history of science, including knowing the way that scientific knowledge and technologies are contingent and socially embedded, studying their stories using techniques of research, interpretation and critique of texts, and developing fresh perspectives through historical argument and writing.


Each lecture will introduce a new topic, which will be followed by a tutorial the following week to develop understanding through supported readings. The module is thematic, but also chronologically arranged, working through ten different social, political and economic issues, and aspects of neurological and psychological thinking that have been driven by, and shaped them, since the 18th century. Topics to be covered include (but are not limited to):
- Education and psychology: theories of development and childhood, and their affect on education policy.
- Welfare and Utilitarianism: neuropsychology in the design of prisons, asylums and workhouses
- Social psychology: from laissez-faire economics and Social Darwinism to scientific sociology.
- Psychology and the self: Freudian psychology and the unconscious in advertising and politics.
- War psychology: game theory and the Cold War, computers, brain-washing and problems with memory.
- Deinstitutionalisation: public policy and mental health, existential and reductionist philosophies.
- Identity politics: neuro-psychological views of race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality.
- Neuro-expansion: the growth and influence of neuro-scientific thinking in contemporary economics, business, politics, and even the humanities.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Weekly seminar preparation 10 x 6 hours
Essay preparation 120 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the option to submit a 1,000 word literature review on their chosen essay topic.
Students will also receive verbal comments on their understanding and progress in seminars, and be able to visit staff during office hours or arranged meetings throughout the semester.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 Word Essay (end of module)100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 14:25:33


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