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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PSYC3540 Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Psychology

15 creditsClass Size: 70

Module manager: Dr Martin Farrell

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

Successful completion of all pass for progression modules in Level 2 of: BSc Psychology or MPsyc, BSc Advanced Psychology, BA Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Thought (and its International and Industrial variants) or BSc Psychology with Education (and its International and Industrial variants)

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module focuses on two main areas. Firstly, it will consider the historical development of psychology and the conceptual issues that underlie it. In particular, the unit will deal with the philosophical conceptions that underlie our view of the mind and the human subject and how these have changed over time. Secondly, the module will focus on questions of method, particularly with reference to scientific method. It will consider how science develops over time, the extent to which one can define scientific method, and the extent to which psychology exemplifies the characteristics of scientific method.


To provide a comprehensive introduction to major themes in the history of psychology.
To illustrate how psychological concepts change through history.
To provide an introduction to the philosophy of science and show how it relates to psychology.
To demonstrate the way in which different approaches in psychology rest on different philosophical presuppositions about the nature of the mind.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
- Understand the historical development of psychology;
- Critically evaluate the philosophical presuppositions that underlie different approaches to psychology;
- Understand the major schools of thought in the philosophy of science and the different ways in which they think about scientific method;
- Understand how different approaches to psychology differ in their conception of science.

Skills outcomes
Students will have the opportunity to develop skills in the selection and evaluation of material related to the history and philosophy of psychology. They will gain experience in appraising major approaches to psychology in terms of their historical antecedents and the philosophical presuppositions concerning the nature of mind and science on which they are built.


Lecture list
1. Introduction to the philosophy of science
2. Experience and the construction of mind
3. The irrational mind: from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Freud
4. Psychophysics and the relationship between mind and body
5. Introspection and the experimental psychologies of Wundt and Titchener
6. Against atomism: Gestalt psychology
7. The pragmatic approach to mind: James and Dewey
8. Behaviourism and the cognitive revolution

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours133.00
Total Contact hours17.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Reading for each lecture: 8 x 5 hours: 40 hours
Preparation and writing of peer-marked mini-essay: 10 hour
Marking of peer-marked essay: 1 hour
Exam preparation: 40 hours
Independent reading and study: 42 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The 500 word mini-essay is intended to give the students practice in writing essays dealing with the issues dealt with in the course, which are likely to be of a more conceptual nature than some of the previous essays that students have encountered. The mini-essay will also be marked by another student attending the module and each student marker will be asked not only to mark and give feedback on the essay that they are marking, but use this as an opportunity to reflect on their own essay. Students' thoughts and reflections on the mini-essay, both in terms of the subject matter and in terms of essay writing, will be the topic of a 1 hour seminar delivered in week 6 or 7 of the module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayIntrospective Report0.00
EssayIntrospective Report0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)0.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment2 hr 00 mins100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)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 15:21:45


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