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Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations of Psychology


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Michael Mallaghan
  • Assessment: a 1500-word essay (60%) and one-hour online multiple-choice test (40%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to the theoretical and conceptual concepts that form the basis of psychology, including contributions from key thinkers. You will gain an overview of the way in which current thinking within the discipline has developed over time and examines the scientific status of psychology. You will gain a solid understanding of the theories that set the foundations for the key areas identified by the British Psychological Society for undergraduate study: biological psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, individual differences and social psychology.

Indicative syllabus

  • Psychology as a science
  • Ethics and methods in psychology
  • Darwinian evolution and genetics
  • Learning and behaviourism (Watson and Skinner)
  • Psychoanalysis (Freud)
  • Humanistic psychology (Rogers and Maslow)
  • Developmental psychology (Piaget and Vygotsky)
  • Cognitive revolution and information processing
  • Culture and psychology
  • Social constructionism and language

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • identify the main conceptual and historical paradigms and models that shape psychology
  • identify the key assumptions within these approaches within psychology
  • discuss the differences between approaches within psychology
  • understand the development of ideas within this field
  • identify the main concepts, models and research that shaped classical and contemporary cognitive and social psychology
  • discuss what it means for a discipline to be a science, and debate the status of psychology as a science
  • describe, discuss and evaluate a range of research methodologies that might be appropriate to the study of psychology
  • identify the political and ethical issues when conducting psychological research
  • illustrate the practical applications of research findings
  • debate the impact of culture on the research conducted in psychology and the theories produced.