Philosophy of science, mind and the 'self'


The module draws on various different perspectives in psychology, biology and behavioural sciences in order to explore various conceptual and historical issues relating to how psychological science is/has been conducted, disseminated and applied in the wider world, and how individuals have attempted to understand our minds, our "self" and our place in the world. Advanced conceptual issues in psychology are discussed, and students are introduced to skills useful for academic and non-academic research more generally.


The module will provide students with an understanding of key critical debates on what it means to be human and some of the issues inherent in the conduct, dissemination and application of research on human behaviour. Students will be able to use this knowledge to explore their discipline at a societal and conceptual level, which, in turn, will facilitate useful professional and research-related skills.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of debates on the nature of mind, behaviour and self, and be able to place research in Psychology in its historical context.

2.  Be able to appreciate and communicate the multi-disciplinary nature of research on human behaviour, drawing on different "schools-of-thought" where appropriate.

3.  Show competence when comparing and contrasting papers/texts and perspectives within psychological science.

4.  Be able to reflect on the conduct, dissemination and application of research in psychological science in ways that enhance students' own research-related skills and ability to problem-solve.

Indicative Content

1 Philosophy of science: How we formulate and answer questions

How is science funded, conducted and disseminated? What is a theory and a good explanation?

2 Conceptual issues and current directions in Psychology

Metaphors of mind. Perspectives on, and applications of, psychology. Is the mind a blank slate? Is the DSM valid? How do you know what is ‘true’? Ethics, politics and moral psychology

3 Know thyself: Perspectives on self

Relationships between 'self' and memory. Can psychological experiments answer philosophical questions about flourishing and the meaning of life?

4 History of Psychology

A broad overview of common themes and debates running through the history of our field. Linking past ideas to current thinking. The 'shaping' of psychology by social forces and the 'Psychologization of society'.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Lectures (6 x 2 hours) will discuss key conceptual and historical issues in psychology and will be partly interactive. Material delivered in lectures will feed-into some discussion within seminars.. Workshops (12 x 2 hours, IT-room based) will discuss knowledge covered in the lectures, and will provide support toward assessments. Workshops will include optional drop-in sessions (for one-to-one discussion/support), direct support for assessments and sessions to develop relevant professional/study skills for the module (Web of Science, locating historical texts, writing, ethics, theories/arguments, reflection/applications, critical thinking, practice exercises). A small number of these hours will be accessible via mini online lectures. Assessment Unit 1 is designed for students to demonstrate their ability to present a compelling and impactful argument within a relatively brief word limit. Skills in communicating to both lay and academic audiences will be assessed. Assessment Unit 2 is designed to foster a passion/interest among students for a specific area of psychology, by appreciating the historical context for that topic within psychology. This module develops the graduate attributes in students in the following ways. Students will be encouraged to think critically about how the mind works and how psychological science is/has been conducted in the past, enabling them to view their discipline in a holistic manner, and helping them to formulate novel solutions to ideas, both empirically and through argument/discussion. Students will reflect critically on issues related to how psychological science is disseminated by the media and how individuals access `stored knowledge' in the information age.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 24
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 74
Independent 90

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.