Biological Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences | Abertay University

Biological Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences


This module builds on content in PSY510 through examination of the links between biology and psychology, and covers relevant theories and research in personality and individual differences.


The aim of this module is to introduce how biological systems produce or influence behaviour in general and at the individual level. We will look at genetic inheritance, evolutionary and brain mechanisms that shape psychological processes. We will also present theories and research evidence with regards to differences in personality, cognition, emotion and mood. Students will be introduced to methods used to investigate individual differences and the neural correlates of cognition.

Learning Outcomes

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

1.  Demonstrate an advanced understanding of how the nervous system and endocrine systems produce or influence observable behaviour.

2.  Provide explanations of how biological processes influence specific behavioural responses.

3.  Critically evaluate evidence suggesting human behaviour is a product of biological and evolutionary processes.

4.  Demonstrate critical awareness of our current understanding of the biological basis of behaviour and identify the limitations of our knowledge in this field.

5.  Understand the current thinking on the interaction between nature and nurture in individual differences, especially in relation to intelligence, and critically evaluate the evidence.

6.  Understand the notion of personality and personality testing; demonstrate knowledge of relevant sources for individual differences and critically evaluate sources of evidence.

Indicative Content

1 Personality

Definitions and contemporary approaches, current research.

2 Cognitive and learning styles

Critical appraisal of theories and approaches to individual differences in cognitive and learning styles.

3 Individual differences in emotion

Emotion, mood and affect. Universal and culture specific aspects of emotion.

4 Motivation

Motivation, impulses and goals.

5 Neuroendocrine system and reproductive behaviour

How hormones influence sexual development, sexual orientation, mating behaviour and mate choice.

6 Psychopharmachology

Looking at the physiological effects of drugs in terms of their rewarding properties and action in the brain, and at the biological and psychological consequences of drug abuse.

7 Behavioural genetics

Influences of genetic inheritance and environment on human behaviour

8 Evolutionary psychology and sociobiology

Natural and sexual selection; how these evolutionary processes impact human cognition; how environmental pressures shape social behaviour and social decision-making

9 Testing (personality psychology, experimental psychology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging)

Overview of the methods of investigation and research tools available for personality, individual differences and cognitive neuroscience studies.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Taking into account the requirements of a Master course for students with diverse first degrees, presentation of the materials will link teaching content to the students' knowledge background by emphasising dialogue and discussion in small groups. Core material will be presented through lectures; interactivity will be encouraged through seminars/tutorials and practicals. The latter will be especially aimed at improving understanding of how research drives knowledge and teaching. Students will develop a more critical approach to the core material through enquiry-based learning that aims to stimulate student interest and engagement with the science that underpins psychology. Learning outcomes will be assessed in two ways: with a portfolio of short answer questions to assess individual knowledge of the module-specific core concepts and with the submission of a collaborative research report, to assess the ability of small groups to put theory into practice as in an actual research team.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 14
Tutorial/Seminar 16
Supervised Practical Activity 6
Unsupervised Practical Activity 25
Assessment 50
Independent 89

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 2018/19 , and may be subject to change for future years.