SHE Level 3
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code M3C823144
Module Leader Mairi Fleming
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Psychology
  • B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Normally succesful completion of Introduction to Biological, Cognitive and Developmental Psychology or equivalent.

Summary of Content

This module explores the strengths and limitations of biological arguments across a range of complex social behaviours. Firstly the importance and relevance of studying biological approaches to behaviour are explored. Subsequently, a range of topics such as sexual development, gender, pain, menstrual cycle, emotion, olfaction and digit ratio are introduced in order to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the body's major communication systems (nervous and endocrine). Specifically, students are shown how to engage with arguments involving interaction between biological and psychosocial influences.


Content will be drawn from: nervous system structure and function, neuronal transmission; structure, function and control of the endocrine system; behavioural neuro-endocrinology; biological and psychosocial aspects of pain; morphological asymmetry and digit ratio; biology of sleep; stress physiology; nature/nurture; menstrual cycle (methodology, neuro-endocrine control, arguments concerning premenstrual syndrome); applied evolutionary psychology; sex/gender; applications of sexual selection theory; olfaction; biological aspects of emotion including developments in the cognitive neuroscience of the amygdala and pre-frontal cortex, and disorders of emotion.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module, students should be able to:1. Explain the body's major communication systems (nervous and endocrine) as mechanisms in the control of both physiological responses and behaviour (cw; exam).2. Interpret and critically evaluate biological arguments relating to the study of human behaviour (cw; exam).3. Critically evaluate the role of psychosocial factors in mediating biologically-based behaviour (cw; exam).4. Design methodology; collect, analyse and interpret data for a biologically-based research project (cw).5. Trace historical developments in theoretical and conceptual positions across a range of topics within the physiology of behaviour.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Core theoretical material is delivered through a trimester-long formal lecture series. Running in parallel is a practical lab-based programme, which affords students experience of engaging in biologically-based explorations of complex social behaviours by means of experimentation. This is supported by a seminar series which serves to not only consolidate and extend material introduced in the lecture series, but to provide a comprehensive scaffolding process to the formative peer assessment/feedback component of the module.

Indicative Reading

Pinel, J. (2003). Biopsychology (5th Edition). Pearson, Boston. Carlson, N. (2004). Physiology and Behaviour (8th Edition). Pearson, Boston. Kalat, J. (2004). Biological Psychology, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA. Walker, A. (1997). The Menstrual Cycle. Routledge, New York. Manning, J. (2008). The Finger Book. Faber and Faber, London. Field, A. & Hole, G. (2003). How to design and report experiments. Sage, London. Ridley, M. (2003). Nature via Nurture. Harper Collins, NY.

Transferrable Skills

-Students will develop generic skills enabling critical evaluation of empirical evidence and methodologies in the context of this module. -Groupwork and problem solving developed during laboratory and seminar classes. -Literature reviews - retrieving information from academic databases and wider sources. -Students will develop skills in communication and critical evaluation. - Practical skills developed during lab-based practicals.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Practicals (FT) 11.00
Seminars (FT) 11.00
Independent Learning (FT) 136.00
Assessment (FT) 20.00
Lectures (FT) 22.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 n/a 50.00 35% 3000 word lab report
Exam (Exams Office) 2.00 50.00 35% Unseen 2 hour formal examination