PSY2004 : Individual Differences

  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Daniel Nettle
  • Owning School: Psychology
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To review the modern study of individual differences in psychology, with particular reference to:
(a)       validity and reliability in the measurement of individual differences;
(b)       the major theories of individual differences
(c)       integrating individual differences research with genetics and neurobiology
(d)       the relationships between individual differences, health and psychopathology
(e)       the broader comparative and evolutionary context within which individual variation should be studied

Original Summary:
It is clear that individuals differ from each other in ways that are relatively stable over their lifetimes; some people are very emotional, some very shy, some very analytical, and so on. This course examines the ways psychologists measure such individual differences. The particular focus of the course is on relating measurable individual differences in behaviour or performance to differences in underlying cognitive or neurobiological mechanisms. We will also address the roles of genetics and development in forming individual differences, and the social implications of individual difference research.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics to be covered include: Inter-individual variation in non-human species; The stability of the individual across situations; Methods for measuring individual differences; The ‘big five’ personality dimensions and their correlates; Intelligence: controversies and measurement; Components of intelligence and their relationships to the big five; Neurobiological underpinnings of individual differences; Behavioural and molecular genetics of individual differences; Developmental influences on personality and intelligence; Personality and health; Sex Differences

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00Weekly Lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading122:0024:00Readings assigned for lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading61:006:00Preparation for seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study152:0052:00Independent study and revision
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures and associated handouts and readings form the core factual content of the course. The seminar sessions will be used in a variety of different ways including: practical data gathering and analysis; reading papers from the current literature; group discussions. The seminar activities allow the students to develop skills in research methods, reading the literature, and thinking critically.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination902A100Unseen, essay (50%) & MCQ (50%)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

There is no in-course assessment as all such assessment in Stage 2 psychology is handled through the Principles of Psychology module. However, this course will contribute possible essay assessments to Principles of Psychology.

The examination essays will be used to assess knowledge, independent learning and understanding of the material relevant to the module, the ability to integrate this material and to communicate clearly, and the ability for critical thought.

The multiple choice element of the examination will provide information about the depth and breadth of the students’ knowledge base. Multiple choice examinations are regularly used in Psychology Stage 2 modules, and care is taken to ensure that the questions are of varying levels of difficulty and assess understanding as well as factual recall. The existence of an essay component also provides a cross-check against the MCQ assessment.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.