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PSY3026 : Psychology of Religion

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Patrick Rosenkranz
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


•To introduce students to the fields of psychology of religion as well as the new cognitive science of religion.
•To guide students in developing knowledge and insight into the various ways psychologists study religion and the associated theories.
•To encourage critical evaluation of the main research methods and findings.
•To provide an academic environment for discussion of issues and topics in the psychology of religion.


Religion and spirituality are fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. The psychology of religion is concerned with the causes and consequences of religious and spiritual beliefs. The module will cover the variety of psychological approaches that have been taken to explain different aspects of religion and spirituality. The themes and topics of this course are presented through interactive lectures. Discussion of issues and ideas are encouraged throughout.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module begins with a general overview over the social, cultural and historical background to the psychological study of religion. We will then start our investigation by looking at the biological and evolutionary underpinnings that form the natural foundations of religious belief and behaviour. Based on this, we will explore the findings of the cognitive science of religion and study how psychologists use experimental and observational methods to investigate religious cognition and the cognitive development of religion across the lifespan. Furthermore, we will consider individual differences in religious belief and the social psychological theories that seek to explain these. Finally, we will look at religious and mystical experiences and investigate how psychologists can study these highly subjective accounts of experiencing a transcendent reality.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Essay (this also includes formative practice)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Exam (this also includes formative practice)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00Present in person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery111:0011:00Synchronous online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study163:0063:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are the framework for the topics and provide the foundation for the knowledge outcomes. Private reading and structured learning activities, as well as the weekly opportunity to discuss topics encourages deeper insight into the themes and methods of the module. Moreover, student interaction within the weekly surgeries provides the environment in which skills can be practised, developed and refined. Workshops will include formative feedback from the module leader on the assessed skills and knowledge and will support students in self-directed study and in producing their essay.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A60Seen exam – 2 out of 5 questions. Present in person.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M401500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written exam assesses both the knowledge and skills developed in this course: Knowledge of the range of topics and approaches in the psychology of religion and cognitive science of religion, critical thinking in regards to the theories covered, evaluative appraisal of research methods and findings.

The essay allows for deeper understanding of one area of the course and assesses and practices appropriate literature search, understanding and usage, written communication, critical evaluation and appraisal of issues and theories. The essay also includes reflective components. Both substantive and formative feedback will be provided on the essay by the module leader.
Students can gain formative feedback on their learning of the assessed knowledge and skills throughout the course. Formative feedback is primarily given by the module leader in the workshops and weekly surgeries, but also includes formative feedback from peers in the interactive sessions.

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely.

Reading Lists