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Module

PSY3052 : The Science behind our choices: decision-making across species and societies

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Francesca De Petrillo
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0

Aims

The module will focus on establishing foundational knowledge of decision-making across primate species and human societies by using an interdisciplinary approach. The module will: integrate economic, psychological, neurobiological, and evolutionary approaches to understanding how humans make choices; examine the mechanisms shaping various facets of decision-making; and examine the evolutionary function of these processes; assess the real-world consequences of decision-making in terms of wealth, health, and well-being. In doing so, this module aims to develop students’ knowledge and understanding of human decision-making and their ability to apply an interdisciplinary approach to new problems.

Outline Of Syllabus

Humans face a myriad of choices every day, from simple decisions about what to eat for lunch or how much time to spend on leisure versus work, to more complex decisions like selecting between competitive job offers or deciding whether or not to get married. How do we make these choices? This module will provide an overview of the principles and theories of human decision-making; the current state of the research of decision-making; and the evolution of human decision-making, including how other species make complex decisions.

Topics will include:

-       Decision-making: why is important and how it is studied
-       Principles of rational decision making- the concept of rationality in economics, psychology, and biology
-       Choice biases and heuristics
-       Decision-making variation across individuals: the effect of age, gender, personality, and individual states
-       Emotions and decision-making
-       Cultural variation in decision-making across human societies
-       The evolutionary origins of human biases and decision-making

Throughout the module research from different disciplines will be explored.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture81:008:00Present in person or online
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion146:0046:00Reading and writing for assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture21:002:00Synchronous online guest lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0024:00Preparation for lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading101:0010:00Academic skills activities
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery101:0010:00Discussion of general issues for assessments
Total100:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The intended knowledge outcomes will be met primarily through lecture content and associated set reading. Students will then be asked to apply their knowledge to an aspect of decision-making of their choice, to create a coherent integrative presentation of how this decision aspect has evolved, as well as how it varies – or not – across human societies. Before the presentation, they will also be asked to create an abstract of their presentation. This will allow them to apply evolutionary thinking and a cross-cultural perspective to decision-making. It will also allow them to synthesize empirical research from different disciplines and to practice their communication skills.

Assessment Methods

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

Exams
Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation101M80Individual presentation discussing one aspect of decision-making in different cultures and species (Present in person). Length 10min
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20A 200-word abstract that summarizes their presentation
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MStudent will prepare an Annotated Bibliography laying out the papers they will use in their presentations
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative assessment and feedback are aimed at giving students the opportunity to practice the skills necessary to search, select and use literatures relevant for the assessment.

The in-course abstract assessment is aimed at practicing the ability to synthesize and explain concisely empirical research. Then, the individual presentation is aimed at developing oral presentation skills. For both assessments, students will be expected to demonstrate the ability to integrate cross-cultural and comparative literature to discuss how a specific aspect of human economic decision-making have evolved and vary across human societies.

Reading Lists

Timetable