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Classic Studies in Psychology

Module titleClassic Studies in Psychology
Module codePSY1126
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Miriam Koschate-Reis (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

An in-depth knowledge and understanding of classic studies is important in any discipline. However, such an understanding is critical in psychology because, unlike other sciences, psychology’s foundations are built not of cardinal theories, but with the rock of classic experiments. In this module you will learn about the details of classic studies in social and developmental psychology and how these studies have shaped the field of psychology. But, more importantly, you will discover new ways of thinking about these studies and the ideas that they explore. A-level psychology is not a prerequisite – this module is suitable for anyone with an interest in learning more about the classic studies in psychology.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to introduce a broad range of students to classic studies in psychology that have had an impact far beyond the boundaries of this discipline. The module aims to provide a basic understanding of the limitations as well as the strengths of these studies, and to think about the broader relevance of their findings – e.g., in informing debate about key issues in society (issues such as obedience, social influence, the impact of groups on individual functioning, the development of morality, intelligence, aggression and personality). The module aims to show how psychology can be – and has been – taken forward in interesting and existing ways through a careful re-examination of the ‘sacred texts’ that lie at its heart.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Give some examples of the most important research ideas and findings that inform contemporary psychology
  • 2. Outline the relevance of psychological research findings to broader social issues
  • 3. Describe the range of psychological concepts and theory that are used in applied settings such as schools, the media, and management

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Acquire basic and essential factual and conceptual knowledge of the subject, and demonstrate understanding of this knowledge
  • 5. Review and evaluate published work and to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of this work, and at a basic level structure this literature to present logical and coherent arguments
  • 6. Structure literature to present logical and coherent arguments
  • 7. Address well-defined problems systematically, think critically and creatively, and begin to appreciate the complexities of the issues
  • 8. Understand and apply essential principles in designing research, evaluate and analyse empirical evidence, and assess the reliability of empirical evidence using defined techniques at a basic level
  • 9. Demonstrate some awareness of ethical issues relating to the subject and its application

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Work effectively with others as a member of a group and meet obligations to others
  • 11. Work within an appropriate ethos and access and use a range of learning resources
  • 12. Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses within set criteria, and seek and make use of feedback
  • 13. Manage information, collect appropriate information from a range of sources and undertake essential study tasks under supervision
  • 14. Take responsibility for your own learning with appropriate support and communicate effectively within the format of the discipline
  • 15. Apply methods accurately and carefully to a well-defined problem and begin to appreciate the complexity of the issues
  • 16. Act with limited autonomy, under direction or supervision, and within defined guidelines
  • 17. Manage time effectively to meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module will cover a range of classic studies in psychology with a particular emphasis on the areas of social and developmental psychology. Each lecture will focus on one key study, but other research that develops, critiques and relates to this research will also be discussed. An indicative lecture list follows, although topics may change from year to year:

  • Behaviourism and Little Albert (Watson and Rayner, 1920)
  • The visual cliff (Gibson and Walk, 1960)
  • Cognitive development (Piaget, 1954)
  • Object permanence in infancy (Baillargeon et al., 1985)
  • Imitation in infancy (Meltzoff and Moore, 1977)
  • Theory of mind and autism (Baron-Cohen et al., 1985)
  • Attachment and socialisation (Harlow, 1958)
  • Aggression (Bandura et al ,1961)
  • Moral development (Kohlberg, 1963)
  • Memory and suggestibility (Ceci and Bruck, 1993)
  • Social facilitation (Triplett, 1898)
  • Attitudes and behaviour (LaPiere, 1934)
  • Cognitive dissonance (Festinger et al., 1956)
  • Norm formation (Sherif, 1936)
  • Conformity (Asch, 1951)
  • Obedience (Milgram, 1963)
  • Tyranny (Zimbardo et al., 1973)
  • Social conflict (Sherif, 1966)
  • Intergroup discrimination (Tajfel et al., 1971)
  • Bystander intervention (Latane and Darley, 1968)

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching34Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Revision lecture
Guided Independent Study30Reading the papers available on ELE
Guided Independent Study20Review of lecture materials each week
Guided Independent Study46Research and preparation of essay
Guided Independent Study18Revision for final examination


Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay502000 words1-9, 11-17Written
Examination501 hour1-5, 7-9Generic feedback (comments posted on ELE)


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9, 11-17August Ref/Def
ExaminationExamination1-5, 7-9August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. Where you have been referred/deferred in the essay you will be required to resubmit the essay. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Slater, A. M., and Quinn, P. C. (2012). Developmental psychology: Revisiting the classic studies. London: Sage.
  • Smith, J. R., and Haslam, S. A. (2012). Social psychology: Revisiting the classic studies. London: Sage.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE page: (A number of required readings are assigned for each classic study. These readings will be made available to students through ELE. All resources are available on ELE. This includes the lecture notes for each week, additional material covered in the tutorials, the required readings, information about assessment, past examination papers, and additional material (e.g., videos, radio broadcasts). A discussion forum is also available for students.)

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, classic studies

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date