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Social psychology: critical perspectives on self and others

This OU level 3 module uses traditional and cutting-edge social psychological theories to explore some of the most exciting and pressing issues we face in our complex, fast changing world. Topics in the course include crowds, emotions, conflict, relationships, the body, personality, obedience and group processes. Working with multimedia materials, you will develop advanced academic skills of critical evaluation and argument and will have the opportunity to conduct your own independent research project – consolidating and deepening your understanding. The module will also contribute to your personal development by encouraging you to reflect on your life in the light of social psychological evidence.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module will help you to develop a critical understanding of theories and research in social psychology by investigating the social behaviour and experience of ourselves and others. Through your reading and personal reflection you will examine stimulating questions about the self and other people from four key social psychological perspectives: cognitive social, phenomenological, discursive psychological, and social psychoanalytic.

The module is structured around two main textbooks and two online videos.


The first textbook, Social Psychology Matters, explores the significance of social psychology in the 21st century and the contributions it can and does make to understanding the experience of being a person in today’s world. It does this by tracing the roots of social psychology and relating key perspectives to real-life experiences. The book explores areas such as crowds, family relationships, conflict, the self, emotions, and the body through different theoretical approaches. It encourages you to reflect on your experience of being a person in a social world in the light of these perspectives and asks challenging questions about how we come to know what we know about ourselves and other people.

The second one, Critical Readings in Social Psychology, gives you the chance to read important pieces of ‘classic’ social psychology and contrast them with contemporary critical readings. Each chapter explores a key topic in social psychology (such as attitudes, close relationships, individual differences, conformity, group processes and obedience) from a range of different theoretical perspectives. This gives you an appreciation of the historical context of social-psychological knowledge and the ways in which the same topic is treated differently by different theorists. By stimulating your own ideas and thoughts about these topics and perspectives, the book encourages your development of critical-evaluation skills.

Online videos

The two specially produced online videos also serve to develop and consolidate your knowledge and skills in social psychology.

The first one examines the production of knowledge in social psychology through the critical analysis of a well known research study on group processes. It also introduces the four main theoretical perspectives in the module alongside the module themes.

The second online video provides invaluable material designed to support you undertaking the project component of the module. It includes information on data collection (interviews and group discussions) and the qualitative analysis of data from different theoretical perspectives along with accounts of real life student experiences of conducting research projects.

All the study materials are designed to develop your appreciation of the historical development of the discipline of social psychology, and to develop your skills in evaluating theories, using evidence appropriately in the construction of an argument, understanding the process of independent research, and consolidating and developing practical research skills.

Throughout the module, the assessments will develop your knowledge of different perspectives in social psychology as well as give you a direct appreciation of the process of social psychological research. This will help you to design and carry out your own independent research project.

Vocational relevance

Studying social psychology will give you skills and knowledge relevant to careers in education, industry, the health professions, management, and social services, as well as careers in professional psychology.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You will have the opportunity to participate in online forums where you can interact with your fellow students. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit some of your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). 

The TMAs are four essays along with a project proposal and a project based on a piece of independent qualitative research. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


The module is for you if you want to specialise in psychology or have a wider interest in the social sciences. Although it has applications to real situations, it does not offer prescriptions for behaviour; rather, it tries to give a wider appreciation of the complexities and limits, as well as the uses, of psychology.

This is a challenging and demanding OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

You are strongly advised to take an introductory psychology module before this one.

You should be able to write clear and well-structured essays in a conventional academic style; compare and assess different theoretical approaches; give accurate references and bibliographies; handle quantitative and qualitative evidence; understand abstract (social science) concepts, themes and models; and relate theory to practice.

Taster – to see a taster of some of the module content please go to our OpenLearn site.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 31/07/2015.

What's included

Module books and website.

You will need

A portable audio-recording device (for use in your supervised research project).

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

The design of the study materials should not present any undue difficulties. Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The printed study materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. The books are available in a comb-bound format. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.