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Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary

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This module draws on classic and contemporary theory and research in psychology and applies them to a broad range of contexts. You'll learn how psychologists have studied both practical and theoretical issues, such as nationalism or sexuality, with a particular emphasis on understanding and solving problems that directly affect people’s lives. You'll explore core academic areas of psychology as set out by the British Psychological Society (e.g. social, cognitive, developmental) and applied aspects of professional practice (e.g. clinical, forensic, counselling). You'll also develop your understanding of psychological research methods, along with other useful academic and employability skills.

Please note that the real-world contexts explored in this module may involve issues that are sensitive to you personally at time of studying. We recommend that you look through the topics covered before registering for this module.

What you will study

This module approaches psychology as a fundamentally applied discipline, firmly grounded in the real world.

Each study week takes a specific real-world topic and leads you through some of the ways that psychologists have explored it, outlining key theories, findings, practical issues, and research methods. Some of the real-world contexts explored in this module may involve issues that are sensitive to you personally. The issues to be covered will be outlined before the topic is presented, together with suggested ways in which you might engage with it if it is personally relevant to you.

The module is structured into five blocks, with four topics in each.

Block 1 explores the theme of ‘understanding minds’. In this block you'll learn how people are able to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings, whether this ability is shared by other animals, what happens when people have difficulty understanding each other, and whether it might be possible to build an artificial ‘mind’ that would think and feel like a human mind.

Block 2 moves on from the individual focus of the first block to consider how people relate to others as social beings. In this block you'll learn about the importance of self-esteem and the effect that other people can have on it, how problems can arise and be resolved in intimate relationships, how social interactions can affect creativity, and how issues of nationality and migration can affect people’s identities, both as groups and individuals.

Block 3 shifts the focus from the social world to people’s interactions with the physical world. In this block you'll learn about how psychologists have defined the ‘self’, including the role of the physical body on the sense of self. You'll also learn about the effect that the surrounding environment, both ‘natural’ and human-made, can have on people’s physical and mental health, and how psychology can help to address environmental issues such as climate change.

Block 4 considers how people make sense of the world around them. You'll learn how people develop an understanding of the information provided by their physical senses, and how that understanding can be both highly efficient and often wrong. You'll also learn why many people believe in things that seem extraordinary, such as astrological predictions, psychic readings and conspiracy theories.

Block 5 focuses on four important, and contemporary, issues that psychologists have explored and the problems that they have tried to help solve. You'll learn about the psychology of extreme circumstances such as living through traumatic events; you'll explore historical and current psychological theories on human sex and sexuality; you’ll find out about the growing area of internet psychology, including problems such as trolling and cyber-bullying; and you’ll take an evaluative approach to the ‘self-help’ industry.

Throughout the module, you'll learn about a wide variety of research methods that have been used by psychologists to explore these issues. The methods covered include surveys, interviews, experiments, clinical assessments, and case studies.

The module is built around a two-volume textbook Living Psychology: From the Everyday to the Extraordinary and an extensive module website built around an online study guide. The website contains further teaching to support the chapters in the textbook, as well as additional topics taught entirely online. The teaching on the website includes video and audio interviews with key psychologists featured in the material, behind the scenes insights into the research process, and a variety of interactive activities to help develop and consolidate your knowledge. You'll also spend some of your study time using online resources from The Open University library.

You will learn

You will learn about:

  • academic and applied areas of psychology, including aspects of cognitive, developmental, social, clinical, counselling and forensic psychology
  • the interaction between real-world issues and psychological theories and research.

You will develop skills in:

  • accessing, interpreting and critically evaluating information from a variety of sources
  • presenting information and arguments in response to academic and applied questions.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have the study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university. You are not expected to have any special knowledge of psychology.

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

What's included

You’ll be supplied with module textbooks and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorial and forums access.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either an up-to-date version of Windows or macOS.

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll 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. We aim to provide online tutorials. Although not compulsory, attendance at tutorials will help you consolidate your learning and you are strongly encouraged to participate.

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


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

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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD210 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Living psychology: from the everyday to the extraordinary starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2020. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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