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Advancing social psychology

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Social psychologists study people as social beings, looking at their relationships and shared experiences in context. This module discusses social psychology's insights into life and people in a globalised and fast changing 21st century world. The module explores current issues in contemporary UK society, including gender, multiculturalism, immigration, global conflicts and work. You'll learn about recent research findings and different social psychological theories and approaches, including a critical approach towards psychology itself. As preparation for future study, work and life activities, you'll develop the academic and communication skills you need to study independently and follow your own interests. 

What you will study

The module discusses social psychology's insights into life and people in a contemporary globalised world. It explores the new developments and interdisciplinary boundaries of social psychology today. The study programme is divided into an introduction, five main blocks and a conclusion, with additional weeks for review and revision. 

The first block, Social psychology for a contemporary society, asks: How are we changed by our changing world? What can social psychology tell us about life today, and contemporary people? What do social psychologists contribute to discussions of ‘big issues’, like globalisation, new media and surveillance technologies, mobility and migration, political change and economic crises? The block also considers the power of psychology itself, looking at ways that psychological knowledge has impacted on our daily lives. The areas of social psychology covered in this block include critical social psychology and research, and social psychology linked to theories of the subject.

The second block, New encounters across cultures in a globalised world, explores the relationships between individuals and cultures in modern diverse societies. Looking at the encounters between people in a world of increased mobility, the block asks: What happens when different cultures meet? What are the potential barriers? Can intercultural dialogue be achieved? You'll study how new encounters can lead to both conflicts and positive cultural mixing. The block also asks: What are the politics of identity and difference in today’s mobile society? The approaches covered include sociocultural psychology and social representations theory. 

The third block, Social psychology and participation: understanding and effecting change, looks at how people ‘get involved’ as members of society or citizens. It studies the ways that they join together to produce social change. These include everyday actions, such as voting, as well as more extreme forms of political action, for example, in contexts of conflict and uprising. The block asks: What drives people to join large scale protest movements? And how is their participation affected by social media? The block also investigates how social psychology itself has contributed to social action and change. The approaches covered include political psychology, liberation psychology and the social identity approach.

The fourth block, A contemporary subject, centres on the idea that the person studied by psychologists is socially produced. This again raises questions about similarity and difference, and how free we are to choose who we want to be. You'll be asked how recent changes in work and employment have impacted on our lives and identities, comparing the ‘good’ workers of today with workers of the past. It discusses gender, looking at research on ‘new’ femininities and masculinities in contemporary society. It discusses happiness and suggests that the goal of being happy is more complicated than it appears! The approaches covered include social constructionism, critical discursive psychology, 'a psychology of the second order' and positive psychology. 

The fifth block, Threats and fears, centres on one of the most famous areas of psychology, the theories of psychodynamics and psychoanalysis which originated in the work of Sigmund Freud. The block considers these not in relation to therapeutic practice but for their application to society more generally. It offers psychoanalytic re-interpretations of classic psychological topics like bystander behaviour. You'll read accounts of ongoing conflicts (like Israel-Palestine) and explanations of people’s fears and responses to contemporary threats. The areas covered include psychoanalysis, psychodynamics and psychosocial studies.

This module delivers this content through blended tuition including online material and two textbooks. You'll be required to read the module's own textbook and other published material; watch videos and listen to interviews with leading international scholars; do online activities and participate in forums. This will help to develop your academic and communication skills. You'll also spend time working independently, for example, to search for more information about the areas of social psychology that you find especially interesting. 

You will learn

From studying this module you will learn about:

  • continuing developments in key theories and approaches in social psychology
  • applications of social psychological knowledge to contemporary socio-political issues in global societies
  • new social psychological and interdisciplinary research.

Entry requirements

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

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

What's included

The study materials include two textbooks, and an online study guide which appears on the module website. Audio-visual materials, activities and links for further reading are also available online.

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:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

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 will have a tutor who will guide your learning and provide feedback on your work. You can ask your tutor for advice and help with the study material. Tuition will take place across a range of media, including online tutorials, face to face tutorials and online forums.

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 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 DD317 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

Advancing social psychology (DD317) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.

Course work includes:

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