Typical and Atypical Social Cognition Across the Lifespan module (PY52002)

Study the development and differences in social cognitive abilities, which play a critical role in daily life, across typical and atypical development

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The term 'social cognition' refers to the cognitive abilities that allow us to interact with other people. These include considering what another person knows, believes, thinks, and how this may differ from ourselves or other people.

These social abilities play an important role in daily life, allowing individuals to predict, compute, and understand the mental states of other people, helping them to make sense of the world and their social interactions. Understanding what other people think also allows people to manipulate other people's minds; we can mislead or deceive people to help us achieve a goal, whether on purpose or accidentally.

This module explores social cognition skills in neuro-typical and atypical (e.g. people with autism, ADHD, dementia etc.) populations across their lifespan. It examines how social cognition skills and executive functions change and develop with advancing age, and how this differs across typical and atypical development.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • study the development and differences in social cognitive abilities across typical and atypical development.
  • become familiar with common measures used to study development of social cognitive skills across different populations, i.e. different age groups, clinical/non-clinical cohorts
  • explore factors that may underlie successful social cognition skills (e.g. executive functions), and whether these differ across advancing age/clinical populations
  • critically examine the impact of changes in social cognitive skills across development on real-world experiences

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • engage in critical thinking, including the consideration of strengths and weaknesses of published papers
  • demonstrate in depth understanding of research methods
  • further your knowledge and understanding of key theories and approaches to studies of social cognition
  • develop strong constructive arguments with enhanced communication skills

Assignments / assessment

  • research proposal 2,500 words (50%)
    • develop a research proposal based on critical discussion in class
    • submitted midway through the semester
  • essay 2,500 (50%)
    • answer one essay question out of a choice of two
    • covers content from class
    • submitted towards the end of the semester

This module does not have a final examination.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • Two-hour weekly interactive seminars
    • mixed method of the lecturer delivering content before you engage in small group critical discussions/debates or participate in whole-class discussion
    • discussions will be based on two or more journal articles read by the whole group prior to the session
    • a series of key questions will guide the discussions, some of which will be set by the lecturer in advance
    • further information on how to engage in these group discussion will be provided at the start of the module
  • You are encouraged to fully attend and participate in the teaching sessions and discussions, as well as engage with reading material from the reference list prior to and/or after each teaching session, as this is likely to enhance your learning and subsequent assessed performance.


This module is available on following courses: