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The University of Southampton

PSYC3048 Human Learning

Module Overview

The aim of this unit is to outline the basic learning mechanisms that allow us to organise our behaviour and adapt to our environment. One of the essential ingredients for successful organisation and adaptation is the capacity to anticipate impending events so that we can plan appropriate actions. In addition, we must respond to the effects of our behaviour on our environments. Learning about the consequences of our actions allows us to adapt our behaviour to produce advantageous outcomes. Without the ability to anticipate and adapt, we would not, for example, be able to learn to avoid unpleasant and potentially harmful events, nor would we know which of our actions produced pleasant or beneficial effects. This course aims to introduce students to current debates on the psychological mechanisms of learning and examples of the application of learning theory to applied problems. Pre-requisites: PSYC1016 AND PSYC1017 or equivalent

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand some current models of learning
  • Outline their historical development
  • Critically evaluate those models by identifying specific strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand some areas of application for those models
  • Be able to effectively communicate complex materials in writing (assessed) and in presentation (not assessed)


Coverage will include aspects of classical and operant conditioning, decision making, and reasoning. Simple mathematical models of these processes will be introduced and the interplay between theory development and experimental evidence will be explored. Areas of application will also be considered, for example, how can addiction be understood in terms of classical and operant conditioning? Teaching methods employed include seminars, experimental demonstrations, private study, and student group work.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Contact Hours: 22 hours • Private Study Hours (Recommended): 128 hours The course is delivered in a weekly double lecture slot for one semester, excluding the final reading week. It is supported by a Blackboard website which includes course outline, reading list, handbook, lecture slides, external links, and other resources. 1. Seminars: Students will be provided with a series of seminars which introduce relevant material for each of the three major parts of the course a) foundations (conditioning and associative learning), b) advanced topics (cognition and reasoning), and c) applications (e.g. skill acquisition, education, addiction). 2. Experiment demonstrations: Classroom demonstrations of simple experiments are used at several points in the course to introduce topics and illustrate particular points. The results are presented and used to introduce/highlight key topics. 3. Worksheets: Classroom sessions using simple worksheets to show the mathematical workings of learning models. 4. Group work: Classroom and homework activities e.g. worksheets will be carried out in groups to give students experience of working together and learning from their peers. 5. Private study will be required to prepare for classroom sessions and assessments. Key papers will be identified to provide starting points for private study.

Independent Study128
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Anderson J.R. (2000). Learning and memory: An Integrated Approach. 

Haselgrove, M., & Hogarth, L. (2012). Clinical Applications of Learning Theory. 

Lieberman, D.A. (2012). Human Learning & Memory. 

Gluck, M.A., Mercado, E., & Myers, C.E. (2008). Learning and Memory: From Brain to Behavior. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 50%
Essay 49%
Research Participation Scheme 1%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: PSYC1016 AND PSYC1017

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