PSYC3082 Contemporary Psychological Issues

Bachelor Course Unit


One trimester


3rd Year Elective

Credit points:

6 (out of 144)




This unit is an elective subject in the 3rd year of the Bachelor of Psychological Sciences degree. The main objective of PSYC3082 is to introduce students to a variety of contemporary issues within the field of psychology.

Learning and Teaching Process

This unit comprises ten (10) weekly 2.5 hour lectures and nine (9) weekly 1 hour tutorials.  Lectures commence in Week 1 of the trimester and will be captured electronically at the time of delivery and will automatically be made available online within the following 24 hours. Attendance at tutorials is compulsory; students should attend, from Week 2, the tutorial class into which they are enrolled.

All students are provided with secure online access to comprehensive unit learning resources via the Student Portal. Unit Coordinators, Lecturers, and Student Support staff are available to students (in all modes of delivery) at designated times via email and telephone contact throughout the duration of the unit.

The main content of the unit will be delivered in ten lectures. Smaller, group discussions will take place in the weekly tutorials, allowing for further exploration of key contemporary psychological constructs and their relevance to an understanding of society and societal change. Especially important will be the development of critical thinking on methodological issues. Students will be required to write an essay based upon the analysis and explication of a counterfactual. A counterfactual process is based upon asking a question in the form of “What if…? to pose some change in an event or present policy or practice and predicting what could be probable outcomes and later consequences that would flow from the change. This counterfactual will engage a knowledge of psychological principles of theory and method. This will enable the development of insight into the role of psychology in society and to aid the development of your ability to think qualitatively as a psychologist. There will be a tutorial exercise early in the trimester which will present a counterfactual analysis which will enable you to understand the process and build your skills to analyse the later essay  question. A final exam will assess knowledge and understanding of psychology as it enables an understanding and critical appreciation of contemporary events.

Unit content


Lecture Topic

Tutorial Topic


What are contemporary psychological issues? Social change and psychology at the nexus of science and the humanities, technology and politics.

No Tutorials in Week 1


Psychology and the caring society: Humanistic psychology, positive psychology and economic and social change.

Analysis of a counterfactual to aid understanding of links of psychological thinking and practice to contemporary society. The intertwining of science and society. (Chapters will be available for background on the use of counterfactuals in other disciplines).


The psychology of terrorism. How political events transform the micro processes of social interaction and the ways in which phenomena are studied



The psychological impact of surveillance and evaluation technology. Unforeseen consequences of government action?  “Nudging” and the place of government in unconscious manipulation of the behaviour of citizens. The concept of “wise psychological interventions”.

Surveillance of those who survey: The political psychology of experimental psychology and the reflective nature of psychological investigations. Can social psychology be the province of the investigative media?


Can we have a psychology that is socially or ideologically “pure”? The psychology and sociology of psychological research and psychological practice

Can liberals and conservatives understand the perspectives of the “other”? The psychology of understanding social and political change.


Training and the growth of expertise. The psychology of psychological decision making. How rational are we? How rational should we be?

Being an expert and not knowing that you are wrong. Failures to predict and failures to learn


Psychological interventions and aided change: Psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, technology and the future of professional psychology

The evaluation of attrition: Estimating how loss of participants can affect the interpretation of therapeutic effectiveness.


Artificial intelligence. What to think about machines that think and how the growth of the algorithm will eliminate many employment opportunities

Artificial intelligence. Who will still be in work and what will they do?


Psychology and the media. Representation in the media of psychological concepts and the impact of media change in the delivery of psychology and the understanding of the person

Psychological concepts in the media: The personality of Batman.


Plenary session: Discussion of issues that have been examined and a consideration of the ways in which psychology as a discipline examines, analyses and understands its subject matter.

Can an organization have DNA? Metaphor, reductionism and explanation in psychological science.

Assessment Summary




Assessment 1: You will select a topic of community interest which has arisen in the previous few months and analyse the event with respect to a prominent psychological theory or methodology. You will provide a brief review of literature relevant to the topic and critically examine the research. Guidance on strategies to complete the exercise will be provided in a separate document.


1200 words

Assessment 2: You will write an essay which analyses a counterfactual. This counterfactual will be posed in the second tutorial of the term. The counterfactual or “What if…?” question will ask you to follow through probable consequences of a change in social policy or some historical event which could impact upon the utility of psychology in society and its benefits and failures. The essay should be 2000 words in length. The process will be described in class and you will have a structure to follow in making the analysis. There are formal principles to follow in setting and following the counterfactual. It is not the case that “anything goes!”


2000 words

Assessment 3: The examination is a combination of short answer questions and essays covering the unit curriculum including lectures, tutorials and prescribed reading. The exam will probably be held in week 12 of the trimester. Details will be on the Examination Timetable to be released. Do not plan any events for that period of time until you have received information of a definite time for the examination.


There will be 9 short answer (SA) questions (one per lecture topic for the first 9 sessions of class) and six essays ( you have to answer 2) The essays will provide opportunities to make linkages between the themes covered in the lectures. The SA questions will attract 4 marks each: The essays will be worth 15 marks each.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time.