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PSYC100 Foundations of Psychology AND PSYC101 Applications of Psychology AND PSYC206 Research Design and Statistics II

Unit rationale, description and aim

The interplay of emotion and cognition in the social context has considerable applied importance as it lies at the heart of many professional applications of psychology, including clinical psychology, health psychology, and organisational psychology. Emotions also play an important role influencing decision-making in an array of ethical, legal and political domains.

This unit will introduce historical and modern theories concerning what emotions are, and why they exist. The unit will examine prominent theories and research concerning how we experience, communicate and regulate emotions. The extent to which emotions help individuals navigate the social world will be explored, considering their impact on social perception, group processes, and decision-making. The unit will draw on evidence from a range of behavioural and neuroscience methods that have significantly advanced our understanding of how emotion and cognition interact in the social context.

This aim of this unit is to introduce key theories in emotion science, and provide an overview of current understandings of how emotion and cognition interact and enable individuals to navigate in an increasingly complex society.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - describe the major historical and modern theories of emotions (GA5, GA9) 

LO2 - contrast the strengths and weaknesses of modern theoretical models and critically analyse empirical evidence in the domain of emotion and social cognition (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9) 

LO3 - identify key neural structures implicated in the experience and communication of emotion and understand how neuroscience methods can be used to answer research questions concerning the relationship between emotion and social cognition (GA5, GA8) 

LO4 - identify and describe key empirical evidence in the domain of emotion and social cognition (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9) 

LO5 - demonstrate effective oral and written communication in the domain of emotion and social cognition (GA8, GA9) 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • What are emotions? 
  • What are the functions of emotions? 
  • The emotional brain 
  • Emotional expressions 
  • Emotion regulation  
  • Emotion recognition 
  • Face recognition 
  • First impressions  
  • Empathy and theory of mind  
  • Emotion and group processes 
  • Emotion, cognition and decision-making 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is taught face-to-face in lectures and tutorials. Students benefit from active participation in class and the opportunity to discuss the various issues that arise in the course of this unit, including some of the complexities associated with the interplay of emotion and social cognition. Tutorial classes are structured to ensure active participation from all students in the critical analysis of theory and research, with students expected to contribute to class discussions on a regular basis. This format provides opportunities for peer-led discussions and learning, in addition to the teaching provided by staff. These guided discussions and activities are beneficial in assisting students to attain the learning outcomes of this unit. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, students will need to complete and submit all of the assessment tasks listed in the table below. In addition to this, students must obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50% to pass the unit.   


In order to best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. A range of assessment strategies are used including:  


(i) an essay will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, critical analysis skills, and written communication skills by contrasting theories and evidence in the domain of emotion and social cognition;  

(ii) an oral presentation will allow students to demonstrate their oral communication skills in the process of demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of empirical research;  

(iii) an examination will provide students with an opportunity to display their written communication skills in the course of demonstrating their understanding and consolidation of knowledge of content covered in the unit 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes


Students will contrast theories and evidence relating to current debates in the domain of emotion and social cognition. This will assess students’ knowledge, understanding, and capacity to synthesise and critically evaluate theories and relevant empirical evidence. 


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Oral presentation:  

In tutorials, students will present a research article from the perspective of the author(s) and lead class discussion in the form of a Question/Answer session. This will assess oral communications skills and students’ knowledge and understanding of empirical research. 


LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

End-of-semester exam:  

The exam will comprise multiple choice and short answer questions and will assess knowledge and understanding of unit content. 


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Adolphs, R. (2002). Recognizing emotion from facial expressions: Psychological and neurological mechanisms. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 1, 21-61 

Adolphs, R. (2009). The social brain: Neural basis of social knowledge. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 693-716.  

Barrett, L. F., Lewis, M., & Haviland-Jones, J. M. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of emotions (4th ed.). New York: Guilford Publications. 

Calder, A. J., & Young, A. W. (2005). Understanding the recognition of facial identity and facial expression. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6, 641-651. 

Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281-291. 

Hess, U., & Fischer, A. H. (Eds.). (2016). Emotional mimicry in social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Lerner, J. S., Li, Y., Valdesolo, P., & Kassam, K. S. (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology66, 799-823. 

Niedenthal, P. M., & Ric, F. (2017). Psychology of emotion (2nd ed). Psychology Press. 

Singer, T., & Lamm, C. (2009). The social neuroscience of empathy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1156, 81-96. 

Todorov, A., Olivola, C. Y., Dotsch, R., & Mende-Siedlecki, P. (2015). Social attributions from faces: Determinants, consequences, accuracy, and functional significance. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 519-545. 

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