Credit points


Campus offering

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PSYC100 Foundations of Psychology and PSYC101 Applications of Psychology

Unit rationale, description and aim

Contemporary religious trends across the globe are rapidly changing. For example, less people are adhering to traditional forms of religious practice, Atheism and secular beliefs are becoming increasingly common and valid, and acts of terror are commonly perceived as motivated by religion. Although science and religion are sometimes seen as mutually exclusive disciplines, the psychology of religion plays a vital role in the formation of communities and the interaction of cultures - therefore understanding the psychological components of religion is necessary to fully understand human functioning and behaviour. The course is about the scientific study of religion using psychological theories and methods. It explores how religious beliefs and practices are acquired and modified, and the role they play in an individual's life.

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 - discuss current issues in the psychology and cognitive science of religion (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA9);

LO2 - describe and evaluate research methods in the psychology and cognitive science of religion, including conceptualisation and measurement (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8);

LO3 - critically evaluate and discuss different psychological (i.e. evolutionary, cognitive, social, phenomenological) approaches to religion (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO4 - apply psychological models to the study of religion and spirituality (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO5 - apply this knowledge of religion and spirituality to human thought and behaviour (GA4, GA5, GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

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

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


Topics will include: 

  • History of the Psychological Study of Religion and Spirituality  
  • Major Theorists and Approaches of the 20th Century  
  • Biological and Evolutionary Aspects of Religion and Spirituality  
  • The Cognitive Science and the Neuroscience of Religion and Religious Experience  
  • Religious and Spiritual development in Childhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood  
  • Attachment to God – Attachment Styles and Religion 
  • The Nature and Patterns of Spiritual Transformation and Conversion  
  • The Relationship of Religion and Spirituality to Moral and Altruistic Behavior  
  • The Psychology of Religious Coping and Psychotherapy  
  • Religion and Spirituality in Aging and Death  
  • Religion in the Context of Culture  
  • Issues Creating Conflict between Culture and Religion  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The unit is delivered in face-to-face mode with 3 contact hours per week: each week there will be a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial. This mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures are to aid students with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge while the tutorials are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of that knowledge. To assist you in your self-directed learning, other learning resources are utilized including: online quizzes and activities; online forums; and lecture recordings.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, you will need to complete and submit all of the assessment tasks listed in the table below. In addition to this, you 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: a learning portfolio which is designed to scaffold your understanding and application of the content of the unit; a theoretical paper to demonstrate your ability to discuss and consolidate research literature; and a research presentation and paper to demonstrate your ability to interpret and discuss research findings, and to consolidate and apply the content covered in the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Learning portfolio  

The portfolio contains a variety of questions which allow you to demonstrate the progression of your knowledge across the semester. It has been designed to scaffold your understanding and application of the content of the unit 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Theoretical paper (1000 words)  

You are to prepare a theoretical paper in which you will demonstrate your skill in locating and evaluating scholarly research and applying the APA referencing system to written work.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Research paper and presentation (1500  

words plus 5 minutes) 

You are to submit an APA style research paper to demonstrate your ability to discuss and consolidate research literature, to develop hypotheses and logical argument, to provide a description of the methodology of a study, and to interpret and discuss research findings. You are also to demonstrate your skill in locating and evaluating scholarly research and applying the APA referencing system to written work.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Anderson, J. R. (2015). The social psychology of religion: Using scientific methodologies to understand religion. In B. Mohan (Ed.), Constructions of Social Psychology. Baton Rouge, CA: inScience Press. 


Emmons, R. A., & Paloutzian, R. F. (2003). The psychology of religion. Annual review of psychology54(1), 377-402. 


Fontana, D. (2003). Psychology, religion, and spirituality. Wiley-Blackwell. 


Hood, R.W., Hill, P., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (4th edition).  

New York: The Guilford Press. 


Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment, evolution, and the psychology of religion. Guilford Press. 


Paloutzian, R. F., & Park, C. L. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality. Guilford Publications. 


Sisemore, T. (2016). The psychology of religion and spirituality: From the inside out. Wiley Global Education. 


Spilka, B., Hood, R. W., Hunsberger, B., & Gorsuch, R. (2003). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach. Guilford Press. 


Swan, T. (2007). A brieg introduction to the psychology of religion. Essence Publishin.  


Wulff, D. M. (1991). Psychology of religion: Classic and contemporary views. John Wiley & Sons. 

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