THE UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH

DEGREE REGULATIONS & PROGRAMMES OF STUDY 2021/2022

Information in the Degree Programme Tables may still be subject to change in response to Covid-19

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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Neuropolitics (PLIT10101)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe availability of sophisticated neuroimaging tools, along with rapidly advancing understandings of the functioning of the brain, presents new opportunities and challenges for social scientists. This course introduces honours students to the concept of neuropolitics and to the tools and approaches from the cognitive neurosciences that may have important applications in theory and in policy practice. Participants will explore the potential and the perils of the incorporation of insights from the cognitive neurosciences into the study of social and political attitudes and behaviours.
Course description Drawing on literatures from a variety of disciplines including political science, economics, psychology and the cognitive neurosciences, participants will be introduced to the subject of neuropolitics and its tools and will be encouraged to critically assess its potential contribution to the social sciences. How might understanding the underlying neural mechanisms of the decision process, or of inter-group behaviour, shed new light on existing theoretical frameworks or help to shape policy practice? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and approaches? What are the limitations of a neuropolitics approach? What ethical considerations need to be taken into account?

This class will entail a total of 20 contact hours, delivered in 10 x 2 hour sessions. Students will undertake further directed learning in the form of participation in a journal club, throughout the teaching period, and will receive formative feedback on their participation in this task.

The students will first be introduced to ongoing debates about the relationship between the brain, biology and behaviour; given an introduction to basic functional neuroanatomy and to the range of tools and approaches with potential for application in a neuropolitical study. The class will then proceed to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of a neuropolitical approach with respect to a series of cases: for example, decision-making; voting behaviour; identity and group-relations; and public policy. A session on neuroethics will address the potential ethical issues that arise in neuropolitical studies.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who have not taken Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World (PLIT08012), but have taken a similar course, should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Section for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2021/22, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) - 750 word journal club synopsis (20%)
- Journal club engagement and leadership plus 1000 word summary reflection (80%)
Feedback As well as ongoing weekly tutorial feedback and support, formal formative feedback from the course convenor will be provided on the initial Journal Club article synopsis. In addition, integral to the journal club concept is ongoing peer feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a critical understanding of the contribution of a neuropolitical approach to the social sciences
  2. Develop a basic understanding of functional neuroanatomy and the relevance of this knowledge for social scientists
  3. Develop a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of key methods and tools applied in neuropolitical research
  4. Develop analytical skills and ability to lead and contribute to group learning in a timely and effective manner.
  5. Develop the ability to identify a research puzzle, to develop an appropriate and ethical experimental approach to the problem identified and to formulate research hypotheses.
Reading List
Lieberman, M.D., Schreiber, D. & Ochsner, K.N. (2003). Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle? How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology,. 24(4), 681-704.

McDermott, R. (2004). The Feeling of Rationality: The Meaning of Neuroscientific Advances for Political Science. Perspectives on Politics, 2(04), p.691-706.

McDermott, R. (2009). Mutual Interests: The Case for Increasing Dialogue between Political Science and Neuroscience. Political Research Quarterly, 62(3), 571-583

Hatemi, P. K., & McDermott, R. (2012). The Political Psychology of Biology, Genetics, and Behavior. Political Psychology. 33(3), 307-312.

Schreiber, D., & Iacoboni, M. (2012). Huxtables on the Brain: An fMRI Study of Race and Norm Violation. Political Psychology. 33(3), 313-330.

Theodoridis, A. G., & Nelson, A. J. (2012). Of BOLD Claims and Excessive Fears: A Call for Caution and Patience Regarding Political Neuroscience. Political Psychology, 33(1), 27-43.

Hibbing, J. R. (2013). Ten Misconceptions Concerning Neurobiology and Politics. Perspectives on Politics. 11(02), 475-489

Jost, J. T., Nam, H. H., Amodio, D. M., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2014). Political neuroscience: The beginning of a beautiful friendship. Political Psychology, 35(SUPPL.1), 3-42.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning and are committed to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
- be able to sustain intellectual interest by remaining receptive to both new and old ideas, methods, and ways of thinking;
- be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
- be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views
KeywordsNot entered
Contacts
Course organiserProf Laura Cram
Tel: (0131 6)51 5571
Email: Laura.Cram@ed.ac.uk
Course secretaryMr Daniel Jackson
Tel: (0131 6)50 8253
Email: Daniel.Jackson@ed.ac.uk
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