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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Psychology

Undergraduate Course: The Psychology of Conversation (PSYL10175)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences 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 course addresses the question of how people engage in conversation - that is, the nature of the psychological processes that underlie our ability to communicate interactively. It considers such questions as how we build up shared knowledge with our interlocutors, how we make our utterances appropriate for them, and how we manage to take turns without the conversation breaking down. It draws on psycholinguistics, social psychology, the psychology of joint activity, and interactive neuroscience.
Course description Students will learn about the psychology of conversation, from a perspective grounded in the study of language processing, but in relation to a social (interactive) context. The course will therefore provide an unusually close integration of psycholinguistics with aspects of social interaction, and will also make reference to cognitive neuroscience, the psychology of memory, theory of mind, aspects of linguistics, and cross-cultural research. Students should appreciate the importance and difficulties involved in studying everyday communication in a rigorous scientific manner, and should learn how the study of conversation is relevant to psychology as a whole. Typical topics covered will include:

1. An interdisciplinary approach to conversation.
2. Conversation as a collaborative activity.
3. Conversation as the alignment of representations.
4. Conversation in groups and across communities
5. Perspective taking while speaking.
6. Perspective taking while comprehending.
7. Turn-taking: Preparing a response
8. Turn-taking: Timing articulation
9. The neuroscience of conversation
10. Memory for conversation
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Psychology 2A (PSYL08011) AND Psychology 2B (PSYL08012)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should be studying Psychology as their degree major, and have completed at least 3 Psychology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

**Please note that upper level Psychology courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1000 word essay from a choice of titles relevant to the course - 30%
Examination (2 x 1 hour essays) - 70%
Feedback Students will submit their essay halfway through the course. They will be expected to focus on the material from the first half of the course, but can include material from later in the course as desired. It is not expected that they will be aware of all the implications and applications of research on conversation at this point. They will receive feedback on their essay in time for it to impact on their performance in the final assessment. This feedback will be based both on the quality of their arguments and on the implications of their arguments for upcoming topics and broader issues that are addressed in the latter half of the course.

They will also take part in seminars, in which they are all expected to read key papers and engage in discussion about them and their broader implications for the course. I will typically set two papers per seminar that take alternative perspectives on an important issue. I will also use the seminars to drive informal attempts to design studies that follow on from the papers and test important unresolved issues in the field. The students will receive oral feedback during the seminars (and everyone should learn from this feedback).
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)The Psychology of Conversation2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically evaluate and compare collaborative and mechanistic approaches to conversation
  2. Interpret conversation as a form of joint activity
  3. Assess how conversation differs across numbers and types of interlocutors
  4. Evaluate attempts to understand how interlocutors can interact successfully in real time
  5. Assess the interdisciplinary nature of the study of conversation, in terms of its relevance to topics such as interactive neuroscience, interpersonal and group processes, memory, discourse analysis, theory of mind, and the psychology of language production and comprehension in monologue
Reading List
Clark, H. H., & Wilkes-Gibbs, D. (1986). Referring as a collaborative process. Cognition, 22(1), 1-39.
Garrod, S., & Pickering, M. J. (2004). Why is conversation so easy? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(1), 8-11.
Levinson, S. (2016). Turn-taking in human communication - origins and implications for language processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1), 6-12.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will encourage students┬┐ Research and Enquiry skills, through thinking critically and creatively about primary research and proposing new research ideas. It will build Communication skills through writing practice and participation in seminars, and by self-reflection on their own conversational abilities. It will encourage a passion to Engage Globally by examining cross-cultural research on language and communication.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Martin Pickering
Tel: (0131 6)50 3447
Course secretaryMiss Georgiana Gherasim
Tel: (0131 6)50 3440
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