Caring and Helping: the Psychology of Concern and Commitment (C8014)

15 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

The material on this module examines when and why people care and help – or do not. Although the focus will be on caring for and helping other people, we will be interested in commitment more generally, e.g., to one’s self, to one’s relationships, to one’s country, to one’s god, to justice, etc. We will also be interested in whether non-human animals ever have similar concerns and commitments. Most sub-disciplines within psychology (e.g., biological, clinical, cognitive, developmental, personality, social) will be considered on the module, as will aspects of several related disciplines (e.g., economics, philosophy, sociology).

At an abstract level, several related phenomena will be investigated, including collectivism, morality, and prudence. At a practical level, this will involve consideration of such behaviours as activism, adoption, advocacy, animal welfare, blood and body-part donation, citizenship, courtesy, environmentalism, ethical investment, gift-giving, heroism, honesty, kindness, philanthropy, prejudice-reduction, support-giving, surrogacy, tax paying, tipping, tolerance, vaccination, volunteering, etc.. Less obvious and more contentious domains will include lying, mercy-killing, violent service (e.g., soldiering, terrorism), etc. Critical thinking will be encouraged throughout the module, as will consideration of the relationship between academic research and practical application.


100%: Lecture


30%: Coursework (Portfolio, Test)
70%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: