MSc Social Psychology

Think like a social psychologist and answer questions about social phenomena

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Why do we become attached to a particular person? How do relationship dynamics change over time? Does objectifying women lead to their mistreatment? When is gender made relevant in and for politics? What does it mean in practice to support someone with autism, and how can we assess support? Does self-modesty differ between cultures? How does economic inequality affect self-perception? What identities are invoked in interview interactions?

This exciting new MSc programme will teach you how to think as social psychologists, and how to answer questions about social phenomena. It will advance your knowledge of the theories, concepts, and research that make up social psychology’s distinctive perspective. It will deliver rigorous training in social psychological methods, and in qualitative and quantitative analyses. It will then provide training and practice in how to seek and implement research-based answers to questions generated in the field or through the literature.

An Introduction to the Programme

Programme content and structure

The 120 credit programme comprises core courses and optional courses.

Compulsory courses

The core assures you have a range of research skills in Social Psychology from the understanding and application of different methods and research tools, to the writing of research proposals, and the dissemination of research. The core courses also ensure you have a critical understanding of current debates in the discipline, its epistemological basis, and the conceptual challenge of building a properly social understanding of how individuals think and act in society.

Optional courses

The optional courses allow you to develop your own interests for example, in class and inequalities, relationships, or health. You will have the opportunity to take courses from within the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences as well as from schools across the University, such as the School of Social and Political Studies and Health in Social Science.


The major project of the degree is a dissertation (60 credits). This involves conducting a research project on a specific topic in Social Psychology. It is developed over the year in collaboration with your supervisor, and becomes the main focus in the latter part of the programme.

Learning outcomes and careers

On successful completion of the programme you will acquire the ability to think as a social psychologist in seeking understanding of and solutions to practical and theoretical problems. More specifically, you will have gained:

  • a critical understanding of the challenges of researching individuals embedded in their social worlds;
  • an understanding of key theories and concepts in social psychology and how to apply them to address specific questions;
  • the skills to design and carry out rigorous problem-focused research in social psychology;
  • the ability to evaluate published research in social psychology;
  • the knowledge to make well-informed contributions to discussions about social issues.

The programme will prepare you for a range of career path. For example,

  • a PhD in Social Psychology or in a related field, possibly leading to an academic career
  • a Professional Doctorate/Masters training programme in Clinical or Health Psychology.
  • a wide variety of careers where it is valuable to be able to conduct sound social research, or to develop and evaluate practices and policies relating to social behaviour or thinking such as policy development in education, health, and social care; marketing; opinion-generating, fostering multiculturalism and equality; and communication skills.

Who is this programme for?

This programme is intended for those who have studied Psychology or a related social science discipline (e.g.Sociology, Social Anthropology) to honours level and want to specialise in Social Psychology.

Students require a good honours degree (1st or 2.1 or the international equivalent) either in Psychology or in a related discipline, and must have taken at least one advanced course in Psychology. Supported self-guided study will be provided for students with little or no background in Social Psychology.

Why study social psychology at Edinburgh?

  • Study an exciting, unique problem-based approach to providing empirical answers to social psychological questions.
  • Experience advanced, practical training in a range of quantitative and qualitative research skills, while providing access to excellent research facilities.
  • Be part of a growing group of friendly, cohesive and enthusiastic social psychologists working within a vibrant department, in a lovely city.
  • Benefit from diverse research expertise, which includes experience of working in the field, in different cultures, and with mixed methods.
  • Take part in departmental seminars, reading groups, and a discursive data analysis group.

Sample timetable

On average, full-time students will spend about 6 hours per week in lectures/seminars, about 3 hours in tutorials and about 3 hours in practical classes. The number of contact hours and teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

The remainder of your time will be spent on independent study. After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework and on your dissertation

Teaching and assessment

This programme comprises of 2 semesters of taught compulsory and optional courses followed by a dissertation. Most courses are taught by a combination of lectures, seminars/tutorials and practical sessions. The content of seminars and tutorials varies, but often consists of presentations and discussions based on readings. Practical sessions typically involve learning research skills and are supported by homework tasks and other exercises. The courses include individual and group work.

When students carry out their supervised dissertation research, they will receive guidance from their supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

The assessments vary and are designed to support different aspects of your learning but will include research reports and proposals, essays, oral and poster presentations, methodological exercises, statistical and qualitative analyses, and a 8-10,000 word dissertation.

Facilities and resources

Students have access to a wide range of facilities including:

  • Over 30 libraries, including the recently refurbished main library and a dedicated Psychology and Philosophy Library within the Psychology building itself. All postgraduate students also have access to the extensive holdings of the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland, all within walking distance of the central campus
  • Extensive, state-of-the-art computing facilities, both within the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, and across the campus. There are additional computing labs across the University at the main library, the halls of residence and laptop users will find wireless networking coverage throughout the University
  • Computers within the school of PPLS are configured with specific software to support the school’s needs, including packages for experimental design and execution. We also have audio and video recording equipment and software, extensive facilities for data collection and experimentation, a social psychology laboratory and technical support.
  • Your own desk space in a shared office and an open concourse ideal for socialising with fellow students and staff. There is also a kitchen/common room with a fridge, kettle and microwaves to keep you going during the day.

Student support

In addition to the student support offered to all students in the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, your Programme Director or Supervisor will be able to provide you with academic advice and guidance specific to your programme of study.

Staff profiles

    Research interests
Sue Widdicombe

Dr Sue Widdicombe

Programme Director

Sue is Programme Director for the MSc in Social Psychology. She is a discursive social psychologist with interests in self, identity and social interaction and in Critical Social Psychology. She has done work on social groups including youth culture and subcultures, cross-cultural work on Arab identities, and on interactions in healthcare settings. She is also interested in the dynamics of interview interaction.
Steve Loughnan

Dr Steve Loughnan

Steve is an experimental social psychologist whose work focuses mainly on questions of moral concern in the context of dehumanization and objectification. He examines when people choose to withdraw moral concern, and how that can be reinstated. Further, he has applied these ideas to study how people care about animals in particular in regards their meat-eating behaviour. He is additionally interested in cross-cultural psychology.
Sarah Stanton

Dr Sarah Stanton

Sarah uses an experimental social psychological approach to understand the cognitive and affective aspects of close relationships and their effects on behavior, physiology, and health and well-being. She is particularly interested in how promoting positive relationship experiences benefits close others immediately and over time. Her expertise lies in a theoretically-driven, dyadic, multi-method approach to studying close relationship dynamics.
Kasia Banas

Kasia Banas

Kasia is an experimental social psychologist interested in applying social psychological methods and theorising to study health-related and environmental behaviour. Kasia’s work is inspired by the social identity approach, which emphasises the role of social groups in shaping people’s cognitions and behaviour. Most recently, Kasia has been looking at the social psychological factors underlying people’s food choices, specifically healthy eating and the vegetarian diet. Kasia’s other work has been in the area of addictive behaviour, the impact of discrimination and stigma on health, and the health consequences of social policy.

Find out more

Fees, funding and how to apply