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Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour - PSY00022H

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  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nick Barraclough
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

We regularly make quick and accurate judgments of the actions and behaviour of other individuals, this process is critical for our successful interactions within our complex social environment. We are able to immediately recognise hand, body and face actions, but we can also use this information to interpret the action goal as well as infer the agent's internal thought processes. A considerable proportion of our brain is dedicated to the perception of actions and human behaviour, and it is vital for our evolutionary success. For example, it is very important that we distinguish foes from friends, or find and interact successfully with potential mates.
During this module we will explore how perception of actions and human behaviour reflects the function of the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. We will examine the coding of actions by neurons, interactions between neurons to form brain circuits and systems, and how the perception of actions and behaviour relies on the function of these brain systems.

Module learning outcomes

  • Outline the principle psychological questions in the perception of actions and human behaviour
  • Describe the principle brain mechanisms involved in the coding and decoding of human actions and behaviour
  • Evaluate how perception of actions can be explained by visual processing, but also to recognise when 'cognition' is necessary for action understanding
  • Explain how we make sense of other peoples' behaviour and how this process relies on specific brain mechanisms

Module content

  • Introduction to action perception and high-level visual processing
  • Biological motion perception
  • Action adaptation
  • Mirror neurons and simulation
  • Perception of our own body
  • Mind reading from actions
  • Perception of human behavior


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour
5 hours 100

Module feedback

The marks on all assessed work will be provided on e-vision.

These marks will be accompanied by module feedback forms which will be circulated by e-mail.

Students will meet supervisors in wk 6 in AuT, SpT and wk 9 in SuT to discuss their marks.

Indicative reading

Sample Reading:

Decety, J., & Grezes, J. (1999). Neural mechanisms subserving the perception of human actions. Trends in cognitive sciences, 3 (5), 172-178.

Rizzolatti, G., Sinigaglia, C. (2010) The functional role of the the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Vol. 11 pp 264-274

Giese, M.A., Poggio, T. (2003) Neural mechanisms for the recognition of biological movements. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Vol. 4 . pp. 179-192

Ansuini, C., Cavallo, A., Bertone, C., Becchio, C. (2015) Intentions in the brain: The unveiling of Mister Hyde. The Neuroscientist. Vol. 21(2) pp. 126-135

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.