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Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour - PSY00030M

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  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nick Barraclough
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

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.

Students enrolling on this module should demonstrate a good understanding of core knowledge in cognitive psychology, as well as intermediate skills in quantitative statistical analyses.

Module learning outcomes

  • Critically evaluate the principle psychological questions in the perception of actions and human behaviour.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how different neuroscientific techniques have been used to elucidate the role of different brain mechanisms involved in the coding and decoding of human actions and behaviour.
  • Demonstrate critical awareness of current research, and originality in its interpretation, when evaluating the interplay between visual processing of actions, and other cognitive processes, underlying action understanding.
  • Evaluate how we make sense of other peoples' behaviour, how this process relies on specific brain mechanisms, and the practical implications for society.

Module content

  • Introduction to action perception and high-level visual processing
  • Biological motion perception
  • Action adaptation
  • Mirror neurons, simulation and embodied cognition
  • Mind reading from actions
  • Human robot interactions
  • Perception of our own body
  • Detecting untrustworthiness& deception
  • Predicting future behaviours


Task Length % of module mark
Essay (self cert) : Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay (self cert) : Perception of Actions & Human Behaviour 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

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

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.