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The Psychology of Consciousness & Free Will - PSY00088M

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  • Department: Psychology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alex Reid
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

Although our sense of self, and being aware of our surroundings, is something we all experience it remains notoriously tricky phenomenon to both conceptualise and measure. Similarly we normally feel that we have free will; in particular, that we choose what to do, that our choices have consequences, and that we could have done otherwise. This feeling is fundamental to our private mental lives, and to many ethical, judicial, and religious ideas. However, it is not easy to reconcile with the picture of the world that emerges from science. The topics of consciousness and free will have been wrestled with by psychologists and philosophers for thousands of years but it is only recently that experimental psychologists, cognitive scientists, and neuroscientists have joined the fray.

This module provides an overview of theoretical and experimental work on the psychology of free will and consciousness, emphasising recent results from cognitive sciences, and relating these to their historical context.

Module learning outcomes

  • Describe major positions on free will, determinism and consciousness
  • Give an account of key experiments and findings
  • Discuss strengths and limitations of different research methods
  • Relate the psychology of will and consciouness to other areas of psychology
  • Evaluate implications for understanding of mind, brain, and behaviour

Module content

  • Consciousness as a phenomenon
  • Free will and determinism
  • Genes and memes
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • AI and the future of will


Task Length % of module mark
Essay (self cert) : The Psychology of Consciousness & Free Will 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay (self cert) : The Psychology of Consciousness & Free Will 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

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

Indicative reading

Sample Reading:

Wegner, D. M. (2004). Précis of The illusion of conscious will, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 634–692.

Ainslie, G. (2005). Precis of breakdown of will, Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 28 635–650.

Harris, S. (2012). Free will. Free Press. USA.

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.