Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

From Visual Awareness to Free Will 3H/4H PSYCH4066

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

In this course we will discuss psychological and neuroscientific studies on visual awareness and voluntary actions. We will select and critically assess influential publications in this field and discuss their wider implications.


10 hours over a 5 week block

Requirements of Entry

Entry to Honours Psychology is guaranteed by a B2 average over Psychology 2A and 2B. If taking this course in year 4 student must have successfully completed 3H psychology single honours.

Excluded Courses



Once piece of coursework worth 100% of the overall mark (2,500 word critical review on a topic relevant to the course).

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aims of this interdisciplinary course is to explain and discuss psychological and neuroscientific studies that investigate visual awareness and voluntary decisions. Working in groups and individually we will cover the main philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific aspects of research on visual awareness, voluntary and spontaneous actions and decisions, and their implications on the concept of free will. In particular we will analyze and evaluate classic as well as recent studies on the prediction of behaviour. We will highlight new techniques and exemplify potential limitations of this research. At the end of the course students should be able to independently evaluate new research developments in this field and to identify positive and negative implications of emerging applications.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course students should be able to:

■ describe and discern basic philosophical constructs surrounding the idea of awareness and free will

■ describe and evaluate the concept of visual awareness and to recognize associated research paradigms

■ explain the difference between visual awareness and attention

■ detect methodological challenges and limitations when predicting psychological states and behaviour from neuroscientific measurements

■ describe and illustrate basic principles of predicting behaviour (machine learning) and to apply these principles to different domains (legal, security, market research, learning and teaching)

■ critically and independently evaluate pros and cons of new research and applications in this field

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.