Socially Intelligent Artificial Technologies in Society (PGT) PSYCH5097

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Psychology
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course explores society and human psychology in an era of ever-evolving technological innovations. It is designed specifically to investigate the impact of socially intelligent artificial technologies in an ever changing societal setting: How do interactions with immersive human-inspired social technologies, whether the internet, social media, smart phones, virtual reality or social robotics, (re)shape human life? Students will dissect the risks and benefits in different but interrelated areas of psychological inquiry, from memory, social perception, cognition and interaction, to reward learning and decision-making, to achieve a coherent and integrated assessment of the functional changes.


5 sessions of 2 hours over 10 weeks

Requirements of Entry

Typically a 2:1 honours degree in psychology or a related discipline.

Excluded Courses



Assessment will be one writing assignment consisting of two parts: one group research proposal and one individual essay reflecting on the research proposal. Students will work together in groups of four and write a proposal (1,500 words, 30% of final grade) for an adversarial collaboration on the impact of socially intelligent artificial technologies on society and human psychology. An adversarial collaboration is an experiment conducted by two groups of scientists with competing hypothesis. The groups will be created during the first class meeting. The proposal will include an individual essay (1,500 words, 70% of final grade) of the student reflecting on the adversarial collaboration and the intended or unintended impact of findings from psychology on the development of immersive social technologies.

Course Aims

Besides an understanding of social technology's impact on society and human psychology, the course will explore how psychological research and innovation influence and change such socially intelligent artificial technologies. Topics will range from exploring the bidirectional link between reward learning/decision making and screen time (e.g. Netflix), to the implementation of research on distilling personality characteristics such as trustworthiness and sexual orientation from facial features in artificial intelligence algorithms (e.g. Facebook). Each week one aspect of technology and an area of psychology will be reviewed. Special emphasis will be given to emerging issues of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion as a training towards the adoption of practices informed by ED&I principles.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Critically evaluate the impact of socially intelligent artificial technologies on different aspects of society and human psychology. 

■ Outline theoretical frameworks and mechanisms that explain the functional changes in human psychology in an era of social technology.

■ Reflect critically on how insights from psychological research and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion shape developments of socially intelligent artificial technologies.

■ Critically evaluate the consequences of psychological research and theory beyond the laboratory into the realm of technology.

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.