Class: The psychology of wealth, poverty and social rank (PSYL10123)

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Class: The psychology of wealth, poverty and social rank (PSYL10123)


The course offers advanced psychology students an opportunity to read about, present and discuss outstanding issues in the psychology of class.


All societies possess some form of hierarchy (richer and poorer), and people in all societies vary in their access to wealth (rich and poor). In this course, we will focus on how wealth and rank (collectively, 'class') can alter our psychology. The course will examine the impact of class from neurons to neighbourhoods, encompassing the brain, cognition, development, and social relations. In doing so we will incorporate major theories and findings primarily from cognitive psychology (attention, executive control), social psychology (social comparison, prejudice, stereotyping), and cultural psychology (socioecological, climato-economics).

Each week will explore how class influences a different aspect of human psychology. We will cover how being rich or richer than others, and how being poor or poorer than others can fundamentally alter our psychological functioning. The classes will consist of a mixture of lectures, large and small group discussions, and presentations.

Fridays 09:00 - 10:50
Semester 1, Block 2
7 George Square, Room S.1
Introduction and Basics
7 George Square, Room S.1
02/11/2018 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Biological and Cognitive Aspects of Class
7 George Square, Room S.1
09/11/2018 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Social Aspects of Class
7 George Square, Room S.1
16/11/2018 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Cultural Aspects of Class
7 George Square, Room S.1
23/11/2018 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Changes and Conclusions
7 George Square, Room S.1
30/11/2018 - 9:00am to 10:50am
Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students should:

  1. Acquire a deep understanding of how class affects psychology.
  2. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the how social rank influences human interactions.
  3. Be able to critically evaluate existing research from a class perspective.

Indicative but not exhaustive bibliography:

Davidai, S., & Gilovich, T. (2015). Building a more mobile America – one income quintile at a time. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Hackman, D., & Farah, M. (2009). Socioeconomic status and the developing brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Jones, O. (2011). Chavs: The demonization of the working class. Verso Books.

Kraus, M., et al (2012). Social class, solipsism, and contextualism: How the rich are different from the poor. Psychological Review.

Stephens, N., et al (2014). Social class culture cycles: How three gateway contexts shape selves and fuel inequality. Annual Review of Psychology.

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2009). The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better. Allen Lane, London

Additional Information: 


30% essay (maximum length 1000 words) will require students to select an area of psychology and connect that to core class concepts discussed in the course. Submission deadline , Monday 26 November. Feedback and marks will be available Monday 18 December.

70% essay (maximum length 2000 words) requires students to develop a research question related to class. This will include both the theoretical and methodological approaches to this question. Submission deadline , Thursday 20 December. Feedback and marks will be returned on Friday 11 January.

An electronic copy must be submitted through an own work declaration confirmation form and Turnitin link in Learn by the deadline. The electronic submission allows us to check for plagiarism and word count.

The submission deadline must be observed. Failure to comply with the deadline without good reason will incur mark penalties as follows:

  • Up to 7 calendar days, 5 marks per calendar day will be deducted
  • More than 7 calendar days late a mark of zero will be given