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PS30151: Psychology and neuroscience of blindness

Follow this link for further information on academic years Academic Year: 2014/5
Further information on owning departmentsOwning Department/School: Department of Psychology
Further information on credits Credits: 6
Further information on unit levels Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Further information on teaching periods Period: Semester 1
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Summary: ES 80%, OT 20%
Further information on unit assessment Assessment Detail:
  • Essay (ES 80%)
  • Presentation (OT 20%)
Further information on supplementary assessment Supplementary Assessment: Coursework reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Further information on requisites Requisites: Before taking this unit you must take PS20106 and take PS20107 and take PS20108
Further information on descriptions Description: Aims:
This unit will examine how visual deprivation can impact and reveal the mechanisms of normal psychological functioning. Theory and research on blindness, from philosophy to neuroscience to psychology, will be reviewed critically to understand the role of visual experience for psychological phenomena. The impact of blindness on neural functioning, neuroplasticity and anatomy will also be examined. The impact of research on blindness will be considered for the development of assistive devices, interventions, and social policy.
Aim 1. To provide students with a solid grounding in the psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of blindness.
Aim 2. To provide students with the opportunity to develop and explore skills and confidence in assessing assistive technology (screen readers, sensory substitution devices, etc.), relevant bibliographic databases and other IT resources (e.g. MEDLINE, PSYCHINFO, etc.) for the access and retrieval of psychological and neuroscience literature.
Aim 3. To provide students with the opportunity to develop critical and analytical skills in reading, writing, and discussion.

Learning Outcomes:
On completion of the unit the students will be able to
(i) Critically evaluate the role of visual experience for psychological development
(ii) Critically assess the evidence for neural plasticity and the impact of sensory deprivation on neural development
(iii) employ critical thinking, reading, writing, and verbal discussion skills.

Understands the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline, its historical origins, development and limitations. (T/F)
Can demonstrate systematic knowledge and critical understanding of a range of influences on psychological functioning, how they are conceptualised across the core areas, and how they interrelate. The core knowledge domains within psychology include (i) research methods, (ii) biological psychology, (iii) cognitive psychology, (iv) individual differences, (v) developmental psychology and (vi) social psychology. In addition to these core areas it is expected that students will gain knowledge of conceptual and historical perspectives in psychology. (T/F)
Has detailed knowledge of several specialised areas and/or applications, some of which are at the cutting edge of research in the discipline. (T/F A)
Can reason scientifically, understand the role of evidence and make critical judgements about arguments in psychology. (T/F A)
Can adopt multiple perspectives and systematically analyse the relationships between them. (T/F A)
To reflect upon new technology and innovation within psychology and to make decisions regarding legitimacy, reliability and effectiveness. (T/F)
To develop sensitivity to the values and interests of others. (T/F)
Can communicate ideas and research findings both effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means. (T/F A)

The unit is made up of two-hour lecture-seminars exploring key theories and findings about blindness. These seminars will be structured into two parts: first a lecture and discussion based on readings from the main book and/or a review paper on the topic. The second part will provide students with an opportunity to present recent findings in the primary scientific literature on the topics discussed in the first hour.
These seminars will provide students with a sound knowledge of the field. The unit will first introduce the topic area and describe the necessary background on methodology, theory, technology, and neuroanatomy that will serve as the foundation for the semester. The instructor will also provide a model of how to present recent findings with a short talk followed by discussion. In this way the students will have a clear understanding of what will be expected for their oral presentations throughout the unit. The unit will then cover a different aspect of psychology each week, considered from the perspective of blindness. The students will each present a recent empirical paper on the topic. They will subsequently be asked to write an essay on any of the topics covered during the semester which, together with their presentation, will form the basis of their marks.
Below is a brief course outline:
Week 1. Introduction to the psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience of blindness. Focus on philosophical background and early empirical observations and theory.
Week 2. Comparative psychology and neuroanatomy
Week 3. Cross-modal transfer: Non-visual sensation, perception and object recognition
Week 4. Spatial cognition and navigation; Learning and memory
Week 5. Developmental psychology and education; Numbers, language and reading
Week 6. Theory of mind, moral development and social psychology
Week 7. Assistive devices and applied psychology
Week 8. Recovery from blindness and Molyneux's Question
Week 9. Oral presentations
Week 10. Oral presentations
Week 11. Oral presentations.
Further information on programme availabilityProgramme availability:

PS30151 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Psychology
* This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2014/15 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2015/16 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2014/15.
* Programmes and units are subject to change at any time, in accordance with normal University procedures.
* Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.