Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


Real-world problems can benefit greatly from applying psychological research to their solutions. Yet policymakers have not always made use of this research and psychologists have not always communicated it in a usable form. This results in less effective solutions and under-utilised research.

This unit consists of an exploration of how psychological theories, methods, and evidence can be used to assist in understanding and solving contemporary social problems. It is also designed to enable students to develop the skills necessary to present this information to policymakers.

The unit introduces students to some of the major social problems in contemporary society. The topics vary from year to year as key issues and debates in society and in the field of psychology change but may include climate change, gender inequality, social conflict, and educational disadvantage. In addition to lectures on these modern social problems, students are also be encouraged to identify and explore some real-world problems that interest them through the tutorials and assignments.

The unit prepares students for further research in psychology with an applied focus, and for employment in organisations - including business, government and the non-government sector - whose work requires the application of psychology to policy development. It will also ensure that students understand the limits of such research. Although a lot is now known about human behaviour from fundamental, often laboratory-based research, there is still relatively little evidence about how these research findings can actually be applied to influence the behaviour of communities and populations.

6 points
Not available in 2024OnlineOnline Restricted
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) recognise how psychological theories, methods and research findings can be applied to everyday and important human problems, and how they have done so in the past; (2) identify the obstacles to applying psychological science to social problems, and judge the consequences of failing to take account of psychology when devising policy interventions; (3) appraise how scientific investigation can assist in resolving societal debates; (4) investigate a human problem, appraise the key psychological aspects which contribute to this problem, and judge which of these are relevant to solving or relieving the problem; (5) communicate in a way that translates psychological theory into practical application for both lay and professional audiences; (6) collaborate in problem-focused think tanks to devise solutions to real-life problems; and (7) apply psychological knowledge in a manner that is culturally appropriate, including with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders cultures, and sensitive to the diversity of individuals..


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) written assignments; (2) presentations; and (3) final test. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Lies Notebaert
Unit rules
Successful completion of
three Unit(s) PSYC1101 Psychology: Mind and Brain
and Unit(s) PSYC1102 Psychology: Behaviour in Context
and Unit(s) PSYC2203 Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Psychology
Contact hours
Lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: Up to 2 hours per week in most weeks
Enrolled students can access unit material via LMS (Learning Management System).

Students are exposed to topics in psychology units that may cause some discomfort or distress in certain individuals (e.g. depression, suicide, trauma, eating disorders). They are required to demonstrate skills across a variety of different formats and contexts (e.g. written assessments, participation in practical work, contribution to group discussions, oral presentations, examinations), and so it is important to carefully consider whether they are able to cope with the demands of studying psychology and whether there is anything that would impact upon their ability to complete the requirements of the unit. Refer to individual unit outlines for more detailed unit information.

There is no assigned text. Students are provided with selected articles on the relevant research and theory in psychology, current affairs and policy. These are posted as readings on LMS (Learning Management System).

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.