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Module PHP-3011:
The Body in the Mind

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Lara Maister

Overall aims and purpose

The true nature of the self has long fascinated psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers. However, we know that the self-representation is highly multidimensional, made up of many different types of information and experiences. In this module, we look at the diverse types of representations that come together to make “you”, with a particular focus on the body. We first learn about the basic mechanisms of self-awareness, including body ownership and agency, and experiment with fun body illusions to explore what information the brain requires to generate these ongoing experiences. We use this foundational knowledge to go deeper into topical themes including virtual reality, prosthetic and robotic limbs, and to understand clinical disorders related to bodily self-awareness including anorexia, body dysmorphia and depersonalisation. Importantly, the way we experience our bodies is not only relevant to the self, but also influences how we perceive and interact with others. In the second main theme of the module, we learn about the striking sociocognitive effects of embodying a different person, for example in virtual reality, on our attitudes and beliefs, and discuss the future implications this might have for our increasingly ‘virtual’ social lives. Finally, we shift our focus, from the body as experienced from the outside, to the body from within. Interoception, defined as the “awareness of physical sensations from inside the body”, plays a crucial role in a wide range of cognitive and emotional psychological processes. In the third theme of the module, we delve deeply into this neglected “sixth sense”, understanding how it forms an essential basis of self-consciousness, how it is implicated in a number of clinical psychological disorders, and how it may be linked to mindfulness. Overall, this module aims to provide you with an in-depth understanding of how the body is represented in the mind, the embodied basis of self-consciousness, and the huge importance this has for social cognition, mental health and wellbeing.

Course content

This module will provide a solid theoretical understanding of the central topics within self-representation, and how they link to other key areas of psychology including perception, social cognition, and clinical disorders. Relevant empirical evidence will be presented throughout, to provide a detailed review of key neuroscientific, behavioural and psychophysiological techniques.

Main themes include:

Is This Me? We will explore the basic, fundamental mechanisms of self-consciousness, including body ownership (how we know what is part of our body and what is not) and agency (the feeling of control over our own actions).

Changing Bodies, Changing Minds: We will learn about the role of self-body representations in social cognition, and how we can use bodily illusions, synchronous movements and virtual reality to induce changes in social attitudes and stereotypes.

Gut feelings: We will introduce the “sixth sense”, interoception, which tells you what is happening inside your body. We explore why interoception is considered to be the fundamental basis of self-awareness, how it plays a crucial role in our cognition, decision making, emotional and social functioning, and how it can affect our mental health.

Assessment Criteria


Reasonably comprehensive coverage of the relevant topics. Answer is well- structured and organised. Good understanding of the material. Will often bring in material from outside the lectures to illustrate understanding. Answer demonstrates some independent thoughts and insights. 50-69% Grades C-B.


Adequate answer to the question, but with a limited elaboration of the arguments. Answer is largely based on the lecture material provided, with little evidence of wider reading. 40-49%, Grade D.


Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area. Answer shows a clarity of argument and expression. Uses material from outside of lectures to illustrate and clarify the arguments made. Depth of insight into theoretical issues, with clear evidence of independent thought. 70% and above, Grade A.

Learning outcomes

  1. Explain complex concepts within self- and body-representation in simple, clear ways using verbal and visual presentation methods.

  2. Use knowledge of current empirical methods to design and write an original proposal for a new study within one of the topics covered.

  3. Appraise theories and empirical findings relating to the central themes in body-representation and self-representation research.

  4. Discuss and critically evaluate the key evidence for the role of body representations in social cognition and mental health

  5. Have an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms and neurocognitive structures underlying basic bodily self-awareness.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Research Study Design

Students must develop an idea for an empirical study related to the topics covered in lectures. The written assignment will consist of a brief literature review, a description of the hypothesis to be tested, the proposed methodology, and a proposed analysis plan.

EXAM Final Exam

Exam consists of 10 short-answer questions (roughly a paragraph each), and two essay questions. The short-answer questions (in total) are equal to one-third of the total marks. Each of the two essay questions are also equal to one-third of the marks. All three sections of the exam will assess the students' knowledge and understanding of key topics taught in the lectures and seminars.

GROUP PRESENTATION Short Group Presentation

Students will work in small groups to give a short presentation on a topic of their choice from the lecture material. Students should explain and discuss their topic simply and clearly with appropriate use of visual aids (powerpoint slides). Each member of the group will be expected to speak for approximately 5 minutes. The presentation should fit together coherently, requiring teamwork as well as individual study and preparation. Students will be assessed on their 5 minute presentation, as well as the quality of their slides which will be submitted by the presentation date.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Students will be presented with an in-depth introduction to the key concepts required to understand body representation and the self in psychology. Theory, methods and data will be presented. There will be regular opportunity to ask questions.


Students will have weekly seminars, which will combine hands-on demonstrations, videos, group discussions, informal presentations, and research design masterclasses.

Private study

Students will be assigned key reading each week which will be chosen to support the lecture material and be enhanced by the learning taking place in the seminars. They will also use this time to work on their research proposal, and prepare for various informal group activities.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.


Resource implications for students

Students will not have to pay anything for this module.

Reading list

A reading list will be made available in due course.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: