DIGITAL TECH AND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR - 2025/6

Module code: PSYM158

Module Overview

Advances in digital technology are relevant to behaviour change research and practice in three ways: helping behavioural scientists to develop a more sophisticated understanding of human behaviour, enhancing the design and delivery of behaviour change interventions, and shaping everyday behaviours in its own right. This module seeks to explore the contribution that digital tech has made – and continues to make – to understanding and changing behaviour. Students will be introduced to cutting-edge research and practice across a range of tech domains, such as machine learning, Big Data, digital addiction, and digital behaviour change applications. Students will be introduced to a range of disciplinary perspectives, theories and concepts relating to digital technology, and will develop the skills and knowledge required to apply these to behaviour change research and intervention contexts for maximum effectiveness.

Module provider

Psychology

Module Leader

GARDNER Benjamin (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 4

Independent Learning Hours: 108

Seminar Hours: 18

Guided Learning: 15

Captured Content: 5

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

N/A

Module content

Indicative content, as organised by core thematic strands:

 

Tech-enabled research


  • Digital research methods (e.g., Big Data, machine learning/pattern recognition, informatics)



 

Tech shaping human behaviour:


  • Digital habits and addiction

  • Cybersecurity

  • Online vs offline behaviour



 

Tech-assisted interventions


  • Just in Time Adaptive Interventions

  • AI-assisted interventions

  • Digital health behaviour change interventions



 

Cross-cutting


  • Historical advances in digital technology and behaviour change

  • Diverse theoretical interpretations of the value of digital technology for human behaviour change

  • Applications of digital technology in diverse contexts


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework TED-style presentation 30
Coursework Critical evaluation 70

Alternative Assessment

N/A

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate critical awareness of digital technology innovations and their potential role in understanding and changing human behaviour, as well as demonstrate transferrable reflective, critical and presentational skills.

 

Summative assessment for the module consists of two coursework pieces:

 


  • an individual oral presentation (in the style of a ‘TED talk’), in which students draw on behavioural change frameworks, theories, concepts and evidence to explain the significance of an extant digital technology innovation for understanding or changing real-world behaviours. (This addresses learning outcomes 1-2 and 4-5.)

  • a written, critical evaluation of the contribution that advances in digital technology have made, or could potentially make, to addressing a specific real-world behaviour change issue. (This addresses learning outcomes 1-5.)



 

 

Formative assessment and feedback:


  • Each of nine lecture-workshop sessions involves small group and plenary discussions around the application of lecture content to real-world behaviour change contexts, through which students receive verbal feedback on their ideas from peers and teaching staff from various disciplines. Two workshop sessions provide students with the opportunity to present potential coursework ideas for more structured written and verbal feedback from peers and teaching staff.


Module aims

  • To provide students with a critical understanding of how digital technology has shaped, and been used to enhance understanding and attempts to change, human behaviour
  • To develop students¿ understanding of core disciplinary frameworks, concepts and methods in diverse areas of digital technology, and their relevance and application to behaviour change theory, research and practice
  • To equip students with the skills to draw on digital technology to develop, implement, evaluate and critically reflect on behaviour change interventions that address contemporary real-world issues
  • To develop the ability to evaluate and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of behaviour change research and practice through the use of digital technology
  • To support students to reflect and critically engage with issues surrounding the role of digital technology in behaviour change research and practice in diverse contexts

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Develop a critical understanding of the role of past, present and potential future advances in digital technology in behavioural science and behaviour change research and practice CK
002 Develop critical awareness of how digital technology has shaped human behaviour and how it may be harnessed to understand and change behaviour CKP
003 Apply and integrate diverse theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence to formulate and evaluate behaviour change problems that might be solved using digital technology CKP
004 Be able to evaluate the success of applications of digital technology to understanding or changing human behaviour CT
005 Develop an ability to communicate digital technology concepts and real-world applications to specialist and non-specialist audiences KPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy involves lecture-workshops, typically comprising talks from expert speakers from across disciplines and guided discussions and group activities. Workshops and seminars support students to interpret, critically evaluate and communicate the meaning and value of digital technology innovations in a diverse range of behaviour change contexts.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSYM158

Other information

The School of Psychology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module contributes to the development of the following capabilities:

 

Employability: This module supports employability by equipping students with the skills and knowledge required to understand, harness and critically evaluate the use of past, present and potential future digital technology in a diverse range of real-world contexts. Together, the assignments offer students the opportunity to demonstrate transferrable skills in accumulating, synthesising and applying evidence, and evaluating and communicating complex ideas for both specialist and non-specialist audiences. All of these are key transferrable skills highly valued by employers.

 

Digital Capabilities: The promotion of digital literacy is core to this module. Core module content and teaching activities are designed to support students to develop awareness of, and the ability to critically reflect on and evaluate, digital technology from behavioural science perspectives. Students must engage with multiple digital skills throughout the module, such as using: the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (SurreyLearn) to access course materials and key content; online search engines to identify appropriate sources for their assignments; and software for appropriate communication and presentation of ideas (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Prezi).

 

Global and Cultural Capabilities: Students learn about a range of digital technology domains that can be used to address common issues, which are rooted in human behaviour, and which currently face global citizens. The module encourages students to think about the cultural contexts in which digital technology is used to understand or change human behaviour, and to critically reflect on whether some areas of digital technology are sufficiently culturally sensitive.

 

Resourcefulness and Resilience: This module provides several opportunities to develop resourcefulness and resilience, and assessments play an important role in this pillar. Students must be resourceful to undertake their two assessments. For the oral presentation, they must select a digital technology innovation to research, appraise and communicate to a non-specialist audience, and for the critical evaluation piece, a structured synthesis and critical analysis of existing research surrounding the contribution of digital technology to behaviour change practice. In the teaching sessions, existing digital technologies are discussed and critiqued, and personalised formative feedback is provided to and by students to aid their coursework development work. Students are encouraged to share their personal experiences, expertise and perspectives to reflect on how digital technology can create and solve these challenges. These activities are designed to instill confidence and build resilience.

 

Sustainability: The focus of the module on digital technological innovations and their various benefits for global citizens taps into the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Coverage of how digital technology has been, and could potentially be, applied to understand and change human behaviours also maps directly to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, exploration of the potential for digital technology to upskill workforces and transform employment opportunities addresses the goal of Decent Work and Economic Growth, and the use of digital technology to enhance population health feeds into the goal of Good Health and Well-Being.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Digital Health Transformation MSc 2 Core Each unit of assessment must be passed at 50% to pass the module
Behaviour Change MSc 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Psychology in Game Design and Digital Innovation MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.