Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module PSYC3807: Visual Attention and Working Memory

Department: Psychology

PSYC3807: Visual Attention and Working Memory

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 45 Location Durham


  • • 60 credits from Level 2 Psychology • PSYC1071 - Introduction to Psychology I: Cognitive and Biological Psychology • PSYC2241- Cognitive and Biological Psychology


  • • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • • None


  • In this module you will learn about cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying visual attention and working memory. Attention and working memory have traditionally been regarded as independent cognitive domains with separable cognitive functions. However, more recent empirical evidence suggests that working memory and attention are overlapping concepts, and that memory-guided attention is a combined cognitive resource. In this module, we will discuss and evaluate these classic and revised models of visual attention and working memory, analyse behavioural and neuroscientific experimental methods and empirical evidence, challenge historic conceptions and procedures, and enhance our understanding about the interactions of two of the major concepts in cognitive psychology – visual attention and working memory.


  • This module examines classic and contemporary theories of visual attention and working memory by analysing the empirical evidence supporting these theories.
  • This module presents an overview of traditional and modern behavioural and neuroscientific research methods in the field of visual cognition.
  • Example module topics include bottom-up vs top-down guided attention, memory-guided visual attention, the role of attention in working memory research, experimental paradigms in attention and working memory research, methodological challenges, and solutions in vision research.
  • This module will be presented as a mixture of lecture units, live student presentations, and interactive group discussions and debates. The study material consists of scientific publications, which will be presented by the students in class. These presentations will have the format of scientific talks.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge about the conceptual and methodological issues in attention and working memory research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to review critically and consolidate understanding of a coherent body of psychological knowledge and apply it appropriately.
  • Ability to analyse empirical evidence and use new knowledge to formulate scientific arguments.
Key Skills:
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Good IT skills in word processing
  • Ability to work independently in scholarship and research within broad guidelines

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students' acquisition of detailed knowledge will be facilitated by lectures, interactive problem-based-learning tasks, audio-visual materials, discussions and reading lists
  • These modes of teaching provide students with detailed knowledge of the key theories and the skills needed to evaluate different theoretical positions in light of current evidence
  • Knowledge and understanding of the topics will be assessed via essays.
  • An assessment of the range, recency and appropriateness of sources will be included in the overall assessment of the essays.
  • The use of student presentations, group discussions and interactive problem-based-learning tasks will ensure that students are exposed to a range of different theoretical positions, and encouraged to understand their inter-relations
  • Lectures, presentations, discussions, and interactive problem-based-learning tasks will give students the opportunity to interpret and evaluate the significance of empirical work
  • Essays will assess student’s ability to review and evaluate evidence and theory, provide critical appraisal, contrast theoretical positions, and express themselves clearly and intelligibly.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
2 hour seminar 10 1 per week 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 80
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Student Presentations

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University