Course Information Undergraduate prospectus

Evolutionary Psychology

Course summary

Course code: PSYC1093
Level: 6
Credits: 15
School: Education and Health
Department: Psych., Social Wk and Counsell.
Course Coordinator(s): Robert Willson


Pre and co requisites

Normally PSYC1031 or PSYC1036 or PSYH1032 or Equivalent


The focus of this course is on using the theory of evolution by natural selection to explain the origins of behaviour. It is designed to enable the student to gain an understanding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory and how it can be used in the formulation of valid explanations of behaviour. It will provide an overall view of the area and will facilitate critical analyses of the issues involved.

More specifically, its aims are:
1. To familiarise students with the theory of evolution by natural selection.
2. To introduce the significant contribution evolutionary theory has made to our understanding of a wide range of topics relevant to the study of psychology including: social groups; altruism; parental care; intelligence; language; kinship; parent-offspring conflict; sex differences in behaviour; aggression; co-operation; cognitive architecture.
3. To develop critical thinking in relation to evolutionary theory and to be able to evaluate the main criticisms made of this approach in Psychology.

Learning outcomes

1 Critically discuss the theory of natural selection, including its development and current status.

2 Make critical comparisons between evolutionary explanations of behaviour and other models of human behaviour.

Demonstrate critical understanding of the nature of human adaptive problems.

4 Assess the relative contribution of evolutionary theory to the understanding of kinship, mate choice, altruism, sexual selection, intelligence, social reasoning and language.

Indicative content

1. The Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology
2. The principles of Darwinian Evolution
3. Testing Evolutionary Hypothesis
4. Identifying Adaptive Problems
5. Evolved Psychological Mechanisms
6. Sexual Selection
7. Parental Investment and Kinship
8. Competition and Cooperation
9. Aggression
10. Gender Differences
11. Language
12. Intelligence

Teaching and learning activity

Combined Lecture-Seminar Format, typically with a lecture followed by a topic relevant seminar. Lecture content will cover the core topics and seminars will explore these topics in more depth to develop critical analysis and evaluations of the core topics within the discipline. For example, the lecture may present the common misconceptions and misapplications of evolutionary theory in explaining behaviour and this will be followed by the discussion of a seminal paper relevant to this topic during the seminar portion of the teaching/learning session.


Methods of summative assessment - Seen exam
Nature of FORMATIVE assessment supporting student learning- Tutor feedback on focussed peer discussions during seminars
and lectures.
LOs - 1-4
Grading Mode %
Weighting % - 100%
Pass Mark - 40%
Word Length - N/A
Outline Details 2 hr seen paper, 3 sections. Students must answer one question from each section.