PY3CEP-Comparative Evolutionary Psychology

Module Provider: Psychology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Pre-requisites: PY2RM Research Methods and Data Analysis
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Valentina Sclafani


Type of module:

Summary module description:

In this module, students will be introduced to the study of the behaviour and mental processes of non-human animals with explicit regard to its relationship to human behaviours and traits.  We will explore the evolutionary roots of human behaviour from different methodological approaches, such as field studies, naturalistic observations and lab experiments.


There are three primary goals for this module:

1. Develop an understanding of how genes, environment and evolution shape animal behaviour.

2. Explore the similarities and differences in the way animals communicate, learn, and solve problems.  

3. Expose students to the importance of carrying out empirical investigations both within and across species.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the contribution of comparative evolutionary studies in understanding human behaviour.

  • Demonstrate understanding of animal behaviour with reference to evolutionary, developmental and psychological mechanisms.

  • Apply a comparative framework to understand behaviour broadly.

Additional outcomes:

  • Students will be able to critically evaluate research approaches used to study comparative animal behaviour

  • Students will further develop their critical thinking and presentation skills through course-work and group activities.

Outline content:

Comparative Evolutionary Psychology is a discipline that has the potential to integrate conceptual approaches as well as empirical data to the study of human and non-human behaviour derived from psychology and biology. Comparative research with animals, and especially with non-human primates, can provide evidence of adaptation in human psychological and behavioural traits by highlighting possible analogies or homologies, as well as differences, between human traits and similar traits present in animals. We will discuss how animal studies help us to explore seminal questions in the study of human behaviour, and gain a deeper understanding of its proximate and ultimate causation. In particular, the major topics that might be covered in this module include learning and cognition, memory, social communication, imitation, cooperation and prosociality.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module comprises seven 2.5-hour seminars, consisting of short lectures, activities and discussions. Sessions will involve a variety of teaching & learning methods: lectures, individual and small group work, discussions, debates, and student presentations. During the course of the module, students will gain experience of presenting evidence-based arguments.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 19.5
Guided independent study 80.5
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 75
Written assignment including essay 25

Summative assessment- Examinations:

The 1.5-hour Summer Exam will require students to answer 1 essay question on topics covered in the module (75%). 

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Coursework (25%) will comprise of an oral presentation in which students will be asked to critically evaluate a research paper relating to a topic covered over the module.

Formative assessment methods:

Students will receive peer marks for all presentations, and have an opportunity to provide the module convenor with an essay plan for comments and feedback in the preparation for the assessment.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Reassessment will have to be taken by re-examination during in August/September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 22 May 2018


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