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Unit information: Evolutionary Psychology in 2020/21

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Unit name Evolutionary Psychology
Unit code PSYC30001
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Philip Collard
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Psychological Science
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The unit provides a framework for independent in-depth study of current research literature on evolutionary approaches to psychology. Evolution is a powerful but problematic theory in science, as evolutionary theory is considered by some to be untestable, and by others to have undesirable but unavoidable political and moral consequences, especially when applied to human social behaviour.

The aims of this unit are to consider theories in evolutionary biology of social behaviour (natural selection, sexual selection, kin selection, reciprocity and parental investment), the contemporary issues in the subject area and the role of empirical evidence in the formation of theory.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, a student will be able to:

  1. Illustrate and summarise work within the field of evolutionary psychology as an interdisciplinary area related to biology, anthropology, primatology, and psychology
  2. Analyse contemporary issues within evolutionary psychology and demonstrate how methodological approaches are applied to these issues
  3. Apply evolutionary theory to these contemporary issues
  4. Summarise the relevance and role of evolutionary psychology within the psychological sciences

Teaching Information

Weekly lectures and seminars.

1 x synchronous 'seminar' per week. These will take a variety of different forms depending on the focus of the week, but will typically involve Q&A based on the weeks' content and student discussion groups.

Assessment Information

1 x 1600-word essay (50%) and 1 x timed open book assessment (50%)

Reading and References


Barrett, L., Dunbar, R., & Lycett, J. (2001). Human evolutionary psychology. London: Macmillan Education UK.


Ridley, M. (1993). The red queen. London: Viking.

Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (1983). Sex, evolution and behavior. (2nd ed.). Boston: PWS.

Additional recommended and further reading will be made available through Blackboard.