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Psychology 415

PSYC 415: Evolutionary Psychology

Prerequisites: PSYC 121

Credit Hours: (3)

Application of evolution theory to understanding human behavior, including the topics of learning, intelligence, mating strategies and gender differences, kinship and social interaction, motivation, emotion, health, and psychopathology.


Detailed Description of Course

a. Topics covered in course

I. Psychology with and without evolution

A. Need for overarching theory
B. Standard Social Science Model
C. Evolutionary psychology

II. Evolutionary theory

A. Basic genetics
B. Natural selection
C. Sexual selection
D. Cultural universals

III. Learning

A. Preparedness for learning
B. Specific vs. general learning mechanisms

IV. Intelligence

A. What is intelligence?
B. Evolutionary approaches to intelligence
C. Implications of evolutionary approach to intelligence

V. Human mating

A. Sexual selection in humans
B. Investment and reproduction rate theories
C. Cross-cultural comparisons

VI. Families and kinship

A. Defining families
B. Kin selection theory
C. Evolution-predicted conflicts in families
D. Child development

VII. Motivation, emotion, and social interaction

A. Basic universal emotions
B. Anger, conflict, violence
C. Happiness
D. Altruism and reciprocity theory

VIII. Health

A. Paleolithic vs. modern environment
B. Evolutionary medicine
C. Evolutionary psychopathology

IX. Evolutionary aesthetics

A. Universals in appreciating the arts and nature
B. Sexual selection and the arts


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Course will be lecture and class discussion, and may include student presentations. In addition to reading textbook, students will be required to visit internet sites to read article, watch video demonstrations, or perform online experiments. Multimedia class presentations will employ internet resources and videotapes. Students will write reaction papers and generate questions for class discussion for each chapter of the text.


Goals and Objectives of Course

Students successfully completing this course will be able to explain human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, and will able to understand their own behavioral motives, emotions, attitudes, and weaknesses from this perspective. They will have learned a general theoretical perspective that can serve as a unifying explanatory construct for psychology.


Assessment Measures

In-class and/or take-home tests will assess students’ knowledge of text, lecture, and supplementary material. Reaction papers/questions and class participation will be required. A final examination will be given.


Other Course Information

Currently, the course is being taught as a seminar (Psyc 490), and the required texts are: Gaulin, S.J.C., & McBurney, D.H. (2001)

Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, and Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food, Taming Out Primal Instincts (2001) USA: Penguin Group.