* How can evolutionary theory help us understand human behaviour?
* What aspects of human psychology can be best thought of as adaptations?
* What learning mechanisms would have been favoured by natural selection in ancestral environments?
This new programme provides an exciting opportunity for advanced study in Evolutionary Psychology, ie psychological science informed by explicit consideration of the fact that the human mind, like the human body, is a product of evolutionary processes.
It is taught in association with the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology (C-CEP), and the Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging (CCNI).
This course is particularly suited to students in the life sciences or social sciences who are interested in finding out how principles from evolutionary biology can provide a framework for the scientific study of human psychology and behaviour.
The degree programme aims to provide students with an understanding of how evolutionary theory can provide a framework for the study of human psychology and behaviour.
Students will acquire comprehensive knowledge of important theoretical issues, research findings and recent advances in evolutionary psychology.
They will study concepts, findings and recent advances in evolutionary biology, animal behaviour and behavioural ecology that are critical for research in evolutionary psychology. Moreover there will be the opportunity to take an optional module in either Cognitive Neuroscience or CrossCultural Psychology.
This course can be undertaken over one year, full time or two years part-time.
Modules are subject to variation and students are advised to check with the School on whether a particular module of interest will be running in their year of entry. At the time of printing, planned modules are as follows:
* Evolutionary Biology and Research Methods
* Evolutionary Psychology
* Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology
* Dissertation Research Project
* Cognitive Neuroscience
* Cross-Cultural Variations in Psychological Findings
Evolutionary Biology and Research Methods
The Evolutionary Biology component will include: levels of analysis in the study of behaviour; adaptation and natural selection, sexual selection; levels of selection; inclusive fitness; phylogeny; population genetics, molecular evolution, origins of sex; host-pathogen arms races; coevolution; life history evolution; human evolution.
The Research Methods component will cover hypothesis testing; experimental design; statistical methods; observational methods; questionnaires and psychometrics; phylogenetic; comparative methods; meta-analysis; archival research; modelling; multivariate methods; image analysis and morphometrics.
Main topics of study: cognitive adaptationism and domain specificity; environments of evolutionary adaptedness; cross-cultural human universals; selective impairments; social status and reputation; cognitive sexual dimorphism in mate preferences and jealousy; attractiveness and symmetry; gustatory adaptations, social exchange and cooperation; coalitional psychology; interpersonal and coalitional aggression; violence and homicide; spoken language; face recognition and prosopagnosia; functions of the emotions; kinship psychology (recognition, altruism, and inbreeding avoidance); gene-culture co-evolution.
Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology
Mian topics of study: levels of analysis, animals as "strategists"; sexual selection: competition for mates; sexual selection: post-copulatory competition; sexual selection: mate choice; parental care and parent-offspring conflict; foraging and predation; comparative reproductive strategies; life history strategy; cooperation and conflict,; animal models of psychopathology; sexual differentiation; hormonal regulation of behaviour.
Students will conduct an empirical research project investigating an aspect of human psychology / behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. The research focus, empirical methods, and analytic techniques will be selected through discussion with their Dissertation Supervisor.
The module will focus on fundamental issues within cognitive neuroscience, and the way in which neuroimaging in combination with neuropsychology has advanced our understanding. Topics covered will include: learning and memory; language and the brain; cerebral lateralization and specialisation; the control of action; executive functions and frontal lobes; emotional mechanisms; ageing; development and
Cross-Cultural Variations in Psychological Findings
Main topics of study: controversies in defining culture; assessing culture; the development of cross-cultural dimensions (individualism/collectivism, the work of the Chinese culture connection, Trompenaars model, Inglehart’s work, Schwartz’s value circumplex) and a critique of cultural dimensions; the self across
culture; emotion and appraisal across cultures.
* Psychology at Brunel is a large department (27 academics) in West London. We have extensive facilities for human subjects research (including EEG, fMRI, motion capture, 3D body scanning).
* The programme team includes William Brown PhD (Dalhousie), Nicholas Pound PhD (McMaster), Michael Price PhD (UCSB) and Achim Schotzwohl PhD (University of Bielefeld). In addition, there are opportunities for dissertation research projects to be co supervised by psychologists with expertise in other areas of Psychology (eg cognitive neuroscience, social psychology).
* For staff research interests see the Evolution and Behaviour Group webpage.
Assessment is by coursework (including term papers and oral presentations), examinations and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.
The MSc will provide students with knowledge and skills required to go on to do PhD research not just in Evolutionary Psychology, but in other areas of Psychology and the Biological and Social Sciences.
Moreover, students will acquire analytic and research skills that will be useful in diverse areas of employment including governmental and non government research organisations, and the private sector