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Evolutionary Psychology MSc

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  • Objectives
    The degreeprogramme aims to provide students with: * an understanding of how evolutionary theory can provide a framework for the study of psychology and behaviour in both human and non-human species; * knowledge of important theoretical issues, research findings and recent advances in Evolutionary Psychology; * an overview of concepts, findings and recent advances in Evolutionary Biology, Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology that are critical for research in Evolutionary Psychology; * the opportunity to acquire important transferable research skills (eg research design, data analysis, report preparation, seminar presentation); * the opportunity to acquire knowledge of theoretical issues, research; * findings and recent advances in a related area of psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience or Cross-Cultural Psychology).
  • Entry requirements
    Entry Requirements The basic requirement is a first class or upper second class honours degree from a UK institution (or overseas equivalent) and a satisfactory interview. The degree should normally be in either the life sciences (eg psychology; biological sciences; zoology ecology; biomedical sciences) or in the social sciences (eg anthropology or sociology). In the case of applicants from the social sciences we require that they can demonstrate some measure of knowledge of and experience in scientific research methods. This could take the form of a qualification equivalent to an A-level in a science subject or some experience of scientific research on their degree course (for example having used scientific methods for their undergraduate dissertation research). Students who are non-native speakers of English must also demonstrate that their English language ability is sufficient before starting the course. We require non-native speakers of English to have achieved at least 6.5 overall in the IELTS with no less than 6 in any one component or an equivalent English Language qualification.
  • Academic Title
    Evolutionary Psychology MSc
  • Course description
    Course Summary

        * 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.

    Course Details

    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:

    Core modules

        * Evolutionary Biology and Research Methods
        * Evolutionary Psychology
        * Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology
        * Dissertation Research Project

    Optional modules

        * 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.

    Evolutionary Psychology
    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.

    Dissertation
    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.

    Cognitive Neuroscience
    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
    plasticity.

    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.

    Special Features

        * 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

    Assessment is by coursework (including term papers and oral presentations), examinations and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.

    Careers

    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

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