Michael D Beecher
Introduces important concepts and empirical findings in animal behavior. Emphasizes evolutionary and mechanistic approaches to understanding diversity and complexity of behavior. Topics include communication, mating, migration, and sociality. Prerequisite: either BIOL 118, BIOL 161, or BIOL 180.
The course is designed to give you an understanding of the way in which evolution - and natural selection in particular - shapes behavior and psychological processes. Social behavior receives special attention, since evolutionary theory makes unique, and often counter-intuitive, predictions in this area. The course emphasizes concepts. Our goal is to teach you how to apply an evolutionary approach to the study of the behavior of animals, including humans.
Student learning goals
Understand the evolution, adaptive significance, and mechanisms of animal behavior. Recognize that humans are animals. Our main goal will be to achieve a basic understanding of how the behavior of animals has evolved to solve problems posed by their physical and social environments.
Understand what an evolutionary approach to the study of the behavior of animals entails, and be able to discuss the important concepts and empirical findings of modern ethology. Employ modern theories and specific examples of animal behavior in order to explore specific topics like the diversity of survival and reproductive strategies used by animals.
Be able to explain both proximate (mechanistic) and ultimate (evolutionary) mechanisms that shape the expression of animal behaviors, like foraging, mating and reproduction, and parental and social behavior. Explain how psychologists study behavior at several levels of analysis (e.g., biological, intrapersonal, environmental).
Use examples from different groups of animals, like birds, mammals, fish, insects, to explore the ways in which behavior has been shaped by evolutionary forces, especially evolution by natural selection.
Understand aspects of human behavior that are shared across or may differ according to cultural, ethnic, gender, geographic, or other boundaries.
Critically evaluate scientific findings. Draw on and evaluate research evidence. Understand the role of hypothesis testing in theory building and evaluation. Understand the tentative nature of knowledge; tolerate ambiguity and use skeptical inquiry.
General method of instruction
Lecture and discussion.
A biology course.
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Class assignments and grading
Assignments will include weekly reading from the text plus some additional papers. In addition to 3 in-class exams, in sections there will be occasional quizzes, 3 exam reviews and an additional project.
There are three exams. Each exam is non-cumulative (i.e., covers only the lectures and readings for the section of the course since the previous exam). Exam questions are based on ALL material presented in lecture and ALL material in the assigned chapters (even if the textbook material is not discussed in lecture) as well as material presented in movies and videos.