Michael D Beecher
Explores human behavior from the perspective of biological evolution. Covers core issues such as cooperation, communication, aggression, mating, reproduction, and parental and family interactions, as well as specialized applications within psychology such as psychopathology. Encourages a critical, skeptical examination of this new field. Prerequisite: either a minimum grade of 3.5 in PSYCH 200 or a minimum grade of 2.0 in PSYCH 300.
The new field of evolutionary psychology explores whether and, if so, how variation in human behavior can be explained as a result of biological evolution. This field is growing rapidly, and has attracted widespread interest from people in many fields, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology and law. The course will cover core issues that are addressed by evolutionary psychology, including cooperation, communication, aggression, mating, reproduction and parental and family interactions. The course will encourage a critical, skeptical examination of research and theory in evolutionary psychology.
Student learning goals
To develop a sophisticated understanding of the evolutionary approach to behavior and psychological mechanisms and a critical attitude toward applications of this approach.
To broaden your understanding of psychology through experience with a wide range of applications of the evolutionary approach to behavioral and psychological problem areas.
To develop the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate and explain psychological issues and arguments from this relatively novel approach in psychology.
To develop communication skills through active participation during in-class discussions and presentation of material to a class in seminar format (including PowerPoint presentation).
To develop skills in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of scientific articles in terms of the clarity of the underlying theory, the specificity of the predictions tested, the logic and internal consistency of the methods and experimental design, the degree to which the findings address the researcher’s hypotheses, and the alternative explanations for the findings that are possible.
To develop written communication skills, i.e., the ability to present a written argument that is logical and coherent, that relies on scientific evidence, and that draws appropriate conclusions from that evidence.
General method of instruction
Some lecture, much discussion, and student presentations.
A course in animal behavior (such as Psych 200, Psych 300 or Bio/Psych 409) is strongly recommended.
Class assignments and grading
An in-class presentations (usually in a team of 2 students), two exams, and participation in class discussions.