Module Catalogue 2016/17

PSY1003 : Evolution and Genetics for Psychologists

  • Offered for Year: 2016/17
  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Daniel Nettle
  • Lecturer: Dr John Skelhorn
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



• To provide an introduction to and overview of the theory of evolution
• To introduce the fundamental concepts of genetics, including Mendelian and quantitative genetics, basics of molecular genetics and genomics, and the genetics of populations
• To examine genetic bases of some human phenotypic characteristics, including diseases, physical characteristics, and individual difference traits
• To examine how evolutionary ideas may be applied to the physical and behavioural characteristics of modern humans
• To provide a brief primer on the evolution of modern humans, including the modern human brain, as a way of preparing for further study in psychology

Original Summary:
This course gives an accessible introduction to evolution and genetics, designed for students going on to study psychology and other human sciences. It reviews the key principles of evolution and explains the mechanisms of genetics, using examples from humans and other animals. It also examines the place of humans in the natural world through an introduction to other primate species, and our extinct ancestors. The emphasis throughout is on the relevance of evolution to the behaviour and cognition of contemporary humans.

Outline Of Syllabus

•       Why study evolution and genetics?
•       Cells, genes and DNA
•       Genetic variation and its effect on the phenotype
•       The structure of the human genome
•       The evolutionary process
•       Beyond self-interest: Kin selection and cooperation
•       The evolution of sex
•       Human sex differences
•       The evolution of human social behaviour
•       Parental and grandparental investment
•       Language and culture
•       Primates and human ancestors
•       Evolutionary psychology

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to:
•       Describe the principles of natural and sexual selection
•       Describe the principles of Mendelian and quantitative genetics
•       Evaluate claims concerning the heritability of psychological characteristics
•       Distinguish between proximate, ultimate, ontogenetic and phylogenetic explanations
•       Appraise the methods of testing different kinds of evolutionary explanations
•       Set modern humans in their evolutionary context
•       Critically examine evolutionary approaches to modern human behaviour.

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to:
•       Put forward evolutionary explanations for human characteristics
•       Critically evaluate claims about the evolutionary bases of human behaviour
•       Distinguish different claims about the genetic basis of behaviour and evaluate their evidential basis
•       Use evolutionary and biological terminology and nomenclature correctly

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Numeracy : Present
  • Self Management
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Decision Making : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity16:006:00Self-study problems in textbook
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:0020:00Independent reading and revision
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study150:0050:00Reading the assigned textbook
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures convey the relevant science. Reading supports the lecture themes. Students are also directed to self-assessment problems at the end of each chapter. Assessment is by multiple choice questions, some of which are based on the student reading a description of a recent study on an evolutionary theme, in order to demonstrate that they can apply the evolutionary style of thinking that they have learned in the course.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination902A100Unseen, multiple choice.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination consists of two parts. In the first part, standard multiple choice questions will test breadth of understanding of main concepts, and in the second part, the students will have to read descriptions of a recent study which proposed an evolutionary explanation of a behaviour, and answer multiple choice questions on the arguments used. This section probes deeper and more evaluative understanding and the ability to evaluate evolutionary arguments critically.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2016/17 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2017/18 entry will be published here in early-April 2017. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.