Global Opportunities

PSY3042 : Sex Differences and the Brain

Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The module will aim to provide an overview of research related to the causes of sexually differentiated human behaviours, and to introduce and discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and ethical considerations associated with methods used in the field. The module will also aim to explore the usefulness of studying sex differences for our understanding of a range of clinical conditions.

Outline Of Syllabus

Sex Differences and the Brain will cover biological, evolutionary, and societal processes that underlie human sex differences across a range of behaviours and clinical outcomes. A focus of the module is to explore the effects of early (i.e. prenatal and early postnatal) sex hormone exposure, and how this may relate to developmental outcomes later in life.

Example topics include:
• Why study human sex differences?
• Fundamental sex differences/anisogamy
• Biological, societal, and evolutionary influences on human sex differences
• Organisational and activational effects of sex hormones
• Methods for measuring the effects of early sex hormone exposure (e.g. disorders/differences of sex development, measurement of hormones from amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood, twin studies, digit ratio [2D:4D])
• Sex hormones, cerebral lateralisation and handedness
• Testosterone and aggression
? Ways in which the sex ratio of a population might affect people’s behaviour

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion321:0032:00Preparation/completion of essay and poster presentation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading112:0022:00Reading recommended at each lecture
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00Present in person: Discuss papers, present research, etc.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study301:0030:00Independent reading/research
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The course lectures provide the information required for achieving Knowledge Outcomes 1 and 2. They will also provide references to other materials useful for developing a greater depth of understanding of the topics covered. The lectures further afford opportunities to seek clarification and to ask questions relating to the course.

Small group teaching sessions provide opportunities to dive deeper into the issues and concepts presented in the lectures. Students may be required to prepare for these by reading one or two pre-specified papers; the sessions will then allow for discussion and exchange of ideas (Knowledge Outcomes 2 and 3; Skills Outcome 1). Example Topics covered include the efficacy of using a range of different research methodologies, ethical practices in science, and how to design studies to examine the effects of prenatal sex hormones. Students will also have opportunities to evaluate/critique each other’s essay plans (Skills Outcome 2), and to deliver short conference-style presentations in small groups (Skills Outcome 3). These activities will help prepare students for the assessments encountered later in the course (Skills Outcome 4).

Directed research and reading is used to point students in the direction of important learning materials. Independent study is then required to seek out further literature from which to develop a greater depth of knowledge.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M100One 1500 word essay (students will be given a choice from at least two essay questions)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Poster2MOnline 5 minute individual poster presentation of a published study/theory relevant to themes addressed within the module
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay will be used to assess students’ knowledge and theoretical understanding of the topics covered on the course. It also provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their academic writing skills, as well as their abilities to critically evaluate studies and theories, and to synthesise findings from the research literature. Development of these skills can be important for a range of settings, such as when undertaking clinical training or postgraduate study.

The poster presentation is a formative assessment that will be used to develop students’ abilities to create and present a conference-style research poster. It also provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the subjects discussed, as the presentations may encourage questions and discussion. The ability to design and present a poster, as well as answering questions about it, are essential for a range of career paths. For instance, it may be useful to have gained prior experience if required to make a presentation in front of a boardroom or at an academic conference.

Reading Lists