Module Catalogue 2024/25

PSY1015 : Principles of Evolution, Genetics and Behavioural Development

PSY1015 : Principles of Evolution, Genetics and Behavioural Development

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr John Skelhorn
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr David Pritchard
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



This course gives an accessible introduction to evolution and genetics, and how these ultimately impact upon behaviour. It is 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. We consider this information alongside our understanding of the development of behaviour, with a specific focus on theories of learning. 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?
•       Common misconceptions in evolution and genetics
•       Genetic variation and its effect on the phenotype
•       Understanding phylogenetics
•       Natural Selection, Sexual selection, and Kin selection
•       Principles of behavioural development
•       Learning (non-associative, classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning)
•       Predispositions and constraints on learning
•       Evolutionary Psychology as a discipline

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of this module the student will be able to:
•       Describe the principles of natural, sexual, and kin selection
•       Describe the principles of genetics as relevant to Psychology
•       Evaluate claims concerning the heritability of psychological characteristics
•       Distinguish between proximate, ultimate, ontogenetic, and phylogenetic explanations
•       Discuss the concepts underlying different forms of learning (associative vs. non-associative),
•       Apply their understanding of evolutionary approaches to modern human behaviour

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of this module the student will be able to:
1.       Apply theoretical concepts to novel situations and data sets, selecting appropriate study designs
2.       Develop clear predictions and interpret experimental data in light of theory
3.       Use evolutionary and biological terminology and nomenclature correctly
4.       Discuss claims about the evolutionary basis of human behaviour
5.       Distinguish claims about the genetic and environmental baseis of behaviour and evaluate their evidential base.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion13:003:00This specifically relates to the formative assessment
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study175:0075:00This is preparation for the exam: set reading, lecture note taking and practice exam questions, self-study problems in text-book
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures are used as the principle mode of imparting the core knowledge of the module.

Some lecture materials will be interactive, providing an opportunity for testing of knowledge and problem-solving. For example, practice exam questions (with model answers) will be given alongside lecture materials as a form of formative practice. This will provide students with the opportunity to test their own knowledge as the course progresses. This will be in addition to a mock exam which students will be given at the end of the course for their own revision purposes (again with model answers).

The private study is essential for in-depth review of knowledge imparted through lectures, and requires students to use library and other information sources effectively; to work independently; to take responsibility for their own learning and intellectual development; and to practice time-management skills and effective scheduling of work- loads.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination902A100Multiple choice questions (90), unseen, PIP Inspera invigilated
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Prob solv exercises2MExperimental simulation assignment of learning phenomenon completed as a group - includes MCQ practice
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Rationale and relationship of assessment methods to learning outcomes -
The examination is used to assess the knowledge and skills outcomes listed above.

Experimental simulation formative assessment - Comment:
Students design and interpret data from a conditioning experiment as a group. Based on this they then submit their experimental design and data and answer some MCQs.

The formative assignment provides students with knowledge and understanding of the nature of learning processes, and of the formulation and testing of hypotheses – it provides an additional opportunity to actively develop skills outcomes 1 and 2. The MCQ component provides them with practice for the final exam. It also provides the opportunity to practise the following skills: problem solving; understanding and applying theoretical concepts; and time-management and the ability to schedule workloads effectively. The assignment assesses the above aspects of knowledge and understanding, as well as the skills of problem solving and of understanding and applying theoretical concepts.

If the module is failed or deferred students will resit failed or deferred assessments in the same format during the August resit period.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


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The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 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 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.