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PSY2020 : Introduction to Comparative Cognition and Behaviour

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sophia Daoudi-Simison
  • Lecturer: Dr Caroline Allen, Dr Francesca De Petrillo, Dr Vivek Nityananda
  • 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


To develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the principles underlying the evolution of behaviour and cognition using a comparative approach. There will be a focus on methodology for investigating these topics in different beings, including human and non-human animals, but also extinct species and machines. Tinbergen’s 4 questions will be used as a framework throughout.

Outline Of Syllabus

The content of this module builds on that taught in PSY1015, with the ultimate goal of understanding the evolution of behaviour and cognition.

Main topics covered include:

Principles of behavioural ecology
Social behaviour and dynamics
Inter and intra specific interactions & coevolution
Sex, reproduction, and inclusive fitness
Comparative cognition and what makes humans unique
Cognitive evolution
Communication and human language
Future minds: artificial intelligence

Throughout the course controversies and common misunderstandings of key theoretical concepts will also be explored.

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 completion146:0046:00Reading for assessment preparation, formative essay outline etc.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities124:0024:00Preparation for lectures and workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops42:008:00Present in person: focus on developing critical thinking and evaluation, and to complete the essay
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Intended knowledge outcomes will be met primarily through lecture content and associated set reading. The workshops and the associated reading will be focused on preparing the students for the requirements of the formative and summative assessments.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination902A10024-hour Take Home Exam (1 out of 5 questions and 1 alternative essay, max .1000 words), unseen.
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
Written exercise2MOne essay outline/structure along with a reference list, will receive feedback from the instructors (~300 words)
Written exercise2MPeer review of example essays, feedback via rubric plus a brief commentary (max 100 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The unseen written examination is an efficient means of assessing the students’ success in:
1.       achieving the intended knowledge and skills outcomes
2.       integrating information from a variety of sources
3.       communicating effectively in writing

This exam is a take-home 24 hour exam which students will be expected to spend around 90 minutes completing. The form of this assessment will move students away from shallow learning based on retention of knowledge to a more integrative approach focused on bringing together a range of materials/sources in a creative way alongside critical evaluation and argument development, indicative of deeper learning.

The formative assessment and feedback gives students the opportunity to practice the skills necessary for the assessment.

The formative peer assessment of a draft essay will allow the students to practice their evaluative skills and give them the opportunity to think practically about how a marker will apply the rubric to their own essay.

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

Reading Lists