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PSY3009 : Cooperation

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Mrs Billie Moffat-Knox
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aims of this module are:
to show how cooperation is a fundamental aspect of human nature;
to show how disciplines ranging from economics to evolutionary psychology can contribute to understanding cooperation;
to provide an understanding of how and why individuals cooperate with each other;
to use cooperation as a model for understanding the roles of mechanistic and functional explanations of behaviour;
and to show how an understanding of cooperation has important applications in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to the international

Original Summary:
Co-operation is a fundamental aspect of human nature. This course brings together approaches from disciplines ranging from economics to evolutionary psychology to explain how and why individuals co-operate with each other. The problem of altruism – why individuals might do things that are costly to themselves but benefit others – is addressed from both social psychology and evolutionary perspectives. The behavioural ecology of co-operation in other animals is drawn on to show the evolutionary origins of co-operation in humans. The course treats co-operation as a model for understanding the roles of mechanistic and functional explanations of behaviour, as well as the roles of theoretical and empirical approaches. Co-operation is a subject of intense current interest, and the course provides a close link between research and teaching by drawing on the latest advances, including work carried out in the department. It is shown how an understanding of cooperation has important applications in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to the international.

Outline Of Syllabus

1.       The ways in which we cooperate: altruism, social exchange, alliances; philosophical background
2.       The social psychology of cooperation
3.       Economic and evolutionary approaches to cooperation
4.       Kinship – the role of relatedness in cooperation
5.       ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ - Reciprocal altruism, social exchange and Tit for Tat
6.       Cognitive, hormonal and neural aspects of cooperation
7.       The ‘tragedy of the commons’ – the problems with cooperation in groups
8.       ‘Help and thou shalt be helped’ – indirect reciprocity and the benefits of a cooperative reputation
9.       Interdependence
10.       Trust, fairness, punishment
11.       Ethical and moral dimensions; norms and the role of culture
12.       Review and perspectives

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading361:0036:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice12:002:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study441:0044:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used as the primary and most effective mode of imparting the core knowledge of the module. . Seminars are interactive and provide an environment to combine core module knowledge with an understanding gained from directed reading. Students will practice skills in research methods, critical analysis and oral presentations. The seminar series may also consist of an external seminar; following an appropriate risk assessment by the module leader, students will engage in field observations of a human or non-human animal cooperative behaviour. Prior to the external seminar, students will work within their group to design data collection materials. Following the seminar, students will discuss their experience and findings in relation to the module’s knowledge outcomes. The practical gives hands-on experience with the experimental and computer-based methods used in research. The private study is essential for in depth review of knowledge imparted during lectures.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A100Unseen comprising 2 essay questions from a choice of 4
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written examination is used to assess knowledge, independent learning and understanding of material relevant to the module, the ability to integrate this material and to communicate it clearly, as well as the ability for critical thought and originality of approach.

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely.

The form of assessment will not vary from the original.

Reading Lists