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PSY3044 : Cultural and Technical Intelligence: Developmental and Comparative Perspectives

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Bess Price
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

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

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System


The module will provide an overview of current topics surrounding the development and evolution of cultural, social, and technical intelligence. Aims of the module include:
1)       providing students with knowledge of both the comparative and developmental approaches used to study cultural and technical intelligence in humans and other animals
2)       facilitating critical evaluation of research methods and findings
3)       encouraging students to consider the real-world implications of the research and how to communicate these to a variety of audiences.

The module will use an interdisciplinary approach, with topics and perspectives spanning developmental and comparative psychology, anthropology, biology, and neuroscience.

Outline Of Syllabus

Human technological skills and cultural repertoire surpass those of any other species. This remarkable complexity is reliant on cumulative culture, and thus our expertise as both innovators and social learners. This module aims to explore how this expertise develops in humans and how it evolved more generally, including which elements are shared with other animals and which might be unique to humans. Topics will include:
-       Cumulative culture: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?
-       Social learning and culture: how do ‘cultures’ come about? How do we define ‘cultures’ in other species?
-       Social learning strategies: How do social learning strategies develop in humans? What social learning mechanisms support cumulative culture in humans? What patterns do we see in other animals?
-       Social dynamics: how do social dynamics shape learning in children and adults? What do we know about such dynamics in other animals?
-       Innovation: how do we define innovation in humans and other animals? What cognitive mechanisms support innovation and how do they develop?
-       Tool use: how and when does tool use develop in children? Is human tool use fundamentally different than forms seen in other animals? What cognitive abilities support tool use?

Within each of these topics, students will review up-to-date research articles and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of comparative and developmental approaches. Students will also benefit from fieldwork, observing and recording behaviours of humans and/or other animals ‘in the wild’ and at a local zoo.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion123:0036:00Reading for weekly lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion132:0032:00Preparing for written exam
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion18:008:00Preparing for written exercise assessment (science communication assessment)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyProject work12:002:00Preparation for the fieldwork
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork12:002:00Field-trip to collect observational social data
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The weekly lectures will provide students with key background information, including the theoretical drives and research methods of each relevant topic (knowledge outcomes 1-4). Lectures will introduce key papers and act as a guide for the students’ independent reading. Small group work will centre around a more focused discussion of two or three key papers (either drawing different conclusions on the same topic or employing different experimental methods). Students will be asked to engage in exchanges/debates exploring these differences. This will help achieve critical analysis of the material, as well as presentation skills (skills outcome 1-3). Both lectures and small group work will provide a venue for students to ask questions, engage with the material, and build upon key skills. If the public health situation permits, students will embark on a field-trip to collect social observations on humans and other animals. Alternatively, behavioural observations will be made from video recordings of animals in wild and captive settings. Students will develop ethograms for this based on discussions during small group teaching sessions and on their own through independent study. Students will present their ethograms and the results of their observational data collection in small groups in class. Verbal feedback will be given by the module leader and their peers. (skills outcome 5 & 6).

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A80Essay exam (2 out of 5 questions); unseen, present in person
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20Synopsis of a single research article for different target audiences (max 1500 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Written exercise: Students will be asked to write-up the results of a single empirical report in several different styles (e.g. scientific blog, Broadsheet newspapers, tweet). The assessment will ask students to provide a synopsis of a single research article for several different target audiences. This will provide targeted experience with science communication and allow students to practise their writing skills more generally. It will also offer the opportunity for students to practise condensing complex information succinctly (skill outcome 4).

The written exam will assess the students’ ability to critically evaluate the material and write academically. To do well, students will have to synthesise material from across the module, rather than focusing on one lecture topic (knowledge outcomes 1-4; skill outcomes 1-3).

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