Hormones and Behaviour

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PSYC 3305
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course is a survey of the various hormonal/endocrine systems in the body and how they affect a multitude of behaviours and psychological processes. Major topics may include: a history of behavioural endocrinology, the neural control of endocrine systems, the sexual determination and differentiation of the body, sex differences in behaviour, sexual orientation and reproductive behaviour, parental behaviour, social behaviour, physiological homeostasis, biological rhythms, stress, learning & memory, and various psychological disorders.
Course Content

1. Historical & Modern Approaches to the Study of Behavioural Endocrinology

  • Early conceptions of behavioural endocrinology
  • Early studies in behavioural endocrinology
  • Common techniques in behavioural endocrinology

2. The Endocrine System

  • General features of the endocrine system
  • Vertebrate endocrine glands & their hormones
  • Different classes of hormones
  • Function of hormone receptors 
  • Regulation of hormones

3. Sex Differences in Body & Behaviour

  • Sexual differentiation of the body (peripheral & neural)
  • Anomalous sexual differentiation (genetic, chromosomal & environmental causes)
  • Organizational vs. activational effects of hormones
  • Animal models of dimorphic behaviours
  • Alternative reproductive tactics in non-human animals
  • Gender roles, gender identity & sexual orientation
  • Sex differences in cognitive behaviour

4. Reproductive Behaviour

  • Male- and female-typical sexual behaviours across various species
  • Role of the brain, hormones, pheromones & environmental cues in reproduction
  • Female reproductive cycles & hormone production, including positive feedback
  • Stages of courtship across species

 5. Parental Behaviour

  • Sex differences in parental behaviour
  • Typical parental behaviours, and the hormones and neural pathways involved
  • Post-partum affective disorders

 6. Social Behaviour

  • Prosocial behaviour
  • Aggressive behaviours
  • The role of testosterone, oxytocin & vasopressin in social behaviour
  • Environmental control of hormones and social behaviour

7. Homeostasis

  • Energy balance 
  • Neural and hormonal control of food and water intake

8. Biological Rhythms 

  • Environmental and endogenous control of annual and seasonal biological rhythms
  • The role of the hypothalamus in biological rhythms
  • The role of biological rhythms in health and disease

9. Stress

  • Stressors and the stages of stress response
  • Stress hormones and their psychological and physiological effects
  • Long term health consequences from chronic stress 
  • Psychological factors in coping with stress

 10. Learning & Memory

  • Associative and non-associative learning
  • Effects of steroidal, gut, and stress hormones on learning and memory
  • The role of the hippocampus in learning and memory consolidation

11. Hormones & Affective Disorders

  • The role of hormones in anxiety disorders, PTSD
  • The role of hormones and the hippocampus in depression
  • Hormones and perimenstrual symptoms 
  • Postpartum anxiety and depression


Learning Activities

This course may employ a variety of instructional methods, including:

  • lecture
  • audio-visual presentations
  • student presentations
  • research projects/papers
Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. Evaluations will be based on the course objectives. The specific evaluation criteria will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

4 quizzes                                                            40%

Mid-term paper                                                   15%

Term paper                                                         15%

Oral presentation                                                  5%

Seminar attendance and participation                     5%

Final exam                                                          20%


Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class.  Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving human subjects.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Understand the major historical approaches to endocrinology and modern research methods in behavioural neuroendocrinology.
  2. Understand the neural control of hormone production/release, how the environment /social context affects hormone release, and the negative feedback system.
  3. Understand how hormone receptors alter cellular functioning.
  4. Understand how hormones can organize the development of the brain and body, and how they can activate neural systems to affect behaviour.
  5. Understand the process of sexual differentiation and the various alternative patterns of differentiation, and sex differences in behaviours.
  6. Describe the role of hormones and neural pathway in sexual reproduction.
  7. Understand how, and which, hormones produce parental behaviour, and the post-partum anxiety and depressive disorders. 
  8. Understand the role of hormones in producing appropriate social behaviours in an environmental context.
  9. Describe the human stress response, how hormones are beneficial in the short-term and describe the long-term consequences of chronic stress.
  10. Examine the role of hormones in anxiety, affective and psychotic disorders. 
  11. Describe how different hormones affect different cognitive behaviours. 
  12. Understand the role of hormones in motivational & homeostatic behaviours and how disruption of endocrine systems alter human health. 
Textbook Materials

Textbook(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

Nelson & Kriegsfeld (2018). An Introduction to Behavioural Endocrinology, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press.


Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PSYC 3305
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX PSYC 2XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU PSYC 3XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PSYC 3XX (3)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN PSYC 201 (3)
College of New Caledonia (CNC) CNC PSYC 2XX (3)
Coquitlam College (COQU) COQU PSYC 2XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PSYC 3XXX (3)
LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) LCV PSY 3XX (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) NLC PSYC 2XX (3)
Quest University (QU) QU TRN 3000 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU PSYC 381 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PSYC 3XXX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW PSYC 3XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO PSYO 3rd (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PSYC 461 (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PSYC 3XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PSYC 3XX (3)
Yorkville University (YVU) YVU GES 3XXX (3)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023