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Evolutionary Psychology

Course Code: PSYC 3385
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Psychology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Tutorial
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

Students are introduced to the study of behaviour and mental processes from an evolutionary perspective. The methods and research of evolutionary psychology will be emphasized. The course begins with a thorough overview of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the formation of adaptations. From there, various topics will be investigated including cooperation and altruism, competition and aggression, sexual selection and mating strategies, life histories and development, parental care and family relations, and culture.

Course Content

Introduction to Darwin – evolutionary theory, and evolutionary psychology.

Evolution – natural selection & genetics.

Adaptations – their nature and study.

Life history theory and game theory.

Sexual selection theory – mating strategies and attraction.

Inclusive fitness theory – altruism and conflict within families.

Cooperation among non-kin – reciprocal altruism theory and other explanations.

Aggression and warfare.

Evolution and culture, mismatch theory.

Methods of Instruction

Regular classes 3 hours/week will include: 

  • Lecturing
  • Participating in class activities and demonstrations
  • Viewing of audiovisual material.

Tutorials 1 hour/week will allow for a seminar-style class environment and include:

  • Article readings
  • Presentations
  • Discussions. 

Means of Assessment

The course evaluation will be in accordance with Douglas College and Psychology Department policies. 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:

Test #1:                                 20%

Test #2:                                 20%

Final exam:                            25%

Group presentation:                 15%

Term paper:                          20%

Total                                   100%

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course the learner will be able to: 

  1. Describe the process of natural selection, including basic genetics and types of selection pressures.
  2. Distinguish between ultimate and proximate causation.
  3. Describe the characteristics of adaptations and be able to provide examples.
  4. Identify the assumptions of evolutionary psychology and be able to contrast it with other evolutionary perspectives.
  5. Explain the operation and outcomes of sexual selection.
  6. Discuss current research and theories on attraction and mating strategies.
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of inclusive fitness theory, kin selection, and the evolution of nepotism.
  8. Give examples and discuss theories of both cooperation and conflict among kin.
  9. Discuss the theories of altruism and cooperation among non-kin, including reciprocal altruism, indirect reciprocity, group selection, commitment theory and others.
  10. Discuss the nature and functions of aggression and conflict.
  11. Describe the relationship between our evolved psychology and culture. 
  12. Discuss how the modern environment may produce mismatches and maladaptive behaviours.

course prerequisites

PSYC 1100 and PSYC 1200 and PSYC 2301

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.