University of Exeter


PSY3004 Special Topics in Psychology IV/PSY6006 Advanced Seminars
Evolution of Human Behaviour seminar course

Semester II: Thursdays at 2pm in Room 241

List of topics, Text books, and Essay titles for undergraduates and postgraduates

List of topics for the 1998/99 academic year

4th February 1999 Introduction
11th February 1999 Altruism, Darwinism and sociobiology
18th February 1999 Sociobiological principles continued: intersexual and parent-offspring relations
25th February 1999 The phylogenetic background: social behaviour of primates in general and the great apes in particular
4th March 1999 The ecological background: social behaviour of some non-primates with ecologies resembling humans (eusocial insects, social carnivores, cetaceans)
11th March 1999 Animal cultures and cultural evolution
18th March 1999 Early hominids and humans
Easter vacation
29th April 1999 Behaviour of modern hunter-gatherers
6th May 1999 The sociobiology of modern humans, I: Aggression and altruism
13th May 1999 The sociobiology of modern humans, II: Sex and parenting
20th May 1999 no meeting
27th May 1999 Revision seminar

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Core texts

The following books will be used repeatedly during the course, and are referred to in the reading lists simply by the author or authors' name(s): Almost all these books are available in reasonably cheap paperbacks, but all will be found either on the Temporary Reserve Collection or in the Roborough collection.

Many of the reading lists refer to papers in the journal Animal Behaviour.  This is available in the library, and in consequence you can also access the full text of recent articles from it over the world wide web, by using the Ingenta Journals service available through the BIDS gateway at

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Essay topics

Undergraduates (PSY3004)

For your assessed essay, you may attempt any of the following questions:
  1. The evidence for kin and reciprocal altruism in humans and other animals.
  2. The biology of play.
  3. The behaviour of bonobos.
  4. The behaviour and mental life of cetaceans.
  5. Anthropological and sociobiological accounts of cultural evolution.
  6. Carnivores considered as social animals.
  7. The mental life of hominids earlier than Homo sapiens sapiens.
  8. The ethnography and sociobiology of modern humans
You may use a subtitle of your own choice to restrict any of these questions to a more specific subject. Questions concentrating on these topics in details will not be set in the examination, and candidates are warned against reusing in the exam extensive detailed material that has formed part of an assessed essay. Exam questions of a broader or more general nature may cover topics that would include those you had written about in an essay, and in these cases you are advised to refer the examiners to your essay for details rather than repeating the same material.

Postgraduates (PSY6006)

For your assessment, write an essay discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the research methods available for studying one of the following:
  1. Behavioural primatology
  2. Behaviour and cognition in cetaceans
  3. Cultural evolution (human and animal)
  4. Hominids earlier than Homo sapiens sapiens
  5. The behaviour of modern hunter gatherers
  6. Evolutionary theories of modern human sexual behaviour
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Stephen Lea

University of Exeter
School of Psychology
Washington Singer Laboratories
Exeter EX4 4QG
United Kingdom
Tel +44 1392 264626
Fax +44 1392 264623

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Document revised 28th February1999