PSYCH 317 : Evolution, Behaviour and Cognition


2020 Semester One (1203) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

How does behaviour in non-human animals evolve? Do other animals have language? Do they have culture? Can human behaviour be explained in evolutionary terms? This course addresses these questions and the methods that can be used to answer them.

Course Overview

How can evolution help us understand what it is to be human? How did human intelligence evolve? Why did human behaviours such as culture and religion evolve? Do other animals have language, tool use, culture and consciousness? This course addresses these questions and the methods that can be used to answer them. Specific areas that will be discussed include the evolution of language, technical intelligence, social learning, culture, cooperation, religion, and consciousness. The course will emphasize the importance of a comparative, evolutionary approach to the study of behaviour and cognition

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 45 points at Stage II in Psychology and 15 points from STATS 100-125, or 45 points at Stage II in Biological Sciences

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Develop insight into how evolutionary thinking can improve our understanding of behaviour and cognition (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Analyse debates in comparative cognition about the relative abilities of humans and other animals (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Understand how to design behavioural experiments in comparative psychology (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Understand and explain how insights from evolutionary theory can be used to understand human and animal behaviour (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Quiz 10% Individual Coursework
Assignment 30% Individual Coursework
Exam 60% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
For plussage you must: 1) attend 70% of labs; 2) submit all coursework and 3) obtain an overall passing grade for this coursework.
• If you are eligible for plussage: your final grade for this course will be based either on the final exam alone (marked out of 100) or on the final exam (marked out of 60) plus the coursework (marked out of 40), whichever alternative gives you the better mark.
• If you are not eligible for plussage: your final grade will be based on the final exam (marked out of 60) plus the coursework (marked out of 40). Thus, if you fail plussage, you are still able to sit the final exam, but your coursework will automatically count toward 40% of your final overall grade.

Learning Resources

• Where possible we will provide required readings via the TALIS system. There may be some readings you will need to find and download yourself. Being able to do this efficiently is an important research skill. Let your tutor know if you are having difficulty.
• Lecture notes will be posted before each class on CANVAS

Special Requirements


Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 36 hours of lectures, 18 hours of lab tutorials, 36 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 48 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 11/01/2020 03:17 p.m.