Evolutionary Foundations of Behaviour
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-PSB3BE25E
Credits (ECTS)4
CategoryBA (Bachelor)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Psychology;
dr. W.E. Frankenhuis
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. H.T. van Schie
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
PER4  (16/04/2018 to 13/07/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-

This course provides an in-depth discussion about the possible prehistoric and evolutionary origins of human behaviour, brain and cognition. The course calls for intrinsically motivated students who enjoy looking deeper into possible functional and evolutionary mechanisms explaining human behaviour. As the course takes 'a capita selecta approach' it will also provide participants with an opportunity to further improve their presentation skills and scientific writing abilities.

Many human abilities and behaviours have a genetic basis that supported the survival of our ancient ancestors in prehistoric times. What are the evolutionary pressures that shaped human cognition and how do we see that reflected in modern behaviour? What exactly distinguishes the human species from primates and other animals? Why are we so successful? What makes us so unique?
The course centers on Michael Gazzaniga's recent book Human. The science behind what makes us unique. This fascinating book discusses the evolutionary foundations of uniquely human skills and behaviours, such as language, art, religion, self-awareness, and theory of mind. For each of these abilities the possible evolutionary importance (or functional irrelevance) will be discussed. The book contains recent scientific insights from a broad range of domains such as comparative psychology, social and cognitive neuroscience, genetics, neuropsychology, anthropology and evolutionary psychology.
Students from all backgrounds are welcome to participate. These individual differences in background and expertise are found to contribute to the quality and scope of the discussion. Arguments regarding the evolutionary origins of human behavior will typically be of a functional nature and therefore understandable to all.

  • Together with a group of students you give a presentation on a topic of your choice and chair a consecutive discussion on the topic. To ensure lively and informed discussions, all students are required to study the relevant chapters in advance and to upload a discussion point of their interest.
  • You are also asked to pick two topics of interest (in addition to the topic of your presentation) for writing two in-depth position papers, expressing your scientific stance towards a particular topic or outstanding question.
  • Grading will reflect the weighted average of the discussion points (10%), the presentation (30%) and position papers (60%).
  • Discussions, presentations and written assignments will all be in English.
Additional comments
As room space is limited, a registration cap may apply for this course. Make sure to register at your earliest convenience.
In case of too many enrollments, Psychology students have priority over students from other faculties or universities.


Required materials
Workman, L., & Reader, W. (2014). Evolutionary psychology: An Introduction (3rd ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Instructional modes

Interactive lectures in which we will watch a video or documentary or read a paper and discuss its contents

Other, see explanation

Class discussions
Paper feedback

Attendance MandatoryYes

Student presentations and class discussions
Course symposium (poster session and student lectures)
Elevator pitches

Exam, Essay, Presentation/Poster
Test weight1
OpportunitiesBlock HERT, Block PER4