Evolutionary Psychology

PSYC 358, Section 001

(2017-2018 Academic Year, Term 1)


Course website: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/psyc358.htm


When: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:30-4:50

Where: Irving K Barber Learning Centre, Room 261


Instructor: Dr. Mark Schaller

  Office: CIRS 4353

  Telephone: 604.822.2613

  Email: schaller@psych.ubc.ca

  Office hours: Thursdays 2:00-3:00, and by appointment


Teaching Assistant: Marlise Hofer

  Office: Kenny 3605

  Email: hofer@psych.ubc.ca

  Office hours: Mondays 2:00-3:00, and by appointment


Teaching Assistant: Brent Stewart

  Office: Kenny 1604

  Email: brent.stewart@psych.ubc.ca

  Office hours: Thursdays 11:00 - 12:00, and by appointment 

Course Objectives and Overview:

Evolutionary psychology is a broad approach to scientific inquiry, in which the knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are applied to the study of human psychological processes and their implications for human behavior. This course is designed to provide you with a good overview of the basic themes of inquiry within evolutionary psychology, and an overview of important programs of research within evolutionary psychology.

By the end of the course, you should understand how evolutionary thinking can be productively applied within the psychological sciences, you should be familiar with the conceptual and methodological issues that arise when evolutionary principles are applied to the study contemporary human behavior, and you should know a wide variety of psychological theories and psychological phenomena that have emerged within the framework of evolutionary psychology.

This is a big class, and I will present a lot of material in a lecture format. But please don't let that keep you from thinking: I'll try as best as I can to keep you alert and mentally active in class. Please feel free to ask questions and/or make cogent comments during class.

The material that appears in the readings and the material that I present in class are designed to be complementary. There will be some overlap, of course. But there is lots of material in the readings that we won't have time to talk about in class; and I will present lots of material in class that doesn't appear in the readings. If you want to do well in this class, be sure to keep up with the readings, and be sure to come to class.

Required Texts:

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(The “30th Anniversary edition” of The Selfish Gene should be available for purchase in the UBC bookstore. There are various editions this book. For this course, it doesn't matter which edition you read; we will cover material common to all editions.)

Buss, D. M. (2015). Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind (5th Edition). Boston: Pearson.

(This Evolutionary Psychology textbook should be available for purchase in the UBC bookstore. There exist earlier editions of this textbook and they all differ somewhat in terms of their actual content. I expect you to read the most current edition, which I’ve identified here.)

Additional Required Readings:

In addition to reading the two books identified above, I also want you to read four additional short scholarly articles that correspond to the some of the topics that we will be covering. (These four articles were all published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, which publishes brief and not-too-painful-to-read review articles on psychological research topics). These articles can be accessed via the list of assigned readings that you’ll find within the “Calendar of Events” at the end of this syllabus. (This “Calendar of Events” is also posted separately on course website.) Each listed article is also a link that will take you directly to the reading itself, in the form of a downloadable pdf file.

Course Website:

I’ll be making a variety of course-relevant materials available on a course website that I have created: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/psyc358.htm.

On that website, you will find the electronic version of this syllabus (which may be updated as needed) as well as a variety of additional materials that you may find helpful. These materials will include detailed outlines of my lectures. (These outlines contain key pieces of information presented in lectures, but they certainly don’t contain everything that I will present in class. So if you miss a class, you would be wise to make arrangements to get class notes from one or more other students in the class.) These materials will also include a list of “Things that Matter Most” in the readings and lecture materials—which is designed to help you distinguish between high-priority information and less essential information in the readings and lectures.

I will post grades on the course website. Those postings will be password-protected. In order to access them, you will need to enter a User Name and Password that I will provide in class.

Assessments of Learning - Exams:

There will be three exams. The first (Midterm Exam 1) will be on Tuesday, October 3. The second (Midterm Exam 2) will be on Tuesday, October 31. The third (Final Exam) will held during the final exam period, on a date to be determined later.

Each exam will consist primarily of multiple-choice items (and may also include a small number of short-answer items too).  Your performance on each exam will count 25% toward your final course grade.

The exams are not designed in any explicit way to be cumulative; each exam will focus on “new” material presented in readings and lectures since any previous exam. (Of course, a lot of “new” material builds upon older material, and your comprehension of new material will be increased if you have retained your knowledge of that older material.)

Exams won't be handed back to you. Students at UBC have the right to view their marked examinations with their instructor, providing they apply to do so within a month of receiving their final grades. This review is for pedagogic purposes. The examination remains the property of the university. Students who miss an exam will receive a mark of “0” for that exam. You will not be allowed to take a make-up an exam unless you have written documentation from a health professional attesting to a valid health-related reason for missing the scheduled exam.

Assessments of Learning – Essay Assignments:

There will be two essay-writing assignments. The due date for the first essay assignment is Tuesday, October 10. The due date for the second essay assignment is Tuesday November 28.

For these two essay assignments, I will provide specific topics for you to address in writing, in the form of a short paper. These essay assignments are designed to help you think about, and integrate, the material covered in this course. These essay assignments are also designed to provide you with an opportunity to show off your knowledge of (and deep thinking about) the material covered in this course. Essays will be marked according to how accurately, how convincingly, and how thoroughly they use course material to address the assigned topics. These essay assignments—along with a more detailed set of guidelines—are posted separately on the course website.

Your performance on the first essay assignment will count 10% toward your final course grade.

Your performance on the second essay assignment will count 15% toward your final course grade.

Scaling of Grades:

Grades will be scaled in order to maintain equity among sections and to conform to University, Faculty, or Department grading norms. In accordance with the policy of the Psychology Department, the expectation is that the grades in this course (as in all 300-level courses) will be normally distributed around an average grade of approximately 68 (i.e., right around a C+ or B-).

Let me explain what this is all about. The primary function of grades is to inform you (and other people) as to your performance relative to other students taking the course. In order for grades to serve this function, it's important that average performance is reflected in an average grade, that better-than-average-but-not-great performance is reflected in a better-than-average-but-not-great grade, and so forth. The Faculty of Arts has guidelines for appropriate distributions of grades in courses at all levels. This is something we really pay attention to in the Psychology Department.

Let me make this point in a slightly different way. Don't be fooled by the fact that UBC records numerical grades on a 100-point scale. These numerical grades aren't really percentages. They are simply a numerical translation of letter grades. Again: The purpose of your final course grade is to reflect your performance in this course relative to the other students taking the course. If your performance is right in the middle of the overall grade distribution, then you'll get an average grade (a C+ or B-). If most students in class perform better than you, you'll get a low grade (in the low C's, or D's or—if you're way at the bottom of the grade distribution—an F). If you perform better than average, then you'll get a better-than-average grade (e.g., a B perhaps). And if you perform way better than average (e.g., if your performance is among the top 15%-20% of students in the entire class) then you may get an A.

So, please remember that, for this course, the average final grade will be around a C+ or B-, and that grades will be normally distributed around that mean. I will scale the grades to ensure that the distribution of final grades in this class meets these guidelines.

Special Accommodations:

UBC accommodates students with disabilities who have registered with UBC's office of Access and Diversity. If you have a disability that may affect your performance in this class, please make sure you have contacted the Access and Diversity office to arrange for accommodations. Please let me know of these accommodations as soon as possible.

UBC also accommodates students whose religious obligations conflict with attendance, assignments, or examinations. Please let me know as soon as possible—and well in advance of any assignment or examination—if you will require any accommodation on these grounds.

The university does not have any formal policy on accommodating students who plan to be absent for varsity athletics, family obligations, or other similar commitments. So, please do not assume that you will get special accommodations for these sorts of absences. It is your responsibility to ensure that you meet the course requirements as scheduled. If you do plan to be absent during any time an examination is scheduled, please discuss this with me as soon as possible.

Class conduct:

Please show respect for everyone else in class. Show up on time and please don't leave early, because comings and goings during class are very disruptive. Make sure cellphones and other distracting electronic stuff are turned off before you come to class. And please don't chatter when I'm lecturing or if someone else is talking. I do want you to actively participate in the class—to ask questions and make comments—but please do so in respectful way.

Academic Dishonesty:

Cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic misconduct are very serious concerns of the University, and the Department of Psychology has taken steps to alleviate them. The Department has implemented software that can reliably detect cheating on multiple-choice exams by analyzing the patterns of students’ responses. The Department also subscribes to TurnItIn—a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism. All materials that students submit for grading will be scanned and compared to over 4.5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s own proprietary databases. The results of these comparisons are compiled into customized “Originality Reports” containing several, sensitive measures of plagiarism; instructors receive copies of these reports for every student in their class. In all cases of suspected academic misconduct, the parties involved will be pursued to the fullest extent dictated by the guidelines of the University. Strong evidence of cheating or plagiarism may result in a zero credit for the work in question. According to the University Act (section 61), the President of UBC has the right to impose harsher penalties including (but not limited to) a failing grade for the course, suspension from the University, cancellation of scholarships, or a notation added to a student’s transcript.

All graded work in this course, unless otherwise specified, is to be original work done independently by individuals. If you have any questions as to whether or not what you are doing is even a borderline case of academic misconduct, please consult your instructor. For details on University policies and procedures pertaining to student conduct and academic dishonesty, please see the Academic Calendar.

Other Stuff:

This syllabus is our roadmap for the course, but it is possible that some revisions (in scheduling, in policy, etc.) may have to be made as we work our way through the material. Any announcements made in class “count” just as much as policies outlined in this written syllabus.

Further information about academic regulations, course withdrawal dates and credits can be found in the Academic Calendar. If you run into trouble and need information about studying, preparing for exams, note-taking or time-management, free workshops and advice are available from various resources around campus, such as the UBC Learning Commons.

Calendar of Events:

Following is an overview of the structure of the course, along with a list of the dates on which we will have classes. For each class, I've indicated exactly what material you should have completed reading by that date.

Introduction to the course

 Thursday, September 7: Introduction to “Evolutionary Psychology”

[No readings assigned]

 Tuesday, September 12: Logical principles underlying evolutionary psychology

Reading: Buss, Chapters 1 and 2

Part 1: Gene’s-eye view of Human Psychology

 Thursday, September 14: The gene’s-eye view of life

Reading: Dawkins, Chapters 1 and 2

 Tuesday, September 19: Good genes

Reading: Dawkins, Chapter 3

 Thursday, September 21: Adapted cognition

Reading: Dawkins, Chapter 4

Reading: Nairne, J. S., & Pandeirada, J. N. S. (2008). Adaptive memory: Remembering with a stone-age brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 239-243.

 Tuesday, September 26: The social context of adapted cognition

Reading: Dawkins, Chapter 5

 Thursday, September 28: Kinship and inclusive fitness

Reading: Dawkins, Chapters 6 and 8

 Tuesday, October 3:  MIDTERM EXAM 1

Part 2: Psychological Adaptations to the Challenges of Survival and Sexual Reproduction

 Thursday, October 5 Looking back; looking forward

[No new readings assigned]

 Tuesday, October 10: Better safe than sorry

Reading: Buss, Chapter 3


 Thursday, October 12: The behavioral immune system

Reading: Buss, Chapter 3

Reading: Schaller, M., & Park, J. H. (2011). The behavioral immune system (and why it matters). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 99-103.

 Tuesday, October 17: Sex and sex (Sex differences in sexual behavior)

Reading: Dawkins, Chapter 9

 Thursday, October 19 Mate preferences

Reading: Buss, Chapters 4 and 5

 Tuesday, October 24 Choosy women, show-off-y men

Reading: Buss, Chapters 4 and 5

 Thursday, October 26: Beyond sexual stereotypes (The psychology of female short-term mating)

Reading: Buss, Chapter 6

Reading: Haselton, M. G., & Gildersleeve, K. (2011). Can men detect ovulation? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 87-91.

 Tuesday, October 31: MIDTERM EXAM 2

Part 3: Other Challenges, Other Adaptations, Other Implications

 Thursday, November 2: Parental care

Reading: Buss, Chapter 7

 Tuesday, November 7: Kinship and kin recognition

Reading: Buss, Chapter 8

 Thursday, November 9: Cooperation within groups

Reading: Dawkins, Chapter 10

Reading: Buss, Chapter 9

 Tuesday, November 14: Conflict between groups

Reading: Buss, Chapter 10

 Thursday, November 16: Emotions and why they matter

Reading: Buss, Chapters 11 and 12

Reading: Shariff, A. F., & Tracy, J. L. (2011). What are emotion expressions for? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 395-399.

 Tuesday, November 21: Everything is connected

Reading: Buss, Chapter 13

 Thursday, November 23: Guest lecture by Marlise Hofer

[No new readings assigned]

 Tuesday, November 28: The perils and prospects of evolutionary psychology

[No new readings assigned]


 Thursday, November 30: [Flex day]

[No new readings assigned]

 Saturday, December 9 at 12:00: FINAL EXAM (in LSK 200)