PSYC 358 (Evolutionary Psychology)


Essay Assignment:

People sometimes think that altruistic behavior is an evolutionary puzzle. (“How can it be that there evolved a capacity for people to provide resources and care to others, even when it’s costly to themselves?”)  But its not such a puzzle after all: The logic of evolutionary biology provides multiple explanations for the origins of humans’ capacity for altruistic behavior; and research in evolutionary psychology has revealed many nuanced psychological implications that follow from the underlying evolved mechanisms. In your essay, draw upon material presented in this course in order to (a) identify evolutionary explanations for humans’ capacity to engage in altruistic behavior, and (b) describe implications for psychological phenomena in contemporary circumstances.

Rules to follow in preparing your essay:

This essay is due on Thursday, November 21, at the start of class. That is the final deadline for handing in the essay. (You may hand it in any time before that deadline.)  I will not accept essays that are handed in after the deadline; if your essay isn’t handed in by the deadline, you will receive mark of “0” for the essay assignment. 

(The only exception to the preceding rule would be if an unanticipated event outside of your control—such as an acute health issue—prevents you from handing in the essay by the deadline. If such a circumstance arises, you must let me know as soon as possible and, ideally, provide me with credible written documentation attesting to the unanticipated event outside of your control. I will adhere to relevant UBC policies to determine the appropriate course of action. Please make sure that you’re familiar with those policies—on “academic concession”—which are linked here.)

Your essay should be typed and double-spaced. 

It cannot be longer than 4 printed double-spaced pages. (And the font size cannot be smaller than 11-point font).

Put your name and your student number at the top of each page.

This should go with saying, but I'll say it anyway: In completing this essay assignment, you must comply with UBC's policy regarding academic honesty. You must complete this essay assignment independently. Do not use any other student's essay to inform yours. Do not show your essay to any other student. Do not discuss your essay with any other student. This essay must honestly reflect your own work.

(In addition to printing off and handing in a "hard copy" of your essay, please save an electronic copy of the essay as well, and keep it saved until you receive a final grade for this course. If any questions arise regarding the independence of your essay, you will be required to provide the electronic version for further analysis.)

Marking considerations to consider:

This essay assignment is your opportunity to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the knowledge that you have acquired in this course thus far. In other words: It’s your opportunity to “show off”—to show off the extent to which you have attended to, understood, and thought deeply about the material presented in this course. There is lots of course material (presented in the assigned readings and/or in lectures) that is potentially relevant to the assigned essay topic. (There is no need to draw upon additional material beyond that which is part of this course.)  When writing your essay, you should strive to draw upon that course material and, as persuasively as you can, demonstrate your knowledge of it. Your essay will be marked according to how comprehensively, how accurately, and how convincingly it uses course material to address the assignment.

In order to ensure that essays are marked in a way that is objective and quantifiable, two different marking strategies will be employed. Both strategies are designed to produce numerical values that explicitly reflect the marking considerations identified above. One marking strategy will focus in a fine-grained way on the details within the essay, and will produce a Points score. This Points score represents the number of unique bits of relevant course material that are accurately and coherently articulated within the essay, and that persuasively demonstrate breadth and/or depth of knowledge of course material. The other marking strategy will be more holistic, and will produce a Rating score (on a scale from 1 to 5, in which a 1 is roughly equivalent to an F, and a 5 is roughly equivalent to an A). This Rating score represents an assessment of the overall quality of the essay, in terms of how effective it is in demonstrating breadth and/or depth of knowledge of relevant course material. The Points and Overall rating scores will be combined statistically—and weighted equally—for the purpose of generating an overall numerical mark on the essay (a mark that, in accordance with course grading policies, will convey information about your performance on this essay assignment relative to the performance by other students in this class.)

(Please note:  I’m calling this an “essay assignment,” and I’m doing so because the nature of the assignment is similar to the sort of thing that you might encounter on an “essay test” in a course of this kind.  The assignment—and the way it’s going to be marked—is probably pretty different from the sort of “essay” that you might be asked to write for, say, an English composition course. For instance, these essays will be marked explicitly according to their content, and not their compositional structure.  So, please, attend to the marking criteria identified above; and don’t assume that it will be marked according to any other criteria, because it won’t be.)

You will be wise to keep those marking considerations in mind when planning, writing, and revising your essay.  Given these marking considerations, I can say with some confidence that—generally speaking—an essay is likely to get a higher mark to the extent that:

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