Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Anthropology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to advanced topics in evolutionary theory is it relates to social behaviour.
  • The module initially looks at mating and rearing, concentrating on sexual selection and life history, before moving on to the evolution of social organisation, an examination of current trends in socio-ecology and socio-biology.
  • The primary emphasis is on theoretical models and the critical tests that have been made of them by ethnologists, particularly those working on primates.
  • Special regard is paid to the utility and limitations of these modules when applied to humans.


  • Principles of social evolution:
  • Behavioural evolution, the unit of selection and studying adaptation.
  • Evolution of mating strategies:
  • Intrasexual selection.
  • Intersexual selection.
  • Evolution of rearing strategies:
  • Life history theory and reproductive strategies. Parental investment theory.
  • Birth sex ratios.
  • Parent-offspring conflict.
  • Human parental investment strategies.
  • Socioecology:
  • Ecological factors in social evolution and mating systems.
  • Territorality.
  • Group-living.
  • Primate Socioecology.
  • Human Sociolecology.
  • Socio-biology:
  • Kin selection.
  • Co-operation among non-kin;
  • reciprocal alturism, game theory, alliance networks.
  • Human socio-biology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A firm grasp of contemporary evolutionary theory and the way in which it has been extended to understand reproductive and social behaviour.
  • Familiarity with the arguments surrounding the application of evolutionary models to human behaviour.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to examine critically and independently attempts to test theoretical models, based on an awareness of limitations on the quality of data and the way it is handled, as well as weaknesses in the models themselves.
Key Skills:
  • Preparation and distribution of written summaries of key points in set topics.
  • Essay writing based on independent reading used to address novel issues at an advanced level.
  • Students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely on technical topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures, tutorials, seminars. Lectures give students summaries of the key positions and arguments of important authors. Tutorials will allow them to interrogate the assumptions of these authors. Seminars will allow them to interrogate the assumptions of these authors.
  • Final written examinations test assimilated knowledge and understanding and the ability to write succinctly and analytically at short notice.
  • Formative assessment is given for two essays.
  • Formative feedback is given for tutorial presentations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 weekly 1 hr 21
Tutorials 4 2 per term (M&Ep) 1 hr 4
Seminars 2 1 per term (M&Ep) 1 hr 2
Preparation and reading time 273
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: exam Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
exam 3 hr 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment is given for two essays. Formative feedback is given for tutorial and seminar presentations

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University