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PSYC100 Foundations of Psychology and PSYC101 Applications of Psychology

Teaching organisation

3 hours contact per week over 12 weeks or equivalent

Unit rationale, description and aim

Understanding the underpinning of human behaviour and cognition is central to psychology. This unit will examine the effects of evolutionary processes on humans in an attempt to better understand why people think and behave in the ways that they do. In this unit you will be introduced to evolutionary psychology through a study of the major theories and research findings in the area. Topics will include mate choice, life-history constraints on reproduction, parental investment strategies, evolutionary explanations of cognitive processes and language, and evolutionary theories of individual differences, mental illness and culture. The aim of this unit is to provide you with an in-depth understanding of evolutionary psychology.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - describe key theories and findings across the evolutionary psychology areas covered in this unit. (GA5);

LO2 - identify, discuss and apply the research methodology used to investigate questions in evolutionary psychology (GA4,GA5);

LO3 - evaluate the validity of theoretical arguments and research findings in each topic area (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO4 - express arguments about key issues in each topic area based on a reflection of existing research findings and theory (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • Evolutionary approach to psychology: the history of evolutionary psychology; using evolutionary theory and sub theories such as the fitness, socio-biology and life history to understand human behaviour and cognition.  
  • Research methods used to study evolutionary psychology questions 
  • Cooperation, reciprocity and sharing explored using evolutionary principles: examines issues such as kin selection, reciprocal altruism, & group selection.  
  • Mate choice and sexual selection: human traits as sexually selected signals, facial and body attractiveness, fitness consequences of mate choice 
  • Life-history constraints on human reproduction: scheduling reproduction, explaining menopause, optimum family size.  
  • Parental investment strategies: examines topics such as parent-offspring investment conflicts; parental biases, sibling rivalry, paternal certainty and infanticide.  
  • Evolutionary psychology explanations of cognition and social cognition: the modular brain, social exchange and cheat detection, the role of emotions in cognition, the theory of the mind 
  • Evolutionary theories of personality, individual differences and mental illness 
  • Language and evolution: the evolution of language and social function of language.   
  • Evolution and culture and society: sex biases in social organisations, structure of social groups, social transmission

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is delivered in face-to-face mode with 3 contact hours per week: each week there will be a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial. This mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures are to aid you with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge while the tutorials are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of that knowledge. Learning and teaching strategies may include active learning, case-based learning, individual and group activities, cooperative learning, web-based learning, and reflective/critical thinking activities, delivered over 12 weeks. This range of strategies will provide students with appropriate access to required knowledge and understanding of unit content. These strategies will allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. You will be expected to take responsibility for your learning and to participate actively within group activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to best enable you to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. A range of assessment strategies are used including: an essay to assess your ability to describe and evaluate the literature and to make an argument; a research proposal which assesses your ability to make an argument and apply evolutionary research methodology to an area of enquiry; and online quizzes which provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Online quizzes  

Assesses your understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the unit


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5


Assesses your ability to describe and evaluate the literature and to make an argument


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Research Proposal  

Assesses your ability to make an argument and apply evolutionary research methodology to an area of enquiry


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Buss, D.M. (2005). Handbook of evolutionary psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons 

Buss, D.M. (2014). Evolutionary psychology: the new science of the mind (5th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson 

Hampton, S. (2010). Essential evolutionary psychology. London: Sage.  

Roberts, S.C. (2012) Applied evolutionary psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.  

Swami, V. (2011). Evolutionary psychology: A critical introduction. West Sussex: Blackwell.

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