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Culture and Evolution PhD

Subject area: Psychology Apply full-time
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Culture and Evolution PhD


About the course

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Both full-time (3 years) and part-time (6 years) study routes are available. Find out more about Research Degrees at Brunel. 

Research profile
Research in the area of Culture and Evolution focuses on cultural variation in, and evolutionary origins of, psychology and behaviour – integration of proximate and ultimate perspectives, across levels of analysis from individual biology and personality, through group and social processes to the broader culture. Our research brings together outstanding evolutionary, cross-cultural and other psychologists and will include evolutionary approaches to human psychology such as human behavioural ecology categorised in these three strands: 

  • Relationships – E.g. interpersonal attraction and mate choice, relationship maintenance and satisfaction, jealousy etc. Also intergroup relations (between cultures and ethnic groups).
  • Morality – E.g. what is considered right and wrong, political beliefs, views on resource distribution etc.
  • Conflict & Cooperation – E.g. interpersonal and intergroup, sexual conflict and intrasexual competition, sources of conflict such as inequality etc. 

Some more specific examples of topics emphasised by CCE researchers—all relevant to at least one of the above themes—are listed below, followed by the names of CCE members conducting research in each topic.  

  • Attitudes towards, and behavioral consequences of, inequality (Clark, Pound, Price, Scott)
  • Close personal relationships (Gaines, Marshall)
  • Community and wellbeing (Launay, Price)
  • Competitiveness and risk-taking among males (Pound)
  • Cooperation within groups, including between leaders and followers (Price, Scott)
  • Cultural variation in prosocial behaviours (Imada)
  • Emotions in social relationships, such as jealousy (Imada, Marshall, Schuetzwohl)
  • Impact of social media on relationships (Marshall)
  • Music, singing, and social bonding (Launay)
  • Physical and physiological (e.g. gait, muscularity, hormonal) predictors of social and moral attitudes (Clark, Pound, Price)
  • Physical attractiveness, mate preferences and mating strategies (Clark, Pound, Price, Scott)
  • Relationship of facial morphology to political and moral attitudes (Pound, Scott)
  • Relevance of ethnicity in personal relationships (Gaines)

Find out more



All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Research Programmes Office in Colleges. Once you have identified your area of research and a potential supervisor, you can complete your application online. Please use the contact details below for enquiries. You may also approach your potential supervisor directly.

College of Health and Life Sciences
Tel: +44 (0) 1895 268161

Dr Michael Price – Centre for Culture and Evolution Leader
Tel: +44 (0)1895 266974

Special Features

Our researchers publish regularly in the world’s leading journals in psychology (cross-cultural, evolutionary, and social), behavioural biology, and related disciplines. Their work has appeared recently in, for example, Archives of Sexual Behavior; Behavioural Ecology; Biology Letters; Cognition and Emotion; Cross-Cultural Research; Ethology; Evolution & Human Behaviour; Identity; Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology; Journal of International Development; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Theoretical Biology; Personal Relationships; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA; Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

We provide students with a unique opportunity to focus on the two most fundamental and powerful influences on human behaviour: evolution and culture. Many programmes emphasise either one or the other of these influences, but the CCE places a special emphasis on the integration of these two levels of analysis. In doing so, we aim to produce the deepest, most thorough, and most useful possible explanations for human behaviour.

Our researchers have access to:

  • Extensive psychology laboratory facilities for behavioural experiments (e.g., staff laboratory space and cubicles housing computers with specialist software)
  • Specialist equipment for facial photography and anthropometric measurements
  • An NX12 [TC]² 3D Body Scanner for taking anthropometric measurements and creating 3D body models (owned and housed by the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences)
  • An FLIR A655sc Infrared Camera for thermal imaging (used in collaboration with Garrido of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience)

Excellent research support and training

Extensive training and support is offered to all research students by the Graduate School, with regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. Read more about the available Research Support and Training.

Library services

Brunel's library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 e-books, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject Information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK’s full text repository
  • an integrated data management system
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Facts and Figures

  • In the 2014 REF, 59% of our overall research activity was rated as either “world leading” or “internationally excellent”. Our research environment was rated as 100% “internationally excellent”. In terms of impact of our research on wider society, 73% of our submission (in areas such as screening for dyslexia and health promotion) was rated as 4*, i.e., outstanding in terms of its reach and significance. We were assessed as having an “exemplary strategic approach to impact”.
  • Brunel University London REF2014 Submission: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the REF2014 have been made public in December 2014, replacing the previous REF conducted in 2008.  The next REF will be undertaken in 2020. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students
  • Recent grants were awarded by the Welcome Trust, British Academy, Bial Foundation, and the Leverhulme Trust.

Teaching and Assessment


Supervisors with insight

Our supervisors create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip research students with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Browse all potential supervisor profiles further here.

Each student will be allocated a supervisory team consisting of the principal supervisor, second supervisor and a Research Development Advisor. The supervisory team will set teaching and learning targets and advise the student how to achieve them. The progress of each student will be assessed by the supervisory team at regular meetings and by a formal Progress Review Panel at 9 months for full-time students (18 months for part-time students) and then annually.  All academic supervisors receive university supported training in the supervision of PhD students.



Following the completion of the course students may follow several career paths:

  • Career path within academia starting as a University Lecturer/Assistant Professor
  • Career progression within research institutes commencing as a post-doc researcher and progressing to senior researcher
  • The career progression within the bio-pharmaceutical sector including project management and above
  • The career path within the government agencies (e.g. Department of Health, Public Health England) or international agencies (UN, WHO, IAEA etc.)
  • Career path within NHS including specialist research laboratories.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2016/17 entry

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,121 Part time: £2,060

International students

Full time: £17,200 Part time: £8,600

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Criteria 2016/17

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree and additionally, for a PhD, a Master’s degree or equivalent. All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study: IELTS 7.0 (with no less than 6.0 in any section). This applies even if English is the native language of your home country. An appropriate level of English language competence is also expected as listed below. Find out which alternative English language qualifications we accept. Applicants may also be required to attend compulsory in-sessional English language support. The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.

Potential research students are encouraged to contact members of staff in the area of interest to receive guidance on how to focus the research proposal.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.