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Evolutionary Psychology MSc

Subject area: Psychology

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Mode of study

12 months full-time; 30 months part-time

PG Code


Start date


Evolutionary Psychology MSc


Please note the application deadline for this course is Friday 25th August 2017, any applications after this date will be considered on an individual basis, subject to course vacancies.

Postgraduate Loans: From 1 August 2016, students who live in England will be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan in academic year 2016/17 of up to £10,000. Find out more

About the course

  • How can evolutionary theory help us understand human behaviour?
  • Do humans have a species-typical psychological design?
  • What learning mechanisms would have been favoured by natural selection in ancestral environments?

This programme provides an exciting opportunity for advanced study in Evolutionary Psychology - i.e. psychological science informed by explicit consideration of the fact that the human mind, like the human body, is a product of evolutionary processes.

This course is particularly suited to students in the life sciences or social sciences who are interested in finding out how principles from evolutionary biology can provide a framework for the scientific study of human psychology and behaviour.


The degree programme will provide you with:

  • an understanding of how evolutionary theory can provide a framework for the study of psychology and behaviour in both human and non-human species
  • knowledge of important theoretical issues, research findings and recent advances in evolutionary psychology
  • an overview of concepts, findings and recent advances in evolutionary biology, animal behaviour and behavioural ecology that are critical for research in evolutionary psychology
  • the opportunity to acquire important transferable research skills (e.g. research design, data analysis, report preparation, seminar presentation)
  • the opportunity to acquire knowledge of theoretical issues, research findings and recent advances in a related area of psychology (cognitive neuroscience or cross-cultural psychology).


Admissions and Course Enquiries
Web: Admissions Enquiries Information
Tel (before application): +44 (0)1895 265599 (Course Enquiries)
Tel (after application): +44 (0)1895 265265 (Admissions Office)
Contact Admissions or Course Enquiries Online

Course director: Dr Nicholas Pound

Course Content

This course can be undertaken over one year, full-time, or two and a half years, part-time.

Modules are subject to variation and students are advised to check with the College on whether a particular module of interest will be running in their year of entry.

Compulsory modules

Evolutionary Biology and Research Methods
The evolutionary biology component will cover topics such as levels of analysis in the study of behaviour; adaptation and natural selection, sexual selection; levels of selection; inclusive fitness; phylogeny; population genetics, molecular evolution, origins of sex; host-pathogen arms races; co-evolution; life history evolution; human evolution.

The research methods component will cover topics such as hypothesis testing; experimental design; statistical methods; observational methods; questionnaires and psychometrics; phylogenetic; comparative methods; meta-analysis; archival research; modelling; multivariate methods.

Evolutionary Psychology
Main topics of study: cognitive adaptationism and domain specificity; environments of evolutionary adaptedness; cross-cultural human universals; selective impairments; social status and reputation; cognitive sexual dimorphism in mate preferences and jealousy; attractiveness and symmetry; gustatory adaptations, social exchange and cooperation; coalitional psychology; interpersonal and coalitional aggression; violence and homicide; spoken language; face recognition and prosopagnosia; functions of the emotions; kinship psychology (recognition, altruism, and inbreeding avoidance); gene-culture co-evolution.

Animal Behaviour and Behavioural Ecology
Main topics of study: levels of analysis, animals as "strategists"; optimality theory; sexual selection: competition for mates; sexual selection: post-copulatory competition; sexual selection: mate choice; parental care and parent-offspring conflict; foraging and predation; comparative reproductive strategies; life history strategy; cooperation and conflict; animal models of psychopathology; sexual differentiation; hormonal regulation of behaviour.

Dissertation Evolutionary Psychology
Students will conduct an empirical research project investigating an aspect of psychology / behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. The research focus, empirical methods, and analytic techniques will be selected through discussion with their dissertation supervisor.

Optional modules

Cognitive Neuroscience
The module will focus on fundamental issues within cognitive neuroscience, and the way in which neuroimaging in combination with neuropsychology has advanced our understanding. Topics covered will include: learning and memory; language and the brain; cerebral lateralization and specialisation; the control of action; executive functions and frontal lobes; emotional mechanisms; ageing; development and plasticity.

Foundations of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Main topics of study: controversies in defining culture; assessing culture; the development of cross-cultural dimensions (individualism/collectivism, the work of the Chinese culture connection, Trompenaars model, Inglehart’s work, Schwartz’s value circumplex) and a critique of cultural dimensions; the self across culture; emotion and appraisal across cultures.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

The Evolutionary Psychology MSc is taught in association with the College Research Centres.

The core modules of the Evolutionary Psychology MSc are taught by members of the Evolution & Behaviour Group who include:

  • Andrew Clark, PhD (McMaster). Acting Programme Director.
    Research interests: Mating systems, sexual conflict, direct and indirect sexual competition, mating strategies, mating effort allocation and mechanisms of mate preference and choice.
  • Nicholas Pound, PhD (McMaster). Programme Director.
    Research interests: Social and psychological influences on male reproductive physiology and sexual behaviour. Perception of personality in faces, facial structure and health/endocrine status.
  • Michael Price, PhD (UCSB). Research interests: Evolutionary moral psychology. The origins of moral beliefs about social inequality, sexual behaviour, and aggression. Business and organizational behaviour. Cooperation, free riding and punishment.
  • Achim Schützwohl, PhD (Bielefeld).
    Research interests: Evolutionary psychology, emotion, sex differences in jealousy.
  • Isabel Scott, PhD (Bristol).
    Research interests: Evolutionary perspectives, cross-cultural research, individual differences, mate choice, facial perception, personality perception, economic, moral and political psychology

Teaching and Assessment


Assessment is by coursework (including term papers and oral presentations), examinations and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.



The MSc will provide students with knowledge and skills required to go on to do PhD research not just in evolutionary psychology, but in other areas of psychology and the biological and social sciences.

Moreover, students will acquire analytic and research skills that will be useful in diverse areas of employment including governmental and non-government research organisations, and the private sector.

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

UK/EU students: £7,300 full-time; £3,650 part-time

International students: £14,100 full-time; £7,050 part-time

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Entry Criteria 2016/17

  • A UK first or 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in either a social sciences or life science subject area.
  • Applicants with social science or non-science degrees should demonstrate some knowledge of scientific research methods - e.g. A-level in a science subject or scientific research in their first degree.
  • Applicants with a 2:1 not in the specified subject area will be considered on an individual basis
  • Applicants who hold a UK (2:2) Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification will be considered on an individual basis.
  • Applicants are interviewed either in person or by telephone.

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: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (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.