Psych 562

Evolutionary Psychology of Gender, Mating, and Reproduction

Spring 2010

Instructor: Sean O'Donnell

Tel. 3-2315 Email sodonnel "at"

Office 325 Guthrie

Course web page:

 3 credits, graded: 2 weekly meetings of 1.5 hours each

Class will meet Mon. and Weds. 2:00-3:20 in Room 025 Chemistry Library


Course overview. The new field of evolutionary psychology explores whether and how human behavior can be explained as a resulting from biological evolution. This field is growing rapidly, and has attracted widespread interest from Psychologists and from behavioral scientists of other disciplines, including Zoology, Anthropology, and Sociology. This course will be designed to suit the needs of graduate students from a wide range of behavioral sciences who seek an introduction to this important topic.

The course will cover some of the core issues that are addressed by evolutionary psychology researchers: aspects of human behavior that are directly related to reproduction. This focus is narrow enough to permit continuity and focus throughout the academic quarter, but broad enough that a wide range of topics, of interest to students from diverse subdisciplines, can be addressed.

Format. Two weekly meetings will comprise a combination of open discussions and student presentations. Each week we will cover a single topic in the two meetings. For the first introductory meeting, we will read and discuss a chapter in the textbook and/or a review paper on the topic.

The second meeting will be led by teams of students (probably two students for most meetings), who will select one or two recent papers from the primary literature to be read and discussed by the group. Each registered student will be responsible for joining a group to lead one of the weekly second-meeting discussions. Discussion leaders should read more broadly and be prepared to discuss their topic in some detail, addressing issues relevant to, but not necessarily covered, by the assigned paper. The discussion leaders will provide me and the other students with a brief bibliography related to their topic.


Readings. The required text for the course is Human Evolutionary Psychology by Barrett, Dunbar & Lycett. Princeton Press, 2002.

Other papers will be taken from the primary and secondary literature.


Grading. The course grade will be based mainly on the quality of your presentation, and to a lesser degree on regular participation in discussions and attendance.


Approximate course calendar for Evolutionary Psychology of Gender, Mating, and Reproduction


Week, Topic, Readings in textbook/other readings

1 Assigned textbook readings supplied by instructor


2 Background and theoretical framework

Human behavioral genetics: raw material for natural selection


3 Fitness: What are humans maximizing?


4 Short-term human sexual strategies


5 Male mating strategies


6 Female mating strategies


7 Parental care and investment


8 Familial and other kinship issues


9 Gender conflict and gender roles


10 Sexual selection and social status