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PSY 70

PSY 70:  EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY
 
William C. Sanderson, PhD
Professor of Psychology
221A Hauser Hall
Hofstra University
 
Email: William.C.Sanderson@Hofstra.edu
Telephone: 516-463-5633
Website: www.sanderson.bz
 
Office Hours*: Mon 12:00-1:00 , Weds 2:00-3:00
(*note: it is best to email me to make an appointment rather than just coming by)
 
 
Course Description
The primary focus of this course is: What is human nature (that is, why are we the way we are) and why did it develop the way it did? Some of the specific topics covered are:  Is monogamy natural for men? For women? Why do men and women differ so much in their interests?  Why do men and women respond to sexual cues so differently? Why do people care so much about status? Where does sibling rivalry come from? Why do parents and grandparents favor some children over others?  Why do people prefer fattening foods even though they create many problems such as obesity and cardiac risk?  Why do humans experience the emotions they do (e.g., love, pride, fear, jealousy, anger, sadness, disgust). Why are people so quick to form groups and label others as "outsiders."  Why is the world in a perpetual state of war?  Why is "morning sickness" in pregnant women a good thing?  Why do some people vomit on roller coasters?  How different (or similar!) is human behavior from animals?
 
 All of these questions will be answered from an evolutionary psychology perspective. Evolutionary psychology provides a scientific data base to understand the ultimate origins of human nature. Practical and political implications of findings from evolutionary psychology will be discussed.  Full syllabus is below.
 
Psychologists are using evolutionary arguments with increasing frequency.  The goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand the design of the human mind. Evolutionary psychology is an approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles from evolutionary biology are put to use in research on the structure of the human mind. It is not an area of study, like vision, reasoning, or social behavior. It is a way of thinking about psychology that can be applied to any topic within it.
 
In this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way of thinking about the brain, mind, and behavior is changing how scientists approach old topics, and opening up new ones.
 
The majority of this course will emphasize the scientific underpinnings of evolutionary psychology and will be primarily lecture, although class discussion is encouraged.  The last couple of classes will emphasize the practical implications of these findings:  What are their implications for the way think of the world and ourselves?
 
Primary Learning Objectives:
1) Students will learn the controversies related to teaching the theory of evolution.
2) Students will learn the research methods employed in evolutionary psychology.
3) Students will learn a theory of human nature based upon evolutionary psychology.
 

Required Books
Wright, Robert.  (1994). The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way we Are.  Vintage Press.
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Viking Press.
 
 
Grading
Exams: Your grade will be based upon THREE exams.  Each exam will be worth 1/3 of your final grade (33 points each).  Exams will consist of multiple-choice questions (short answer may be included as well – you will be notified in advance about the exact format).  Any material covered in class lectures, assigned readings, videos played in class, etc. are “fair game” on the exams. There are NO make-up exams.
 
 The fourth (final) exam is optional.  If you are satisfied with your performance on the first three exams your grade will be based upon those.   However, if you miss and exam, or would like to replace your lowest score, you can take the final exam.  The final exam will also be worth 33 points – however, it will be cumulative (strong emphasis on material covered in class). 
 
***Note. If you miss an exam you MUST take the final (4th) exam .

TWO IMPORTANT WARNINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING THIS CLASS:

Warning 1 (nature of material in this course): This course may challenge some of your preconceived notions about sensitive topics that pertain to human nature such as gender differences, sexual motivations, the nature of relationships, infidelity, aggression, child abuse, parenting,  rape, murder, war, etc.  Please note that this course views human nature in the context of evolutionary biology, so it may be personally challenging if you have a strong literal belief in the creation explanations of one of any of the various religious traditions.  If you are not comfortable learning about these topics in a scientific way, this is not the right course for you.  

Warning 2 (class attendance):   I do not regularly take attendance.  However, this is NOT because class attendance is not important -- quite the contrary. Almost all of the material covered in class is novel and rarely overlaps with the readings, so the class notes are absolutely essential.   Exams will emphasize material covered in class (90% of questions on exams will come exclusively from lecture material).    Getting notes from someone else will not always convey the nuances of what was covered in class as we will often view videos, graphs,  figures, etc.   Therefore, regular class attendance is absolutely necessary.  If you do not believe you will attend class regularly, especially since attendance is not taken, you should NOT take this class.  Please note that every semester I have several students at the end who regret their performance on exams because of their lack of class attendance asking for extra credit to raise their grade.  There is no extra credit.

Recommendation: Do not multitask (e.g., check Facebook, text messages) in class -- see the following for an excellent review:


On a positive note, if you come to class, pay attention, take decent notes, and do the assigned reading then the exams are easy and you should get a good grade in this course.   The questions on the exam are straightforward.

TENTATIVE EXAM DATES 2017:
1-  3/6 M
2-  4/10 M
3-  5/10 W
4- 5/17 W (1:30-2:30) - final exams week

Grading scale:
Final grades will be assigned according to the following numerical equivalents:
90-100 = A
87-89   = B+
83-86   = B
80-82   = B-
77-79   = C+
73-76   = C
70-72   = C-
67-69   = D+
65-66   = D
Below 65 = F

For a description of what letter grades indicate see:
 
Please note that when you take an exam you must put your name and answers on BOTH the scantron sheet and the exam booklet itself. You also must sign the Hofstra Honor Code at the top of the exam. In the event of a dispute (e.g., a claim that the scantron was not scored correctly), for me to reverse the scoring on that item the correct answer must be on your exam booklet.

Academic Integrity:
Honesty is an essential aspect of academic integrity. Individual students are responsible for doing their own work and for not taking credit for the effort and ideas of others. This includes plagiarism, cheating, and not contributing to group projects. This obligation is based on mutual trust. Cheating of any type on exams, papers, or other graded work will not be tolerated.  Please familiarize your self with the Hofstra University policies on academic honesty. See below for details.
 

SPECIAL NEEDS:
If you believe you need accommodations for a disability, please contact Student Access Services (SAS). In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, qualified individuals with disabilities will not be discriminated against in any programs, or services available at Hofstra University.  Individuals with disabilities are entitled to accommodations designed to facilitate full access to all programs and services. SAS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will provide students with documented disabilities accommodation letters, as appropriate.  Please note that accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive; please contact SAS as soon as possible. All students are responsible for providing accommodation letters to each instructor and for discussing with him or her the specific accommodations needed and how they can be best implemented in each course. For more information on services provided by the university and for submission of documentation, please contact Student Access Services, 107 Student Center, 516-463-7075 

 
 
TOPICS/READINGS:
 
Week 1
Introduction to Evolutionary Theory & Evolutionary Psychology
Why is Evolutionary Psychology Important?
Reading:
Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer – Cosmides & Tooby: http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html

NOT required reading - but just cool to look at - Darwin's original On the Origin of Species online:


Week 2
Research Strategies in Evolutionary Psychology
Is Evolution Still Controversial in the U.S.?  Why?
  Evolution in the News: 
  Daniel Dennett:  http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett05/dennett05_index.html
  Darwin: Ahead of his time: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/science/10evolution.html
  Teaching Evolution: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/education/22texas.html
  Teaching Evolution 2: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/education/24evolution.html
The Onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/evangelical-scientists-refute-gravity-with-new-int,1778/
 
 
Week 3 & 4
Human Survival Problems and the Development of the Brain 
(acquiring food, taste preference, 
                avoiding predators, avoiding sickness, etc.)
The Evolved Brain: Evolved Psychological Mechanisms
The Adaptive Function of Emotions
(Wright: 1;  Pinker: 1-5)

--EXAM 1
 
Weeks 5-8
Men & Women’s  Mating Strategies: Attraction & Love
    Qualities and physical characteristics that males and females find attractive in a mate.
    Mating motives of males and females.
    Rape
    Sexual Jealousy
    Why Are We so Afraid to Acknowledge Gender Differences?
(Wright: 2-6;  Pinker: 18)
 
--EXAM 2
 
Week 9               
Parenting and Kinship
   Parental investment, significance of genetic relatedness, parental  favoritism, sibling-rivalry, step-parents.
(Wright: 7-8; Pinker 19)
 
Week 10 & 11      
Cooperative Alliances in Living
    Altruism
    Aggression (physical confrontation, threats, murder) & Warfare
    Domestic Violence
 (Wright: 9-10; Pinker 17)
 
Week 12 & 13  
Status, Prestige, and Social Dominance
    Consumerism/Materialism: What function does it serve?
    Distribution of Resources Throughout The World
(Wright: 13-14; Pinker: 20)
 
Week 14             
Why Are We So Afraid of the Implications of  an evolved Human Nature?
Who Are We Really?
What are the Practical Implications of Evolutionary Psychology?
(Pinker: 12-15)

--EXAM 3

Exam 4 is during finals week (time assigned for this class).
 
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   **** Please Note: The class schedule is subject to change depending on the length of class discussions, the time to cover certain material, and other unforeseen events that can often altar plans. The professor has the right to change the curriculum to best maximize learning.
 
 
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Individual Honors Option Proposal – Evolutionary Psychology
Honors College students may choose this option with my permission (If interested send me an email asking to be added to the Honors Option).  Students will be required to write 3 brief papers (5 pages each - double spaced, 12 pt font, 1inch margins) discussing a controversy in the field. References must be cited on a separate page (minimum of 4 references required – at least two books and/or journal articles and no more than two internet sources).

--> EMAIL completed paper to: william.c.sanderson@hofstra.edu (ideally as a word file -- not as a pdf file).
 
I. Due one week after the first exam
Opponents of evolutionary theory are concerned with the broader implications of many of the theories.  For example, explanations of gender differences based upon evolutionary psychology (e.g., males are more physically aggressive than females) raises concerns about promoting “inequality” (sexism).  Discuss the specific concerns raised by opponents of evolutionary theory with regard to this issue.
 
II. Due one week after the second exam
Homosexuality, suicide, and altruism are phenomena that challenge evolutionary theory. Choose one and explain the problem that it creates for evolutionary theory.  Then, discuss attempts made by evolutionary theorists to explain the phenomenon you selected.
 
III. Due one week after the third exam
This course will expose you to many new ideas about human nature, some of which are considered very controversial.  Discuss whether the information you learned in each of the following areas changed your personal attitude about these issues. Explain why or why not for 3 of the following 5 issues (choose only 3).
1.        The nature of sexual relationships between males and females.
2.        The obesity epidemic in the United States.
3.        The occurrence of aggression/warfare between countries
4.        The causes of the most commonly occurring phobias
5.        The nature of parent-child relationships.
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UNIVERSITY POLICIES:

Academic Honesty:

·         Hofstra University Honor Code: “As a member of the Hofstra community I pledge to demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in all aspects of my life, both inside and out of the classroom. I understand that I am accountable for everything I say and write. I will not misrepresent my academic work, nor will I give or receive unauthorized assistance for academic work. I agree to respect the rights of all members of the Hofstra community. I will be guided by the values expressed in the P.R.I.D.E Principles. I accept the responsibility to follow this Honor Code at all times.”

·         Honor Code Short Form: “I pledge on my honor that I have done this work with honesty and integrity, without giving or receiving unauthorized assistance.”

·         Academic Honesty: Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious ethical and professional infractions.  For information regarding Hofstra’s statement of principles with respect to academic honesty, examples of violations, procedures for handling violations, as well as a student’s right to appeal a charge, see Faculty Policy Series #11 for undergraduate students (http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/Faculty/Senate/senate_FPS_11.pdf) and Faculty Policy Series #11G for graduate students (http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/Faculty/Senate/senate_FPS_11G.pdf). 

 

Student Access Services (SAS):
If you believe you need accommodations for a disability, please contact for Student Access Services (SAS). In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, qualified individuals with disabilities will not be discriminated against in any programs, or services available at Hofstra University.

 

Individuals with disabilities are entitled to accommodations designed to facilitate full access to all programs and services. SAS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will provide students with documented disabilities accommodation letters, as appropriate.

 

Please note that accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive; please contact SSD as soon as possible. All students are responsible for providing accommodation letters to each instructor and for discussing with him or her the specific accommodations needed and how they can be best implemented in each course. For more information on services provided by the university and for submission of documentation, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities, 107 Student Center, 516-463-7075

Deadlines:

Please be mindful of University deadlines.  See www.hofstra.edu/deadlines.

 

Incomplete Policy:

 Hofstra’s policies regarding Incomplete grades, default grades, and associated deadlines can be found in the Undergraduate and Graduate Studies Bulletins (http://bulletin.hofstra.edu/).  

 

Student Policy Prohibiting Discriminatory Harassment, Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct

Hofstra prohibits sexual and other discriminatory harassment, stalking, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct (collectively, “Gender Based Offenses”).  If you or someone you know believes they have been subjected to any of these Gender Based Offenses, help is available.  To make a report, or for more information about Hofstra’s Student Policy Prohibiting Discriminatory Harassment, Relationship Violence, and Sexual Misconduct (available at http://hofstra.edu/sexualmisconduct), please contact the Title IX Coordinator at (516) 463-5841or TitleIXCoordinator@hofstra.edu, or Public Safety at (516) 463-6606.  Confidential resources and support are also available from clinicians in Student Counseling Services (516-463-6791), medical professionals at the Health and Wellness Center (516-463-6745), and clergy in the Interfaith Center.  

 

2016-17 Academic Year: Guidelines Related to Absences for Religious Observances

  Absences for Religious Observance
Hofstra University recognizes that students and/or faculty may from time to time miss class due to religious observances. Students who anticipate missing class for this reason should notify faculty members in advance. Likewise, faculty members who anticipate missing class for religious observance should notify students in their classes. As per Faculty Policy Series 12 (B): “No student shall be expelled or refused admission to Hofstra University because he or she is unable to participate in any examination, study or work requirement because of his or her religious obligations and practices. However, all students are expected to complete all assignments and examinations. It is understood that no adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student who avails him or herself of religious observances. The University, faculty, and student shall work together to achieve a reasonable accommodation concerning any conflicts between educational and religious obligations.” Faculty are encouraged to include notice of this policy in their syllabuses and announce it during the first week of each semester, and make reasonable efforts to avoid scheduling exams and/or due dates of assignments that would otherwise interfere with religious observances of students.

 

Additionally, in accordance with New York State Law, each student who is absent from school because of his or her religious beliefs will be given an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any examination, study or work requirements which he or she may have missed because of that absence on any particular day or days.


 
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William Sanderson,
Apr 7, 2013, 8:42 AM
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William Sanderson,
Feb 25, 2013, 4:39 PM
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William Sanderson,
Apr 29, 2013, 5:59 AM
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