Evolution and Genetics for Psychology
Full course description
The goal of this course is to provide students with insight into genetics and the theory of evolution. They discover how to use this knowledge in order to explain psychological phenomena.
Darwin's theory of evolution teaches us that human cognition originated gradually. Genetics explains that selection of genetic variation in populations has been the driving force of this process. Therefore, knowledge of evolution and genetics is required to understand the evolution of cognition. Students will discuss the principles of transmission genetics (how traits are passed on from parent to child?), molecular genetics (how do genes affect the development of a trait?), epigenetics (how is gene expression regulated?), and population genetics (how are traits selected in a population?). Based on these principles, students will examine the evolutionary explanations of cognition. Moreover, students will discuss the evolution of cooperation (inclusive fitness theory), and the question why humans take up a special position in the animal kingdom. Concrete examples will be discussed which show how knowledge of evolutionary or ultimate causation is linked to knowledge of the proximate cause of a phenomenon. By studying these examples, students will obtain a clear image of how knowledge on genetics and evolution contributes to a better understanding of psychological phenomena.
- can explain the basic principles of Mendelian genetics, molecular genetics , epigenetics, and population genetics;
- can mention and elaborate on the basic processes driving evolutionary change in populations;
- can describe inclusive fitness theory and can explain how this theory can be used to explain (the evolution of) behaviour and cognition;
- can explain the distinction between ultimate and proximate explanations and how they can be applied to psychological phenomena;
- can apply their knowledge of genetics and evolution to explain psychological phenomena;
- can mention and describe theories on the evolution of the human brain and cognition.